Nazi Documentation

Ashley Pena 1


The most documented genocide in the history of the world is the Holocaust. Seventeen million Jews died according to Nazi records and two million not recorded by Turks. The Nazis kept photos and details of every single prisoner they had, important or not. The doctors would count how many head lice a person had and group them in by size. Unnecessary photos and records were always taken and written down. Why exactly did Nazis have to take such detailed and meticulous records?

Nazis Records and Documentation

Nazi Holocaust Records have been hidden for more than 60 years until finally being made available in 2006. Thousands of filing cabinets holding more than 50 million papers were found. When asked why Nazis kept so many records, Shapiro, Director of Holocaust Studies at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum explains that "they wanted to show they were getting the job done". Was their hatred toward Jews so immense that they would write millions of files just to show their point? Shapiro says yes, but looking around for more information gives out more answers.
Wilhelm Brasse is a man who was taken from his home by Nazis. He suspected he was going to be taken prisoner and be killed, but soon found out that what they wanted was a photographer. Brasse tells that he knew if he wasn't good enough to pass their test he would be killed like all the others they had tested. He passed, and he was soon the new photographer for Auschwitz Concentration Camp. Taken in as both a prisoner and photographer, Brasse took photos within the camp. Brasse took around 300,000 photos for Nazis all together, but a few thousand were still lost. Brasse explains that often times, the Nazis would ask him to take photos of things just out of fun. For example, a prisoner was sent to Brasse to take a photo of his interesting tattoo. An hour after the prisoner had left Brasse, he found out that the Nazi had skinned the man and taken the tattoo to be framed.
The majority of photos taken by Nazis besides identification snapshots are of experiments. Often times, Nazi doctors would take prisoners from the camps and use them as a subject of science. One would call this as taking data, but data is just a record of words and numbers and is in no way affiliated with the victims. However, Nazis would take photos of their victims screaming in torture and purposely scarring them. But, Nazi doctors were still doctors. They were also scientists, and they were just trying to find cures for illnesses and try to perform miracles. They didn't obtain information in the most humane way, but they did it. They took records and photos of the experiments just like any other scientist or doctor would. If they did find a cure, they'd have everything secure and there.


With being the most documented genocide in history, there has to be a reason why. Nazis took so many records and documents of their atrocities to prove a point, entertain themselves, and keep data of medical experiments.

Brasse, Wilhelm. Auschwitz, Poland, Identification Snapshots. Digital image. Auschwitz, Poland, Identification Snapshots. Yad Vashem, 2011. Web. 2 Feb. 2016.

Cohen, Baruch C. "Nazi Medical Experimentation:." The Ethics of Using Medical Data From Nazi Experiments. American-Israeli Cooperative Enterprise, 2016. Web. 1 Feb. 2016.

Hevesi, Dennis. "Wilhelm Brasse Dies at 94; Documented Nazis' Victims." The New York Times. The New York Times, 24 Oct. 2012. Web. 01 Feb. 2016.

Schorn, Daniel. "Revisiting The Horrors Of The Holocaust." CBSNews. CBS Interactive, 14 Dec. 2006. Web. 25 Jan. 2016.

Other Facts to Know

  1. The files were hidden and locked away in a town in the middle of Germany, called Bad Arolsen until their release to the public.
  2. Names of those gassed in chambers were not recorded, instead written down as natural deaths.
  3. Names of prisoners were listed in notebooks titled "Totenbuch" meaning "Death Book"
  4. More than 90 volumes of Nazi documents and records were published before then end of the 20th century
  5. Files were hidden by Germany until 2006, claiming it was to secure people's privacy, but it was most likely because they didn't want to be tried with this evidence used against them.
  6. Official photography and films were produced at the request of Nazi state.

Schorn, Daniel. "Revisiting The Horrors Of The Holocaust." CBSNews. CBS Interactive, 14 Dec. 2006. Web. 25 Jan. 2016.

"Combating Holocaust Denial: Evidence of the Holocaust Presented at Nuremberg." United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. USHMM, 29 Jan. 2016. Web. 1 Feb. 2016.