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Conserving documents from the Buchenwald and Dachau concentration camps

The International Tracing Service (ITS) in Bad Arolsen will conserve about 300 000 original documents from the Dachau concentration camp this year using the process of mass deacidification. The records in question were created between 1934 and 1945 and relate to the registration of prisoners. The conservation of individual documents of prisoners from the Buchenwald concentration camp has now been completed. Since 2000, about 2.7 million out of a total of 30 million documents have been conserved.

The conservation measures involve the deacidification and repair of prisoner identification, personal effects and camp registration cards. Over time, acids damage the paper which then becomes brittle and yellows. In an advanced process of deacidification applied by the "Preservation Academy" (PAL) in Leipzig, the pH-level of the paper is increased. Thereby the historically significant documents are protected from decay in the long term, especially since the completed digitisation of the documents makes their physical handling redundant.

In 2011, the ITS had a budget of 150 000 Euro at its disposal for its conservation measures. 234 036 individual documents of female prisoners from the Buchenwald concentration camp, prisoner registration and personal effects cards to a large extent, were deacified and 4553 documents repaired. The conservation of all individual documents from the Buchenwald concentration camp has thus been finalised.

Eight facsimiles of objects, including two charts of prisoner markings from Dachau concentration camp, were produced for exhibition. They were sent to the memorial site at Dachau concentration camp and to the Jewish Museum in Sydney. The ITS has also restored four books that contain first witness accounts from the immediate postwar period.

The conservation efforts are carried out in accordance with a priority list compiled in 2000, according to which documents of prisoners from concentration camps, prisons and ghettos are given priority treatment. Since the beginning of the conservation effort 2 654 586 objects were processed and conserved.