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“It is fascinating to work with documents”

20 eleventh grade students from the “Katharinen-Gymnasium” in Ingolstadt engaged in research on Displaced Persons (DPs) at the International Tracing Service (ITS) for two days. Subjects of their research were, among others, the culture, organization and administration in the DP Camps, repatriations to the Soviet Union, surviving children, forced labor in firms in Ingolstadt and the subsequent lives of the liberated forced laborers, as well as Nazi collaborators claiming to be DPs.

The students were accompanied by the two teachers Dr. Matthias Schickel and Alexander Schöner who have already been partners of the ITS in its educational work and training of conveyors of knowledge for many years. The subject had already been prepared at the school in Ingolstadt, which also facilitated the approach to the history of the ITS for the young people. Organizations like the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA) and aspects like the care for those who were deported and forced into work by Nazi Germany and for the survivors of the Holocaust were basically known to the adolescents.

After an introduction into the tasks of the ITS and its collections, the students had the opportunity to take a look at medical files of the DP Hospital Ingolstadt and considered the question of what were the long-term effects of Holocaust, forced labor and traumatization. How were such experiences reflected by physical disorders? “The fate of an individual reveals a lot of what was done to the people”, the student Zoé Reinke observed during the examination of the documents.

In the concluding discussion, the two teachers summarized that the students had first been lost in the enormous dimensions of the archives, but noticed then that a handful of documents can be meaningful enough to support their work. This focusing was part of the scholarly learning process. For the most part, the students gave a positive summary of their first visit to an archive. “It was fun and it is fascinating to work with documents”, Christian Froschmeir said. “Even if I have not found any report on personal experiences, it became obvious to me how vigorously the DPs endeavored to start a new life”, Miriam Wink emphasized. Susanne Urban, Head of Research and Education at the ITS, appreciated the efforts of the young people to become acquainted with this difficult subject and told about her own research on the exhibition about DPs that will be opened in September 2014.

The students are going to compile their first scholarly or practice-oriented papers on the basis of their findings, additional investigations and the ITS documents. Further ideas for a cooperation between the “Katharinen-Gymnasium” and the ITS have already been developed. In 2014, an advanced teachers’ training course is going to take place in Ingolstadt and a visit of the group of students to the DP exhibition in Frankfurt in 2015 will be organized.