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The new ITS e-Guide explains Nazi documents

The documents from concentration camps tell stories about victims of Nazi persecution. In order to read those stories, however, you need a lot of background knowledge. The International Tracing Service (ITS) has now set up an online tool that makes that knowledge easily accessible. The ITS e-Guide provides clearly comprehensible, well-illustrated, interactive explanations to the key document types concerning concentration camp inmates.

What do all the abbreviations stand for? Are special marks on a card important? Where and why were certain documents issued? For anyone who studies the documents that came to the ITS archive from the concentration camps, a lot of questions come up. With its new e-Guide, the ITS answers these questions and offers broad contextual knowledge. What looks at first like Nazi bureaucracy code language proves to provide important information about the victims. Many of the documents are the last remaining testimonies to a person before he or she was killed. For the first time, the inmate personnel cards, infirmary cards, mail inspection cards, etc. are now comprehensible for one and all.

The new ITS online tool describes historical backgrounds and explains abbreviations and marks. And it answers fundamental questions such as: “Who issued this document and where was it used?” What is more, users can click on images of various types of cards to access the respective explanations.

To create this e-Guide, which is available in German and English, the ITS compiled the latest research results and combined it with its own institutional knowledge: in order to respond to inquiries about victims of Nazi persecution, staff members have been working with these documents for more than seventy years. Since 2013, the ITS archives have been included in the UNESCO “Memory of the World” registry.

Efforts to expand the e-Guide are already in progress. The first addition, scheduled for 2019, will be descriptions of the documents drawn up by the Allies to organize the care of Displaced Persons (DPs)—that is, the liberated concentration camp inmates and the millions of former forced laborers—as well as their return home or their emigration. Finally, descriptions of the most frequently occurring documents pertaining to the Nazi regime’s Eastern and Western European forced laborers will round out e-Guide project. Even residency papers, registration forms and labor cards reveal more than might be apparent at first sight. By the end of 2019, the descriptions of approximately 100 document types will be accessible online.

Starting in June 2018, the e-Guide with descriptions of the most common concentration camp documents will be available at eguide.its-arolsen.org.