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1019305

War-Dated Prisoner Letter from the Notorious Auschwitz Concentration Camp

I am really glad to have received a letter from you

but am curious why you haven’t written for such a long time. . . .

Please write to me often, and please answer every one of my letters.

Autograph letter signed, Dein Mann Pietr, two pages, 6” x 8¾”, with information and address leaf on the integral leaf verso, Auschwitz Concentration Camp, Auschwitz [Oświęcim, Poland], July 26, 1942.  In German, with translation.

Auschwitz was the most notorious of the Nazi concentration camps.  Some prisoners were killed immediately upon arrival.  Others became slave laborers for nearby factories, and most of those were worked to death.  The writer of this letter was a slave, as appears from the required use of the word Schutzhäftling before his name in the return address.  The word meant a “protected detainee,” one in “protecttive custody”—of the most notorious terms in Nazi law.  Unlike a judicial prison sentence, protective custody was open ended and was administered by the Gestapo rather than by the courts.  A victim was held at the Gestapo’s pleasure.

This letter was opened by a camp censor and subsequently postmarked from Auschwitz on August 3, 1942.  Knowing the conditions of life at Auschwitz, its cautiously phrased content is chilling rather than bland.  The writer is apparently anguished at receiving no mail from home, but in all likelihood mail was sent to him but not delivered.  Did he realize that Nazis were likely blocking communication from his family, or was his bewilderment genuine?  He writes, in full:  “My dear wife and children!  I am really glad to have received a letter from you but am curious why you haven’t written for such a long time.  I have received the money, these last twenty marks, for which I thank very much, and I ask you to continue to think about me and my son.  The weather here is very nice and I wonder how it is at your place.  Please write to me often, and please answer every one of my letters.  I am curious what you have done with the pig.  Have you, my dear wife, permission to slaughter?  Now I’m curious how it is with grandmother.  How is her health?  Please remember our vacation!  I kiss you, I kiss everybody, but several to you and the children.  Your husband Peter.”

The inmate stationery bears these printed rules and warnings:

Concentration Camp Auschwitz

_______________________

The following arrangements are to be considered in the correspondence with prisoners:

1.)  Each prisoner in protective custody may receive from and send to his relatives two letters or two cards per month. The letters to the prisoners must be legibly written in ink and may contain only 15 lines on a page.  Only a letter sheet of normal size is allowed.  Letter envelopes must be unlined.  Only 5 stamps of 12 pfennig may be enclosed.  Everything else is prohibited and is subject to seizure.  Postal cards have 10 lines.  Photos may not be used as postal cards.

2.)  Shipments of money are permitted.

3.)  It is to be noted that the precise address must be written on shipments of money or mail, thus:  name, date of birth and prisoner number.  If the address has mistakes, the mail will be returned to the sender or destroyed.

4.)  Newspapers are permitted, but they may be delivered only through the Auschwitz concentration camp postal facility.

5.)  Packages may not be sent, because the prisoners in the camp can purchase everything.

6.)  Requests to the camp management for releases from protective custody are useless.

7.)  Fundamentally, there is no permission to speak to and visit prisoners in the concentration camp.

                                                                                                                            The Camp Commander

This letter is in fine condition.  It is stamped with a red German 12 pfennig stamp bearing the likeness of Nazi Führer Adolf Hitler—the kind of stamp the rules allowed relatives to send prisoners.  There are normal mailing folds, two small holes and a tiny split at the top of the vertical fold well away from the text, and scattered foxing.

Unframed.

  _____________

 

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