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January 4: Human Hair

January 4, 2015

tytul-"Pamiatka"The administrative authorities of eleven Nazi concentration camps received orders from the SS on this date in 1943 to ship hair from Jewish women in concentration camps to three processing firms in Germany. The “combed-out and cut-off women’s hair,” a previous order had noted, “will be used to make socks for submarine crews and to manufacture felt stockings for railroad workers.” The hair was also used to make ignition mechanisms in bombs, ropes and cords for ships, and stuffing for mattresses. Two tons of hair are currently on display (and disintegrating) at the Auschwitz Museum. “The hair was shorn from the heads of corpses immediately after their removal from the gas chambers (the hair of prisoners selected for labor was shaved off when they entered the camp),” writes Timothy W. Ryback in the New Yorker, “and was then ‘cured’ in lofts over the crematorium’s ovens and gathered into twenty-kilogram bales. The bales were marketed to German companies at twenty pfennig per kilogram. I have been told that some of the products manufactured in those plants may still be in use in German homes today.”

“There is nothing that speaks louder against the Nazi crimes than this hair.... On the transport that I came on, all the women and children were taken from the train and immediately gassed. The hair, along with the combs and suitcases and shoes, is all that remains of them. No matter how painful it may be to look at, it is all part of the story that I believe has to be told.” —Ernest Michel