Preserved in its original form, though incomplete, the Penal Company Book (Strafkompanie, SK) is one of the most valuable sources of learning about the history of male prisoners sent to the penal company in Auschwitz-Birkenau. According to a prisoner named Jan Kupiec (no. 790), who, from July 1943, was a recorder at the penal company, two SK books were simultaneously kept in the camp. One was written by the recorder of the kommando and the other was supplemented by the recorder of the main recorders’ chamber. The Archives of the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum contain the SK Book kept by the writers’ chamber in the men's camp in Birkenau.
The Penal Company Book is a lined notebook, 21 x 29 cm, bound in a thick dark cardboard cover. The cover bears a sticker reading “SK”. In the Book the penal company writer drew by hand 9 columns, where he entered the following information: the current number (“Lfd. No.” – Laufende Nummer), prisoner number (“Häftl. No.” – Häftling Nummer), name and surname (“Zu. u. Vorname” – Zuname und Vorname), date of birth (“Geb. Datum” – Geburtsdatum), penalty duration (“Strafdauer”), in the penal company from (“von”), in the penal company to (“bis”). There is a note in the last column including information regarding where the prisoner was sent after serving his sentence in the penal company. In addition to these basic data, the writer also specified the date of entry, which he put at the centre of the page, above the group of prisoners detained in the penal company on a given day. Moreover, next to the separate names he wrote additional information regarding what happened later with the prisoner, such as whether a prisoner was released from the SK after serving his sentence, or transferred to another penal camp (usually to KL Mauthausen), or died.
Usually, the prisoners stayed at Strafkompanie for a period of between one month and one year. However, many prisoners of the penal company were sentenced to an indefinite period until further notice (bis auf weiteres), which was recorded in the Book as “b.a.w.”. Such a severe punishment occurred when the death penalty was replaced with a conviction in the SK.
The Penal Company Book, preserved in fragments, covers the period from 9 May 1942, i.e. from the moment of the transfer of SK prisoners to Birkenau, to 24 November 1944. During this period, the camp authorities sent at least 2,470 prisoners to the penal company. It must be noted that the book did not include several more numerous groups of prisoners convicted at that time in the penal company, such as the group of a dozen or so imprisoned doctors and nurses from the Gypsy camp, assigned to the SK in the summer of 1944; 400 Soviet prisoners of war sent to the SK in the summer of 1944; approximately 100 Czech boys transferred from the BIIa camp; 22 prisoners detained in December 1944. The first pages of the Book, containing information regarding 825 prisoners, are completely destroyed. The following pages of the document are also partially destroyed. Only the sheets starting from item 1349 dated 18 July 1943 are entirely preserved. The last prisoner was entered under number 2470. The preserved sheets of the SK Book show that the entries were numbered systematically and made chronologically. After taking into account a few errors made by the writer and missing parts of the document sheets, only 1069 names of prisoners detained in the SK in the period from 18 July 1943 to 24 November 1944 were established.
On 10 June 1961, the Penal Company Book was handed over by the Main Commission for the Investigation of Nazi Crimes in Poland to the archival collections of the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum in Oświęcim.
Database: “BDSK” (Buch der Strafkompanie)
The preserved Penal Company Book served as a basis to draw up the “BDSK” base containing 1069 personal records. The unified database was incorporated into the Central Register of Prisoners held by the Digital Repository of the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum.
In the Archives of the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum there are two volumes of the bunker book. These documents indicate male prisoners jailed in a camp prison (a so-called bunker) located beneath Block 11 (the so-called Death Block). Detention was one of the camp punishments of “prisoners who act against the camp order and rigour” for, for instance, work evasion, unauthorised absence from the workplace, gathering of food or clothes, apple picking, sending uncensored letters, satisfaction of physiological needs where and when prohibited, helping in escaping from the camp, smoking when prohibited, non-going with a kommando to work, or presumed affiliations with the camp resistance movement.
At the beginning, prisoners jailed in the camp prison were recorded in the bunker book of the SS. However, SS officers made entries with a delay and there was a lot of mistakes. Eventually, a recorder of Block 11 had difficulty counting prisoners correctly and reporting it to a block leader, who during assemblies reported to an SS officer on duty. For the avoidance of misunderstanding, the recorder of Block 11 – Franciszek Brol (no. 1159) – created his own bunker book. To this end, he used a cash book. First entries were made based on the data provided by Brunon Borgowiec, an assistant of a prisoner on duty (no. 1192), who spoke to the jailed prisoners through the cell doors during wiping the corridor or giving meals. Finally, the SS officers on duty in Block 11 accepted the unofficial bunker book and used it very often. Other recorders who continued recording the prisoners in the bunker book created by Brol were Gerard Włoch (no. 7677) and Jan Pilecki (no. 808). Having filled in the whole cash book, Pilecki created a second volume of it in a larger notebook. The bunker book consists of two volumes. The first volume was created in a 16x33 cm cash book of 146 pages. The second volume is a 20x29 cm notebook of 68 pages with a soft, blue cover.
Columns in both of the volumes, in which information about prisoners was entered, were made by hand. Each page was divided into 5 columns. They contained: a date when a prisoner was jailed, nationality, prisoner category, camp number, full name, date and place of birth, profession and information about the future of a given prisoner, for example about his or her releasing from the camp prison, transferring to a penal unit or death. Apart from such basic information on the bunker book’s pages, there can be found such additional data as for example from where (from which block or sub-camp) a given prisoner was taken to the prison camp, the name of camp authorities which took a given prisoner there, a reason for jailing or even an exact time of jailing. In case of prisoners recorded on first pages of the bunker book, the recorder stated even the belongings taken from a given prisoner and checked that they were returned to such a prisoner what was confirmed with a signature of their owner. Generally, all that information was recorded by the recorder with ink, sometimes with pencil. Diagonal crosses informing about death “+” or that the bunker was left were made with blue and red ink, respectively.
The records in the bunker book were in German and were greatly abbreviated. The first part of the bunker book covering the period from 09/01/1941 to 31/03/1943 consists of 1190 records, whereas the second part covering a period from 31/03/1943 to 01/02/1944 consists of 952 records. However, the number of records is not equivalent to the number of jailed prisoners because many of them were recorded more than once; they were in the bunker a couple of times.
The first records in the bunker book were made by Franciszek Brol on 09/01/1941. He kept recording until 11/02/1942. A day after that date, Gerard Włoch became the next recorder; his last entry is dated 20/12/1942. Another recorder – Jan Pilecki – recorded prisoners in the bunker book from 22/12/1942 to 01/02/1944, whereas the first volume was finished on 31/03/1943 and the first entries were made in the second volume that day as well.
At the beginning of 1944, Jan Pilecki, a recorder of Block 11, decided to send the bunker book outside the camp. In order to avoid the camp authorities suspecting something, he ordered officers jailed at the first floor of Block 11 to copy both of the volumes. Then, Pilecki contacted two prisoners from a camp hospital – Józef Cyrankiewicz (no. 62933) and Stanisław Kłodziński (no. 20019) - who helped him to smuggle the original of the first volume and a copy of the second volume of the bunker book outside the camp. To that end, Pilecki made a special food bag where he put the said books and brought it to Kłodziński and Cyrankiewicz in Block 20. Józef Róg, another prisoner (no. 6644), helped to take the bunker books outside the camp.
The rolled-up bunker books without covers were hidden under his clothes. He smuggled them outside the camp during the march of working kommandos. Then, at the agreed place, he handed over the books to Franciszek Walizka, a civilian worker, who was a liaison officer of a group of the Polish Socialist Party in Brzeszcze. Walizka delivered them to a secret resistance movement organisation in Brzeszcze and next to Teresa Lasocka-Estreicherowa in Cracow. After the liberation, Teresa Lasocka passed both of the volumes of the bunker book to Jan Sehn, a member of the Main Commission of Nazi Crimes Research in Poland.
On 10/06/1961, the original of the volume and the copy of the second volume of the bunker book were handed over by the said Commission to the Archives of the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum.
“Bunker” database was created based on the two preserved bunker books; it consists of 2,114 records. The uniform database became a part of the Central Register of Prisoners kept by the Digital Repository of the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum. Analysing the book’s records, it is possible to recreate some of the events that took place in KL Auschwitz-Birkenau, for example: executions, escapes, hunger deaths etc.