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Farewell Reception of the ICRC

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) today said good-bye with a reception on the occasion of its withdrawal from the management of the International Tracing Service (ITS) in Bad Arolsen. “The ICRC looks back with pride and satisfaction on the cooperation with the Federal Republic of Germany and the member states of the International Commission for the ITS. Today, the ITS is an institution that is known and recognized“, said ICRC President Peter Maurer. Representatives of the German federal government thanked the ICRC for its long years of commitment which began with the signing of the Bonn Agreements in June 1955.

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“We are aware of our responsibility born of a shameful past; the ITS is indispensable to the study of this past. This work must be honoured, continued, and intensified”, Bernd Neumann, Minister of State for Culture and the Media, said in a welcoming speech. With the withdrawal of the ICRC from the ITS administration, the opening of the archives for research at the end of 2007 has now also been implemented on the management level. The opening resulted in additional tasks, notably the archival description of the collections as well as research and education. “These tasks are not among those where our humanitarian organisation has any particular expertise”, explained ICRC delegate and ITS director Jean-Luc Blondel. “We are now looking forward to placing ITS with its various tasks into new hands. We will remain connected to the ITS.”

The ICRC will retain observer status at the 11-nation International Commission which establishes the guidelines for the ITS activities and will continue to work with the ITS on all tracing related services involving the network of the national Red Cross Societies. A liaison office will be set up at the ICRC headquarters in Geneva which can mediate between the ITS and national Red Cross Societies if needed. “The search for missing persons, or at least clarification of their fate, reuniting families, certainty of the fate of persons sought, even if this meant determining that they were deceased, were and are essential factors in the reconstruction of a society. When this dimension is neglected, an entire level of social and psychological reconstruction is lacking and encumbers the process of truth, justice and reconciliation. This was the purpose of the ITS”, emphasised Maurer.

At the end of 2011, the International Commission reorganised the future responsibilities and the management structure of the ITS as part of two agreements. The German Federal Archives will become an institutional partner of the ITS beginning in January 2013. Professor Rebecca Boehling was directly appointed by the Commission as director. The US-American was formerly director of the Dresher Center for the Humanities at the University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC). Boehling ranks as an expert in Holocaust research and the history of the Second World War.

About the International Tracing Service

The International Tracing Service (ITS) in Bad Arolsen is a centre for documentation, information and research on Nazi persecution. The archive contains about 30 million documents on the incarceration in concentration camps, ghettos and Gestapo prisons, on forced labour and displacement. The ITS is governed by an eleven-nation International Commission (Belgium, France, Germany, Greece, Israel, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Poland, United Kingdom, USA). On behalf of the Commission, the ITS is managed by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) until the end of 2012. The German Federal Archives will become the new institutional partner for the ITS as of January 2013. For more information visit www.its-arolsen.org.