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Archives of the Second World War: Research is temporarily suspended during conservation and scanning project


A new project to conserve and scan the ICRC’s archives on the Second World War has led to the temporary suspension of research work.

A major challenge has been taken up this year to conserve and make available online the information collected on individuals by the Central Prisoners-of-War Agency during the Second World War. This project is similar to one already under way concerning the archives of the First World War.

The Agency used the same classification system that its predecessor had used during the First World War. This consisted in storing on index cards crucial information about individuals provided at the time by the detaining authorities, ICRC delegations and National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. The archives include some 36 million such cards.

In-depth research in these archives is relatively complex and can take many hours. Prior to January 2014, the ICRC processed thousands of requests from relatives of prisoners of war or historians looking for information still today.

Once these archives have been scanned and made available online, anyone interested will be able to carry out research directly, using an internet application.

While the conservation and scanning project is under way, however, it will be difficult to respond to research requests. This service will therefore be temporarily suspended, barring a few exceptions.

As of 1 February 2014, the archives will accept only requests that fulfill specific conditions.  Requests received prior to February 2014 will be processed within approximately 12 to 18 months.

The first set of archives to be made public – the French collection, one of those most in demand – will go online in 2016.