Following the destruction of the Nazi-Regime it became apparent that the search for missing relatives and family members would be a herculean task. The documents secured by the Allies from the meticulous Nazi burocracy on mass murder, genocide and persecution played a key role in this search. As early as January 1946 the documents that had been collected together in a central location were brought to Bad Arolsen. In addition to these were the also very detailed papers on the care and support of the Displaced Persons after 1945 by the Allies.
In order to be able to provide as much information as possible from a central location, the International Tracing Service (ITS) collected further documents, among them copies from other archives. Over the years these were added to by way of the comprehensive collection of documents that has arisen from the tracing and documentation work. This includes the Central Name Index, a collection of approx. 50 million index cards providing information on 17.5 million fates. In 2013 the original documents and the Central Name Index in the archives of the ITS were inscribed on the UNESCO “Memory of the World” Register.
Originals and copies
77 percent of all the documents in the Archives of the International Tracing Service (ITS) are originals. Over the decades, specific copies were created or were accepted from other archives in order to complete the documentary files. In some cases, these copies are the only known editions of the documents in question and thus have an unusual historical value. Often it is not known whether any other copies exist or whether the institutions even preserved the originals.
The starting point for the copies collection was the idea from the Allies: from a single location to have access to the most extensive and detailed information possible on the paths of persecution, thus being better able to fulfill the task of bringing families together.
The ITS is not an archive in the classical, traditional sense, but rather had been a search and contact point for family members of victims of Nazi persecution. The organizational structure arising out of that is a part of the history of the ITS and will be maintained for this reason.Dr. Christian Groh, Head Of Archive Branch