The Death Books of Auschwitz
This document is part of the Inconvenient History periodical.
Use this menu to find more documents that are part of this periodical.
The Spaniard Enrique Aynat Eknes is a distinguished researcher in the field of the Final Solution. He has previously authored three books on aspects of the “Holocaust,” and several of his articles were published in the Journal of Historical Review.
In 1997, Aynat self-published a book in Valencia together with Jean-Marie Boisdefeu, which is titled Estudios sobre Auschwitz (Studies on Auschwitz). The first part of this book is of less interest for non-Belgian readers, as it deals with the Rapport Victor Martins, an apocryphal document that is hardly ever mentioned in Holocaust literature outside Belgium. Hence, the entire first part is the refutation of an irrelevant testimony; a flamethrower is used here to kill a mosquito.
The following is a translation of the second contribution to this book, headlined “Datos estadisticos sobre la mortalidad de los judios deportados de Francia a Auschwitz 1942,” written by Enrique Aynat. In it, Aynat analyzes the data from the Auschwitz Death Books, which were published in 1995 by the Saur publishing company in Munich. The result of this study supports the revisionist thesis of the fate of the French Jews: They died primarily of the catastrophic hygienic conditions prevailing at Auschwitz, as reflected in the camp commandant’s reports intercepted by the British and sent by radio to Berlin (cf. F. H. Hinsley, British Intelligence in the Second World War, Vol. II, Her Majesty’s Stationery Office, London 1981, pp. 669-673). There is no evidence that inmates who were unable to work were sorted out for immediate killing, as many witnesses have claimed. Rather, it must be assumed that, after the outbreak of the typhus epidemic in the summer of 1942, the inmates were admitted to the Auschwitz Camp only in exceptional cases, but otherwise were mainly transferred to other camps.
1.1. Purpose and Genesis of this Study
In 1995, the lists with the names of those who died in Auschwitz were published under the title Die Sterbebücher von Auschwitz (The Death Books of Auschwitz).1 This was an exceptionally significant event in the historiography of this well-known German concentration camp. Said lists were mostly based on the Death Books of the German camp administration. The latter had fallen into the hands of the Soviets in 1945 after the conquest of the camp. In 1991/1992, the Soviet authorities handed over all 46 Death Books in their possession to the State Museum of Auschwitz-Birkenau, Poland.
These Death Books are an invaluable source for the reconstruction of the history of Auschwitz, and will undoubtedly be used intensively for this purpose in the future.2 As a first modest contribution, I have set myself the goal of determining, on the basis of the Death-Book data contained in the aforementioned work, what the effect of being sent to the Auschwitz Camp was for the Jews deported from France in 1942.
As a second source, I used Serge Klarsfeld’s book Le Mémorial de la Déportation des Juifs de France, which contains the lists of all Jews deported from France during the war.3
My work consisted simply of juxtaposing the lists of deportees with those in the Death Books in order to obtain precise data on mortality among the deportees. The data obtained in this way is then presented in the form of tables and charts, together with brief supplementary comments.
The comparison of the two sources was an arduous task. For every single name of the Jews deported from France in 1942 according to Klarsfeld’s Mémorial, I checked whether it was included in the two lists of names from the Death Books. For this purpose, each name was verified twice. Considering that about 40,000 names had to be verified in this way, the reader can get an idea of the effort that was involved in this work.
I mentioned double verification, because the Auschwitz Camp’s death records contain two different lists with the names of deceased persons. The first one contains 68,864 names, which are contained in the aforementioned Death Books. The second list contains another 11,146 names, which are contained in other preserved documents of the camp administration. These 11,146 names are missing from the Death Books, presumably because the death certificates relating to them have been lost. In total, documentary records of 80,010 deceased persons have been preserved.
1.2.1. Discrepancies in the Comparison of Sources
The work, which is methodically very simple in itself, was considerably complicated by certain identification problems. In the Death Books, the following information is found about each deceased inmate: first and last name, date and place of birth, and date of death. The work of matching and identification seems, in principle, very simple, albeit laborious and time-consuming. However, one notices very soon that, in countless cases, the match is by no means complete, because there are discrepancies in some data. For example, the first and last names as well as place of birth often match, but the dates do not. For example, it happens that the day and the year of an inmate’s birth match, but not the month. In many other cases, the date and place of birth correspond, while differences appear in the first or last names.
These discrepancies can easily be explained. It should be kept in mind that different officials wrote down, one after the other, all of this data. The French police, who were responsible for drawing up the lists with the names of the deportees, first typed the names. After arriving at Auschwitz, the deportees gave their personal data to the German camp authorities, who in turn recorded it in typewritten form on various forms. If a prisoner died, they entered his name on a death certificate based on the earlier records. Finally, the editors of the Death Books processed all this information for their work. Accordingly, countless sources of error arose when writing down or typing the data.
Regarding the discrepancies in first and last names, one must additionally take into account that many of the deportees originally came from Eastern European countries, where the native language of many Jews was Yiddish. After their emigration to the West, they inevitably transliterated their names using the Latin alphabet, resulting in a myriad of variants. For example, in the case of the German-born name “Schwarz,” the following variations are found in the death records: “Schvarc,” “Schvarcz,” “Schvarts,” “Schvartz,” “Schvarz,” “Schwarc,” “Schwarcz,” and “Schwartz.” With the first names, we find, for example, “Fajwel”, “Fajwesz”, “Fajwicz”, “Fajwusz” and “Fejwesz”, whereby the phonetic similarity indicates with all probability that it concerns one and the same name.
Regarding the places of birth, it is noticeable that the way they are spelled in the Mémorial very often bears only a distant resemblance to the real names.
In view of these circumstances, the reader will understand that the names correspond perfectly only in a minority of cases.
For clarification, an arbitrarily picked half of the original page from the Mémorial is shown on the following page, where I mark deviations from the Death Books. In the presence of the latter, I have always given preference to the version contained in the latter work.
In view of these extremely numerous discrepancies, which criterion should be applied? In my opinion, that of logic and common sense. Let us consider an example. In the Mémorial, in Transport No. 1, we find a “Behar, Haim”, born on 1 May 1910, with no reference to the place of birth. In the Death Books, we come across a “Behar, Chaim”, born 1 April 1910 in Adrianopol, who died on 21 April 1942. In view of the similarity of the name and the date of birth, as well as the fact that the majority of deportees arriving with Transport No. 1 died in April 1942, everything speaks for the fact that it is the same person.
In principle, no names were taken into account where any reference to the date of birth was missing.
1.2.2 Gender Determination
A second problem sometimes arises from the determination of a deportee’s gender, since neither the Death Books nor the Mémorial provide any information in this regard. Therefore, we can only rely on the names of the deportees. If we are dealing with “Karl”, “Israel” or “Wladimir”, it does not require any special acumen to determine that they were men. Just as naturally, “Esther”, “Regina” or “Sarah” are female names. But what do we do with names like “Aizie,” “Cejmach,” “Faivel,” “Gedale,” and “Zipore,” which seem highly exotic to us? To which gender should we assign them?
Faced with this problem, I decided on a simple method. First, I created a catalog of unique male names. For this purpose, I used the lists of Transports Nos. 1, 2, and 4, to which only men belonged. Afterwards, I made a catalog of unique women’s names. In this regard, the work Mémorial de la Déportation des Juifs de Belgique was helpful to me,4 where for many women also the maiden name is given. Based on these makeshift “dictionaries,” I was able to solve many problems associated with the names. Nevertheless, there remained about 200 names which, despite my efforts, I could not assign to either gender. In the presentation of the data (Table 1), they figure under the heading “gender unknown” (with row label “u”).
After these introductory remarks, I now have no other task but to present the results of my work as clearly and concisely as possible. Whoever hopes to find in this a solution to the many riddles, which the history of Auschwitz poses, will be disappointed. The reader will also look in vain for daring and brilliant hypotheses. On the contrary, the author has confined himself to presenting the statistical facts that have been established, and he has had no other ambition than to make a modest, objective contribution to the clarification of the confused history of Auschwitz, about which, I am convinced, immoderate exaggerations and frauds are circulating.
Finally, I would like to point out that the meager numerical statistics are in no way intended to conceal the suffering of the victims who were subjected to the devastating living conditions that prevailed at the Auschwitz Camp in 1942. Even if the bare numbers have the advantage of arming us against the “deceptive pathos,” they should also not make us fall into the other extreme, which, according to Arnold Toynbee, consists in thinking and speaking about human beings as if they were pegs and stones.
Tabelle 1: Sterblichkeit der 1942 aus Frankreich deportierten Juden nach der erhaltenen Dokumentation5
|Deceased in 1942||Deceased in 1943|
Tables 2: Composition of Transports and Age Distribution of Mortality
|Age||# m||Dec. m||%||# f||Dec. f||%|
|Age||# m||Dec. m||%||# f||Dec. f||%|
|Age||# m||Dec. m||%||# f||Dec. f||%|
|Age||# m||Dec. m||%||# f||Dec. f||%|
|Age||# m||Dec. m||%||# f||Dec. f||%|
|Age||# m||Dec. m||%||# f||Dec. f||%|
2. Significant Facts
2.1. Enormous Mortality During the First Transports
The shockingly high mortality rate is particularly striking for the first three transports, where more than 70% of the deportees perished (Charts A and B). There is no doubt that Auschwitz was a veritable “death camp” at that time. Since I did not have access to the original Death Books, it was impossible for me to find out the causes of death. However, thanks to the testimony of one survivor, Czeslaw Ostankowicz, we know that typhus, diarrhea and pneumonia were rampant in March 1942, and that ulcers and inflammation were widespread.16
Although mortality in absolute terms dropped rapidly from the sixth transport onward, and is very low for transports received from the end of August onward (Chart A), the percentage of deaths remains high (31 out of 43 transports recorded mortality rates above 20%, according to the chart).
2.2. Highest Mortality in August 1942
The highest number of deaths was recorded in August 1942 (Chart C). At that time, 1,782 men and women perished. Total mortality also peaked during that month, with no fewer than 8,507 prisoners dying in the entire camp. Significantly, it was also at this time, on August 19 to be precise, that the decision was made to build three large crematoria at Birkenau.17 The logical conclusion is that this decision was made in order to be able to cremate the countless corpses instead of having to bury them. The capacity of Crematorium I at the Auschwitz Main Camp was not sufficient to cremate the dead.
2.3. Lower Mortality among Women
In both absolute and relative terms, the mortality rate for women was disproportionately lower than for men (Charts A and B). 45% of all registered men perished, but only 10% of all registered women. Furthermore, comparatively far fewer women deported from France died than female inmates in general. Indeed, of all total registered deaths, women accounted for 22%,18 but only 10% of the inmates deported from France in 1942 who subsequently died were female.
At first, one could assume that this fact is explained by a lower average age and a correspondingly greater resistance among the women deported from France. However, this hypothesis does not stand up to scrutiny. As shown in Table 2, in the case of Transports No. 9 and 11, of which all deportees were registered, the mortality rate was significantly lower for women than for men, with respect to all ages, both in absolute and relative terms.
This difference between the mortality rates of the two sexes is completely inexplicable to me.
2.4. Sudden Decrease in the Number of those Registered as of August 1942.
Chart D shows that the deportees leaving France in March and June (there were no transports in April and May) were all registered at the camp, and those leaving in July were almost all registered. On the other hand, in August, September and November (no transports arrived in October), only a minority of an estimated 20% of the deportees were registered.
One possible explanation would be that, among those who arrived in those three months, there were only a few men and women who were fit for work, and that the administration therefore admitted only them to the camp in order to take advantage of their manpower. But as can be seen from Charts Ea and Eb, this explanation is untenable. Indeed, Chart E shows that in March, June and July 1942, the number of total registrants was higher than the total number of deportees between the ages of 15 and 50, a group whose members are generally considered fit for work. In August and September 1942, on the other hand, less than half of the deportees registered were between the ages of 15 and 50. In my opinion, the following conclusion suggests itself: Although Auschwitz was the initial destination of all deportees, and a large labor force was needed in the camp and nearby industrial plants, for some reason the Germans used a significant portion of the able-bodied prisoners outside the Auschwitz complex. In all likelihood, this was related to the devastating typhus epidemics that raged inside the Auschwitz Camp, and necessitated “a complete camp lockdown” on July 23, 1942.19 It fits very well with this explanation that the abrupt decrease in the percentage of registered prisoners began with the transport that left on 3 August 1942, eleven days after the camp lockdown was imposed. Presumably, the Germans wanted to keep useful workers safe from the typhus epidemic. This measure can probably explain the fact that some deportees had to get off the train in Kosel.
2.5. Enormously High Mortality in the First Three Months after Arrival at the Camp
Chart F shows the distribution of deaths by percentage in the months following arrival at the camp.
The first series of data, which provides information about the prisoners deported in March (and arriving at Auschwitz on the 30th of that month), indicates that slightly more than 50% of those who perished died in the very first month of their stay at Auschwitz. This fact speaks volumes about the catastrophic hygienic and sanitary situation that prevailed in the camp at that time, especially when one considers that the deportees were not required to work for the first few weeks, but were kept in quarantine inside their barracks, and that they had arrived from France in relatively good nutritional condition.
For those who arrived during the following months, the reverse was true: mortality was low in the first month and then increased considerably. In general, however, about 90% of the deceased died in the first three months after their arrival at Auschwitz. From the 5th month onwards, the death rate was quite low, and from April 1943 onwards, there were almost no deaths among those brought to Auschwitz in 1942. How can this astonishing fact be explained? In my opinion, the following hypotheses apply:
–The conditions prevailing in the camp amounted to a brutal “natural selection,” in which the least resistant died in the course of a few weeks. Given the miserable sanitary and hygienic conditions of that period, this is in no way surprising. The more resistant, on the other hand, were “inoculated” and developed a remarkable toughness that enabled them to withstand even the most adverse conditions.
–It is possible that those who survived the first weeks were able to obtain better posts in the camp, which provided them with more favorable living conditions.
–It cannot be ruled out that many survivors of the terrible first weeks were transferred to other concentration or labor camps.
–Presumably, the hygienic conditions in the camp gradually improved. Even if life in Auschwitz was always hard, the horror of the spring and summer of 1942 was never equaled later.
Most likely, of course, the extremely low mortality rate from April 1943 onward was due to a combination of the four factors mentioned here.
2.6. Deaths Recorded in Documents Other than the Death Books
Table 3 lists 335 cases of deceased men of whom no trace can be found in the Death Books, but whose data can be found in other documents prepared and preserved by the camp administration.
The majority of these deceased inmates belonged to the first transport. On the basis of a sample, I was able to determine that more than half of the cases in question correspond to the gaps in the Death Books. Mortality was particularly high in the periods from May 1 to 8 and from May 10 to 15, as well as from June 14 to 25. These periods are not recorded in the extant Death Books. The other half of the deaths may not have been recorded due to bureaucratic errors or overwork by the officials charged with compiling the records.
Remarkably, among the 335 deaths, there is not a single woman.
2.7. Low Mortality among Deportees under 15 and over 60
Table 4 gives information about the deaths among deportees younger than 15 and older than 60 years of age.
Of the first group, most were 13 or 14 years old. The youngest registered victim was an eleven-year-old girl, Bella Molho, born on 17 December 1930, who died on 3 December 1942. She belonged to Transport No. 44.
In the second group of those over sixty, most were only slightly older than sixty.
2.8. The Determined Number of Victims Is a Minimum
The number of 6,038 deaths determined on the basis of the documents must be considered a minimum, because the following facts must be kept in mind:
- The Death Books have quite a few gaps, which are not completely closed by the additional preserved documents.
- For 1944, the Death Books are completely missing. With regard to the Jews deported from France in 1942, this probably does not have too much of an effect, because only a few deaths were recorded as of April 1943.
- I will certainly have overlooked one or two deaths; the criteria I have established make this almost inevitable. In addition, as already mentioned, I have not checked the fate of those deportees for whom no date of birth is given in the Mémorial.
The minimum number determined is depressing enough in itself; it means that every second of the deported men and every tenth of the deported women perished in Auschwitz.
2.9. The Fate of the Non-Registered Deportees Remains in the Dark
The data available to us sheds no light on the fate of those deportees who were not registered in the camp. Orthodox historians claim – in my opinion with flimsy arguments – that they were murdered in gas chambers.
Even though this has been repeated over and over again for more than 50 years, it seems completely improbable that the Germans decided to carry out a systematic mass murder in July 1942, the month in which the mortality rate rose sharply due to the typhus epidemic and the generally unacceptably poor hygienic conditions. The only crematorium in existence at that time was not even able to cremate the bodies of the epidemic victims, and was certainly not capable of burning thousands of gassed people. To refrain from cremating the corpses would have meant to worsen the sanitary conditions even more, while in reality the Germans did everything to improve them, even if possibly only in order not to lose precious manpower and to eliminate a source of epidemic that threatened the SS staff stationed at Auschwitz as well as the German civilian population living not far from the camp.
| Sonderstandesamt des Internationalen Roten Kreuzes (ed.), K.G. Sauer, Munich 1995, 2 parts in 3 volumes.|
| A pioneering work in this field has been done by Jean-Marie Boisdefeu: La controverse sur l’extermination des juifs par les allemands, V.H.O., Berchem 1996, Vol. 2, pp. 224-230.|
| Edited by Beate and Serge Klarsfeld, Paris 1978.|
| Edited by Serge Klarsfeld and Maxime Steinberg, Union des Déportés Juifs en Belgique et Filles et Fils de la Déportation, The Beate Klarsfeld Foundation, Brussels/New York 1982.|
| The number of registered persons was taken from Danuta Czech’s Kalendarium der Ereignisse im Konzentrationslager Auschwitz-Birkenau 1939-1945, Rowohlt, Reinbek 1989.|
| One death on an unknown date (1942) and another in November 1943.|
| One death in August 1943.|
| One death in May 1943.|
| Among the dead are Samuel Ejzenberg, who according to the documents died on 21 July 1942, and Georg Freudenstein, who according to the documents died on 29 June 1942. Neither of these dates can be reconciled with the fact that the transport in question left France on 22 July 1942.|
| According to D. Czech’s Kalendarium, all members of the transport were gassed except for the 115 registered men.|
| According to the Kalendarium, no man was registered.|
| Birth dates are missing in many cases.|
| One death in January 1944.|
| This person of unknown gender died in July 1943.|
| The exact number of registered women from this transport is not known. There were 221 women registered from this transport and from another that arrived from Holland on the same day. The figure of 110 is an estimate by Klarsfeld.|
| Czeslaw Ostankowicz, “Isolierstation – ‘Letzter Block’”, Hefte von Auschwitz, No. 16 (1978), p. 159.|
| Jean-Claude Pressac, Les crématoires d’Auschwitz. La machinerie du meurtre de masse, CNRS Editions, Paris 1993, p. 49.|
| This is based on the data given by Thomas Grothum and Jan Parcer, “Computer-unterstützte Auswertung der Sterbebuch-Eintragungen,” op. cit. (Note 1), Vol. 1, p. 218.|
| Staatl. Museum Auschwitz-Birkenau, D-Aul-1, Standortbefehl (Garrison Order) 19/42 of 23 July 1942.|
Additional information about this document
|Author(s):||Enrique Aynat Eknes|
|Title:||The Death Books of Auschwitz, Statistical Data on the Mortality of Jews Deported from France to Auschwitz in 1942|
|Sources:||Inconvenient History Vol. 15, No. 2, 2023; Spanish original: Enrique Aynat, “Datos estadisticos sobre la mortalidad de los judios deportados de Francia a Auschwitz 1942,” in: Enrique Aynat, Jean-Marie Boisdefeu, Estudios sobre Auschwitz, self-published, Valencia, 1997|
|First posted on CODOH:||June 26, 2023, 10:47 a.m.|