Auschwitz museum appeals to Germans and Austrians for personal SS documents
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Auschwitz museum appeals to Germans and Austrians for personal SS documents

The railway track leading to the infamous 'Death Gate' at the Auschwitz II Birkenau extermination camp on November 13, 2014, in Oswiecim, Poland. (Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

The railway track leading to the infamous “death gate” at the Auschwitz II Birkenau extermination camp in Oswiecim, Poland, Nov. 13, 2014. (Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

WARSAW, Poland (JTA) — The director of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Museum has appealed to Germans and Austrians to donate documents, photographs, personal letters or any other materials related to the SS staff of the camp.

“Without a comprehensive analysis and understanding of the motivation and mentality of the perpetrators, our efforts to wisely counsel future generations will only remain intuitive. Today, we ask you to help,” the appeal reads.

The Schutzstaffel, or SS, was a major paramilitary organization under German Chancellor Adolf Hitler and the National Socialist German Workers’ Party, or Nazi Party.

Last week, the museum published a book containing excerpts of testimonies by SS staff at the camp given during the 1947 trial in Krakow of 40 SS members. Twenty-three were sentenced to death; one person was acquitted.

“So far, we have relied mainly on the accounts and memories of former prisoners, preserved camp documentation, and post-war court trial materials,” museum director Piotr Cywinski said in a statement issued Wednesday. “We do not have multiple sources that allow for a better and more comprehensive understanding of the motivation of the perpetrators. The archives contain very few private materials created by members of the SS staff of KL Auschwitz.”

Cywinski said the museum has called on the most prominent German and Austrian media for help in circulating its appeal for the materials. He promised “complete anonymity” to those who wish to hand over such documents.