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40 French Citizens paid Visit to the ITS

Picking up the trail of his granduncle Joseph who had disappeared without a trace in 1945, Laurent Guillet and his companions, a forty-person team, had a short stop also at the International Tracing Service (ITS) in Bad Arolsen. The institution’s French Liaison Mission had contributed to the book he titled “Il s’appelait Joseph” (His name was Joseph) and brought out last year. “It is not simply a journey we make here, Arolsen rather is one of several ‘rendezvous stops on a literary path’”, so Guillet. “The author and his reader meet in locales the former describes in a book. Thus written words get translated into images.”

It is places of personal historical moment which the travel companions aged between 28 and 86 intend visiting in France, Germany and the Czech Republic. Among the party are members of Joseph’s family, friends, grandsons and granddaughters of deportees, prisoners-of-war, children of war and history enthusiasts. “We in our entirety are living symbols of war ‘impact’”, relates the author. “Some of us are still traumatized by events of the war- and post-war time. For them our joint journey is a special way of coming to terms with their individual history.”

At Arolsen, the French nationals got an insight into the archival holdings, the treatment of humanitarian and archival requests and the tasks performed by the French Liaison Mission. During their stay, two participants could be handed copies of documents on their relatives. Arrested by the Nazis while still in France, Armande Agaesse’s Jewish father-in-law had been deported via the collection and transit camp in Drancy to Concentration Camp Mauthausen where he died on 25th March 1945. The ITS archive preserves his death certificate as well as extracts from the death register, the transport list and Concentration Camp Mauthausen’s registers on newly arrived prisoners and their numbers. “The documents I have received from the ITS bring a 50-year search to a close”, so Agaesse. “I am touched and infinitely grateful.”

Alain Nocquet’s family also was affected by Nazi persecution his grandmother having been an active and dedicated member of French Résistance who survived incarceration in concentration camps Ravensbrück and Buchenwald. “Thanks to Laurent’s help and Joseph’s life story, I will take advantage of our journey not only to honour my grandparents, but also to commemorate those selfless who risked their lives attacking the enemy”, he explains his taking part. “By means of their suffering and shedding their blood and tears, they have given us back what is dearest: freedom. May they never fall into oblivion!”

The 13-day ‘enterprise’ was started in front of the house where Joseph was born in Trévelo Limerzel, a small Breton community. The schedule of the group’s memory trip includes places like Berlin, Dresden, Zwickau, Plauen, Litvinov (Czech Republic) and Sarrebourg (France). “In some of these localities we will set up four-language plaques inscribed with parts of Joseph’s fate“, so the author. “They ensure that the suffering of my granduncle and of many civilian and military victims will and can be remembered many years from now.”