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ITS offers its services in the Ukraine

The International Tracing Service (ITS) in Bad Arolsen wants to raise awareness of its archives and services in Eastern European countries. This week a delegation from the ITS and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), that manages the activities of the ITS, held talks with representatives from archives, victims’ organisations and research institutes in the Ukraine as well as with the Ukrainian Red Cross National Society. “We can help family members clarify open questions concerning the fate of victims of Nazi persecution”, said the ICRC advisor for the ITS, Udo Wagner-Meige. “We also seek cooperation in the field of research.”

The International Tracing Service clarifies the fates of victims of Nazi persecution and until today brings together families that were separated by the impacts of World War II. “In favour of the last representatives of the generation that survived World War II and their families we would like to make the services of the ITS better known in the Ukraine”, explained Udo Wagner-Meige. “Today, also the second and third post war generations show a growing interest in understanding the circumstances under which their family members were once deported or murdered.”

Many East Europeans have only had the chance to freely contact the ITS since the end of the Cold War. “While access is now possible, only few people in the Ukraine know about the ITS and its free of charge services”, said Wagner-Meige. The website of the ITS is now available in Russian language. The new version went online on the occasion of the 65th anniversary of the end of World War II in May 2010. „Of course, we cannot answer all questions”, Wagner-Meige admitted. “A lot of documents were burned during war time or destroyed by the SS who wanted to erase all evidence. But any information and might it just be a small piece of the puzzle is of high emotional value to the victims and their families.”

The International Tracing Service in Bad Arolsen is one of the world’s largest archives on Nazi persecution and contains original records from Concentration Camps, documents concerning forced labour, and files from displaced persons camps of the immediate post-war era. ITS’s total inventory comprises over 26,000 metres of documents. The Central Name Index – the main key to the documents – includes some 50 million reference cards on the fate of 17.5 million people.

Among them are millions of East European forced labourers that were deported to the German Reich to work under inhumane conditions in factories and in agriculture. The names of political prisoners who were imprisoned in Concentration Camps can be found as well as that of victims of the Holocaust. “These documents offer a deep insight into the Nazi persecution and the consequences of World War II to millions of people”, explained Wagner-Meige. In addition, the archives hold registration cards and emigration lists on displaced persons who did not return to their home countries after the end of the war but went abroad.

Since November 2007, the archives are open for research. The ITS supports individual projects by scholars, facilitates research and promotes networking endeavours with universities and other institutions. At the same time, the documentation can be used for educational purposes. “Confronting and bringing together different views of renown historians from Western and Eastern Europe can only enrich the understanding of the history of World War II and help to draw the right conclusions for future generations”, said Wagner-Meige.