Imagine a trail of paper that documents terror and death. Imagine the voices of people caught up in those events. Their voices long silent now, but the paper remains. A voiceless echo of the pain and suffering. The screams and the death and the blood and the agony long since gone. All that is left is the paper.
Sixteen-miles. That’s how far stretches the surviving individual records of what happened to millions of the Jews exterminated by the Nazi’s. Those records have been kept under lock and key by the International Red Cross since they were captured by the Allies after World War II. Soon, they will become available on digital copies.
The Nazi’s meticulous record-keeping, which fell apart late in the war, captures the fates of so many who today are only remembered in big numbers that fail to capture the individual horrors. Similarly, the scope of the death operations is now known to be even larger than previously described.
The files will support new research from other sources showing that the network of concentration camps, ghettos and labor camps was nearly three times more extensive than previously thought.
Postwar historians estimated about 5,000 to 7,000 detention sites. But after the Cold War ended, records began pouring out of the former communist nations of East Europe. More sites were disclosed in the last six years in claims by 1.6 million people for slave labor reparations from a $6.6 billion fund financed by the German government and some 3,000 industries.
"We have identified somewhere in the neighborhood of 20,000 camps and ghettos of various categories," said Geoffrey Megargee of the Holocaust Museum in Washington, who is compiling a seven-volume encyclopedia of these detention centers.
The archive [also] has some 3.4 million files of DPs _ Displaced Persons….
[Also] Some 50 million pages _ scraps of paper, transport lists, registration books, labor documents, medical and death registers _ make reference to 17.5 million individuals caught up in the machinery of persecution, displacement and death.
When I was a very young child, I recall the extended family gathering around a short note from the International Red Cross about the fate of part of my family: Taken out of their village in Belarus by local sympathizers of the Nazi’s, to dig ditches, then hammered on their heads with the shovels, some shot, and tossed into the ditch like garbage.
Read the whole thing. If you are strong enough.