“An important educational center“
Hessian State Secretary Mark Weinmeister emphasizes the significance of the ITS for the State Hessen
In mid-February 2016 the Hessian State Secretary Mark Weinmeister visited the International Tracing Service (ITS) on the invitation of the ITS Director Floriane Hohenberg. Together with Thomas Viesehon, member of the German Parliament, Armin Schwarz, member of the Hessian Parliament and Jürgen van der Horst, Mayor of the City of Bad Arolsen, Weinmeister participated in a tour of three branches of the ITS: Archives, Tracing Investigations into Nazi Victims, and Research and Education. After the tour, the State Secretary emphasized the significance of the ITS as an important educational center for the state and the region.
In an opening discussion at the start of the visit the Director introduced first the ITS and then its goals: „The ITS holds and preserves a document legacy of the utmost importance“, says Hohenberg. „We want to make this treasure more accessible, as there is considerable international interest in the ITS holdings and the work of its branches.“ Inquiries to the ITS come from more than 70 countries and, since 2015, have increased by roughly one quarter. Visitors often come to Bad Arolsen to do research using the digitized collections accessible in the reading rooms, to view documents on loved ones and family members or to report on the ITS and its work.
Making use of the research and education potential
Based on this interest the Director explained how the branches of the ITS work together, interconnected and in close cooperation with a world-wide network to improve access to the ITS digital holdings for all target groups. This goal can only be achieved with a high degree of archival description of the documents and with an active, well-connected research and education branch. „Since the opening of the ITS archives in 2008 we are increasingly being seen as a center for education. For this reason we want to cooperate even more closely with partners both in Hesse and elsewhere, and to utilize the enormous research and education potential of the ITS “, says Hohenberg. Possible examples for this could be institutional partnerships with universities.
In October 2015 the ITS created a globally accessible window to the archive with its new online-archive. In the first three months following the launch some 36,000 users – not only researchers and educators, but also former victims of Nazi persecution, their family members, children, and grandchildren - had already worked with the online collections. Further online placements will follow throughout 2016. At the same time that the use of the digitized documents is increasing, significant progress has been made in protecting and preserving the original documents: a new archive building for storing these documents is to be built in in Bad Arolsen. This project is in the planning stage.
Important for the work of historical education in Hesse
After the visits to the ITS branches, the guests from the state and federal levels shared ideas about what opportunities for the State of Hesse the ITS provides – and how the State can support the institution. „As an authentic research and education center in Hessen the ITS is of growing importance for us“, say Armin Schwarz and Thomas Viesehon. „In view of the current discussions and debates the work of historical education programs is more relevant than ever. With its history and the documents it preserves, the ITS is a unique center.“ In the coming weeks a cooperative effort is planned to decide in what specific ways the State of Hessen can support the ITS – for example with rooms for researchers, educational groups, and the interested public.