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Witnessing genocide

In 1945 about 20,000 liberated prisoners from German concentration camps arrived in Sweden on the so-called White Buses. Their experiences and sufferings during the war are documented for future generations in a unique archive which the University Library is now making available on the web.

When the survivors arrived in Sweden, Zygmunt Łakociński, Polish lecturer at Lund University, took the initiative of establishing a working group together with the historian Sture Bolin  – 'the Polish Research Institute in Lund' – which interviewed the liberated camp prisoners documenting their experiences.

The material includes more than 500 handwritten interviews in Polish. Many of the interviewees had been sent from camp to camp during the war years, and the interviews therefore describe the conditions in a number of concentration camps, including Ravensbrück, Auschwitz, Bergen-Belsen, Sachsenhausen and Stutthof.  The interviews give a very detailed account of daily life in the camps, of how the prisoners were used as slave labourers in the factories of the firm Siemens & Halske, and of the systematic medical experiments carried out by the SS. 

In addition to the interviews, the archive also contains notebooks, diaries, letters, poems, photographs and drawings. Here are also a large number of Nazi documents brought to Sweden by the survivors: official lists of executions in the camp, lists of prisoner transports, maps of the camps, lists of names of those living in the barracks, as well as lists of all those who were brought to Sweden on the buses.

Ravensbrück - exempel ur arkivet

The archive forms one of the world's most extensive - and terrifying - witness accounts  of the war years' crimes against humanity, totally unique since the interviews were carried out according to scientific criteria directly after the liberation, when the survivors' experiences were still fresh in their minds.

The goal of the project is to make the archive searchable and usable for both the general public and researchers. All interviews will be indexed with subject terms, digitised and published in a searchable database, where at least half of the interviews will also be made available in an English translation. All lists of names will also be digitised, including a large selection of other documents from the archive.

The project is financed by donations from both individuals and a number of foundations, including Annika and Gabriel Urwitz’ Foundation, The Crafoord Foundation, The Torsten Söderberg Foundation and Sparbanksstiftelsen Öresund. The project is expected to be completed in the autumn of 2017.

Read more about the archive and its origin.

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Contact

For more information on the project, please contact the Manuscripts Section at the University Library:
handskrift [at] ub.lu.se

 

Ravensbrück - teckningar

 

A food recipe written on a label

 

German-polish vocabulary book