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ITS individual document envelope

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DachauKLLeere Fläche bei (Männer)HäftlingsnummerT/D NummerUmschlagnummerInf.-Karte

This is an envelope for individual documents. These envelopes were created by the ITS archive for collecting individual documents – such as cards and forms – that were issued for a single person in the concentration camps. The envelopes look very similar at first glance, but there are several versions of them. Different information was printed on the envelopes for female and male prisoners, as well as for the individual collections from different concentration camps. Sometimes there are also handwritten notes from ITS employees on the envelopes.

This is an envelope for individual documents. These envelopes were created by the ITS archive for collecting individual documents – such as cards and forms – that were issued for a single person in the concentration camps. The envelopes look very similar at first glance, but there are several versions of them. Different information was printed on the envelopes for female and male prisoners, as well as for the individual collections from different concentration camps. Sometimes there are also handwritten notes from ITS employees on the envelopes.

Background information on concentration camp documents

Further examples

Questions and answers

  • Where was the document used and who created it?

    These envelopes were created by the ITS itself. They hold documents from a single individual’s period of imprisonment, which are known as individual documents. The envelopes can look slightly different depending, for example, on whether the documents inside relate to a female or male prisoner. On some envelopes, this information is not noted at all. Different types of documents are listed on the envelopes as well, depending on the concentration camp from which the documents came. When it designed the envelopes, the ITS took account of which documents were found most often in the individual collections from each camp. This is also why the envelopes come in different sizes. Since more large-format individual documents were preserved from camps such as Buchenwald and Dachau, the A5 format was chosen for these envelopes. For the small-format documents from Mittelbau-Dora concentration camp, however, smaller envelopes were used.

  • When was the document used?

    The ITS began using these envelopes in 1962 to replace the previously used open envelopes, which did not list any of the prisoner’s personal details. The information on the front of the new envelopes was continually updated over the years. This is reflected in the different handwritings that can appear on the envelopes. For example, a note was made whenever a new document about a person was added or a document was removed. Notes such as +1, +2, -1, -2, etc., indicated how many documents had been added or removed, and the category of each new document was written by hand.

  • What was the document used for?

    After the war, the ITS received large numbers of documents from the liberated concentration camps to use for its tracing activities. When it received documents that had been created in a camp for a single person (such as a prisoner registration form or personal effects card), ITS employees would file these documents together in one envelope. The collections were initially sorted according to the camps from which the documents came. The envelopes were filed in the respective card files by the prisoner’s last name, using an alphabetical-phonetic system. If a person had been imprisoned in multiple camps and the ITS had documents from each of these camps, then multiple envelopes were usually created. For this reason, there are often several envelopes for prisoners who were transferred frequently; there may be one envelope for the prisoner in the Buchenwald collection and another in the Dachau collection, for example. Later on, individual cards from other camps were sometimes also placed in the envelopes. Combining the collections in this way made it easier to trace individuals, because multiple documents could be found in the archive at the same time.

    The notes on the envelope do not provide any direct information about a person’s path of persecution, they only show the documents available about this person in the ITS archive. To help clearly identify the person being traced, additional details were noted on the envelope: the person’s name, their date and place of birth, and their prisoner number. On the lower part of the envelope, ITS employees noted the individual documents that were collected in the envelope. There were checkboxes for the most common documents, while other types of documents could be noted by hand. In the boxes next to the document types, ITS employees noted the number of each type of document in the envelope. In the digital ITS archive, additional documents might have been virtually added to the envelope. This means that the original document might not actually be in the physical envelope, but it will still be displayed to digital users together with the envelope. This explains why, in some cases, the number of documents noted on the physical envelope is smaller than the number of documents linked to the digital envelope.

  • How common is the document?

    There are a lot of individual document envelopes in the ITS archive because most concentration camp documents about individual people were collected in such envelopes. However, the number of envelopes in each camp collection can vary dramatically. The volume of documents in each collection depends on factors such as how big the camp was and how many documents were preserved from it. For example, around 290,000 envelopes were created for male prisoners from Buchenwald, but there are only around 9,000 envelopes with documents from the Lublin concentration camp. Furthermore, individual documents were not passed on from all concentration camps. In most cases, information about an individual’s fate can only be gleaned from lists that were drawn up by the camp administration or other institutions.

  • What should be considered when working with the document?

    In addition to the documents collected in the envelopes, the ITS may hold other documents relating to an individual’s imprisonment in a concentration camp. In many cases, further documents can be found in what is known as list material. These folders – which are organized thematically, geographically or chronologically – are stored separately from the envelopes in the ITS archive and can also contain individual documents. Since the ITS received very few individual documents from Auschwitz and Sachsenhausen, for example, these documents were not filed in individual envelopes after the war. Instead, forms from these two camps were sometimes placed in folders and sometimes placed in envelopes in other camp collections if the ITS had more documents about the respective prisoner from a different camp.

    The envelopes only hold documents from an individual’s period of imprisonment and from the time of liberation. If the ITS received documents about an individual’s registration as a Displaced Person after the war, or about forced labor prior to being transferred to a concentration camp, these documents were not placed in the individual document envelopes. Such documents can be found in other collections in the ITS archive.

    In some cases, the way the ITS referred to the documents on the envelopes did not correspond to the official names of the forms in the concentration camps. This resulted in the creation of new terms used only within the ITS. For example, the number cards for female prisoners from the satellite camps of Buchenwald are referred to as Frauenkarten 1 (“Women’s Cards 1”) on the ITS envelopes. This term was not used in the concentration camp itself.

    Finally, it is important to note that the number of documents collected in a single envelope can vary widely. For some prisoners only a single card has been preserved, while for others it is possible to reconstruct their entire path of persecution based on the existing documents.

    If you have any additional information about this document or any other documents described in the e-Guide, we would appreciate it very much if you could send your feedback to eguide(at)its-arolsen.org. The document descriptions are updated regularly – and the best way for us to do this is by incorporating the knowledge you share with us.

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