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Poland puts database of German SS online

January 30, 2017

As many as 200 SS personnel could still be alive and, perhaps, brought to justice, albeit some 70 years after the fact. The Polish government also wants the world to remember that Germans ran the camps inside Poland.

Konzentrationslager Auschwitz I
Image: picture alliance/AP Photo

A Polish historian at a state-run institute has posted a comprehensive list of Nazi SS commanders and guards at the Auschwitz concentration camp in hopes that some may still be brought to justice, and to serve as a reminder that the camp, while located in Poland, was nonetheless run by German officials.

The state-run Institute of National Remembrance (IPN) said the Auschwitz Garrison list was compiled from archives in Poland, Germany, Austria, the United States and, to a lesser extent, Russia, where access to archives is severely limited.

The historian Aleksander Lasik, working through the institute and the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial, is posting more than 8,500 entries. It is based on a list that Lasik compiled over more than 30 years of archival research.

"The world justice system has failed and I'm doing what a historian should do: expose the responsible individuals as war criminals," Lasik said.

He estimates that as many as 200 former death camp guards could still be alive.

IPN chief Jaroslaw Szarek described the project as a response to historically false representations of Auschwitz as a "Polish death camp."

"We are showing the personnel and showing who the SS men were," he said.

Historians estimate that just 12 percent of Auschwitz guards were ever put on trial by courts in Poland and elsewhere.

The research continues

Lasik's full database has more than 25,000 names of guards from various German-run camps. He said the list is not complete and that he continues his research.

The online database of Auschwitz commanders and guards is written in Polish, German, and English. Most entries include the suspects' place and date of birth, nationality, education, military service and party affiliation - some include photos.

Judicial documents are included when the person stood trial in Poland.  

As one example, the entry for Rudolf Hoess, the camp's commander from 1940-43, has a photocopy of his death sentence, which was handed down by a court in Krakow, Poland, in 1947.

The dates of service at Auschwitz are being verified pending publication.

Nazi hunter Efraim Zuroff said publishing the names is "very important and the right thing to do" and can have "practical implications" if Nazi crime investigators in Germany are unaware of some of the names.

From 1940-45 it is estimated that Nazi Germans killed some 1.1 million people at the death camps that they operated in occupied Poland.

About 1 million of the victims were European Jews, while 75,000 were Poles, some 21,000 were Roma and approximately 15,000 were Soviet prisoners of war.

bik/rc (AP, dpa)