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Arrived – Event on the ITS Tracing activities

Which meaning the search for family members can still have more than six decades after the end of the Second World War was described by Renate Bauer and Victor Sokolovs at the event "Arrived - tracing and the clarification of fates today“ on 2 November 2011 in the Rauch Museum Bad Arolsen. "I can hardly describe with words what it meant to me to find my father's identity“, said Bauer in front of the 120 guests. "I am very happy about it and full of gratitude for the work of the International Tracing Service.“

A sense of life with roots

Bauer is the child of a forbidden relationship between a French prisoner of war and a German woman in Thuringian Waltershausen. She could never get to know her father. "Their love was betrayed“, she knows. The Nazis deported the father to a penal camp, before his daughter was born in May 1944. After the end of the war he went back to France without the knowledge of his child. Bauer grew up being told that her father was dead.

However, at some point in time Bauer wanted certainty and began to search for her father. "Because of the language difficulties my mother could not write his name and birthplace properly“, tells the 67-year-old. The crucial indication came by an inquiry of the ITS at the archives of the French ministry of defence in Caen. Bauer’s father Andre Balussaud passed away in 1999. With the help of the ITS his family could be found in France.

At the first meeting with the half siblings they exchanged photos and read Balussaud’s notes from the time of captivity. "There were no more doubts“, remembers Bauer. "It was a good feeling to sit in the house of my father and to be able to visit his grave. The affectionate reception I was given by my two half siblings, their partners, children and grandchildren has filled me with a new sense of life with roots after 65 years of uncertainty.“

A vacuum in my life was filled

Sokolovs was nine years old when his father passed away in Argentina in 1969. He had never spoken of his past. "During 50 years I did not know who my relatives were and what life my father had led in the Soviet Union“, reports the 51-year-old. Therefore, he started a search that took him years, also from worries that his father might have been a collaborator. In 2009, Sokolovs finally received the tip to turn to the ITS from the archives of the Russian Secret Service FSB.

The name Michael Nikitenko stood on a photo of the father. It led the Tracing Service on the right track, since a brother from Russia had sent a tracing request for this particular name. The inquiry also confirmed that Nikitenko was called, in the meantime, Georg Sokolovs. In 1964 Sokolovs had been able to smuggle a letter behind the iron curtain to his family in Russia. The ITS could bring the uncle and his nephew together. "In April 2011 we met for the first time“, tells Sokolovs. "I am glad about the great luck I had and about the meeting with my relatives. It has filled a vacuum in my life.“

No documents exist on what happed to Michael Nikitenko during wartime - only the story of the family from Russia that Michael knew German. "One day German soldiers stood in the courtyard of the family house and took my father. They wanted him to work for them as a translator“, says Sokolovs. His biggest concern today is that no more children must grow up without certainty because the war tore apart families. "I hope that our children and grandchildren are clever enough not to make the same mistake.“

Tracing will be continued

Millions of people have been deported by Nazi persecution and forced labour as well as families been torn apart. Till this day the ITS supports affected people with family reunions. "The tracing and clarification of fates will remain an integral part of the work of the ITS“, said Udo Wagner, adviser for the ITS with the International Committee of the Red Cross in Geneva, on the occasion of the event. "With this work the institution also contributes to the reconciliation and understanding between once hostile nations.“

"Whom do you still search?“, is a typical question put over and over again to the employees of the ITS, explained Susanne Siebert, head of the department for humanitarian requests. Nevertheless, the stories of affected people make clear, how valuable the tracing for members of the family still is today. "The intention is always to know one’s own fate and roots. This wish comes to the fore when life with increasing age glides into quieter waterways.“

In the first half-year 2011 the ITS received almost 5,200 inquiries from survivors of the NS persecution and family members of victims. About 6.5 percent of the inquiries asked for the tracing of relatives or the clarification of their destiny. Most of all people from Eastern Europe who could not turn to the Tracing Service until 1989 sent requests. "Every human being has the right to know his origin and to find out about the fate suffered by his family members. We will continue our work as long as there is a need for it.”