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International Tracing Service: discussion about the future begins

20-05-2008 News Release 08/85

The International Commission for the International Tracing Service (ITS) opened the discussion on the future of the institution today.

In the course of the Commission’s Annual Meeting, it was decided that a working group to deal with this subject would be set up. “Following the opening of the archives for research and the reduction of the amount of humanitarian work, details of the future structure of and administrative responsibility for the ITS must be considered”, says Beat Schweizer, Deputy Director-General of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

The International Commission, whose eleven member states control the Tracing Service in Arolsen, has asked the working group to “identify the future structural and organisational challenges to the ITS, with a view of presenting proposals on how to address these challenges“. A first written progress report on the group’s findings is due to be published at the next Annual Meeting in London in May 2009. The member states, the ICRC and the ITS will take part in the working group. Chairman will be ambassador Pieter Jan Wolthers from the Netherlands.

“Setting up the working group is a logical consequence of the 2006 decision to open the archives for historical research. This has a direct effect on the areas in which the Tracing Service operates, and raises the question of the future role of the International Tracing Service and its administration by the International Committee of the Red Cross“, says the current Chairman of the Commission, Polish ambassador Krzysztof Kocel. “In view of the magnitude and significance of the historically valuable evidence contained in the documents at Arolsen, we are aware of the responsibility of the International Commission”. It is now the turn of Great Britain to take over the Chair for the next twelve months.

The International Commission also considered the progress of digitisation of the documents at ITS. This is a requirement for the unanimously agreed transfer of the data to the member states, and is due to be completed in 2011. At present, the ITS is in the process of completing digitisation of the documents dealing with forced labourers. At the same time, scanning of the documents from camps for Displaced Persons DPs has begun; DPs were persons who survived concentration camps or forced labour camps, and some were prisoners of war released when the Second World War ended. 70 per cent of the material in the keeping of the ITS is now available in digital form. “The three main tasks, and those to which the ITS will be giving priority in the immediate future, are ensuring a fast and reliable response to enquiries, thorough and systematic digitisation of all documents, and developing historical research“, says ITS director Reto Meister.

 
For further information, please contact:
  Kathrin Flor, ITS, +49 170 900 8495
  Claudia McGoldrick, ICRC, +41 79 217 3216