Holocaust Archive Is Going Public
November 19, 2006 10:14 AM   Subscribe

The largest archive of Nazi prison camp records, which has been closed for 50 years, is going public in May 2007. The International Tracing Service in Bad Arolsen, Germany consists of 16 miles of files in six nondescript buildings in the German spa town and contains the fullest record of Nazi persecutions in existence. This past April Germany finally agreed to open access to the archive, ending a nasty diplomatic dispute between the United States and Germany.
posted by ericb (19 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
How to request information from the International Tracing Service.
posted by ericb at 10:15 AM on November 19, 2006


They should have done this years ago. Many, many years ago.

The ICRC impresses me less and less. They blew this. They blew Katrina. IIRC, they didn't do so well after the tsunami, either.
posted by QIbHom at 10:58 AM on November 19, 2006


Hey, thanks for this post. I've forwarded it to a friend of mine who doesn't read MeFi but she and her family would definitely like to know of this.
posted by Zack_Replica at 11:12 AM on November 19, 2006


From the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum's FAQ:
1. Can I find out what happened to a friend or family member during the Holocaust?

The single most important thing to keep in mind when attempting to document victims of the Holocaust is that no single master list of those who perished exists anywhere in the world. This circumstance has frustrated many of those trying to uncover the fate of family members, but the horrible fact remains that millions died with little record of the event.

Despite the German reputation for meticulous recordkeeping, many incidents occurred during the Holocaust without any information being recorded. Jews transported to extermination camps like Belzec or Treblinka were sent to their deaths without documenting their arrival. At concentration camps like Auschwitz, those selected for gassing rather than labor were killed immediately without recording their deaths. Individuals found in hiding and shot, or other incidents of random shootings, also passed without documentation. Mass executions were sometimes documented by date, location, and number of victims, but these records usually did not include individual names. Even where information about individuals was originally documented, we are often left today without that information, since the Nazis destroyed countless records in the last days of the war.
(A list of resources — including the ITS — follows the above text.)

.n
posted by cenoxo at 11:14 AM on November 19, 2006


"The ICRC impresses me less and less. They blew this. They blew Katrina. IIRC, they didn't do so well after the tsunami, either."


Yeah. It was the Red Cross that blew Katrina. Riiiight...
posted by stenseng at 12:19 PM on November 19, 2006


stenseng, not to derail (I hope), but the US government has outsourced its relief work to the US arm of the ICRC.

It would perhaps be a drift into tin foil hat territory to suggest that the ICRC's behaviour with the ITS was why the US government turned what used to be FEMA's duties over to them, but it isn't completely irrelevant.
posted by QIbHom at 1:05 PM on November 19, 2006


what? i thought the holocaust didn't happen!? well, i mean thats what mel gibson told me anyway. i guess you can't believe everything you here at those boy/men retreats.
posted by nola at 1:18 PM on November 19, 2006


I think we can all agree that it is very convenient that these supposed records should be coming out now, just in time for the sixty-seventh anniversary of WW2. The Red Cross has bowed to the powerful Jewish lobby in releasing these records, which were forged by the Jewish lobby and placed in the Red Cross archives, or alternatively the Red Cross is itself and has always been a tool of the Jewish lobby and has poisoned its own archives in an attempt to stop the truth coming out.

Releasing these records now will only cause pain by reawakening bad memories in the people who didn't do the things that are allegedly referred to in the forged documents. Surely now, more than sixty years after the what would have been the events, it is time to draw a veil over the fictional past and forgive the people who were not there for the acts which they didn't do, and would have been thoroughly justified in doing, but which could not have happened.
posted by Joe in Australia at 2:34 PM on November 19, 2006 [1 favorite]


it is time to draw a veil over the fictional past and forgive the people who were not there for the acts which they didn't do

Let me suggest that we ignore this obvious "trolling" for the sake of a discussion about what it may mean for researchers and others ("Opened records may give closure") now that the Nazi archives will be made available early next year.
posted by ericb at 2:44 PM on November 19, 2006


what? i thought the holocaust didn't happen!? well, i mean thats what mel gibson told me anyway

It's worth noting that well-known 20th century historian Mahmoud Ahmadinejad concurs.

just in time for the sixty-seventh anniversary of WW2


Yeah, the sixty-sixth mighta been circumstantial, but wow the sixty-seventh? How obvious.
posted by scheptech at 2:55 PM on November 19, 2006


Too late.
posted by Meatbomb at 3:00 PM on November 19, 2006


“What victims of these crimes fear the most is that when they disappear — and it’s happening very fast now — no one will remember the names of the families they lost,” said Shapiro of the Washington museum, who was a delegate to the talks.

“It’s not a diplomatic timetable, and not an archivist’s timetable, but the actuarial table. If we don’t succeed in having this material public while there are still survivors, then we failed,” he said.

posted by Meatbomb at 3:07 PM on November 19, 2006


the US government has outsourced its relief work to the US arm of the ICRC.

In no sense is the American Red Cross an "arm of the ICRC."
posted by grouse at 3:45 PM on November 19, 2006


Better late than never
posted by taosbat at 6:03 PM on November 19, 2006


ericb: read Joe's other comments. That's no troll, but it is darkly hilarious.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 8:27 PM on November 19, 2006


He would know. He is joe's spleen after all.
posted by Pollomacho at 9:20 PM on November 19, 2006


I work at the Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC, but I have not been involved with this project up to this point. The release of the ITS Tracing Service records has been very long time in coming, and that we are very excited to finally make this information available to all.

The process of tracing the fate of Holocaust victims through the available archival documentation is, or at least has been, laborious and time-consuming. However, it is among the most important work being done by scholars and archivists in this field. After all, there are still instances of family members being reunited after more 60 years.

For many Holocaust survivors and their families, though, just knowing what happened to individuals who vanished into the Nazi camp system is the most valuable piece of information imaginable. It is hoped that the ITS records can help us close out more of these personal tragedies for families around the world. That so many survivors are passing away each day gives even more urgency to the work.

As is stated in the article linked above, these records will not only help those who are tracing victims of the Holocaust but also historians and scholars who are attempting to piece together precisely how the Nazi system functioned and was able to be so brutally effective. Historians have never had access to these records for this type of research, so it will be interesting to see what research avenues are opened up by these documents.

The ITS records are in the process of being digitized, and the Museum will be given a copy of the data. The 50 million pages from this archive will more than double the size of our archival collections. An official announcement will be made on our Web site and through the media as soon as the records are ready. Please know that we will work to make this information available as soon as we can, because time really is of the essence. For now, the "official" Museum statement about this can be found on the Registry's list of FAQs (specifically, number 17).

If you are a researcher or a genealogist who has exhausted all the other available resources for finding information about a family member, please wait until the official announcement is made before submitting requests. However, if you have not yet attempted to trace the fate of a family member lost during the war, please contact us to see what we can do for you before the ITS records are made available. There are lots of databases and documents that we can search in the meantime.

If you have questions about family history research, contact our Registry at registry@ushmm.org. (Note that their name is a bit misleading; while the Registry collects names of Jewish survivors who want to share their information, researchers there will help you trace people from all victim groups.) If you have questions about archival materials at the Museum, contact the Archives at archives@ushmm.org. Or, you can always contact me directly at rcoleman@ushmm.org.
posted by arco at 9:42 PM on November 19, 2006


Can't we please - PLEEASEE! - send prominent muslim leaders around the world on an advanced tour of these record houses? Maybe we could end the question of the holocaust's existence once and for all. Oh, and send Mel Gibson too.
posted by mystyk at 10:59 AM on November 20, 2006


Can't we please - PLEEASEE! - send prominent muslim leaders around the world on an advanced tour of these record houses?

What, and give them more ideas...?
posted by Asparagirl at 11:23 PM on November 20, 2006


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