Introduction to Dachau Concentration Camp Records

Stephen P. Morse and Peter Landé


The recent opening of the Red Cross International Tracing Service (ITS) records, the largest collection of information on Holocaust victims and survivors, has aroused new genealogical and historical interest in the availability of Holocaust information, whether on the web or otherwise.  It has also increased the awareness that Holocaust records do not only relate to Jews, but, in fact, the overwhelming majority of persons indentified in records are non-Jews who were persecuted for a variety of reasons.

Starting with the negative, it must be acknowledged that millions of persons who perished will never be identified and/or their fate known.  This is particularly true of East European Jews who were rarely taken to camps where records were maintained but rather were murdered where they resided or taken to extermination camps which did not maintain such records.

Despite this, there exist increasing and extensive collections of records of potentially great interest to genealogists and historians, whether or not available on the web.  Let us begin with the ITS collection, with its 50 million name citations, providing information on perhaps 17 million persons.  While not currently available on the web, requests for information can be submitted at ITS itself or at the United States Holocaust Museum in Washington or Yad Vashem in Jerusalem.  .

While the focus of Holocaust research has, understandably, been on Jewish victims and survivors, it is often overlooked that most persons identified in camp and forced labor records were non-Jewish and ITS estimates that roughly three quarters of the persons identified in its collection are non-Jews.  For example, more Italian and French non-Jews were deported for forced labor than Italian or French Jews.  Similarly, millions of non-Jewish Poles (including thousands of Catholic priests), Ukrainians and Yugoslavs are identified as deportees in extant records, while their Jewish compatriots were often murdered without records.

The extent of records for concentration camps varies widely, with the most extensive files available for camps located in Germany (Buchenwald, Dachau, Flossenbürg, Neuengamme, Ravensbrück and Sachsenhausen), France (Natzweiler), the Czech Republic (Theresienstadt) and Austria (Mauthausen), with partial records for such Polish camps as Stutthof, Auschwitz, Gross Rosen and Majdanek.  Some of these records are available on the web thanks to the efforts of Jewishgen, but access to most remains restricted to major museums or memorial sites at camp locations.  As noted above, there are virtually no records for the death camps such as Sobibor and Chelmno and extermination sites in Lithuania and the former Soviet Union.

The purpose of making this Dachau collection available was to illustrate the vast diversity of persons who became victims of the Nazi system.  Dachau was the oldest concentration camp (see below) but it was chosen less for its historical interest than because its records are available without restriction, having been located at the United States National Archives and Records Administration and the United States Holocaust Museum.

Dachau had the dubious distinction of being the first camp established (March 1933) after the Nazis came to power.  Over its history, about 200,000 prisoners from thirty countries (the largest number from Poland) were registered in the main camp or its many sub-camps.  It is estimated that 35,000 prisoners died in Dachau, tens of thousands were released at various times between 1933 and 1945, and thousands of others were liberated by American troops in April 1945. Even larger numbers of prisoners were transferred from Dachau elsewhere and this collection does not establish their ultimate fate.  While tens of thousands of the prisoners were Jews, the overwhelming majority were imprisoned for other reasons.

This database was initially developed by Jewishgen volunteers and then edited and revised by Peter Landé.  Volunteers were working with the often poor legibility of Dachau records.  An effort has been made to correct some of the errors which crept in, and this database will continue to be revised and supplemented periodically as this effort continues.  Questions regarding information on individuals, or lack thereof, may be sent to Peter Landé at pdlande@starpower.net, who will search other databases, if available, to supplement or correct what appears here.

Up to now it has been possible to identify about 160,000 individuals. Information has been recorded as it appeared in the records which often resulted in misspelling of names of persons and localities.  In many cases individuals chose to make themselves older or younger as they visualized such misinformation increased their chances of survival.  In addition, data enterers were often inconsistent as they recorded information which leads to anomalies, e.g. Germans were sometimes registered as DR (Deutsches Reich) or RD (Reich Deutschland).   “Zug” (arrived from) was sometimes spelled with a capital letter and sometimes in lower case.  These are not real differences.  Similar problems exist throughout the collection, but should not prove to be major obstacles to understanding the material.

In addition to the range of nationalities identified in this collection, it should also be noted that persons were imprisoned for a wide variety of reasons.  The most common designation is Sch. (Schutzhäftling or protective prisoner) which was a catch all designation with no real meaning.  Bifo is an abbreviation for Bibel Forscher, or Jehovah’s Witness, while a P. Pf. (Polish Pfarrer) is a Polish minister or priest.  “Z” designated a Zigeuner (gypsy) while a ZA was a Zwangs Arbeiter or forced laborer.  And, of course, J stands for Jude, or Jew.

Researchers who have some reason to believe that persons of interest to them had been in Dachau, but whose names do not appear in this database, may wish to contact the Dachau Gendenkstätte (memorial site) at archiv@kz-gedenkstaette-dachau.de, to see if it has relevant information in its somewhat different and slightly larger database, not available on the web.  A request for a search of ITS records (as noted above) is also possible.

Data, where available, has been entered in the following format:

Family name
Given name
Date of birth
Place of birth
Last place of residence
Street or provincial location
Prisoner number
Category of prisoner
Date of arrival in Dachau
Ultimate fate of prisoner in Dachau
© Stephen P. Morse and Peter Landé, 2008