10th Anniversary of the Archive Opening
On November 28th 2007, the International Tracing Service (ITS) finally reopened its archive to researchers and visitors which had been closed to the general public for almost 25 years. The opening was the result of international protests coming from academia, politics and those persecuted by the Nazis who demanded access to these valuable historical documents.
The head of ITS at that time, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), had long opposed opening the archives on the grounds of data and privacy protection. A further reason was the concern that the ITS would no longer receive documents from German companies or authorities if they were made available to the general public. Access to the archive was also a politically delicate question up to the early 2000s, especially because of the unresolved compensation for forced laborers.
In the end, most of the eleven Member States of the International Commission, the ITS's supreme governing body, supported full access. The decision was taken at a meeting of the International Commission on May 16th 2006: from then on, the mandate of the ITS included research and education and all Member States were allowed to request digital copies of the archive records.
It took around 18 months until new international treaties were ratified. In Germany, Horst Köhler, Federal President at the time, drafted a law amending the Bonn Treaties of 1955 which had previously regulated the tasks of the ITS. In the meantime, the first data transfer was prepared at the ITS: In August 2007, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington and The World Holocaust Remembrance Center Yad Vashem in Israel received the digitized records. Until today, all copy-holders receive an annual update with new digital copies.
After the ratification was completed, the ICRC issued a press release, on November 28th 2007, announcing that the archive was now open for research and interested parties.