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Research on the Physical Impact of Concentration Camp Detention on Prisoners

The US-American researcher Alicia Wolf has researched at the archives of the International Tracing Service (ITS) in Bad Arolsen for her master’s degree at West Chester University of Pennsylvania. The subject of her thesis is the physical impact that the incarceration in concentration camps had on survivors. “The psychological and not so much the physical repercussions are often focussed on”, explains Wolf. “But these have also been diverse and quite often long-lasting.”

Staying at the ITS for more than a week, the researcher looked mainly into witness statements by survivors and records on Displaced Persons. She also studied the investigative reports of the allied soldiers who had freed the concentration camps. “The Allies have described in detail what they have come upon”, relates the junior researcher. “They realised the needs of the survivors and organised adequate medical support.” Nevertheless physical complications remained. “Some prisoners were hanged and beaten, which caused muscular problems later. Others were left with paralysed legs and arms, or lost toes due to frost. Typhus spread in the camps. And many inmates had open wounds, or suffered from a weakness of their heart muscles.”

In some camps inmates had been subjected to medical experiments which involved live-long pains for the few who survived these experiments. The lack and poor quality of food had an impact on human organs as well. “In any case, I will have to discuss my findings with medical experts”, says Wolf. She also plans to compare her findings with today’s experiences from imprisonment and torture. More testimonials from survivors in other archives will help round off the picture.

Starting late in July, her research has already taken Wolf to many stations in Europe, among them Berlin, Warsaw, Auschwitz, Krakow, Prague, Neuengamme, Dora-Mittelbau and Munich. “It was in particular my visit to the memorial sites that helped me in getting the background for my research. I also hope to be able to interview some survivors.” (Who would like to contribute to Wolf’s thesis may contact her by mail at aw760783@wcupa.edu). The American intends to finish her thesis by autumn 2013.