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Farewell to ITS Director Reto Meister

Staff at the International Tracing Service (ITS) bid farewell to Director Reto Meister at their year-end ceremony on December 18. After two years Meister is returning to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) headquarters in Geneva. The ICRC has named the director of the ITS since 1955. “He was truly one of us,” said head archivist Udo Jost. “He introduced a new style and put the ITS back on the road to success, step by step.”

The archive opened for historical research in November 2007 under Meister´s stewardship. After years of debate on how to handle the unique historical documents on Nazi persecution, and intense criticism of the institution´s isolated existence, the process was successful in expediting the archive´s transformation from a tracing service into a research institution. “The last two years have been successful ones for the ITS,” according to Meister. “We have enjoyed increased acceptance and have been recognized for our achievements. Our gamble has paid off. I was always convinced that our archive contained material that must be shared.”

The outgoing director thanked his staff for their unwavering support during the last two years. “We shared the same goals and seized the chance,” said Meister. “It is difficult for me to leave as I have grown fond of the people, the place and my work.”

Jean-Luc Blondel, Reto Meister´s successor, will take over in January 2009. The 55-year-old has taken on various international assignments for the ICRC since 1982. Most recently, the trained theologian was a personal advisor to the ICRC president. “Arolsen is always a good decision,” he said on the occasion of the ceremony.