Awarded "Memory of the World" title
The International Tracing Service (ITS) in Bad Arolsen today received a certificate for the inscription into the UNESCO "Memory of the World" register. "The archives were assessed to be of exceptional value and importance for humanity, for their evidential contribution to knowledge about the impact of war on peoples. By inscribing these archives on its Memory of the World Register, UNESCO hopes that their true value will become better known among researchers and educational institutions”, said UNESCO's Joie Springer during a small ceremony in Bad Arolsen.
The ITS archives comprise around 30 million documents relating to the incarceration of people in concentration camps, ghettos and Gestapo prisons, on forced labour as well as on the fate of displaced persons. The Central Name Index containing more than 50 million reference cards about the fate of 17.5 million people was compiled by the ITS over a period of several decades. It forms a useful tool for researching the fate of individuals. "The wounds inflicted by Nazi persecution continue to have an effect to this day. Remembrance and the protection of these documents are therefore important tasks," said ITS Director Professor Rebecca Boehling.
The UNESCO "Memory of the World" program has been promoting the maintenance of, and access to documentation relating to human cultural and intellectual history since 1992. Its objective is to preserve documentary records which are of extraordinary value in archives, libraries and museums and to make these accessible using new information technology systems. The documents from the ITS archives which have now been accepted in the UNESCO register have been fully digitalised and can be accessed from various archives around the world. "We desperately need a new archive building with air-conditioned rooms to house the collection in Bad Arolsen. Thanks to the award of this UNESCO title we hope that we will find broad support for this plan," said Professor Boehling.
The application for inclusion in the UNESCO register was handed in by the International Commission for the ITS at the end of March 2012. „The idea appealed to all eleven member states of the International Commission”, said its current Chair Andrzej Misztal. “We were convinced that this would help the ITS to become more widely recognized, but simultaneously that it was the very right thing to do given the significance of the archives. We are obliged to make every effort to preserve the archive here in Bad Arolsen for the benefit of humankind, including future generations..”
The ITS in Bad Arolsen has been reuniting families and providing information to survivors and to family members of the victims of Nazi persecution since January 1946. At the end of 2007 the Archive was also opened up for research and education.