There are many individual reasons why a person might first choose to wait, or have to wait, until time has passed before setting out to find traces of family members. Because time is passing, it is increasingly seldom that survivors themselves turn to the ITS for help. In these special cases it could be that it is precisely the long span of time that makes the confrontation with the traumatic past remotely bearable. The majority of the inquiries nowadays come from the generations of the children and grandchildren. The trauma of what was experienced has left its mark on them as well. More information can help in finding family roots and understanding one’s own family history better. Often the survivors could not or did not want to speak about their persecution. In some cases this may be because of family secrets, such as children born out of wedlock whose parent or parents had been forced laborers. After the death of their parents or grandparents, many have a deep-seated need to learn more about their family’s past and to use every chance possible to find traces leading to family members. When people send inquiries to the ITS, they always receive a detailed explanation as well as copies of the relative documents from the ITS archives.
Additionally it is possible to visit the ITS and be shown the relevant documents in their original form.
Margret Schlenke has been the Head of the Tracing and Fate Clarification Department since 1976. In an interview she talks about her work.
The original documents
Survivors of Nazi persecution and their family members are warmly invited to come visit the International Tracing Service (ITS) in Bad Arolsen. Please remember to give sufficient notice prior to your visit, so that we can retrieve the documents out of the archive for you. Moreover, our Visitor Service staff members make special arrangements for your visit in order to provide you with as much information as you would like.
Here you will find everything you need to know about visiting the ITS.
Partners in the Search
In order to foster this cooperation, ITS staff members take part in the annual meeting of the “Restoring Family Links” (RFL) group that is organized by the International Committee of the Red Cross and the Red Crescent Moon in Geneva. The RFL meeting serves to keep the Family Link Network up-to-date and to share experiences.
At the moment, the cooperation with the Tracing Service of the Polish Red Cross Society is especially close. Ever since the political upheaval in East-Central Europe in 1989 there have been many inquiries coming from Poland regarding Polish victims of Nazi persecution.