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United States: International Tracing Service hands over copy of holocaust documents to Holocaust Memorial Museum

21-08-2007 News Release 07/94

Washington/Geneva – The International Tracing Service (ITS) yesterday handed over a copy of millions of holocaust-related documents to the US Holocaust Memorial Museum (HMM), which is receiving them on behalf of the United States administration.

The documents, from over 50 concentration camps and prisons, include death books, transportation lists and medical reports. “These documents reflect the most despicable operations of the Nazi era and constitute an essential part of our archive,” said ITS director Reto Meister during the handover at the Holocaust Memorial Museum. Israel has also received a copy of the documents.

The International Tracing Service is located at Bad Arolsen, Germany. It serves victims of Nazi persecution and their families by documenting their fate, preserving the records and making them available for research. The ITS is governed by the 11-nation International Commission for the International Tracing Service (ICITS),* set up under the 1955 Bonn Agreements and their 2006 Protocols. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) manages the ITS on behalf of the Commission.

“Together with the member States of the International Commission, the ICRC has taken the important decision to open the archives to the public. I am satisfied that a first step has now been taken with the handover of copies of the documents to Israel and the United States,” said ICRC president Jakob Kellenberger.

So far, 12 million documents have been digitized – roughly a third of the files preserved in Bad Arolsen. This corresponds to 18 million images and requires a storage capacity of 1.4 terabytes. The HMM in Washington and Yad Vashem (the Holocaust Martyrs'and Heroes'Remembrance Authority) in Jerusalem will each hold a copy of the database. Other member States of the Commission will receive copies upon request.

“This is a very important moment for the International Tracing Service, and, I think, for the member States of the International Commission. Above all, the victims of the Holocaust, their families and researchers stand to benefit from this development. For over 50 years, the archive’s files have been used to document what happened to people persecuted by the Nazis and to provide information to survivors and their relatives. After a long political process, we can now give researchers and the public access to the files,” said Meister.

The ITS archives have been opened up to historical research under the 2006 Protocol amending the Bonn Agreements of 1955, approved by the 11 member states of the Commission*. As soon as ratification of the Protocol is complete – Italy, France and Greece have yet to ratify – the archives will be fully opened. However, the 11 member States decided last May that even before all of them had formally ratified the Protocol, copies of the data stored at the ITS could be transferred under embargo to those States that had completed ratification. “This allows our partners to begin processing the files and to make technical preparations, in order to be ready for the formal opening of the archives,” explained Mr Meister.

During his visit to the United States, the ITS Director is meeting officials from the State Department, congressional staff, American Red Cross personnel and representatives of various Jewish organizations, to discuss the work of the ITS and perspectives for future cooperation.

*The member States of the International Commission are: Belgium, France, Germany, Greece, Israel, Italy, Luxemburg, Netherlands, Poland, the United Kingdom and the United States

 
For further information please contact:
  Florian Westphal, ICRC Geneva, +41 22 730 2282 / +41 79 217 32 80
  Iris Möker, ITS Bad Arolsen, +49 30 85404-146