by Daniel Miller
March 11, 2014
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• The interchangeable pieces were inserted into a special metal stamp
• The prisoner's identification tattoo could be applied in a single stroke
• But they proved to be inefficient and were replaced with a simpler system
• Loathsome devices set to go on display at the Auschwitz Museum in Poland
• Auschwitz was the only concentration camp where tattoos were used
They could almost be mistaken for innocent trinkets, but these small metal stamps were used to facilitate one of history's most appalling crimes.
The interchangeable pieces were inserted into a special metal stamps and used by Nazi SS guards to tattoo prisoners' ID numbers at the Auschwitz death camp.
But knowledge of their use could easily have been lost to time, as the Nazis, constantly looking to streamline the business of murder, soon replaced them with a quicker and more efficient system.
These metal stamps were used to tattoo prisoners at the Auschwitz concentration camp during the early days of the holocaust before the Nazis replaced them with a more efficient system
The main gate of the Nazi concentration camp Auschwitz where the devices were used to stamp tattoos onto prisoners' chests from 1941 before being replaced by a simpler system
The loathsome devices are set to go on display at the Auschwitz Museum in Oswiecim, Poland, where they will form part of a new collection.
When prisoners first began to arrive at Auschwitz in occupied Poland in 1940 they were each issued with an identification number.
At first these numbers were stamped onto pieces of cloth which the prisoners were ordered to sew onto their clothing.
Trinkets of hate: The interchangeable pieces, which were inserted into metal stamps, were originally favoured by SS guards as they allowed the tattoo to be applied in a single stroke
The evil-looking devices were only used for a short period at Auschwitz as they were found to be inefficient and replaced with a simpler system which used a single needle attached to a pen holder
The loathsome devices are set to go on display at the Auschwitz Museum in Oswiecim, Poland, where they will form part of a new collection
But prisoners would often replace their old worn-out clothes with those of others who had died causing an unacceptable amount of confusion among the German prison guards.
So the Nazis decided to start using tattoos instead. The stamps were originally thought to be the fastest method as they allowed the number to be applied in a single stroke.
At first, the tattoos were applied to their left breast. The stamp perforated the skin, and ink was rubbed into the wounds producing a tattoo.
Survivor: Bessie Mittelman, 82, helps show the number tattooed on the chest of her husband Manny Mittelman, 88. He is one of the few Auschwitz survivors to have a chest tattoo. After the stamp system was replaced prisoners were tattooed on their arms
Most of the prisoners to receive tattoos at Auschwitz had them placed on their arms using a single needle attached to a pen holder
The first to be tattooed in this fashion were Soviet prisoners of war who began arriving and dying by their thousands from 1941.
The stamp system soon proved unnecessarily complex and the Nazis replaced it with a simple needle attached to a penholder which was used to apply the tattoo to the forearm.
It is extremely rare now for find holocaust survivors who have their ID number tattoo on their chest as most of those interned in the early days of the camp's existence did not make it to the end of the war.
Contrary to popular belief, Auschwitz, which consisted of Auschwitz I (Main Camp), Auschwitz II (Auschwitz-Birkenau), and Auschwitz III (Monowitz and the subcamps) was the only concentration camp where tattoos were used to identify prisoners.
Some of the 600 children, who survived the Auschwitz, show their tattooed identification numbers. Some 7,000 prisoners, were alive when the camp was liberated
SS officers (L-R) Dr Josef Mengele, Rudolf Hoess, (former Commandant of Auschwitz), Josef Kramer (Commandant of Birkenau) are pictured at the Auschwitz in occupied Poland
Ominously, those who did receive a tattoo on arrival at Auschwitz could actually be considered lucky, for those who did not were deemed unfit for work and sent off for immediate execution.
In the spring of 1943, authorities adopted the practice of tattooing almost all previously registered and newly arrived prisoners, including females.
The only exceptions were German prisoners who were held in a separate compound.
AUSCHWITZ: THE MOST NOTORIOUS OF THE NAZI CONCENTRATION CAMPS
Perhaps the most notorious of all the Nazi concentration camps, 1.1million Jews were killed at Auschwitz.
The camp consisted of three main parts: Auschwitz I (the base camp) Auschwitz II - Birkenau (the extermination camp) and Auschwitz III - Monowitz (the labour camp).
The train tracks at Auschwitz-Birkenau where an estimated 1.3million, mostly Jewish prisoners were executed
During the war the camp was staffed by 6,500 to 7,000 members of the infamous SS - 15 per cent of whom were later convicted of war crimes.
It was run by camp commandant Rudolf Höss who was tried and hanged in 1947 for his part in the extermination.
The camp was liberated by the Red Army on January 27 1945, the day was subsequently declared International Holocaust Remembrance Day.
Following its liberation the camp has become a symbol of the holocaust and has operated as a museum since 1947.