New ITS Director introduced
In January 2016 the social scientist Floriane Hohenberg will take over the position of Director of the International Tracing Service (ITS). At an ITS press conference on 21 October 2015 Ms Hohenberg, a human rights expert with numerous years of management experience in international organizations such as the OSCE, spoke about her priorities as new director. The departing director, Prof. Dr. Rebecca Boehling took stock of the restructuring of the ITS as a prerequisite to its development as a documentation center on Nazi persecution and the liberated survivors. Other prominent representatives of the International Commission for the ITS, its governing body that appoints the ITS directors, also spoke at the press conference.
In his role as Head of the Nominations Committee of the International Commission, Sir Andrew Burns, first Special Envoy of the British government for post-Holocaust issues, introduced the future director to the general public. „We wanted someone who we felt could manage a proud and distinguished institution which has long played, and will continue to play an influential role in the aftermath of World War II and the Holocaust,” he emphasized. The International Commission sees in Floriane Hohenberg someone who will further enhance the reputation and the work of the ITS as an internationally connected center for research and education, based on its unique archival holdings as well as its historical role as the leading post-war tracing service.
Floriane Hohenberg said she is looking forward to her new tasks and that she is cognizant of the historical significance of the work of the ITS. “More than ever, the major importance of the archives lies in gathering information and knowledge on Nazi persecution, the victims and the survivors, as well as on the time immediately following the liberation.” For this reason she sees as one of her priorities the continuous expansion of the recently launched online archive. In her view the documents deal with questions that are clearly relevant to issues today: “I hope that the documents can be used more widely – both for fulfilling the central task of the ITS, and also because they can help us sensitize our understanding of the current refugee situation.” One station in Ms Hohenberg’s career was as Head of the Tolerance and Non-Discrimination Department at the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) of the Organization for Cooperation and Security in Europe (OSCE). Ms. Hohenberg, a French national, is co-author of the Human Rights First report on antisemitism in France, which was recently presented in Washington.
Prof. Dr. Rebecca Boehling highlighted the current significance of the work of the ITS. The US-American historian was appointed by the International Commission in 2012 to move forward the development of the ITS. Prof. Dr. Rebecca Boehling reported that 70 years after the liberation the number of inquiries the ITS receives is on the incline. Already in the first half of 2015 the International Tracing Service (ITS) received around 2,000 inquiries more than in the same time period in 2014 – a veritable wave of requests resulting in part from changes in the provision of so-called “ghetto pensions.” At the same time she stressed the growing international significance of the ITS: „The ITS is perceived internationally as the go-to site for tracing investigations into those persecuted by the Nazis and as a player in the world of archives and centers for research and education questions related to persecution by the Nazis and its aftermath.“ Professor Boehling noted the improved quality of the responses provided to the inquiries sent by family members of former victims of Nazism as being an important milestone of the past three years. They now receive explanations of the historical context as well as copies of the many relevant documents.
She expressed immense satisfaction with the progress being made on the networking of the ITS with other archives, National Socialist memorial sites as well as research and education centers. Other important changes that Prof. Dr. Rebecca Boehling helped initiate include: “The fact that our original documents and the Central Names Index were inducted in the summer of 2013 into UNESCO's Memory of the World Registry certainly helped move forward the absolutely necessary ongoing process of storing and preserving our documents appropriately. The ITS will soon have a new archives building, in which a safe and secure space will be provided for all of its archival holdings“.
In addition to Sir Andrew Burns, the International Commission was represented at the press conference by the Italian archivist Dr. Micaela Procaccia, who, as a member of the Nomination Committee, was also responsible for recommending the new director. Dr. Procaccia spoke on behalf of Italy, which has the Chairmanship of the International Commission until June 2016, about future important issues at the ITS, with the upcoming change in leadership in mind. She commented that “in the future ITS will continue to promote even more initiatives in the field of research and education, thanks to the recently strengthened senior management team at the ITS that resulted from the reforms set in motion by the departing director“.