Hitler's birthday present: 300 shot dead

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The death register from the Mauthausen concentration camp contains rows of neatly printed names. The times of execution are each two minutes apart. The date is April 20, 1942 -- Adolf Hitler's 53rd birthday.

"Every second minute there is another prisoner and this goes on for pages," says Udo Jost, an archivist at the International Tracing Service (ITS) which looks after the world's biggest collection of documents from World War Two.

"They shot 300 prisoners for Hitler's birthday present: not just shot but then registered them by name."

Millions of documents, like this register from the camp near Linz in Austria, sit in the cellars of a converted hotel in the central German town of Bad Arolsen, testament to the chillingly efficient bureaucracy of the Nazi regime.

The ITS, under the management of the International Committee of the Red Cross, has been administering the archive and answering queries for around 60 years. Until now, Germany had staunchly opposed opening the archive to a wider public.

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