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First set of finding aids published

The International Tracing Service (ITS) in Bad Arolsen has published the first finding aids for its archive holdings. They explain the documents and collections in the ITS archives. “The finding aids that have now been completed describe sections of the archives which had previously been hardly accessible for researchers,” said Karsten Kühnel, archivist and head of archival cataloguing at ITS. “Their publication is an important first step of many more to come.”

The four finding aids address specific subject areas in the tracing service’s archive holdings: forced labour, the death marches from concentration camps, the chief building inspector for the capital of the German Reich, and the Administrative Office for Inner Restitutions, which, among other things, was responsible for the restitution of the personal belongings of prisoners from the former concentration camps. The documents were indexed according to their origin and content. Altogether nearly 3,000 archive units from ITS’s inventory have been catalogued. This corresponds to roughly five percent of the archive’s entire stock.

“The number of finding aids will gradually grow,” promises Kühnel. “Right now we primarily concentrated on sections of the archive that had either hardly been mentioned in the previous inventory register, or are of special interest for ongoing research projects.” The finding aid on the death marches, for example, offers detailed insights for the first time into the Allies’ efforts to identify dead victims of the “evacuations” from concentration camps during the last few months of the war. And the finding aid “Person-related individual documents on former forced labourers on microforms or CD” opens up the possibility of doing a targeted search according to specific regional details.

“The inventories at ITS should be able to give answers to any question posed by historical research. That’s our goal,” says Kühnel. Up to now, the ITS database was mainly searchable through the  name of the victim of NS persecution rather than locations, particular incidents or the origin of documents. “The finding aids will also be published online so that researchers can get a quick, precise overview of the different sections of inventory at ITS,” explains Kühnel.

For the International Tracing Service, improved cataloguing of the documents has been an urgent task ever since the archive was opened up for historical research three years ago. Since then, a total of 4,200 researchers have made requests with the tracing service, 1,200 of whom have done research on location. For the present, the finding aids are only available in German.