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Post-war files on victims of Nazi persecution online

The International Tracing Service (ITS) has now published a large collection of documents on Holocaust survivors, former concentration camp inmates and former Nazi forced laborers its online archive. Numbering nearly 200,000, the files contain information on individuals and families who were under the care of the International Refugee Organization (IRO) its predecessor organization in the post-1945 period. This is the first time the ITS has made such an extensive sub-collection of its archive available on the Internet. The expansion of the ITS online archive will continue.

Bela and Kasiel Segall got married in Munich in February 1950. Their file from the IRO Care and Maintenance Program shows how, as Polish Jews and Holocaust survivors, they tried to gain a foothold in the early post-war years in hospitals, Displaced Persons camps (DP camps) and finally in their own apartment in Germany as they waited for a means of emigrating. It also provides information on their persecution. Bela Segall had been in Majdanek, Auschwitz, Ravensbrück and other concentration camps. The Nazis had also deported her later husband to the Auschwitz concentration camp. The Allies liberated him at Buchenwald.

Early Testimonies to the Nazi Crimes

The IRO Care and Maintenance Program files are important documents testifying to the fates people suffered during the war while also offering insights into how the Allies saw to the needs of concentration camp and forced labor survivors. They come from Displaced Persons (DP) camps in Germany that provided accommodations to Holocaust survivors, former concentration camp inmates and former Nazi forced laborers while they awaited emigration. Among the DP camp residents were also persons who, for political reasons, had fled the sphere of Soviet control.

The ITS has now published nearly 200,000 files—containing more than 900,000 individual pages, over 580,000 names and in many cases ID photos—in its online archive. Only health records were excluded from the online publication. The files contain completed questionnaires. It was on the basis of these questionnaires that the IRO staff decided whether a person would receive support as a DP in the framework of the program.

The information that has thus come down to us about years spent as concentration camp inmates and forced laborers is especially significant from the historical viewpoint because it represents early testimonies to the Nazi crimes. It also sheds light on the fates of people who were killed.

Sources for families and scholarly research

One of the ITS’s goals is to make its internationally unique collection of documents on the Nazi crimes and their consequences accessible. The IRO files are a helpful source for relatives of the victims, who can now carry out their own research on names and places in the ITS online archive. Yet access to these documents is also very beneficial to scholars all over the world. The files are now available to projects being carried out in the fields of Holocaust as well as DP and migration research without the necessity of travel to the ITS in Bad Arolsen or any of the seven partner organizations holding digital copies of the ITS archive.

The ITS online offers will continue to expand

The addition of the IRO files to the ITS online archive represents the organization’s most extensive online publication to date. Nevertheless, these files pertain to only a fraction of the persons who received help as DPs, were repatriated, and were accompanied on their path towards emigration. Research estimates the number of DPs in Europe after the surrender of Nazi Germany at more than ten million. The ITS archive holds many further major collections on the consequences of the Nazi dictatorship and the fate of DPs, among them files from DP camps outside Germany.

The ITS will continue expanding its digital offers on the subject of Nazi persecution. Currently it is preparing the online publication of documents from concentration camps and ghettoes.

Link to the online archive