German Prosecutors to Study List of 10,000 People Who Served at Auschwitz

List could be used to help track down previously unknown war criminals, some of whom may still be alive.

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*This January 1941 file photo show the railroad tracks leading to the entrance of the concentration camp Auschwitz-Birkenau, Poland.
This January 1941 file photo show the railroad tracks leading to the entrance of the concentration camp Auschwitz-Birkenau, Poland. Credit: AP
Ofer Aderet
Ofer Aderet

Prosecutors in Germany are studying a list of nearly 10,000 people who fulfilled various functions at the Auschwitz death camp in German-occupied Poland, to see if there are any who were unknown to them before.

This was the first time that a concentrated effort has been made to identify all the Nazi commanders and guards who served at Auschwitz and to build a database. The resulting list, totaling 9,687 people, was published by Poland’s Institute of National Remembrance, for historical research purposes. Nazi hunter Efraim Zuroff told Haaretz that the list could also be crucial for tracking down previously unknown war criminals who could be brought to justice.

In recent years, Germany has been pursuing legal steps against people who served at Auschwitz, even though most are now around 95 years old. One, Oskar Groening, the “bookkeeper of Auschwitz,” who counted money taken from prisoners and sorted property seized from them, was sentenced in 2015 (at age 93) to four years for facilitating mass murder. Another, Reinhold Hanning, a former guard at Auschwitz, was sentenced to five years.

Oskar Groening, 'bookkeeper of Auschwitz,' listens to the verdict of his trial on July 15, 2015.Credit: AFP

The Institute of National Remembrance or INR is a government body responsible for investigating crimes committed against Poles during the periods of Nazi and Communist rule. It cooperates with the Auschwitz Museum. The database of names is a 30-year project begun by historian Aleksander Lasik. Ultimately the research will encompass archives in Poland, Germany, Austria, Russia and the United States.

“The world justice system has failed and I’m doing what a historian should do: expose the responsible individuals as war criminals,” Lasik said at a press conference this week in Krakow.

Lasik believes that about 200 of the people named on the list, which appears on the INR website in Polish, English and German, are still alive.

The details include name and place of birth, nationality, army service, party affiliation and in about 10 percent – or hundreds – of cases, a photograph as well. The institute promises to devote great effort to finding more photographs, preferably from the former SS soldiers’ service during World War II.

In some cases, legal steps against them are also described.

About 1.1 million people were murdered at Auschwitz, most of them Jews.

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