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Clothing storage room card

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On these clothing storage room cards, prisoner functionaries in the concentration camps recorded which items of clothing had been issued to individual newcomers. Various clothing storage room cards were used in different camps, with different items pre-printed on each card. They all served the same purpose, however.

On these clothing storage room cards, prisoner functionaries in the concentration camps recorded which items of clothing had been issued to individual newcomers. Various clothing storage room cards were used in different camps, with different items pre-printed on each card. They all served the same purpose, however.

Background information on concentration camp documents

Further examples

Questions and answers

  • Where was the document used and who created it?

    The personal effects, clothing and supply rooms were the stations in the camp that externally turned newcomers into prisoners. This is where new arrivals would hand over their own clothing and valuables and receive prisoner clothing from the clothing storage room in return. The importance of these facilities in the camp is clear from the large number of prisoner functionaries who worked in them. In June 1944 in Buchenwald, for example, there were 161 prisoners assigned to manage and issue the items for new arrivals. In the clothing storage room, they used special cards which listed the garments that had been given to a prisoner.

    Most of the clothing storage room cards in the Arolsen Archives are not originals but copies. They can be identified by their light pink or gray color. These are copies of the original cards or enlargements from microfilm. The ITS made copies of these documents in various archives and memorials in order to clarify the fate of prisoners. Copies were also made if the back of a card had been used for another prisoner in the concentration camp due to a shortage of paper. In these cases, the ITS would make a copy of the card, and then the original card would be filed with the first person’s documents, while the copy would be filed with the documents of the second person.

  • When was the document used?

    Clothing storage room cards, most of which were green, were used in the larger concentration camps until 1945. Various pre-printed forms were used, each of which listed items of clothing in different levels of detail; in general, however, the cards are identical. There are also combined supply and clothing storage room cards, which were used to record other items issued to a prisoner, such as bedding, washcloths or cups.

  • What was the document used for?

    When prisoners arrived at a concentration camp, they had to hand over their few possessions to the personal effects storage room. In return, the supply and clothing storage room was supposed to provide them with the bare minimum: bedding, towels, dishes and cutlery from the supply room, and prisoner clothing from the clothing storage room. Max Pauly, former commandant of Neuengamme, told British investigators in July 1946 which items of clothing were officially supposed to be issued to the prisoners: one jacket, one pair of trousers, one set of underclothing, a shirt, a cap, a pair of wooden shoes and – if available – a vest. Some prisoners also received a coat if they had to work outside. Since there were no socks in the camp, the prisoners were given rags that they had to wrap around their feet.

    After the war, Arnold Weiss-Rüthel, who had been imprisoned in Sachsenhausen, described what this clothing exchange meant to a prisoner: “We got dressed. Once that was done, no one recognized anyone else anymore. I didn’t even recognize myself! When I looked in the mirror, the sight shocked me deeply. I was no longer a person, just a figure. After the clothing procedure, I had nothing left to remind me of my personal life – except for my eyeglasses” (Arnold Weiss-Rüthel: Nacht und Nebel: Ein Sachsenhausen-Buch. Berlin, Potsdam 1949, p. 57).

    All of the garments issued to prisoners were recorded on clothing storage room cards by prisoner functionaries. When a prisoner was released, these cards were used to check whether he or she had returned everything that belonged to the concentration camp.

  • How common is the document?

    Although clothing storage room cards were filled out for most prisoners when they arrived at a concentration camp, relatively few of them have been preserved. The Arolsen Archives by far do not have clothing storage room cards for every former prisoner. Furthermore, many cards have only been preserved because the camp administration used the non-printed backs of the cards for other prisoners and purposes. For this reason, many original clothing storage room cards have been filed with the documents for other people.

  • What should be considered when working with the document?

    The clothing storage room cards give a sugarcoated impression of the prisoners’ everyday lives. At first glance, it appears as though the camp administration gave the prisoners everything they needed in the camp – but the card says nothing about the quality of the items. The clothing was often tattered, mended or too thin for cold winter days, and the prisoners had no change of clothing.

    Another major problem was that no attention was paid to clothing sizes, so clothing that was too small or too large would be distributed to prisoners. In their accounts, many survivors emphasize the particular misery of having to wear shoes that were the wrong size. Former prisoner Odd Nansen, for example, recalls how clothing was issued in Sachsenhausen when a prisoner arrived: “The next item in the program was underclothing, shoes, socks, shirt, pullover, coat, and cap. It may sound well. It was nothing but a heap of filthy rags. No one cared a damn whether they fitted or not. You simply had to take the pile that was handed out – whether you were long or short, thick or thin. If you went back and asked to change one of the garments, you got a punch in the face – and asked no more” (Odd Nansen: From Day to Day, translated by Katherine John. New York 1949, p. 306).

    The fact that there were clothing storage room cards also did not mean that all new prisoners always received the basic set of striped prisoner clothing. During the war years in particular, these garments were also in short supply. For this reason, many newcomers were given clothing from prisoners who had died. Sometimes prisoners would also keep the clothing they were wearing when they arrived at the camp. These civilian garments would be marked in some way – with paint, for example. In later years there was also no bedding, even though it was listed on the supply and clothing storage room cards.

    The clothing storage room cards themselves do not indicate the camp in which they were filled out. To determine where the card was used, it is necessary to look at the information about the corresponding collection in the Arolsen Archives. In case of doubt, other documents about the same person can also be consulted. For example, it makes sense to check whether the prisoner number on the clothing storage room card matches the number on another card which mentions the name of the camp.

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