Architectural plans for the Auschwitz death camp that were discovered in Berlin last year were given to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday for display at his country's official Holocaust memorial.
The 29 sketches of the death camp that was built in Nazi-occupied Poland date back as far as 1941, and include detailed blueprints for living barracks, delousing facilities and crematoria, including gas chambers. The sketches are considered important to helping understand the genesis of the Nazi genocide.
They are initialed by the head of the SS, Heinrich Himmler, and Auschwitz commandant Rudolf Hoess.
They turned up in an apartment in Berlin in 2008; how they got there is not clear, but their authenticity has been verified by Germany's federal archive.
While they are not the only original Auschwitz blueprints that still exist _ others were captured by the Soviet Red Army and brought back to Moscow _ they will be the first for Israel's Yad Vashem memorial, its chairman told The Associated Press in an interview.
"This set is a very early one, which was found here in Berlin, from the autumn of '41," Yad Vashem chairman Avner Shalev said.
"It brings a better understanding of the whole process, and the intention of the planners of the complex, and from this perspective it is important."
The blueprints were purchased from the unidentified finder by Germany's Axel Springer Verlag, the publisher of top-selling Bild newspaper among others, and put on display in the company's Berlin headquarters.
The publisher is now giving them to Yad Vashem for its permanent collection.
Shalev said they will be put on display at Yad Vashem on Jan. 27, 2010, as part of a special exhibit opening to mark the 65th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz.
The blueprints include general plans for the original Auschwitz camp, and also the expansion Auschwitz-Birkenau camp where most of the killings were carried out.
More than 1 million people, mostly Jews, died in the gas chambers or through forced labor, disease or starvation at the camp, which the Nazis built after occupying Poland.
Netanyahu is in Berlin for meetings with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, and other officials.
Later, the Israeli leader is scheduled to visit a house on Berlin's Wannsee lake that was the site of the Jan. 20, 1942, "Wannsee Conference" _ a watershed in Nazi policy against Europe's Jews.
The building now houses a museum documenting the Holocaust and the notorious meeting, which was once thought to be the point at which the Nazis decided to stop deporting and randomly killing Jews and instead to industrialize their murder.
Though debate continues, most historians now agree that the decision was made some months earlier _ by Adolf Hitler himself, even though no written order from him has ever been found.
Hundreds of thousands of Jews had already been murdered by the time the 15 civil servants, SS and party officials met at Wannsee. It is now believed by many that Reinhard Heydrich, the Nazi Security Service and Security Police head, called the meeting to make sure everybody knew what Hitler wanted done and to establish SS oversight of the process.
Shalev said the blueprints showing that the construction of Auschwitz was already being planned in 1941 help to reinforce that argument.
"The Wannsee conference ... was a kind of coordination," Shalev said. "The process of the Final Solution started to be implemented a few months before it, so the plans that were found from late '41 are more evidence."
A large yellowed plan, dated April 30, 1942 and titled "general building plan concentration camp Auschwitz" provides a wider view, showing the barracks but also roads, other buildings, and the outlying area.
Another drawing dated Oct. 14, 1941, shows the plans for construction of a "Waffen SS prisoner of war camp" with rows of what appear to be barracks. A notation in the bottom right says it was drafted by a prisoner, "Nr. 471."