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Foundation for Polish-German Reconciliation expresses interest in exchange of information

In mid-January, the International Tracing Service (ITS) had the opportunity to welcome three representatives of the Foundation for Polish-German reconciliation to Bad Arolsen. The Head of the Foundation’s Board of Directors Dariusz Pawlos and his two colleagues Jakub Deka and Jerzy Wozniak updated their knowledge on the digitization progress and the research possibilities in the database of the tracing service. With ITS Director Jean-Luc Blondel, they had talks on the practicality of a future collaboration. “The database of the tracing service would be the best source of information we can imagine“, said Pawlos. “It would enrich our project tremendously.”

The Foundation is compiling an internet database that is to comprise the names of all Polish victims and persecuted individuals under German occupation. Of all Allied nations, Poland suffered the greatest demographic loss during World War II and the occupation. To this day, information in numbers on the harm and loss suffered and the dimension of repression could be rendered in estimates only. Almost every family had to bemoan the loss of life. “Our database has come to detail three million fates“, reports Pawlos. “The number of casualties was considerably higher, though. If one considers that only 45 percent of the Polish victims of the Holocaust could be identified while in Western Europe almost 95 percent of the names are known, there is much to explore and research still.”

The objective of the project started in 2006 and financed by the Institute for National Remembrance (IPN) and the Polish Ministry of Culture is a twofold one – serving to commemorate the victims and to make the information available for research. The database contains personal information on the victims and general information on the type of repression suffered while referencing the documents’ source and the archives, where the information was found. “Since we want to collect as many names as possible, we are knocking at the door of every institution we may exchange information with”, relates Deka.

Archives, museums and memorial centres in Poland have started actively contributing to the project. Seven out of the Foundation’s permanent staff of 30 deal with the database exclusively. “We have begun talking with institutions abroad, above all in Germany, Austria and Israel”, says Deka. “We want to widen our network steadily.” The three Poles brought along a digital copy of an album that prisoners of Concentration Camp Sachsenhausen had compiled for their Kapo at the time and was handed out to the foundation by the survivor Adam Gajewski. The copy which includes among others names, previous addresses and prisoner numbers will be integrated within the ITS archives.