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Inquiries have risen by more than 25 percent

Picture shows: three million correspondence files are kept in the archives of the ITS
About three million correspondence files are kept in the archives of the ITS containing the correspondence between the ITS and local/regional offices, survivors of Nazi persecution and their family members.

In the past year over 15,000 people turned to the International Tracing Service (ITS) for information on former victims of Nazi persecution. Compared to 2014, this is an increase of more than 25 percent in the number of inquiries.

Clarifying the fates of those persecuted by the Nazi Regime, searching for family members, providing information on survivors and their families: these account for some of the many significant tasks of the International Tracing Service (ITS) in Bad Arolsen. How relevant and important the work of the ITS continues to be, even today, more than 70 years after the liberation in 1945, is clearly visible in the statistics from 2015 that Floriane Hohenberg as the new Director of the ITS has announced: The inquiries sent to the ITS climbed from more than 12,100 in 2014 to around 15,500. The reasons for this are manifold: The provision of pensions for previously excluded victims groups led to a wave of inquiries from survivors of Nazi persecution. Because of a change in Polish legislation, those Jewish victims of the Nazi regime who had been in Poland at the time of their persecution but who have been living outside of Poland since then are now entitled to receive pension payments. The reform of the so-called “ghetto pensions”, which, according to an estimate made by the German Federal Government, pertains to approx. 40,000 former ghetto-workers still living, led to significantly more inquiries. Floriane Hohenberg explained that a continuing top priority at the ITS in 2016 will be providing these individuals, all well advanced in years, with information found in the ITS archives about their fates, so that they can apply for their rightful pension payments as swiftly as possible.

Increased interest from the family members of 2nd and 3rd generations

The evaluation of the statistics, however, shows that the increase cannot be attributed solely to the higher numbers of inquiries from survivors. In almost 50 percent of the cases, family members contact the ITS for information on paths of persecution. „We assume that the increased reporting about National Socialism because of the 70th anniversary of the liberation could have been an occasion for many people to take a closer look into their own family history. Apart from that, the ITS is becoming increasingly well-known, and more people are gratefully making use of the opportunity to finally find out what their parents or grandparents had gone through,“ says Floriane Hohenberg. „In many cases the trauma has been carried over into the second and even third generations. Working through the family history can be very helpful,” explained the French sociologist, who assumed the leadership of the ITS on 1 January 2016 from Prof. Dr. Rebecca Boehling, a US-American historian.

The inquiries to the ITS in 2015 came from 77 countries. Around one fourth of these came from Germany, followed by the Russian Federation, Poland, the USA and France. Also people from China, India, Iraq, Japan, Kenya, Namibia and Palau turned to the ITS.

High number of visits to the new Online-Archive of the ITS

Furthermore, the ITS was able to present the first stocktaking of the use of its new Online-Archive, where, since October 2015, three specially chosen digitized collections of the ITS Archive have been available for access world-wide. Up until December there had already been over 36,000 users working with these online collections. The online placement of the photos of personal effects created a particular stir. Journalists and other interested persons conducted research and provided crucial information, so that the ITS was able to return a number of the personal belongings that had been safely kept in the ITS archives to surviving family members of victims of Nazi persecution.

For Floriane Hohenberg the online placement of these specially chosen collections is an important step: „I see the continuing development of the Online-Archive as a central task of the ITS. It is important that the documents in the archive can be used even more – for family members of former persecutees, but also for the work of historical-political education and research.”

Online-Archive: digitalcollections.its-arolsen.org