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Further data handed over to partner organisations

This week the International Tracing Service (ITS) in Bad Arolsen has handed over further copies of its databases to six partner organisations in Israel, the USA, Poland, France, Luxembourg and Belgium. The data consists of the first 76,000 of a total of 3 million correspondence files, as well as remaining documents from the Child Tracing Service and general, non-personal documents on Nazi persecution. “This means we have scanned almost our entire archive of historical documents from the Nazi period and the immediate post-war era. This is a significant milestone on the way towards the digitisation of the whole archive” explained Djordje Drndarski, the Deputy Director and the head of archives at the ITS.

Over the next few years, the ITS's work will largely involve scanning the Tracing Service's correspondence with survivors of Nazi persecution, as well as with their family members and other institutions. Involving around 60 million sheets of paper, it will be the most extensive stage of the digitisation project. “The inquiries, letters and reports from contemporary witnesses provide an emotional portrayal of the fate of the individual”, Drndarski said. “They take the puzzle pieces from the documents, which are often only fragmentary, and assemble them to an overall picture”. People turned to the Tracing Service in their search for family members who are still alive, information about available documents and proof for compensation or pension applications.

The documents from the Child Tracing Service depict the search for missing children or for family members of children and young people found on their own, who had survived forced labour, abduction or concentration camps. “Their stories tell us of the suffering of innocent children, but also of the efforts of the Allied forces to provide them with a new start in life” as Margret Schlenke, the head of the tracing service at the ITS, reports.

The documents, which have now been handed over, comprise almost 1.4 million images (approximately 400 GB). In accordance with the resolution of the International Commission, which monitors the ITS's activities, all of the eleven member states can request a digital copy of the documents archived in Bad Arolsen. The recipients of the latest delivery of data include Yad Vashem in Jerusalem, the US Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, the Institute of National Remembrance in Warsaw, the Documentation and Research Centre on the Resistance in Luxembourg and the State Archives of Belgium and France. Research can also be carried out on the documents in the ITS's database in Bad Arolsen.

Up until now around 88 million images have been handed over to the different institutions, including documents on concentration camps, ghettos and prisons (approx. 18 million images), the ITS central name index (approx. 42 million images), registration cards of displaced persons (approx. 7 million images), documents concerning forced labour (approx. 13 million images), files from DP camps and emigration after World War II (approx. 5 million images), as well as general documents and the inventory from the children’s tracing branch (approx. 2 million images). The digitisation of the correspondence files (so far 1.2 million images) with survivors or family members and the authorities will still take some years to complete.