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International Tracing Service: ICRC reply to US Holocaust Memorial Museum

28-03-2006 Statement

Open letter to Ms Sara Jane Bloomfield, Executive director, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM) from Mr François Bugnion, Director for International Law, International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC)

Dear Madam,

Reference is made to the USHMM's press release dated 7 March 2006 calling for immediate access to the archives held at the International Tracing Service (ITS).

Deutsche Fassung des offenen Briefs an Frau Sara Jane Bloomfield, Executive Director, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM.) 

Let me begin by confirming that the ICRC is wholly in favour of opening the archives held at the ITS in Bad Arolsen (Germany) to historical research. The ICRC acknowledges the scientific value of the materials deposited at the ITS and their great significance for the victims of the Holocaust and of Nazi persecution, and for their relatives and communities. We fully recognize the humanitarian value of historical research into the painful events documented by the archives as a tribute to the memory of the victims. The ICRC demonstrated this attitude long ago, not only by words but by deeds. Indeed, our own archives were opened and copies of all files relating to the Holocaust and Nazi persecution handed over to the USHMM.

The ICRC, therefore, supports the plan to make the data stored at the ITS available so as to better serve the interests of the victims, their families and communities and to favour access for scientific research.

This position of the ICRC has been well-known to the board of the ITS, known as the International Commission, as well as to other interested parties such as your esteemed institution, the USHMM. We have communicated our position on the matter in all re levant meetings and directly to your colleagues of the USHMM on repeated occasions over the past years, including during my last visit on 24 February 2006. However, it is not in the hands of the ICRC to make the relevant decisions on the matter since the ICRC is not the owner of the ITS archives. These are decisions to be taken by the member states of the International commission of the ITS.

The ICRC has and will continue to cooperate fully with the International Commission of the ITS and will deploy all its efforts to enhance the work of the International Commission and the relevant Working Groups so as to speed up progress on establishing the framework under which the archives can be most rapidly made accessible to historical research.. 

We firmly expect that a viable solution will soon be found by the International Commission of the ITS and call on you to support the on-going efforts of the working group tasked to establish the framework for the future use and role of the ITS archives. 

Sincerely yours,

François Bugnion

Director for international law and

cooperation within the Movement


  Official position of the ICRC as published on its web site