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Federal Minister Zypries Impressed by Change

During her two-hour visit to Bad Arolsen today, German Federal Minister of Justice Brigitte Zypries gained an overview of the latest developments at the International Tracing Service (ITS). Research possibilities and the digitisation of the documents were the primary focus of her interest. “By opening up its archives, the International Tracing Service has gained in importance,” said Zypries. “It makes an essential contribution to the documentation of NS atrocities. I am sure that ITS will master all the challenges the future might hold.”

In April 2006, Federal Justice Minister Zypries had announced the German federal government’s approval of opening up the archives for research purposes. Now she wanted to gain a personal impression of the changes that have taken place since then. “I’m impressed by what has gone on here since my last visit in 1999 and am pleased by the positive development,” said Zypries. “ITS is actively and very openly going through a process of transformation from a tracing service to an academic archive.”

During her visit, the federal minister held talks with the directorate and took a tour of the archives. She also acquainted herself with the progress in the digitisation and indexing of documents for research purposes. ITS is currently scanning its entire archive inventory of around 30 million documents. In another major project, finding aids will be created, which will allow users to search the documents in terms of all types of historical issues. “We welcome the interest the federal government has in the International Tracing Service and would like to see Germany take on an active role within the scope of the debate on the future of this institution,” said ITS Director and ICRC delegate Jean-Luc Blondel.

The discussions on the reorganisation of ITS had commenced in May last year, after the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) had announced its withdrawal from managing the institution. The members of the International Commission, which oversee the work of ITS, are striving for a new contract on the tasks of ITS. This contract should then replace the Bonn Agreements from 1955 and its supplementary protocols from 2006. The Federal Justice Minister will also take part in drawing up the new contract.