End of an era at International Tracing Service, Bad Arolsen

End of an era at International Tracing Service, Bad Arolse

End of an era at International Tracing Service, Bad Arolse

Today, ICRC President Peter Maurer is in Bad Arolsen, Germany, to announce the handover by the ICRC of the management of the International Tracing Service (ITS) to the German Federal Archives on January 1st, 2013. 

The ITS archives concern civilians detained in concentration or labour camps and people who had to flee their homes because of WWII.

The archives house over 50 million card files relating to more than 17.5 million civilians persecuted by the National Socialist regime.

While eleven nations known as the International Commission supervises the ITS, the ICRC oversaw its administration for over half a century. 

Over the last decades, the ITS has been responsible for preserving these historical records, and processing requests to trace family members of the second and third generation after the war.

In May 2007, the International Commission agreed that the ITS archives be digitized and that each of member nations receive a single copy. The United States designated the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM) to hold its copy of the archives. The first installment of digitized data was later transferred to the USHMM, which will continue to receive data from Bad Arolsen until all archives are digitized and made available. 

On the occasion of Mr. Maurer's speech at Bad Arolsen, a short pictorial overview of that most important institution and the people it serves.

All photos ©ICRC/©ITS

Millions of people were unaccounted for at the end of the WWII. As early as 1943, a department known as the Central Tracing Bureau was set up within the British Red Cross to begin the work of tracing and registering missing persons. 

Millions of people were unaccounted for at the end of the WWII. As early as 1943, a department known as the Central Tracing Bureau was set up within the British Red Cross to begin the work of tracing and registering missing persons. 

As the war unfolded, the Central Tracing Bureau moved around, finally ending up in Bad Arolsen, Germany. The location was chosen by the Allied due to its central position between the British, US, Soviet and French occupation zones and decent, undamaged infrastructure.

As the war unfolded, the Central Tracing Bureau moved around, finally ending up in Bad Arolsen, Germany. The location was chosen by the Allied due to its central position between the British, US, Soviet and French occupation zones and decent, undamaged infrastructure.

In 1947, the International Refugee Organization took over the administration of the bureau, and in 1948, it acquired the name by which it has been known since - the International Tracing Service, or ITS. In April 1951, responsibility passed to the Allied High Commission for Germany. When Germany officially ceased to be an occupied country in 1954, the ICRC was entrusted by Allied powers with the management of the service.

In 1947, the International Refugee Organization took over the administration of the bureau, and in 1948, it acquired the name by which it has been known since - the International Tracing Service, or ITS. In April 1951, responsibility passed to the Allied High Commission for Germany. When Germany officially ceased to be an occupied country in 1954, the ICRC was entrusted by Allied powers with the management of the service.

The Nazis operated 22 concentration camps, with over 1,000 annexes. However, the ITS only has something approaching a complete set of documents for Buchenwald and Dachau. Documentation for the other camps is partial or non-existent.

The Nazis operated 22 concentration camps, with over 1,000 annexes. However, the ITS only has something approaching a complete set of documents for Buchenwald and Dachau. Documentation for the other camps is partial or non-existent.

More than 60 years after the end of WWII, the ITS still receives many enquiries from victims of Nazi persecution and their families. To find out exactly what happened to relatives is of enourmous importance to survivors and their families.

More than 60 years after the end of WWII, the ITS still receives many enquiries from victims of Nazi persecution and their families. To find out exactly what happened to relatives is of enourmous importance to survivors and their families.

Over the years, the ITS has enabled many people to be reunited with relatives. These include the Böhmer sisters, reunited in September 2006 after 60 years.

Over the years, the ITS has enabled many people to be reunited with relatives. These include the Böhmer sisters, reunited in September 2006 after 60 years.

When he was 69 years old, George Jauzemis, a New Zealander, was able to discover his true origins. Originally named Peter Thomas, he wa separated from his mother at the age of four in the turmoil of post-war Europe. In May 2011, he finally met with his relatives for the first time.

When he was 69 years old, George Jauzemis, a New Zealander, was able to discover his true origins. Originally named Peter Thomas, he wa separated from his mother at the age of four in the turmoil of post-war Europe. In May 2011, he finally met with his relatives for the first time.

While it continues to trace missing persons and reunite families, the ITS has also become a centre for documentation, research and education on Nazi persecution between 1933 and 1945.

While it continues to trace missing persons and reunite families, the ITS has also become a centre for documentation, research and education on Nazi persecution between 1933 and 1945.