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ITS staff on study excursion to Berlin

A group consisting of eleven employees from the cataloguing, visitors’ support, IT and library sections took early in April a three-day excursion to several Berlin-based archives and documentation institutions, among them the Federal Archives, the “Deutsche Dienststelle (WASt)” and the documentation center on Nazi forced labor. “The intention of our study trip was that the staff substantially involved in sharpening the ITS profile visualize their new task comprehensively and make transparent to themselves both the working procedures and the results required,” said ITS archivist Karsten Kühnel, who is in charge of accessing the documents in Bad Arolsen.

The excursion started with an all-day program at the Federal Archives in Berlin-Lichterfelde that allowed the visitors to gain an insight into almost all fields of work. The group was welcomed by the Vice-President of the Federal Archives, Professor Angelika Menne-Haritz, and subsequently shown, in a presentation, the current software developments and their perspectives. “What proved to be of particular interest to us, was their ability of making visible the links between exploitation or access data and archival information images,” noted ITS archivist Karsten Kühnel.

Doing a round through the premises over several hours, the visitors came to see numerous stock rooms, the film basement, the reading rooms and the restoration workshop. Of equal importance were explanations relating to questions of use, service offers and the project of the retro-conversion of analogue into digital finding aids sponsored by the German Research Community (GRC). Besides, the ITS staff was familiarized with the structure and the modus operandi of the library and its stock room.

They were also shown the person-related documents on the Nazi era stored in Berlin with special emphasis being put on the index on members of the NSDAP and files on the immigration center in Litzmannstadt. In conclusion of their visit to this institution, the participants in the trip were invited to share views on topical issues and joint problems in a two-hours talk with the Head of the “Deutsche Reich” section, Hans-Dieter Kreikamp. “Substantial common ground emerged regarding specific tasks we both face,” related Kühnel. “Besides, we could draw interesting comparisons between our ways or methods of coping.”

ITS staff spent the second day of their excursion with the archives of the Federal Responsible Head in charge of the records of the former State Security Service of the GDR in Berlin-Lichtenberg first. The senior executive of the basic administration department, Karsten Jedlitschka, acquainted his visitors with the tasks of the institution and its archives in great detail. “We had an inspiring and fruitful discussion,” so Kühnel, “The tour through the index rooms and the stock room now and then showed considerable affinity with ITS’ finding aids’ structure.”

After that, the ITS employees were guests of the “Deutsche Dienststelle (WASt)” (an office tasked with informing the close relatives of former German army members of their having fallen in action) in Berlin-Reinickendorf. “We were impressed by the working procedures, the stock keeping and the variety of the holdings,” reported Kühnel.

On the last day of their excursion, ITS staff went to see the documentation center on Nazi forced labor in Berlin-Schöneweide. They visited an exhibition on the employment of Czech forced laborers and had a guided tour through the shacks preserved from the former forced laborer camp that had been under the command of the General Construction Inspector for the Capital of the Reich (GCI). Concluding their excursion, the group had talks with the Head of the institution Christine Glauning among other topics on the desiderata for exploiting the forced laborer holdings at ITS.

The visits made had essentially contributed to their being able to define ITS’ own archival position, Kühnel said. “We have become aware of both our own quality points and our weak spots.” Their insight into the modus operandi of the other institutions and archives had clearly shown the large-scale potential ITS has to integrate itself within the archival- and research institutions’ scene.