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An important part of Europe's written heritage

Since 2011, Roland Jahn has been the Federal Commissioner for Records of the State Security Service of the former German Democratic Republic (BStU). Digitisation, access to records, support for scientific projects and educational offers: many of the BStU's tasks are also assigned to the International Tracing Service (ITS). The value of originals in the age of digitalisation is one of the topics on which he comments in a short interview on the occasion of the opening of the ITS archive ten years ago.

What was your perception of the opening of the ITS archive?

Knowing what happened in the past, who the victims of injustice were and who were the perpetrators helps to come to terms with the past. The ITS archive is making an extraordinary contribution towards this goal. The archive is not only a central source for the explanation of the personal fate of many thousands of individuals, it also provides posterity with a deep insight into the human rights violations committed during the Second World War.

Providing broader access to ITS documents is one of ITS's key tasks. How are originals important, now that there are online archives?

The online archives are the bridge to the next generation and provide modern access for research, media and citizens. As documents of injustice and persecution, originals with their authenticity are irreplaceable and an important part of Europe's written heritage. Preserving this heritage with its specific nature and at the same time providing access to it with the most advanced means can be the way forward for archives.

Do archives with documents about persecution play a role as memorial sites?

The ITS archive is not just an archive. It provides the possibility of commemoration and with the immense scope of its millions of documents, it illustrates the suffering and the consequences of the crimes committed during the Second World War which are felt up to this very day. Abstract figures become very tangible, because behind every document there is a human fate.