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Card for “special operation Jews” released from Dachau

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This card was created after the war for Jewish men who had been imprisoned in Dachau following the pogroms on the night of November 9, 1938. These cards are also referred to as “cards for special operation Jews” based on the prisoner group for whom they were created. Since the cards were produced in a very short time period for a specific purpose, they are all nearly identical.

This card was created after the war for Jewish men who had been imprisoned in Dachau following the pogroms on the night of November 9, 1938. These cards are also referred to as “cards for special operation Jews” based on the prisoner group for whom they were created. Since the cards were produced in a very short time period for a specific purpose, they are all nearly identical.

Background information on concentration camp documents

Further examples

Questions and answers

  • Where was the document used and who created it?

    More than 30,000 Jewish men were arrested during and after the pogroms on the night of November 9, 1938. They were referred to as “Aktionsjuden” (“special operation Jews”). This term comes from “Aktion Rath,” the operation during which the men had been seized. The arrested men were deported to the Sachsenhausen, Buchenwald and Dachau concentration camps. In early November 1938, 10,911 German and Austrian Jews arrived at Dachau. This group was subjected to special harassment and torment. The men would have to stand in the roll-call square for hours or would be forced to perform physically strenuous exercises. This was intended to convince them that emigrating from Germany – which would have meant leaving behind most of their possessions – was their only way out. Their imprisonment was also supposed to promote the so-called “Aryanization” process, the sale of businesses, companies and property far beneath their actual value to non-Jewish Germans. More than 170 men died as a consequence of the violence and terrible living conditions in the concentration camps. Most “special operation Jews” were released in stages between the end of November 1938 and the start of 1939.

    It is apparent that registry office cards were created for this group of prisoners when they arrived at Dachau because the cards for “special operation Jews” who died in the camp are still found in the card file. Only the cards of “special operation Jews” who were released were eventually removed from the card file, probably during the war. It is not known who did this or why. Because all “special operation Jews” in Dachau were also recorded in arrivals books and change reports, their names are known, as are their dates of release and their prisoner numbers. New cards were created after the war for this group of prisoners on the basis of the change reports. It is highly probable that the new cards were written by former prisoners in the International Information Office (IIO) in Dachau. The cards were alphabetically ordered in the registry office card file that had been saved from destruction. Therefore, these are not original cards from the Dachau camp administration, they are documents produced immediately after the war.

  • When was the document used?

    The cards for “special operation Jews” are unique in that they were created especially for a specific group of prisoners after the liberation of the camp. For this reason, the cards are all very similar and do not vary in their color or typeface like other registry office cards. Unfortunately, it is not known exactly when the cards were created. They were definitely produced after the liberation of Dachau concentration camp, however.

  • What was the document used for?

    Documents known as registry office cards were filled out in the concentration camps to maintain an overview of the prisoners. The ITS currently has over 170,000 original registry office cards from Dachau concentration camp. The cards for Jewish prisoners who were taken to Dachau in November 1938 and released again within a few weeks or months have not been preserved, however. Instead, the card file holds cards produced later, known as “cards for special operation Jews.” It is highly probably that these cards were created for information purposes by the International Information Office (IIO), an organization of liberated prisoners in Dachau.

    The Information Office emerged from the former camp registry office. Camp clerk Jan Domagala was able to save the registry office documents from destruction by the SS. The registry office card file became the basis of all further information provided by the Information Office, and it was intended to be used as evidence in trials as well. The IIO was initially made up exclusively of former prisoners of Dachau. They responded to inquiries about people who had been imprisoned in Dachau, and they issued certificates confirming their imprisonment. The registry office card file was therefore continually updated after the war. For example, the cards of survivors would be stamped.

    There is a good deal of evidence that the cards for “special operation Jews” were created by the International Information Office and found their way to the ITS as part of the entire registry office card file. An overview of the responsibilities of the IIO, which was probably written in the summer of 1946, states: “The Card File Department […] compares the number registers with the alphabetically ordered card file, and missing file cards are added on the basis of the number registers” (1.1.6.0/ 82095277/ITS Digitial Archive, Bad Arolsen). This means that new cards were created. It could also indicate that the cards for “special operation Jews” were produced in this department so that information could be provided more quickly. Another theory is that the cards were produced by the ITS itself as a working tool. However, catalogs from the early 1950s which record the arrival of new document collections at the ITS seem to indicate that the International Information Office had already created the cards itself.

  • How common is the document?

    There are around 186,000 registry office cards from Dachau in the ITS collection. They include the alphabetically ordered cards for the 10,911 imprisoned “special operation Jews.” The “cards for special operation Jews” are unique to Dachau concentration camp. In other camps that admitted Jewish prisoners in the wake of the November pogroms, such cards were not created after the liberation.

  • What should be considered when working with the document?

    The cards for “special operation Jews” are very different from the registry office cards for other groups of prisoners who were imprisoned in Dachau. The cards for political, criminal, homosexual or religious prisoners include information about their hometown, marital status, labor detail and transfers to satellite camps, as well as their arrival date and prisoner category. Much of this information is missing on the cards for “special operation Jews.” The explanation for this is that the change reports that were used after the liberation as the basis for these cards noted only the prisoner’s name, number and date of release or death. However, other information can be gleaned from the status of the “special operation Jews.” For example, the prisoner category did not have to be noted because this type of card was created for a single group of prisoners. Additionally, all of the men in question arrived at the camp during the same period of time. In certain cases, a prisoner’s number can be used to consult other ITS documents and determine the exact arrival date. Since these Jewish men were not going to be put to work in the camp or an external labor detail, there was no space on the cards needed for recording a labor detail. The information on the cards for “special operation Jews” is restricted to their name, prisoner number and release date.

    It is also important to note that the cards for “special operation Jews” were created after the war. Even though they are held in the Dachau registry office card file and can be found in this collection at the ITS, the cards were not created on behalf of the SS in the Dachau concentration camp.

    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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