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“One of the finest examples of contemporary legal history“

21 doctoral candidates from the Frankfurt am Main-based Max Planck Institute for European Legal History had a one-day look around the archive of the International Tracing Service (ITS) in Bad Arolsen today. They wanted to familiarize themselves with the progress ITS has made since opening for research last November. “The potential is enormous”, said the Director of the Institute, Professor Michael Stolleis, who visited the archive for the first time.

The group of visitors discussed research opportunities at the tracing service with ITS Director Reto Meister and historian Irmtrud Wojak. “The ITS can develop into an institute of contemporary history,” said Stolleis. “At the same time, the archive can work closely with other institutes also dedicated to coming to terms with the history of National Socialism.“

At the beginning of every new semester, the research department at the Max Planck Institute takes its doctoral candidates on an excursion to institutions that may be of interest to their work. Scholars come from Russia, France, China, Italy and Brazil in addition to Germany. On a tour through the premises with archival manager Udo Jost, they gained an overview of the range of records stored at the ITS. Stolleis is convinced that “the treasure trove of documents is of interest to many.”

In his view, research might focus primarily on the concentration camps and secondly on Europe’s migration history. “But also the coming to terms with the past, as evident in refugee legislation, restitution or the sharing of burdens, has not yet been reappraised by legal history.  In this respect, the ITS provides contemporary legal history with one of the finest examples.

Professor Bernhard Diestelkamp also judged the working visit to Bad Arolsen to be “highly interesting“. “We have to make the ITS´s research potential more widely known among academics,” said the legal historian. “Everybody who concerns themselves with this subject is aware of the significance of the collection and the value of the work done at the tracing service over decades.”

Consequently, taking good care of the documents is of enormous significance, according to Diestelkamp. “The archive is asked questions over and over again, and every new generation of researchers will continue to ask new ones.”