“Paradise for Historians“
40 history students from Georg-August University in Goettingen visited the ITS (International Tracing Service) archive on December 1, 2008, as part of a seminar series entitled “Functional transformation in the concentration camp system.” “The ITS is a paradise for historians which is not far from Goettingen. It was clear that we would take our excursion on working with documentary material here,” said Jens-Christian Wagner, visiting lecturer at the University of Goettingen and director of the concentration camp memorial Mittelbau-Dora.
The third-semester students learned how the ITS archive is organized and about the documents available there, as well as about opportunities for research. “They were impressed by the abundance and variety of material,” reported Wagner. “At the same time they were also unsettled, as the archive´s structure and the contents of the documents testify to the tracing service´s responsibility. The ITS is a good example of the relevance of the context of an archive´s origin. This has an effect on the significance of documents which were not originally created for historical research.”
The group wrapped up by holding a 2-hour on-site seminar led by Wagner and Georg Wamhof, also a visiting lecturer and staff member of the concentration camp memorial Mittelbau-Dora. During their research work, students examined sources from the National Socialism era, eyewitness reports and files from court proceedings in the post-war period. Wagner naturally hopes that the excursion will encourage students to produce some academic work at the end of their studies, in cooperation with the ITS, whether it be for a Bachelor´s degree, Master´s or the German government licensing examination. “The visit to the ITS has surely sparked some students´ interest,” said Wagner.