The International Tracing Service, more than 65 years on
November 27, 2012 7:45 PM   Subscribe

The International Tracing Service was established following the Second World War to help repatriate forced laborers and survivors of the concentration camps as well as to trace the missing. 67 years after the end of the war, ITS receives about 1,080 requests for information a month, some of which still result in reuniting relatives.

The Central Name Index contains records of 17.5 million people, whose names have been sorted phonetically to aid with overcoming the problem of different records using different spellings, including no less than 843 variations on Abrahamovic.
posted by hoyland (5 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Each Red Cross Society supports a tracing service , including the American Red Cross. In fact, all American Red Cross chapters should have a staff member or volunteer that works in this function. So, if you or anyone you know wants to start a tracing case, you can approach your local chapter to start a case. After the paperwork has been filled, the information is forwarded to ITS in Arolsen and the Red Cross Society of any country that may have records involved with your case (e.g., Germany, Austria, Poland, Russia). Be warned though, these cases can take months or even years to return an answer.
posted by FJT at 9:15 PM on November 27, 2012

I contacted them and it did take months, but they had done their research and it was a personal letter, not just a form with blanks filled in.

posted by Joe in Australia at 12:06 AM on November 28, 2012

Is this only applicable to connections lost in ww2? Or are other connections, eg, 1956 and the Thirteen Days (Hungary), within their scope?
posted by Goofyy at 2:56 AM on November 28, 2012

Is this only applicable to connections lost in ww2? Or are other connections, eg, 1956 and the Thirteen Days (Hungary), within their scope?

As far as I can tell, they're pretty much strictly limited to people displaced/separated as a direct consequence of Nazi persecution, rather than people who were displaced by the war more generally. (I think most of the other refugees were ethnic Germans from further east. At any rate, the ITS seemed to have been initially conceived to handle the non-Germans.) The name is a weird remnant, more than anything else. The First World War didn't produce displaced persons on this scale and certainly not the problems of trying to trace people that the Holocaust produced, so I don't think it occurred to anyone that a broad name for single-purpose organisation was a bit weird.

I'm actually really unclear on how they're tracing children, like the man in the Spiegel article. It sounds like he contacted ITS, but he didn't know his birth name, so how they connected him to his mother's name I don't know. (I assume his mother reported him missing at the end of the war and they could match that report against some record from the SS, which seems like a crazy long shot, but then I'm assuming the SS didn't write down who they took kids from and what they did with which kid.)
posted by hoyland at 5:58 AM on November 28, 2012

I work for The Canadian Red Cross, and I am the staff member who takes info and files the initial paperwork for tracing cases. We call it "Restoring Family Links" and we can open a file for anyone who's been separated from family due to war or conflict. Most of our cases these days are related to people who were or are currently in refugee camps, like those in Nepal, Tunisia, etc. We still get the occasional request for WW2-related inquiries, but not many, at least not in my office.
posted by arcticwoman at 11:19 AM on November 28, 2012 [2 favorites]

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