“Today is a historic day, but this is just the beginning,” said Jaroslaw Szarek, of the Institute of National Remembrance, a government-funded organization dedicated to investigating historical crimes. “We start with Auschwitz, but we will expand the database to other concentration camps.”
Established near Poland’s southwestern border in 1940, by the time of its liberation by the Soviets on January 27, 1945 – which is now marked as Holocaust Remembrance Day – the sprawling complex consisted of three main camps and about 40 separate sub-camps. An estimated 1 million Jews, 75,000 Poles, 20,000 Roma and 15,000 Soviet prisoners were exterminated there, the majority in the gas chambers.
More than 4,500 members of the SS were at the camp when it was captured, but the number working through the conflict was greater. Next to the name of each member of staff in the database is their time of service, a photograph, if available, and a summary of the judicial measures taken against them in the aftermath of the war. In the future, the authors plan to verify and add a description of the roles the listed men had in the camp.
The names are largely the result of the work of Aleksander Lasik, who began building the database as a student in 1982, and has since tallied 25,000 members of staff who serviced the Nazi camps located in Poland, using mostly Polish, German and American archives.
“Publishing the names is a form of justice in itself,” Lasik said during a press conference in Krakow, located near Auschwitz.
Nonetheless, the researchers note that only 12 percent of the officers on the list were officially prosecuted, while others were killed in the war, died after being taken prisoner by the Soviets, or managed to evade justice altogether.
The list does not present a complete picture of the camp. The SS was the ethnically-German core unit in charge of it, but it was aided by regular troops, Ukrainian recruits, and at least 200 women, who have not been added to the database.
Lasik said that additional information about Auschwitz is located in Russian archives, but that access to them is “impossible.”
“Work on augmenting the list will require multiple foreign queries. I hope that this database will form a foundation for all future studies of Auschwitz,” said Piotr Cywinski, director of the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum.