International Holocaust Remembrance Day

Reminding is knowing who we are.
The Vrba-Wetlzer Report.

Auschwitz Protocols. 26/08/1944 Budapest (Hungary). General Archive of Administration- Spain

The Auschwitz Protocols are available on the Archives Portal Europe (APE).

The recent history of Europe is the history of the migrations that have taken place on our continent over the last 80 years. The Second World War and the immediate post-war reconstruction led to unprecedented forced population movements. Although deportation policies were not new in Europe, what was new was the systematic plan to relocate populations in masse for the purpose of extermination.

The memory of war, deportations and genocide is part of our lives and explains what we are as Europeans. For this reason, celebrating January 27th, the day on which the Nazi camp in Auschwitz-Birkenau was liberated in 1945, is to pay tribute to the victims of the Holocaust and to remember that we can never again descend into hell.

This killing camp, located in southern Poland, was made up of almost thirty industrial facilities. Approximately 1,300,000 Europeans were sent there. Entire families, most of them Jewish, Roma and Sinti from all areas occupied by the Reich, were selected upon arrival. Only those individuals fit for work were initially spared. Those who were not selected were immediately taken to the gas chambers. However, those selected for forced labor suffered living conditions that inevitably also led to certain death. Auschwitz was the most efficient extermination camp the Nazis ever built.

Auschwitz Protocols. 26/08/1944 Budapest (Hungary). General Archive of Administration- Spain

Although the Allies knew about Auschwitz and what was happening there since 1942, two young Slovak Jews who escaped from the camp, Rudolf Vrba and Alfred Wetzler, gave detailed testimony of what was occurring in April 1944. For the first time it was described in detail the operation of the camp by a report that incorporated the sketches of both the chambers and crematoria, as well as the figures of deportations by country. A copy of the document, which had been translated into German, came to the hands of the Jewish Aid and Rescue Committee in Budapest, which distributed it among the diplomatic legations, and ended up reaching the Allies. Spanish Ambassador Ángel Sanz Briz received a copy in French and he sent it to Madrid in August 1944 after having verified with other colleagues the truth of the story.

Auschwitz Protocols. 26/08/1944 Budapest (Hungary). General Archive of Administration- Spain

The testimony of Vrba and Wetzler determined the image that the Allies got about the Nazi camps, and what it was more important, the public opinion of their respective countries because the report was opened to the mass media. Indifference and skepticism faded when it became known, even among Germans who listened secretly BBC broadcasts. After the war, the accused Nazi chiefs in the Trial of Major War Criminals in Nuremberg had to see how the American prosecutor Jackson used the data of the forced deportations to Auschwitz mentioned in the report as evidence.

However, the forced deportations without the purpose of extermination were extended to shape the new post-Hitler Europe thanks to Postdam Agreement. Millions of people were uprooted and forced to get linguistic and cultural homogeneity in different countries. Then it was the Germans turn. For example, Hungary expelled 623,000 Germans, Romania 786,000, the re-established Czechoslovakia 3,000,000 and Poland 1,300,000.

Showing this kind of documents from our archives, such as the one drawn up by Vrba and Wetzler, is a moral obligation that we all have with the victims of the Holocaust and the people who helped to fight the Third Reich. They help to know what happened and also, hopefully, to prevent genocides or terrible acts such as the mass deportation of those considered different.

Jesús Espinosa-Romero
Deputy Director
General Archive of Administration- Spain

The documents: Auschwitz Protocols. Reports about the situation of Hungarian prisoners and deportees in German concentration camps,  located in the General Archive of Administration – Spain, will be part  of the roaming exhibitions of the European Digital Treasures project: Exiles, Migratory Flows and Solidarity.

Edvard Munch’s will

2021 will be a great year for Edvard Munch’s art. During the spring, a brand new museum will open its doors. The new museum is situated at Oslo´s waterfront and is tailor-made for the world´s largest collection of art by Edvard Munch. And what is more, it all grew out of Edvard Munch´s will.

Edvards Munch´s passport, issued 15 October 1925. From his probate file. The National Archives of Norway – The Regional Archives of Oslo

Edvard Munch (1863–1944) is one of the Modernism’s most significant artists, world-famous for his painting The Scream. His career as an artist saw him move away from naturalism and an accurate record of objects, instead seeking personal representations to express the mental life of modern man. Influenced by the symbolist movement, Munch later went on to become a pioneer of expressionist art.

Munch´s will

When he died on 23 January 1944, Edvard Munch left no heirs. He left behind an extensive and valuable artistic production: 1,100 paintings, 18,000 graphic works, 4,500 watercolors and drawings, six sculptures, countless letters and other correspondence. The distribution of the inheritance was determined through the will dated 18 April 1940. It was drawn up just nine days after Nazi troops invaded Norway, and annulled all previous ones. The Nazis are said to have threatened to seize Munch´s property, and he was worried for his paintings, which he regarded as his children.

In his will, Munch explains how his wealth, artwork and literary works should be distributed and managed: “The Municipality of Oslo inherits my remaining artworks, drawings, woodcuts, lithographs, intaglio prints, together with the woodcut blocks, lithographic stones, and the engraved copper plates. Prints must not be pulled from my lithographic stones, woodblocks or copper plates. Only 10 – ten – impressions of each of my remaining graphic works may be sold.”

Edvard Munch´s will be on display in exhibition no. 1 of the European Digital Treasures.


The first Munch Museum in Oslo opened its doors in 1963, almost twenty years after Munch’s death. After nearly 60 years, the old museum building no longer provides what Munch´s art requires and deserves.

The new Munch Museum, Lambda. Photo: Adrià Goula

The new museum is a highly distinctive museum building and is called Lambda. It has 11 galleries on 13 floors and a gallery space of 4,500 square meters. The new museum has been designed by the Spanish architect Juan Herreros and his partner Jens Richter from the architect practice Estudio Herreros. It will offer a range of approaches to Edvard Munch´s art and life, as well as works by other Modernists and contemporary artists in dialogue with Munch.

For more information see:

Edvard Munch´s life

Presentation of the new museum

Presentation of the old museum (in Norwegian)

A tour of Edvard Munch´s property

A tour of Edvard Munch´s summer house

Ole Gausdal, National Archives of Norway

The merchandise products: Atlas of Fernão Vaz Dourado, 1571

ÉCHARPE, Portugal, Designers Diogo Bessa;
Mário Fonseca; Ana Catarina Silva

We present another designer product born within the framework of the European Digital Treasures project. Its creators are the designers Diogo Bessa, Mário Fonseca e Ana Catarina Silva, from the Polytechnic Institute of Cávado and Ave (IPCA). Their source of inspiration was one of the several folios of  the atlas of Fernão vaz Dourado, dated 1571, whose holder is  the Torre do Tombo National Archive (ANTT).

The full description of the Atlas is available on line, as well as the images of the different folios that compose it (

Atlas of Fernão Vaz Dourado, 1571

About its author, Fernão Vaz Dourado (c. 1520-c.1580), we know he was a soldier and one of the three portuguese cartographers probably born and formed in Portuguese India. He mapped the known world of Europeans at the time, the coastline of the continents visited by sailors along their voyages. With the exception of polar zones, the only missing elements are the costs of some islands in Oceania (including Australia and some islands north of this continent) the North and North East coasts of Asia (north of Japan) and the entire North West region of North America, as well as the interior of the continents.

However, and according to what is known in our days about the cartographic workshops, such works could have been the product of a slow, complex, segmented and collective effort.

The new merchandise product is an écharpe, presented in an transparent envelope, which is 100% recycled material, containing contextual information about the document that gave rise to it and about the National Archive.

Lucília Runa, Senior Technician / E-administration and innovation, General Directorate of Books, Archives and Libaries, Portugal

The different stages of its creation and development process are presented in the following video:

Archival Literacy Online Course: challenges and opportunities

Working with Generation Z

To promote the access of Generation Z to primary archival sources means not only to make what we hold available, but to do it in a selective, attractive and practical way for this new public. We are working with the first generation that was born digital, connected, mobile and that has never seen the world without the Internet. A generation that reads and publishes outside the conventional information sources.

Thus, the Archival Literacy Online Course challenged those who work in archives to understand different information needs: the choice of meaningful subjects; the presentation and contextualization of the selected documents to arise the public’s curiosity and interest; the potential to understand the past, to question the present and to build the future of the new generations.

The research of primary sources encourages critical thinking in young people, an essential skill, that can be applied in other areas of knowledge.

The issue of literacy is fundamental: we’re living, for the first time in history, a health pandemic in a digital age with a massive demand for information, caused by fear and anxiety. In addition, a disinformation pandemic occurred disturbing the protection of consumers and the prevention of public health: the European Union announced, last May, the existence of 2,700 fake news a day on Covid 19.

Working with teachers

In order to enhance the use of the Archival Literacy Online Course we contacted 12 teachers who teach from the 9th to the 12th year of schooling in different regions of the country. After receiving the invitation explaining the scope, the objectives and the schedule of the project, eight teachers have enrolled in it.

The teachers contacted have demonstrated a strong interest in the new access possibilities to primary sources and their exploration in the classroom, because the proposed subjects were included in the school curriculum.

Coping with the limitations of their new daily routine of face-to-face or online classes in times of pandemic and almost without the possibility of widening the learning experiences through study visits, the online access to the Digital Treasures course has opened new contact and work possibilities and, in a way, provided an alternative to in-person visits to archives.

Each one of the three themes addressed in the course was accompanied by a Teachers’s Guide, with didactic suggestions to work in the classroom context.

And, last but not least, working with archival documents

The sharing and the knowledge of the themes addressed through documents of seven European archives, helps the participants to build a broadened horizon of a common European history, besides the different national histories and identities.

For instance, in the subject “Pandemics and Epidemics” we present 26 documents of European archives, of highly varied types. In the context of the Covid 19 pandemic, the students will easily be able to question them.

Aurélio Paz dos Reis, Bubonic plague in Porto, Portugal, 1899, available in
The Aurélio Paz dos Reis archival fond contains rich photographic material which portrays the bubonic plague

Maria Trindade Serralheiro, Senior Technician / Information, Statistics and Quality Systems, General Directorate of Books, Archives and Libaries, Portugal

Ana Isabel Fernandes (trad.), Senior Technician / Communication Office, Torre do Tombo National Archive, General Directorate of Books, Archives and Libaries, Portugal

Pest Control at Torre do Tombo National Archives of Portugal

15 Insect Anobium punctatum – beetle

Infestations in collections are a common problem in archives. This issue has been monitored throughout the years by the people in charge at the National Archives Torre do Tombo (ANTT).

The ANTT has two anoxic disinfestation chambers that use nitrogen. The first chamber is 1.5 m3 wide and the second has a capacity of approximately 4.5 m3 and 25 linear meters.

The disinfestation process, since it implies moving the documentation to the chambers, allows the hygienization of the spaces that are temporarily empty

However, considering the various infestation foci, the dimensions of the archive (over 100 linear quilometers of documentation), the impossibility of disinfesting the whole collection at once, as well as the legal obligation to incorporate new documentation, it was necessary to rethink the problem and use a new approach to reinforce the disinfestation process.

Electrocuting light trap

To work in reducing the insect population in its adult phase, while continuing to use the anoxic desinfestation process throughout the year.

It is known that insects are attracted to light. Therefore, in Spring, we’ve placed electrocuting light traps in the hallways identified as infested, in three rooms of two repositories, that were numbered and maped.

In summary, three of the proposed objectives are presented:

     1) Try to capture / eliminate as many infesting insects as possible, in order to complement the purge work performed by the anoxia chamber;

General tabel insect capture

     2) Through the geographical layout of the traps in each room, try to identify the most infested documentation, in order to guide the next purging work in the anoxia chamber;

Room Map

     3) Try to understand if in the areas of disinfected documentation vs. areas that have not yet been disinfected, they present a difference in weed occupation.

A month later, the insects captured in each trap were counted to try to identity the worst infested areas in the room, to proceed to the anoxic desinfestation of this documentation.


It is important to realize that the fact that insects are found in a certain trap does not indicate that they come from an area that is necessarily close. However, this is very likely to happen, always taking into account the layout of the remaining traps in the room.

    1) Floor 4, Room 6: Documentation of Notary Offices where disinfestation work has been carried out in the anoxia chamber since June 2016.

        863 insects were captured in this room, revealing that the disinfested area has, in most cases, a lower number of insects, although with occasional situations, with an average similar to other areas in the room.

        It was possible to notice that the room has an even high level of infestation and with a certain homogeneity, since in more isolated traps locations an approximate number of insects were captured than in the most concentrated area.

Luís de Vasconcellos e Sá, Senior Technician / Conservation and Restoration Office, Ana Isabel Fernandes (trad.), Senior Technician / Communication Office, Torre do Tombo National Archive General Directorate of Books, Archives and Libaries, Portugal

Literacy course- An opportunity for everyone!

The Digital Treasurers literacy course is suitable for everyone. The course is broken down into three modules. The first module is called – Archives, An introduction. The second module is called – The Archives of Anyone, an archive for Anyone. Finally, the third module is called – Teaching with Primary Sources. 

The course is to help make students more aware of archives and what benefit they have to present day life. The different aspects of the course were the length of the course, the style of writing , the activities included in the modules. From a survey conducted there was a positive response regarding the relevance to the classrooms. The modules course has information on useful tips for gaining insights into history and past events. These include pictures, documents, passports and artifacts. Displaying of these can either be on video, museums or websites. An archives can also be a certificate of some sort. E.g a Birth Certificate. This course speaks about who uses archives and the importance of them.

Archives can be used by historians, teachers, scientists and or any person looking to gain insight into the past. Archives are extremely important as they explain a lot of what was culturally acceptable or available at the given time of the artifact. It also helps gives dates of important events. Archives can also be used in legal settings. E.g CCTV or Dash camera footage. 

For further information read here!

The merchandise products: Antique heroes & Roman matrons

Thirdly, but not least, we present one more inspiring designer product of the European Digital Treasures project. It is made by Zsófia Neuzer, a Hungarian designer charged with designing by the National Archives of Hungary.

As the designer wrote, “After reading István Kővágó’s referendum summarising the events of the 1956 revolution before the UN Special Committee, the plan for an attention-grabbing, outspoken product line was immediately outlined. The text describes Hungarian civilians marching and fighting on the streets with an anachronistic analogy, specifically:

‘… I have to interpret a nation’s bloodwritten epos using the language of reality. A fight in which the characters exceeded average human level, in which 14-year-old children modelled antique heroes, 70-year-old grandmothers as old Roman matrons.’

I highlighted and placed the terms ‘antique hero’ and ‘Roman matron’ as text elements on T-shirts, complete with illustrations of antique figures in red. The set consists of organic cotton T-shirts, stickers and washable tattoos.

The product line draws attention to the importance of critical thinking, as I consider it very important that the original purpose of the document – storytelling –, could be widely realized and given great publicity by stepping out onto the street with creating new dialogues.”

Dorottya Szabó, senior archivist, National Archives of Hungary

The merchandise products: The DIY Time Capsule

In connection with our previous post, we present an other designer product born within the framework of the European Digital Treasures project. Its creator is Dóra Rea Kövér, a Hungarian designer, who was charged with designing by the National Archives of Hungary.

Designer Dóra Rea Kövér, DIY TIME CAPSULE, Hungary

As previously posted on this webpage, selected documents of our international project’s three digital exhibitions serve as a basis not only for organising online educational resources, computer games, quizzes or community activities and workshops – temporarily postponed due to pandemics but still planned – but also as inspiration to the 12 designers appointed by the members of the consortium.

Created by Dóra Rea Kövér, the design is a DIY Time Capsule made for children. About the planning process and the inspiration, the designer wrote as follows.

“The object I designed is a “handheld” customizable version of the time capsules everyone knows, mostly with a system tailored to children aged 8-12.

My inspiration from all archival activities I got to know was storytelling and the process of keeping these stories for the future, as well as the power of handwriting. I think it is important that in an era where everything can be retrieved and paper-based knowledge accumulation is increasingly overshadowed, primary school children should meet these values, after all.

In my choice of material, I chose a paint box as a basic object because, on the one hand, I wanted to keep it available for as many students as possible, and on the other hand, I sought to keep the essential properties of the capsules (e.g. hermetic closing) as well. The boxes are light-coloured and also have a saturated sticker.”

In fact, time capsules are “extended sections” of our archival work, which will give their future user the opportunity to preserve their personal stories for posterity in the same way that archives around the world do.

Dorottya Szabó, senior archivist, National Archives of Hungary

The merchandise products: “the Father Bartolomeu de Gusmão’s aerostatic machine”

To respond to one of the challenges launched by the European Digital Treasures project, the Directorate-General for Books, Archives and Libraries of Portugal hired the IPCA (Polytechnic Institute of Cávado e Ave) to create some merchandising products inspired by documents of the National Archives Torre do Tombo and that belongs to one of the  Exhibitions, ” EUROPEAN DISCOVERIES: FROM THE NEW WORLD TO NEW TECNOLOGIES”, from the EDT. These products should please a very wide-ranging and diverse audience, contribute to increase the visibility of archives and their documentary heritage, diversify the ways in which they are approached, attract new audiences and increase the revenues of archives.

IPCA accepted the challenge and developed a set of products of which we now present “the Father Bartolomeu de Gusmão’s aerostatic machine”.

Historical background:

In August 1709 Father Bartolomeu de Gusmão presented to D. João V, king of Portugal, and his court, a balloon that rises 4 to 5 meters from the ground. In order to prevent the possibility of the plans being copied and to ensure his recognition as the inventor of the concept, Bartolomeu de Gusmão created the design of the Passarola, a bird-shaped machine that, in no way, corresponded to the original device, but served mainly to divert attention.

This picture can be found in the manuscript “Letters, consultations and other works by Alexandre de Gusmão: Father Bartolomeu de Guerreiro’s Aerostatic Machine” with reference code: PT / TT / MSLIV / 1011

More than three centuries later, the Passarola is still a source of inspiration. This episode was used by José Saramago in one of his most popular novels, “Baltasar and Blimunda”.

Here you can see a video on the IPCA process of creating a mobile from the National Archive of Portugal/Torre do Tombo document:

General Directorate of Books, Archives and Libaries, Portugal