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Closure of the French Liaison Mission

The French Liaison Mission at the International Tracing Service (ITS) in Bad Arolsen has been closed on 1 January 2013 with the entry into force of the international Agreements on the International Tracing Service (ITS) signed in Berlin. Meanwhile these agreements have been ratified by six of the eleven states represented in the International Commission, the body that defines the guidelines of the ITS activities.

Basically the closure of the liaison mission does not imply any change for French nationals seeking to place a request with the ITS archive. Their requests will be treated the way they used to be with only one difference: from now on, inquirers will receive an answer on an ITS letterhead and have to write to third institutions themselves in case the ITS proves unable to help. The letter explaining the changes by Frédéric Baleine du Laurens, Director of the Archives in the French Ministry for Foreign and European Affairs, on 4 January 2013, says:

  • The International Tracing Service does not open any longer correspondence cases on behalf of the French Liaison Mission (Letterhead of the French Embassy).
  • The International Tracing Service will inform the French inquirers directly of the results of the research made in its archives for the benefit of former persecutees of French nationality.
  • If no documents or evidence of a persecution can be found in the ITS archives, the International Tracing Service will provide the French inquirers with the addresses of further domestic or foreign archives and institutions from which they may receive information. The inquirers will have to turn to these offices directly.
  • The International Tracing Service will provide the inquirers of other nationalities turning to the institution on behalf of non-French persons who were persecuted during their stay in France in World War II with the addresses of competent French offices likely to have information helpful for their search.

The requests that are being worked on in the French Liaison Mission still will be finalized, of course. The previous secretary of the liaison mission in Arolsen Nathalie Letierce-Liebig has been redeployed to the ITS section ‘Tracing and Clarification of Fates’. The employment contract of her colleague Mireille Lagarde has expired late in 2012.

Opened at the ITS on 1 January 1948, the French Liaison Mission has continued to exist ever since. Having been under the supervision of the French Ministry of Former Combatants for decades, the mission was taken charge of by the French Ministry of Defence later. Since 2005 the Archival Direction of the Foreign Ministry in Paris managed the mission where all requests placed by French residents on former persecutees of the Nazi regime were gathered.

Among the tasks of the bureau were: to give information from the documents, to send certificates to victims claiming a pension or an indemnification payment, to provide birth or death certificates, to search missing family members and to clarify fates, e.g. to find victims’ graves, and to initiate investigations with third parties or other institutions.