Original Auschwitz designs on display


BERLIN (JTA)  — Original designs of the Auschwitz concentration camp went on display in Berlin.

Tuesday’s exhibit opening comes several months after the Bild Zeitung newspaper purchased the designs from an antiques dealer.

Certified as authentic, a selection of the yellowed architectural designs may be seen at a gallery in the Axel-Springer Passages through Feb. 28. They include early designs for crematoriums, kitchen facilities and a never-built complex of SS housing.

"It is the only exhibit in Germany in which the plans of this industrial murder center are shown," Ernst Cramer, president of the Axel-Springer Foundation, said at the opening.

Also speaking was Wladislaw Bartoszewski, the former Polish foreign minister, who was a political prisoner at Auschwitz for seven months.

Sven Felix Kellerhoff, an editor for Die Welt and the Berliner Morgenpost,  co-authored the explanatory text with historian Ralf Georg Reuth, senior correspondent for Welt am Sonntag.

Reuth told JTA that he suspected the documents had been kept by the East German secret service and made their way into the black market. Kellerhof said they were found during the clearing-out of the apartment of an elderly person in Berlin who had died.

"The Bild Zeitung decided to buy these drawings because we did not want them to get into the hands of neo-Nazis or other such terrible people," Kellerhof said, adding that the documents would most likely end up with a historical institution in Germany, Israel or the United States.

The drawings fill in gaps in the historical timeline, said Robert Jan van Pelt, an expert on Auschwitz, who came to Berlin to see the documents. Van Pelt, who teaches at the University of Waterloo, Ontario, told JTA the documents "look and smell authentic."

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