What it's all about ...

Life and death in the ghetto - 1
Life and death in the ghetto - 2

The Collection

The collection in the "Archive of the Munich Workers' Movement e.V." comprises around 1500 files on compensation proceedings for damage to "body and health" under the Federal Compensation Act. These were carried out by the Munich lawyer Konrad Kittl in the 1960s. I started to evaluate the files in 1915.

Konrad Kittl's files give an idea of the kind of information  contained in the original files in the archives of the federal states. To our knowledge, they are the only documents on compensation proceedings outside the state archives, and the correspondence between the lawyers is certainly unique, as is the insight into Kittl's work that his correspondence  provides.

They are examples of the original files, of the "hundreds of thousands and millions of individual case files of people who described their fate of persecution as well as their family history in the administrative proceedings with details of dates, places, names, perpetrators, other victims and more."    (Federal Ministry of Finance, monthly report of the BMF, January 2021, "Das Archivierungsprojekt der Wiedergutmachung und seine Bedeutung im Kampf gegen den Antisemitismus", p. 75).

The Documents

Konrad Kittl's files contain a wide variety of documents describing the persecution, including

  • statements by the applicant about the persecution in affidavits, which are sometimes very detailed
  • information on times and places of imprisonment
  • further biographical information about life before persecution and after liberation.

Information on biography and persecution can be found, for instance, in

  • Affidavits of the applicants
  • Requests for information to the "International Tracing Service" (ITS), Arolsen, to obtain information  e.g. on periods of imprisonment.
  • Information from the ITS on the detention, residence and health of the applicants
  • Application forms
  • expert opinions

The Claimants

The claimants  originally came from a number of different countries in Eastern Europe and from the German Reich.
By the end of the 1940s, they had emigrated to Israel or the USA.
They hired attorneys  there to handle their cases. The attorneys in turn hired Konrad Kittl to represent them before the authorities and courts. Konrad Kittl received many cases from the lawyers  Rozenberg (Tel Aviv / Israel) and Kestenberg  (New York / USA).

The majority of claimants were still children and young people at the time of persecution.

During the persecution, the claimants were often imprisoned in several different camps.

Presentations on the website

One of my main concerns was to publicize the existence and content of the files. The presentations on the website are only examples of possible presentations of the contents of Kittl's files, and in a rather "outdated" form at that. Perhaps some people will be inspired to present the contents of the files in a different way. A number of documents can also be downloaded here, otherwise the files are accessible.


Based on the information in the files, 32 biographies have been compiled.

Documents relevant to the creation of the biographies are available for download. The biographies are sketches, which will gradually be supplemented with information from the original files, where these are accessible.
In addition, excerpts from the testimonies of more than 90 applicants describe their experiences in the German Reich, in ghettos, concentration and forced labor camps, in illegality, on death marches, after liberation and in the USSR.

The information contained in Kittl's files is supplemented, if available, by documents and information from other archives such as

  • Prisoner records from the Arolsen Archives
  • Ghetto administration documents from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
  • Original files from the archives of the state compensation offices
  • Court judgments from the archives of the judiciary

For image sources see applicants

About the compensation procedures

The files also contain Kittl's correspondence with foreign lawyers, compensation offices and courts, thus providing a good insight into the course of the compensation proceedings.
They also reveal the many problems that arose during the process.

Why "A Contemporary Witness called file"?

At the beginning of each proceeding, claimants were asked to provide a description of their persecution and, in the case of an application for compensation for "injury to body or health,"  the fate of their relatives. Frequently, the authorities would then ask questions to clarify open points.
These descriptions had to be prepared for each possible compensation proceeding (imprisonment, life, health, education) of the claimants. In the case of court proceedings, the applicants often had to answer additional questions. They also described their experiences to experts, so that these "interviews" often extended over 5, 10, 15 years.  Altogether, the files contain "detailed accounts of their own experiences in written form. They are, so to speak, written conversations with contemporary witnesses" (BMF Monthly Report, January 20-21).  Due to the different types of damage, a wide variety of aspects of persecution were described.

Konrad Kittl, however, focused on compensation for "physical and health damages". The plaintiffs' statements on other types of damages refer mainly to "damage to liberty". The files contain only a few statements on damages to property, education and life. For more details, see the "About the Biographies" section.

The Testmonies of the Claimants

To substantiate each application, affidavits were requested from the compensation offices and courts - a "description of the course of persecution ... and also the  persecution fate of close relatives" (see this letter). These accounts illustrate the cruel persecution of Jews by the National Socialists. They are eyewitness accounts in short form.

They describe

  • the persecution of German Jews from 1933 onwards
  • the experiences immediately after the beginning of the National Socialist occupation: expropriation, ban on school attendance, forced labor, maltreatment, murder of relatives.
  • life in the ghettos: cramped conditions, epidemics, hunger, forced labor in 12-hour shifts for German companies and the military
  • deportations and/or murder of family members, mass shootings during liquidations of ghettos
  • life in concentration camps and labor camps: deaths during transport, murder of relatives on arrival in Auschwitz, forced labor (in munitions factories, mines, bunker construction, airfield construction, aircraft construction, spinning mills, weaving mills, etc.) and maltreatment with completely inadequate food and clothing
  • Death marches: hunger, lack of clothing, bombings, murder of prisoners by guards
  • Life in illegality: some of the applicants managed to escape and had to fight for their lives in hiding places with farmers and in the woods, pursued by German patrols, hungry and exposed to the cold
  • Life in the USSR: Jews were able to flee to Russian-occupied territory or were expelled by the Germans. They describe their lives, first in labor camps, later mostly in Central Asia
  • Life before and after persecution: The applicants describe - only briefly - their lives before persecution and from liberation to emigration to Israel or the USA. The accounts of illegal entry into Israel, of "floating wrecks", of persecution by British ships and internment in Cyprus, of ships sinking in storms, are revealing. Henia Weissblum and David Kochman were on the "Exodus", Bernd-Dov Joseph on the "Patria".

About me

After studying political science, sociology and history, graduating with a "Magister Artium" (M.A.) and subsequently retraining, I worked for many years as a trainer for various operating systems and other software at an international German company. My tasks included designing courses, creating course materials and conducting courses in Germany and abroad.  I came aross the files in 2015  in search of meaningful employment. The task was to remove metal from the estimated 1500 files in moving boxes and hanging files and to make a few notes about them.

I soon had the idea of publishing parts of the content, namely the statements of the applicants. The sometimes very moving statements should not be forgotten, especially in view of current political developments. The results of the search in various databases, maps for a better overview and information from the files of the state compensation offices were then gradually added as illustrations. To illustrate this, I also set up links to the pages of memorial sites such as Flossenbürg or Neuengamme, which lead to descriptions of subcamps, concentration camps and ghettos in which the claimants were imprisoned.

I had the pleasure of presenting the project at an event organized by the Munich Documentation Centre for the History of National Socialism in March 2023; you can find a video of the event here. This website has also been online since then.
The website is not yet finished, I am still trying to get files from the archives to perhaps create some biographies after all.
Suggestions, wishes and error messages are always welcome!


Steffen Müller


Unsere Arbeit wird gefödert durch das Kulturreferat der Stadt München

sowie vom Bezirk Oberbayern.