The first years of the “unwanted child” ITS
The Waldeckian Association of History presented the book “International Tracing Service Arolsen” by the author Bernd Joachim Zimmer to the public yesterday. It is the first publication on the history of the International Tracing Service (ITS) in Bad Arolsen that gives comprehensive coverage of the institution’s early years up to 1955. “The ITS had helped millions of people, and as yet a detailed description of its history was lacking”, observed Zimmer. “I have limited my account to the organisation’s first years, though, as otherwise it would have grown too voluminous.”
The tracing service had been an “unwanted child” initially, said Zimmer. The quick succession of organisations taking charge of the service, the frequent change of its directors and an unstable funding were clears indicators for this fact. “A tracing service for civilians was a novelty”, added Zimmer. “The Allies established it on the understanding that the service would not be needed for long.” But meanwhile, the ITS has had its 65th anniversary.
At the end of the Second World War nine million survivors of Nazi persecution and forced labour found themselves deprived of their homes – an uprooting of human beings Europe had never seen before. Providing these homeless with food and medicine, repatriating them and searching for their next-of-kin were the Allies’ first priority tasks. To fulfil them, tracing bureaus had been opened in the various occupation zones and DP Camps. A Central Tracing Bureau was supposed to coordinate the activities of the single tracing offices.
The Allies chose the North Hessian place Arolsen as the site for the bureau, because it offered adequate telegraph and telephone systems and could be reached easily by train or car from all zones. The work had been marked by shortage of virtually everything in the early days, reported Zimmer. “Paper was scarce, and many a time people had to work by candlelight.” In the immediate post-war years, the ITS had about 1000 employees – “a town within the town”.
In his 500-page book, Zimmer renders a detailed account on the structural build-up of the tracing service and on the discussions about its site, managing body and mandatory tasks. “My intention was to describe the development from the view of the protagonists of the time”, said the author. A retired deputy head teacher at the study seminar in Kassel and holder of a doctorate in history, the Arolsen resident has cast light on the history of the North Hessian place under Nazism in several books and articles for specialist journals already. He dedicated many years of work to this publication, accentuates Juergen Roemer from the Board of Directors of the Waldeckian Association of History. “We are very happy that we could publish the book on such an important subject and hope that it will meet with countrywide interest.”
Bernd Joachim Zimmer’s
“International Tracing Service Arolsen”
Von der Vermisstensuche zur Haftbescheinigung.
(From the search for missing persons to confirmations of detention) Die Organisationsgeschichte eines „ungewollten Kindes“ während der Besatzungszeit (The organisational history of an “unwanted child” during the occupation era),
please contact the
Geschäftsstelle des Waldeckischen Geschichtsvereins
34454 Bad Arolsen
Phone: ++49 (0) 56 91 66 52 or 62 67 50
Fax: ++49 (0) 56 91 62 67 79
Price information: 29.90 Euro
Pages/measures: ca. 496 pages - 23,0 x 17,0 cm
Publication date: 1st edition 5 October 2011
From the Series: Waldeckian Research 18 www.buchhandel.de/detailansicht.aspx