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Mail from Auschwitz

Author: Annette Wieviorka <Wieviorka@aol.com> Date: Wed, 9 Dec 1998 19:00:58 +0000

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From: Annette Wieviorka <Wieviorka@aol.com>

It was indeed possible to send letters from Auschwitz, but not for Jewish inmates.

I saw and read the letters send by a famous resistant in France, Marie-France Vaillant-Couturier [see note below], who was send in Auschwitz by the same transport than Charlotte Delbo. The letters are in the museum of deportation and resistance in Besançon (France).

There is also a very interesting book "Le courrier dans les camps de concentration" written by a philatelist and former inmate in Oranienburg whose name is Lajournade. He explains that there had been in Birkenau a "Brief Aktion." The goal was to trace the families of French Jews .

Annette Wieviorka. CNRS Paris

Date: Thu, 10 Dec 1998 04:42:51 +0000

From: Lance Sprung <ls@IX.NETCOM.COM>

Also, 2 excellent books (used by collectors of such material) which discuss inmate mail are:
  1. The echoes that remain by Henry Schwab. Published by the Cardinal Spellman Philatelic Museum, March 1992. Hardcover, 185 Pages
  2. Handbook of the mail in the concentration camps 1933-1945 by Sam Simon. Softcover 135 pages.

#1 is still in print. #2 is out of print with only a few hundred copies having been produced. There have also been some excellent articles published and available from the American Philatelic Research Library, State College. PA.


Date: Thu, 10 Dec 1998 04:39:41 +0000

From: Stanford Shaw <sshaw@UCLA.EDU>:

In doing research in the Turkish Foreign Ministry archives, I found a postcard from a Turkish Jewish inmate at Auschwitz who had lived through the war, and who was writing the Turkish Consul General in Paris asking for information about her husband. Of course this was after the Nazis were gone and the Russians had taken over.


From: Peter Witte <p.witte@T-ONLINE.DE>:

Numerous letters and postcards from Jewish inmates of Auschwitz have survived the war. For example list-member John Freund provides two facsimiles from Birkenau in his book "After those Fifty Years. Memoirs of the Birkenau Boys" on pp. 164 and 204. So does Lore Shelley in her "Schreiberinnen des Todes" (Engl. "Secretaries of Death", San Francisco 1986) on pp. 219-20, 244-48, 352). The authenticity of these letters and postcards is beyond any doubt, though the dates may be questionable sometimes.

Original letters and postcards from Auschwitz are easily to be found e.g. in the archives of Theresienstadt and Auschwitz, in the Jewish Museum in Prague and in many other places.

The correspondence of Jewish deportees, which was occasionally permitted indeed, has been widely underrated in the past with respect to its relevance for historical research. By help of such letters and postcards I succeeded in reconstructing the transport of 1,000 Czech Jews from Theresienstadt to the district of Lublin. Their destination and fate had been unknown up to then. See my article "Letzte Nachrichten aus Siedliszcze. Der Transport Ax aus Theresienstadt in den Distrikt Lublin", in: Theresienstädter Studien und Dokumente, Prag 1996, pp. 98-113 (publ. in Czech too as "Posledi zpravy deportovanych transportem Ax", in: Terezinske studie a dokumenty 1996).

> there had been in Birkenau a "Brief Aktion." The goal was to trace the families of French Jews.

On the "Brief Aktion" see John Freund and Lore Shelley with several references in the testimonies and memoirs. I doubt that it was the goal to trace down any families which were not yet in the hidings (the vast majority). All addresses of remaining Jews were already known to the Gestapo and the central Jewish organizations and were permanently reexamined.

All the correspondence out of and to the concentration camps had to be sent over the "Reichsvereinigung der Juden in Deutschland" or, for Slovakia, the UZ (Ustredna Zidov : Jewish Center). With regard to the UZ in Bratislava e.g. we know exactly how many letters of deportees arrived there in August 1943: 1,027 from Birkenau, 1,308 from Majdanek, 141 from Terezin -- in September 1943: 1,305 from Birkenau, 260 from Terezin.

Already at the end of July 1942 the UZ had obtained 2,000 addresses of Slovak deportees still alive in concentration camps and Polish ghettos by help of letters and postcards sent from there. Though correspondence was prevailingly censured, a lot of hidden or even open information reached the adressees. A selection of such letters containing information on starvation and mass death were sent by UZ members to representatives of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee and the Hechalutz Center in Geneva, Switzerland. (See Gila Fatran, "The Working Group", in: Holocaust and Genocide Studies 8, # 2, Fall 1994. pp. 164-201)


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Website note on Marie-France Vaillant-Couturier: For the scathing private views of Judge Biddle, the American judge at Nuremberg, on her truthfulness and reliability as a witness, see David Irving, Nuremberg, the Last Battle.
IrvingReading the above posting, David Irving wrote to Mme Wieviorka:

In British and American files I have located Postal Telegraph & Censorship reports by British Postal censors, which have regular special reports on the Jewish Problem. (I sent one such, about 50 pages, to Martin Gilbert two years ago). The reports frequently describe mail intercepted from concentration camp prisoners.--David Irving

This "academic" has not bothered to acknowledge Mr Irving's helpful comment.

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