A call to the International Tracing Service (ITS) to open their archives for public access
International Tracing Service (ITS)
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of the Red Cross (ICRC), which supervises the ITS, to open the archive and permit public access to it.
We call for the ITS's 11 International Commission board member states to copy its records. Having copies of the ITS records at national Holocaust memorials in their countries would allow survivors and their families, as well as Holocaust scholars, to learn the fates of the victims and better understand the Holocaust itself.
Many survivors die each year not knowing details of family members'
deportation, incarceration, and death. The international community has a moral obligation to address this injustice. Over 60 years after the end of World War II, the ITS remains one of the few, and certainly the largest, closed archive on the Holocaust.
At the end of the war, the Allied powers established the International
Tracing Service in Bad Arolsen, Germany, to help reunite non-German families separated during the war and trace missing family members. Among other information, the vast collection includes massive documentation from concentration camps, slave labor camps and post-war displaced person camps.
The ITS has performed important humanitarian functions. However, many
families seeking information from the ITS receive responses only years after their requests were submitted, and often the information is inadequate or inaccurate.
Similar materials, though not on the same scale, have been available at archives such as Yad Vashem, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and other repositories in Europe. The ITS is failing to live up to the intent of the 2000 Stockholm Declaration to open Holocaust-era archives. All 11 governments on the International Commission of the ITS, the ITS's governing body, have endorsed the Declaration.
For the past eight years the ITS and the ICRC in Geneva have said they
would open the archive, and during the last two years, intensive negotiations have taken place. In practice, however, the ITS and the ICRC have consistently refused to cooperate with the International Commission board and have kept the archive closed.
The German government is protecting the privacy of Holocaust survivors by refusing to allow public access to the vast collection of the International Tracing Service (ITS) located in Arolsen, Germany.
Germany is standing alone in continuing to block any action to open the ITS records to the public. The German representative cited German archival law, which is irrelevant since ITS material is not subject to German law. European countries and the United States strongly objected to the German position. Although 10 of the 11 countries at the meeting favored opening the records, nothing happened since the tradition is unanimity although the agreement itself does not provide for it.
The holdings of the International Tracing Service are one of the most valuable sources of information about the fate of people, both victims and survivors, caught up in the Holocaust. Their records place an individual at a specific place and time during the Holocaust period. They claim to have 40 million such pieces of information. Their sources, to name a few, are deportation lists, concentration camp death lists, ghetto records and post-war refugee records.
We call to the German government to lift its objection and to allow ITS resolution, which will permit general public access to its archives.
The site for the organization is located at http://its-arolsen.org/.