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Number card for male prisoners of Buchenwald concentration camp

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47467Angaben van MaanenBeisland bis StudentPolit und Norw.14. Dez. 194427. Feb. 1945 und Neuengamme

These number cards were used for managing the male prisoners in Buchenwald concentration camp. The color of the paper can vary slightly, but the cards can be easily identified by the number stamped near the top. The biggest difference between the individual cards is the number of prisoners listed under each prisoner number. Lower numbers were often issued multiple times, so more than four names can be listed here. On cards with higher numbers, the prisoner clerks often only recorded a single person.

These number cards were used for managing the male prisoners in Buchenwald concentration camp. The color of the paper can vary slightly, but the cards can be easily identified by the number stamped near the top. The biggest difference between the individual cards is the number of prisoners listed under each prisoner number. Lower numbers were often issued multiple times, so more than four names can be listed here. On cards with higher numbers, the prisoner clerks often only recorded a single person.

Background information on concentration camp documents

Further examples

Questions and answers

  • Where was the document used and who created it?

    In Buchenwald concentration camp, prisoners were recorded not only in number books but also in a number card file. Prisoner clerks in the camp registry office used A6-sized cards to create this card file for the report leader. The report leader was responsible for producing statistics and reports in the concentration camp, and he consulted various card files for this. He needed the number card file primarily because the administrative documents in the camp often mentioned only the prisoners’ numbers, not their names. Number cards could be used to quickly determine which number represented which prisoner. However, the cards listed not only the prisoner who currently bore a particular number, but also any other prisoners who might have been assigned the same number previously. Number cards were filled out only for male prisoners in Buchenwald. Separate cards were used for female prisoners of the satellite camps, but they worked the same way.

  • When was the document used?

    The number card file in Buchenwald existed from October 1938 at the latest. It was probably started even earlier, however. Assuming that the number card file was updated together with the number book, the card file must have been used until March 27, 1945 – two weeks before the liberation of the camp.

  • What was the document used for?

    In the registry office of Buchenwald concentration camp, prisoner clerks recorded the most important information about newly arrived prisoners not only on registry office cards, but also on cards for the number card file. This card file was kept in the registry office, and it was arranged in ascending order by the numbers that had been assigned to each concentration camp prisoner. The number card file made it easy to check which number stood for which person.

    For a long time, the concentration camps tried to keep the assigned numbers low so that it was not immediately obvious that the total number of inmates in the camp was actually higher. For this reason, the administration of Buchenwald and other camps did not sequentially number the prisoners; instead – especially in the first years – the same numbers were reassigned whenever a prisoner died, was released or was transferred to another concentration camp or prison. This meant that a previously used number could be reassigned to a new prisoner. The prisoner clerks would then update the cards in the number card file. They noted the name, nationality and registration date of the new prisoner on the same card, underneath the details of the previous prisoner. For this reason, cards with low numbers often list multiple people. It was important to still be able to identify the prisoner who had previously been assigned a particular number. This made it possible to determine who had worn which number during which time period, even if the number had already been erased in the number book.

    Later on, the administration of Buchenwald began issuing numbers only once. For this reason, cards with higher prisoner numbers usually only mention one person. Cards that were no longer needed were sometimes used for other purposes. For example, the registry office card for Iwan Zintschenko was written on the back of the number card for Michail Anikejew, who had died.

  • How common is the document?

    In Buchenwald concentration camp, numbers over 140,000 were assigned to prisoners. Therefore, there must have been just as many cards in the number card file. There are relatively few number cards in the ITS archive, however, because they initially remained in the camp after Buchenwald was liberated. Unlike other Buchenwald documents, they were not taken to Arolsen by the Allies. This is because the very extensive card file was supposed to be used after the war to handle the repayment of the prisoners’ money. While there are only a few original cards from the Buchenwald number card file in the ITS archive, there are around 139,000 cards in the Central Thuringian State Archive in Weimar. Since a single card often has information about multiple prisoners, these cards can provide information on around 210,000 Buchenwald prisoners.

  • What should be considered when working with the document?

    Number cards were kept in their own card file in Buchenwald concentration camp. At the ITS, however, they were filed in the individual document envelopes of the respective prisoners. The number cards in the ITS archive can always be found in the individual document envelope for the first person mentioned on the card. However, there are no references to the number card in the individual documents of the other prisoners mentioned on the card. Prisoners might also have been listed on multiple cards if they received new numbers during their imprisonment. This could happen if they were transferred back from a satellite camp, for example, or when numbers were generally reissued in the camp as a whole.

    Unlike the number book or the registry office cards, the number cards for male prisoners of Buchenwald do not mention the block or external labor detail to which the prisoners were assigned. Nonetheless, the number card can help determine the main dates of a prisoner’s path of persecution. Other documents must be consulted for any additional information.

    The term “number card file” – like “prisoner registration card” – has been frequently used by the ITS in the past to refer to different card files. For example, the ITS archive also has number card files for various concentration camps which were created as finding aids from the 1950s onwards. These hold file cards which were produced by the ITS itself based on other documents. There is also another type of card that was long considered a number card by the ITS, but which, according to information from the Buchenwald Concentration Camp Memorial, is actually not a version of a number card. In fact, very few of the cards referred to as “number cards” by the ITS over the past 70 years were actually part of the number card file of Buchenwald.

    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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