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Deceased prisoner property report from Buchenwald concentration camp

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Block 52NummerEffektenBlockältesterBlockführerStrich im Feld30.4.43KL Bu.Rote 3

This is a deceased prisoner property report, which the respective block elder would use to report whether a deceased prisoner had left any items behind in the block. These items would be handed over to the personal effects storage room together with the report. To date, such forms have only been found in the collection of documents from Buchenwald. The individual paper versions are therefore very similar.

This is a deceased prisoner property report, which the respective block elder would use to report whether a deceased prisoner had left any items behind in the block. These items would be handed over to the personal effects storage room together with the report. To date, such forms have only been found in the collection of documents from Buchenwald. The individual paper versions are therefore very similar.

Background information on concentration camp documents

Further examples

Questions and answers

  • Where was the document used and who created it?

    In the concentration camps, each prisoner was assigned to a barrack known as a block. In each of these barracks, a block elder was appointed who would pass on orders to the prisoners and handle administrative tasks. In the Buchenwald main camp, which almost exclusively held male prisoners, block elders had to fill out a special form when a prisoner died, known as a deceased prisoner property report. This notified the personal effects storage room of whether the deceased prisoner had left anything behind in the block. After the block elder or block clerk who was subordinate to him had filled out the form, it had to be signed by the SS man responsible for the barrack, known as the block leader. If the prisoner had left behind personal items (also known as effects), these were handed over to the personal effects storage room, which would either send the deceased prisoner’s belongings to his relatives or keep the possessions itself.

  • When was the document used?

    Unlike many other documents from the concentration camps, deceased prisoner property reports were not printed as standardized forms for all camps by the Auschwitz camp printing office. This means the forms themselves cannot help to date the deceased prisoner property reports.

  • What was the document used for?

    When newcomers arrived at a concentration camp, they had to hand over their possessions and valuables to the personal effects storage room. They could still own property in the camp, however, either by exchanging items or buying them on the black market that existed in every camp. In some cases, it was even possible for prisoners to reclaim certain items that they had handed over to the personal effects storage room. Sometimes prisoners also smuggled photographs or other small objects into their blocks. Additionally, letters sent by relatives could be kept by the prisoners in their block.

    These items were not supposed to be left in the barrack when a prisoner died. In Buchenwald, the respective block elder had to fill out a deceased prisoner property report and hand over the prisoner’s possessions to the personal effects storage room, which would deal with the property. Between 1933 and 1945, very different regulations applied to different groups of prisoners. The property of the deceased could either be sent to relatives or retained. In a memo from January 7, 1943, for example, the commandants of the concentration camps were informed that the valuables of deceased Soviet, Polish and Jewish prisoners should be confiscated. This regulation was continually expanded over the course of the war. In later years in particular, items of clothing from non-German prisoners were retained and repurposed as camp clothing. If the property of deceased prisoners was not confiscated for the benefit of the German Reich, the families or admitting authorities had to be informed, and any existing wills would have to be sought out.

  • How common is the document?

    It is impossible to say exactly how many deceased prisoner property reports have been preserved in the ITS archive. The sources mention various figures. According to a list from 1951, the US authorities handed over 4,887 deceased prisoner property reports from Buchenwald to the ITS. An overview from 1946, on the other hand, mentions “1 bundle – small.” In any case, very few deceased prisoner property reports for prisoners who died in the concentration camps have been preserved.

  • What should be considered when working with the document?

    The deceased prisoner property reports show how few personal items the prisoners possessed in the camps. However, they do not necessarily reveal how many or which personal items the prisoners actually had with them in the barracks. It is possible that many smaller objects were distributed among the other prisoners after a prisoner had died.

    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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