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Interest in ITS documentation undiminished

Interest in the documentation of the International Tracing Service (ITS) in Bad Arolsen on persecution and forced labour under the Nazi regime has remained undiminished. In 2011, the ITS received a total of 12 941 requests for information (2010: 12 981, 2009: 11 768). Compared with the same period in 2011, the first half of 2012 showed an increase with 6889 requests (previous year 6492). "This trend is due to the growing number of requests coming from Eastern European countries, where many questions about the past are still unanswered", ITS director Jean-Luc Blondel pointed out.

Eighty-five percent of requests (10.590) were made by survivors or relatives of victims of Nazi persecution and 13 percent by researchers (1487) and journalists (254). Enquiries came from 69 countries (previous year 70), for the most part from Germany (3617), the Russian Federation (1689) and the US (1059). Fifty percent of requests concerned the fate of prisoners in concentration camps, ghettos and Gestapo (Secret State Police) prisons, 27 percent were about forced labour and 23 percent about survivors who found themselves outside of their home country at the end of the war (displaced persons or DPs). "The focus of our work therefore still lies on the traditional tasks of clarifying the fates of Nazi victims and providing information for relatives," according to Blondel. "It demonstrates the strong interest of the second and third generations."

Transition to a centre for documentation, information and research

At the same time the ITS continues its process of transition from a tracing service to a centre for documentation, information and research. In the areas of research and education further co-operation and projects have been initiated with schools, universities and Holocaust memorial centres. The ITS has produced teaching resources for high schools and published its first scholarly yearbook presenting recent research on the subject of death marches. Currently, a directory of DP camps in the western occupation zones is being compiled.

The year 2012 is marked by the upcoming changes in the management of the ITS. The withdrawal of the ICRC after 57 years from the direction of the ITS is signalling yet another turning point in the history of the institution. "We are taking all necessary measures to ensure a smooth transition", said Blondel. From 2013, the German Federal Archives will be the new institutional partner of the ITS. Professor Rebecca Boehling, an expert in Holocaust research and the history of Nazism from the University of Maryland Baltimore County (US) was appointed as the new director of the institution. Germany has succeeded France as chair of the International Commission, which determines the guidelines of the work of the ITS, and will remain in that position until May 2013.

Description, conservation and digitisation of documents

Another central task of the ITS is the description of its holdings to facilitate access for researchers. This year two more finding aids were published, one of them for the records of the SS association "Lebensborn". Work on a complete inventory is currently under way.

In 2011 the ITS had a budget of € 150 000 at its disposal for conservation purposes including the mass de-acidification of documents and the repair of tears. 234 036 documents of prisoners from Buchenwald concentration camp were restored and conserved. The conservation of about 300 000 documents from Dachau concentration camp is planned for 2012.

Following the near completion of digitising the historical documents, about three million files of correspondence between the tracing service, government offices and victims of Nazi persecution and their families are being currently scanned. By the end of June 2012, 460 000 of the so-called T/D cases (Tracing/Documents) were digitised and 350 000 of them were indexed. Another transfer of documents to international partner organisations is planned for autumn 2012.

Staff and finance figures

On the 1st of January 2012, there were 244 positions and 289 staff employed at the ITS (2011: 297, 2010: 307, 2009: 314). The trend of a gradual reduction of staff will continue as many employees will retire in the coming years and, as a rule, their positions will not be filled again. About 35 percent of the staff is employed on a part-time basis. The ITS is pressing the Federal Government to approve further permanent positions for academics in research and archival description to be able to manage the additional tasks in those areas.

The expenditure of the ITS in the previous year amounted to a total of € 14.365 million and was funded by the Federal government. Staff salary payments accounted for 83 percent of total expenditure. The entire budget in 2012 was € 14.473 million.