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Impressed by the Documents

As of 2016 Sir Eric Pickles is the Special Envoy of the British Government for Post-Holocaust Issues and Representative of the United Kingdom in the International Commission for the ITS. At the end of August he travelled to Bad Arolsen to learn more about the archival holdings and current projects of the ITS.

The archive of the International Tracing Service (ITS) gives detailed evidence of the meticulousness and deadly accuracy of the Nazi bureaucracy in the large number of documents it preserves. This did not fail to impress Sir Eric Pickels when he viewed the ITS holdings during his first visit to Bad Arolsen in August 2016: “Even when things were just about over and the great war machine (of the Allies) was closing in, the Nazis continued to keep records. I’ve just seen a registry office card from Concentration Camp Dachau for which the back of a cigarette package was used as paper.” The Special Envoy of the British Government for Post-Holocaust issues and Representative of the United Kingdom in the International Commission for the ITS showed particular interest in the documents on Concentration Camp Bergen-Belsen, among them the report written by a member of the military about the liberation of the camp. “We in Britain feel an enormous attachment to Bergen-Belsen”, Sir Eric says. While the British army was freeing the camp, war reporters captured on film the murdered victims and the weakened, emaciated survivors. These images have become imprinted on Britain’s national memory.

Sir Eric used the opportunity of his visit to exchange ideas with ITS Director Floriane Hohenberg and the department heads about the current and future tasks of the archive and documentation center. He sees interesting concepts for co-operational projects where his two areas of responsibility converge: “A new Holocaust memorial is going up in London, and right next to it a learning center on the crimes of the Nazi era. There are a number of projects where I can imagine working in co-operation with the ITS.” During his visit Sir Eric emphasized that the new Prime Minister Theresa May was keenly aware of the importance of keeping alive the memory of the victims of the Holocaust, in the light of growing anti-Semitism and neo-Fascism. “Only a few moments after she was nominated to be David Cameron’s successor, Theresa May signed a commitment to the commemoration of the Holocaust.”

Floriane Hohenberg welcomed Sir Eric’s interest in accompanying and supporting the ITS in its progress. She updated him on the schedule of the new archive building as well as on the next steps towards implementing the strategic planning allowing the ITS to realize its potential by 2020. Sir Eric sees a variety of tasks for the future: “First and foremost is to continue with the digitization of the documents and to secure the physical records, to ensure that they are in proper boxes so that this paper memorial is safe for future generations. The next task is to link up the various database systems around the world, enabling international access for working with the documents. With these documents as a basis, the ITS can support research and education about Nazi crimes. Moreover, responding to inquiries will remain important, as third and fourth generations also have questions about the past.”