Metal stamps once used by the Nazis to tattoo numbers on Auschwitz prisoners have been acquired by the Auschwitz Birkenau Memorial and Museum. Auschwitz was the only concentration camp where prisoners were tattooed with their numbers.
The finding is being hailed as one of the most significant in recent years.
“We acquired removable metal plates with a few millimeter-long needles, which were inserted into a special stamp to create a specific number. The finding, collected in the area of the camp evacuation route, is incomplete; it consists of one zero digit, two threes and two stamps which may be sixes or nines,” said Elżbieta Cajzer, the head of Museum Collections.
The incomplete stamp kit, only the second tattooing set ever discovered, is now on display at the museum.
“It is one of the most important findings of the recent years. We couldn’t believe that original tools for tattooing prisoners could be discovered after such a long time,” said Dr. Piotr Cywiński, director of the Auschwitz Museum.
“Even a tattooed number is rare to be seen now as the last prisoners pass away. Those stamps will greatly enrich the new main exhibition that is currently being prepared,” he added.
The practice of tattooing camp numbers began at Auschwitz in the fall of 1941. Soviet prisoners of war were identified with a set of numbers on the left side of their chest, tattooed with metal stamps. The tattoo was completed with a single blow to the chest. After the spring of 1942, camp authorities ordered inmate numbers to be tattooed on the left forearm, using needles soaked in ink affixed to a wooden shaft.