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Search for Documents for an Exhibit by the Foundation “Fleeing, Expulsion and Reconciliation”

On 3 and 4 June 2014, the historian Ursula Breymayer, on behalf of the Foundation Fleeing, Expulsion, Reconciliation, tried to get an impression of the documentary material available in the archives of the International Tracing Service (ITS) regarding the death marches just before the end of the war. The Foundation is presently creating a permanent exhibition on the topic of fleeing and expulsion in Europe, which will be shown at the Foundation’s planned documentation center in the historical “Deutschlandhaus” in Berlin, for which the conversion of the building was started in 2013.

One chapter of the exhibition will be about the massive refugee movement of German civilians fleeing from the Soviet troops in 1944/45, which happened in the region around Gdansk and Cracow. In this connection, a multi-perspective examination of the subject is planned, also including the death marches following the evacuation of the concentration camps - as the last mass crime committed by the National Socialists (here especially the death marches from the Auschwitz and Stutthof concentration camps) - which took place at the same time and in the same geographic region.

The ITS has collected a wide range of documents relating to the death marches, among them information prepared by local communities, data concerning evacuation transports, investigation reports of the police, maps and original records from the final days of the concentration camps. In the course of her work in the archives, Ursula Breymayer was grateful for the support of ITS staff who – although it was her first visit to Bad Arolsen – helped her right away in getting an idea of which documents (in the form of facsimiles) could fit the concept of the exhibition. “The lists of the ‘evacuation transports’ give an impression of the horrendous massive number of victims. In one document about the death marches from Auschwitz to Buchenwald, there are 67 pages with the names and prisoner categories like nationality, profession and religion; this draws the observer’s attention to the fates of countless individuals. Jews from all over the world were among them, even from Iraq.” For the last several years the death marches have become a focus of research at the ITS, with the first ITS Yearbook dedicated to this subject in 2012.