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US Consul General Alford appeals for more research

The new US Consul General in Frankfurt am Main, Edward M. Alford, sees the future of the International Tracing Service (ITS) as a research center. “When the last victim passes on, the documents must bear witness to the enormity of the Nazi atrocities,” said the US representative during a visit to the archive, which houses over 30 million files on National Socialist persecution. The USA is a member of an International Commission which oversees the ITS. The commission, comprised of 11 member states and chaired by the US, is currently discussing the institution´s future role.

Alford and his deputy principal officer Doria Rosen learned about the document holdings and the latest developments at the Tracing Service. It was the Consul General´s first visit to Bad Arolsen since taking office at the end of August 2009 in Frankfurt. He was deeply moved by the lives and fates which are documented at the ITS archive. “Seeing the names of millions of victims is shocking. At the same time, individual cases make the terrible history more tangible as a whole,” said Alford.

Both US representatives are particularly interested in the digitization, conservation and disclosure of the documents as well as in inquiries from relatives of Nazi victims. The ITS received 4577 requests in the first half of 2009, 672 of which were from the USA alone. The ITS archive provides important information, especially for persecutees who turned their back on Europe after the end of the Second World War. “Many built a new existence in the USA and worked their whole lives,” said the Consul General. “At their age they now want to know more about their roots and the fates of their relatives.”

The future of the International Tracing Service is clearly a political question, Alford explained. “In my view, the important work being done at the ITS must continue as long as relatives seek answers. I see the second key area of activity as the ongoing research and communication of Nazi persecution.” Alford plans to recommend a visit to Bad Arolsen and the archive to the American ambassador in Berlin on his next trip to Hesse.