Auschwitz museum appeals to Germans and Austrians for personal SS documents

The railway track leading to the infamous ‘Death Gate’ at the Auschwitz II Birkenau extermination camp on November 13, 2014, in Oswiecim, Poland. (Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

The railway track leading to the infamous ‘Death Gate’ at the Auschwitz II Birkenau extermination camp on November 13, 2014, in Oswiecim, Poland. (Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

(JTA) – The director of Auschwitz–Birkenau Museum has appealed to Germans and Austrians to donate documents, photographs, personal letters, or any other materials related to the SS staff of the camp.

“Without a comprehensive analysis and understanding of the motivation and mentality of the perpetrators, our efforts to wisely counsel future generations will only remain intuitive. Today, we ask you to help,” reads the appeal.

The Schutzstaffel, or SS, was a major paramilitary organization under German fuhrer Adolf Hitler and the National Socialist German Workers’ Party, or Nazi Party.

Last week, the museum published a book containing excerpts of testimonies of SS staff of the camp given during the trial in Krakow in 1947. Accused were 40 SS members of which 23 were sentenced to death. One person was acquitted.

“So far, we have relied mainly on the accounts and memories of former prisoners, preserved camp documentation, and post-war court trial materials. We do not have multiple sources that allow for a better and more comprehensive understanding of the motivation of the perpetrators. The archives contain very few private materials created by members of the SS staff of KL Auschwitz,” said Museum Director Piotr Cywinski in a statement issued Wednesday.

Cywinski said that the museum has called on the most prominent German and Austrian media for help in circulating its appeal for the materials. He promised “complete anonymity” to those who wish to hand over such documents.

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