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In Commemoration of Bernd Joachim Zimmer (1944–2018)

The historian Dr. Bernd Joachim Zimmer of Bad Arolsen, who had close ties to the International Tracing Service (ITS) through his research, died in May 2018. The studied math and physics teacher had set himself the task of investigating the history of the city of Bad Arolsen in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. He was a cofounder of “Historicum 20: Forum Zeitgeschichte,” a contemporary history society that presents an exhibition on the Bad Arolsen town history in the headquarters building of the former casern. Zimmer was one of the first to take an in-depth look at the history of the SS in Bad Arolsen and to re-examine the history of the Buchenwald subcamp “Arthur” located on the Arolsen casern grounds from 1943 to 1945.

He also made an outstanding contribution towards researching the early history of the ITS. In 2011 he published his extensive findings on this subject in the book International Tracing Service Arolsen – Von der Vermisstensuche zur Haftbescheinigung: Die Organisationsgeschichte eines “ungewollten Kindes” während der Besatzungszeit. For his inquiry into the ITS’s past, he carried out research not only here in Bad Arolsen but also at such far-flung institutions as the Archives Nationales in Paris or the United Nations Archives in New York. His successful search for photographs of the ITS’s various Arolsen premises and the international staff of its early years is also worthy of special mention. In the summer of 2017, Zimmer met with ITS employees who are currently preparing the first permanent exhibition on the history and working methods of the ITS and generously offered his support.

Bernd Joachim Zimmer championed the remembrance and reappraisal of the history of Bad Arolsen with great dedication. We are grateful for his research work and we honor his memory.