Tag: translating

Das war die Hölle

While reading through the survivor accounts that I gathered from the Neuengamme Concentration Camp Memorial last summer, I found a unique report. Apparently at one time either the Danish government, the National Museum in Copenhagen, or the Freedom Museum in Copenhagen put out a survey to former concentration camp inmates.

Axel Christian Hansen was one such inmate. Born in 1899, he was captured in Denmark as a political dissident on September 30, 1944. Sent first to Neuengamme, he was then sent to Porta Westfalica on October 3. His answers are terse, yet convey much; as do the questions left unanswered. Here are a few of the questions and his answers. The survey was conducted in Danish on an unspecified date, and translated into German in 1990.

The first section deals with his transportation from Neuengamme (near Hamburg) to Porta Westfalica.

Type of transportation: Cattle car/ passenger car/automobile/shipopen/closed

How many in each car: 50 men

Was there straw or carpet or other? No

Did you receive any rations during the trip? bread-jam-meat? No

How much?

Did you receive anything to drink? No

How did you relieve yourself? In the corner of the car.

Were there air raids? Yes

Did you stay in the cattle car? Yes

Was it locked? Yes

Where were the guards? In the first car.

Where there any dead or wounded? No

Where there any escape attempts? No

Was there any mistreatment? No

Further comments regarding the transportation and description of exceptional experiences.

There was no time to sleep in the train car because there were too many of us. When we were shipped to Porta, we were given a little bit of water and a little bit to eat from a guard.


The second part deals with the arrival in Porta Westfalica.

What did you have remaining of your things upon arrival? A belt.

Was your face or head shaved? Yes

Was your body shaved? Yes

Where you shaved in another way? Yes, with a reverse mowhawk

How often did you get a reverse mowhawk (Autobahn)? 3 times

When were you allowed to grow your hair? Never


Section three deals with daily life.

How often did you receive a change of clothes (approximate date received)? The prisoner clothes were never changed.

What was exchanged? Shirt and underpants were changed every third week.

Was there any opportunity to wash or receive washed clothing? No

What kind of shoes? Wooden shoes (clogs)

Condition of the shoes? bad

List your other personal belongings (toothbrush, soap, tissue, toilet paper, etc, and how long you had them)

How many roll calls were there per day? about 4-5

When? Mornings, evenings, middle of the night

How long did they normally last? from 1 to 3 hours

How long did the longest last? 3 hours


There is much more to be found in the document. It will be available in the document repository I am building with Omeka, where it can be translated and transcribed by anyone who wants.

Much about the camp life is known because of memoirs of the Danish political prisoners. Following are a couple of books by Danish survivors:

Kieler, Jørgen. Resistance Fighter: A Personal History of the Danish Resistance Movement, 1940-1945. Jerusalem, Israel; Lynbrook, NY: Gefen Publishing House, 2007.
Madsen, Benedicte, and Søren Willert. Survival in the Organization: Gunnar Hjelholt Looks Back at the Concentration Camp from an Organizational Perspective. Aarhus [Denmark]; Oakville, Conn.: Aarhus University Press, 1996.


Transcribing and Translating Documents in the Archive

Part of my dissertation methodology is to try to use collaboration to provide an increase in usable sources. To accomplish this, I have set up the Omeka archive with the wonderful Scripto tool. This tool marries an Omeka install with a MediaWiki install to provide a nice way to be able to view images in the archive in order to transcribe and translate them. This post shows the process for transcribing a document/image.


First, go to the archive page: http://nazitunnels.org/archive/

First, go to the archive home page: http://nazitunnels.org/archive/
First, go to the archive home page: http://nazitunnels.org/archive/

Next, you’ll want to search for a particular file, or browse by item or collection. The search function is a bit limited at the time. It only searches for text in the titles, tags, and existing descriptions. It doesn’t search for already transcribed text.

Search for an item, or browse by item or category.
Search for an item, or browse by item or category.

Once you find an item to transcribe, click on the image or title to go to that item’s page. On that page, near the bottom, you will see a link to transcribe the item. Go ahead and click on that.

Click the link to transcribe.
Click the link to transcribe.

Now you are on the transcription page. Next you will need to log in. (If you would like to help transcribe and/or translate, send me an email, or comment on this post, and I can set you up with an account. And thank you in advance!)

Log in.
Log in.


Once logged in, the page will be a little bit different.

Find the ‘edit’ link to start transcribing the image.


Notice the tools available for the image. (Move the mouse cursor over the image if you do not see them at first.)

Blue: You can zoom in and move the image around to get a better view of the text.

Red: Enter the transcribed text in the box. When done, click the ‘Edit transcription’ button.

Green: Only transcribed text should go in the transcription box, use the discussion page to enter comments about the item and ask questions.

Yellow: When you are done transcribing, and  have clicked the ‘Edit transcription’ button, you can log out.

Transcription Tools

Transcription Tools

There is more to transcribing that just typing out what you see. Sometimes it is hard to even know what you are looking at. Here are some guidelines and policies for transcribing the documents here.

Policy (taken from the US National Archives and Records Administration website)

  • NaziTunnels.org reserve the right to remove content or comments that contain abusive, vulgar, offensive, threatening or harassing language; personal attacks of any kind; or offensive terms that target specific individuals or groups.
  • NaziTunnels.org will remove content or comments that are clearly off-topic, that promote services or products, or that promote or oppose any political party, person campaigning for elected office, or any ballot proposition.
  • The content of all transcriptions and comments are visible to the public, thus submissions should not contain anything you do not wish to broadcast to the general public.
  • If you provide personally identifiable information such as social security numbers, addresses, and telephone numbers in the comments, it will be removed by the moderator. However, if a document itself contains archival or historical personally identifiable information, please transcribe it.
  • NaziTunnels.org do not discriminate against any views, but reserves the right not to post content or comments that do not adhere to these standards.
  • By contributing to the NaziTunnels.org you accept that other users may edit, alter, or remove your contribution.
  • By transcribing or translating a document, you agree that you will not assert or retain any intellectual property rights, including copyright in the translation or transcription.
  • If you think any of the information in the NaziTunnels.org Archive is subject to a valid copyright claim, please contact me using the Q & A page.
  • When transcribing records, you should make a good faith effort to accurately represent the information contained in the record. If a document or record is not legible in some parts, please indicate with “[illegible].” Please consult the Transcription Tips at NARA for more information.

Below is a handy list of links to help with transcribing German handwriting and transcribing in general

NARA FAQ: http://transcribe.archives.gov/faq

NARA Tips for Transcribing: http://transcribe.archives.gov/tips

Tips for reading old handwriting: http://www.genealogy.com/76_reading.html

German Script Tutorial from BYU: http://script.byu.edu/german/en/welcome.aspx

Three part lesson on reading German handwritten records, from Familysearch.org:

  1. https://www.familysearch.org/learningcenter/lesson/reading-german-handwritten-records-lesson-1-kurrent-letters/69
  2. https://www.familysearch.org/learningcenter/lesson/reading-german-handwritten-records-lesson-2-making-words-in-kurrent/70
  3. https://www.familysearch.org/learningcenter/lesson/reading-german-handwritten-records-lesson-3-reading-kurrent-documents/71

Reading Blackletters (Gothic German), just for fun, or in case: