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“Following these traces sparked the pupils‘ interest”

During this year’s school project week, the pupils of Christian-Rauch-Schule Bad Arolsen studied in some depth the life journeys of Displaced Persons (DPs) who, after the end of NS-rule, lived in Arolsen, Korbach and the Kassel area for a transitional period. For this purpose, they conducted research work for a week at the data base and at the library of the International Tracing Service (ITS). Different biographies, sites in Arolsen and the responsibilities of the International Refugee Organisation (IRO), one of the preceding institutions of the ITS, were the focus of this research carried out by these young people from 11th and 12th grades. The results were presented in the form of a city tour last Friday.

DPs were accommodated at different historic places in Arolsen, trained and they also worked for the former IRO. A number of buildings in Arolsen are reminders of this time, for example the barrack buildings on the site of what is the Herkules-Markt today. This is where the DP Camp of Arolsen was located, a fact discovered by Leonie Gerber’s group. The camp was headed by a Pole, Henryk Cyranski. In the ITS archive, the pupils could reconstruct the path which led him to Arolsen. “He was arrested for political reasons, survived the concentration camps of Auschwitz and Buchenwald and came to Arolsen after the liberation”, Leonie said.

Presentation of the results as a city tour

On Friday morning, an interesting city tour, also attended by the head mistress Cornelie Seedig, followed the traces of the DPs. Her pupils had selected six sites in the town centre of Arolsen. At that time, there was a home for unaccompanied children at Wetterburger Straße no. 5. Unaccompanied Catholic children were living at Marienstift behind the Catholic Church, the hospital at Große Allee 50 / Helenenstraße which was also a hospital at the time, temporarily provided shelter for Protestant children. The tour continued towards the Neue Schloss (today the Tinnitus Clinic), one of the IRO sites via the ITS main building on Große Allee then on to the aforementioned barrack building with its chequered history as former SS site, DP camp and administration building of the IRO and the ITS.

“Following these traces at the ITS, sparked the pupils’ curiosity”, said Cornelie Seedig during the tour. “This topic of Displaced Persons provides an opportunity for these young people to reflect upon the past, at the same time they learn how close we still are to these times today.” The ITS and Christian-Rauch-Schule in Bad Arolsen have been cooperating closely since 2011. Visits to the archive, smaller individual projects as well as courses relating to specific topics take place on a regular basis.

All 19 young people agreed at the end of the project, that they will pass these historic sites with a changed view. “So far, we knew very little about this time, the buildings and the sites in Arolsen”, Leonie Gerber said.” Our own independent research at the digital data base gave us the opportunity to work from the survivors’ perspective.”