Since this complex was a killing center, mail was significantly more restricted than Auschwitz I. Below are three types of mail from Auschwitz II-Birkenau: (i) Arbeitslager Birkenau (Operation Mail); (ii) Frauenlager; and (iii) Staabsgebaude.
Arbeitslager Birkenau (Operation Mail)
The Nazis engaged in many deceptions to deflect rumors and reports regarding the liquidation of the Jews. One such method was named Briefaktion (Operation Mail). Upon arriving in Auschwitz, the victims were required to write postcards or letters to home indicating that their resettlement was fine and they were in good health. All these cards had the same return address: Arbeitslager Birkenau, bei Neu-Berun, Oberschlesien. In contrast to prisoners in other camps, these new arrivals were not registered or given inmate numbers. Shortly after writing these postcards or letters, these individuals were killed.
This mail was taken in bulk to Berlin for processing. Cachets were stamped on the correspondence indicating that replies were permitted only through the Association of Jews in Germany. Then, the correspondence was postmarked and mailed from several Berlin post offices.
Below are thumbnails of the front and back of an Operation Mail postcard dated December 15, 1943, from an Anton Reitler to Prague. Please click on the thumbnail to see the full image, and then click your back key or "Example 1" in the left frame to return.
Below are thumbnails of the front and back of two Operation Mail postcards dated March 25, 1944. The first is from a Gustav Schwarz to Prague, and the second is from a Dorl Lederer to Prague. The cards were not postmarked in Berlin until May 31, 1944. Each card contains a slogan cachet pertaining to a collection of spinning threads, linen and clothing on May 27, 1944. Please click on the thumbnail to see the full image, and then click your back key or "Example 2" in the left frame to return.
Below are thumbnails of the front and back of a postcard that appears to be an Operation Mail postcard by reason of the return address. On the other hand, the inmate, Else Lustig does appear to have a prisoner number. The card is an example of unstamped courier transported mail. Also, the cachet requiring return mail to be sent to the Association of German Jews in Berlin has been crossed out and replaced by a cachet indicating replies should be sent through the Judenrat in Pressburg (Bratislava). Please click on the thumbnail to see the full image, and then click your back key or "Example 3" in the left frame to return.
The first women prisoners arrived in Auschwitz in March 1942 from the camp at Ravensbruck. The women's camp was moved to Birkenau in the fall of 1942. Below are thumbnails of the front and back of lettercard postmarked November 8, 1944 from prisoner 41325 in the Frauenlager. The lettercard is identified in Lordahl as Type L1c with a Type C5 censor mark. Please click on the thumbnail to see the full image, and then click your back key or "Frauenlager" in the left frame to return.
This category deals with mail from prisoners who worked in the Auschwitz Administrative Office (Staabsgebaude). This prisoners were primarily Slovakian Jewish women. As a result of their preferential treatment, a larger percentage of these prisoners survived the war. Below are thumbnails of the front and back of two postcards. The first is dated June 8, 1943 from an inmate working in the Staatbsegebaude. The inmate, Else Gruen, survived the War. She was an early arrival at the camp, and since she spoke German and typed, she was made a stenographer, working in the camp headquarters. The card is to Bratslava, and she was able to give information as to relatives since her cards were not censored as they left with the headquarters mail in special pouches. The second card is a preprinted Relico card to Geneva, Switzerland, postmarked Berlin, November 14, 1944. The card acknowledges the receipt of one food package. Most of the Relico mail originated in the Polish ghettos and bears ghetto postmarks. Berlin cancelled mail is much rarer. Please click on the thumbnail to see the full image, and then click your back key or "Staabsgebaude" in the left frame to return.
A well organized effort, financed by aid organizations and individual Jews abroad, was started in Portugal and Switzerland to supply basic needs to the victims confined to ghettos and camps. Below is a thumbnail of a Portuguese preprinted export form from the firm of "Sam Amon" pertaining to the export of fish to Birkenau for an inmate, Edith Wetzler. Please click on the thumbnail to see the full image, and then click your back key or "Miscellaneous" in the left frame to return.
Erik Lordahl & Henry Schawb, Concentration Camp Auschwitz Inmate Mail, German Postal Specialist, P. 415-41, September, 1998
Erik Lordahl, German Concentration Camps 1933-1945, History and Inmate Mail (2000). Referred to as Lordahl.
Justin R. Gordon, Post Card From Auschwitz, The Israel Philatelist, P. 12-13, February, 2006
Copyright © 2001-06 Edward Victor