Around the mid 80’s the generation of the children, and then later, the grandchildren, started wondering whether there were any documents in the ITS on Nazi persecution of their own families. This kind of biographically inspired search constitutes the majority of the inquiries today. There are many different reasons for this: The fear in the family could always be felt, yet many of the acutely traumatized survivors could not, or did not want to, find words for what they had experienced. It wasn’t until after their death and often not until quite a long period of time had passed since then that the second and third generations began a gradual confrontation with this chapter of their family history. The fact that the view towards National Socialism changed in the 80’s certainly played a role: in 1979 the US series “Holocaust” was shown in the Federal Republic of Germany, which led to intense emotional reactions and heated discussions; the two-part film “Shoah” followed in 1985. All over the world, the crimes of National Socialist Germany were the subject of widespread public discussion; increasingly, these debates were also about the stigmatized victims groups such as the Sinti and Roma, homosexuals, and the handicapped. In this changed atmosphere the internationally respected public address on 8 May 1985 of the German president at that time, Dr. Richard von Weizsäcker, was received with much international acclaim and influenced the German understanding of their history and their particular culture of remembrance. One could summarize this by stating that the Holocaust and other Nazi crimes in Germany were increasingly coming to the foreground of the public conscience. For those families personally affected, it may have led to more closely examining their own history. The knowledge we have today about the repercussions of trauma suffered, and how this affects the following generations, only serves to emphasize the need to fill these empty spaces with knowledge.
The inquiries from the second, third, and fourth generations have come not only from Germany, of course. Increasing numbers of inquiries from younger family members have also been from Italy, France and the United States in particular; in the 90’s from East-Central Europe and Eastern Europe as well. It was only following the political upheaval in these countries that making inquiries to the ITS was even possible. After more than 4 decades following the defeat of the Nazi Regime, many of the former victims of Nazi persecution and forced labor were no longer alive. They never had the chance themselves to look into the documents of these years of terror. In their stead the generations of children and grandchildren began to gather information on the individual fates.