There is a great deal of interest worldwide in the documents of the archives of the International Tracing Service about former victims of Nazi persecution and the liberated survivors. A small part of this collection, which since 2013 is inscribed onto the UNESCO “Memory of the World” register, can now be viewed in a new online archive. The ITS has published three collections in an initial step: photos of personal objects that were taken from the prisoners in the concentration camps are included in this. Also available are a chosen collection on the death marches as well as files from the Child Search Branch from the time immediately following the liberation.
One of the tasks of the ITS is to make the documents in its archives accessible to the greater public. For this reason, representatives from the eleven member states in the International Commission, the governing body of the ITS, decided in 2014 that, from 2015, the ITS should gradually begin placing its documents online.
For the pilot project, three collections were chosen that, based on the subject matter, the amount of data, and data protection considerations, are appropriate for publishing in this online portal. In addition to this, the scholarly reappraisal and the archival description of the collections played a role in making this selection.
Open to everyone
The ITS online archival collection is now available free of charge. The documents are interesting not only for researchers, for people personally concerned, family and second and third generations, as well as genealogists, but could also interest pupils as part of a school project, for example. Moreover, the online documents should help contribute to raising public awareness of the work of the ITS and its valuable archives on the victims of the Holocaust and Nazi persecution.
The ITS was able bring the project to life in less than 12 months and has placed 50,000 images in the portal. Dr. Christian Groh, Head of the Archive Branch, and his team were supported in this by the Nagel and Semantics Company, specialists in online portals for libraries and archives.
The Files of the Child Search Branch
The third collection in the ITS Online-Portal deals with the files of the Child Search Branch, which as of 1945 cared for the large numbers of missing and “unaccompanied children”. These were survivors of the Nazi concentration camps and the extermination camps, youth who had been kidnapped for slave labor and children whose mothers were forced laborers. The responsibility of the Child Search Branch was, among other things, to ascertain the identity and nationality of these children, and to establish contact with their family members. The documents provide information on the organizational structure of the institution as well as, for example, on the number of the children cared for and where they came from.
Further development planned
To encourage an exchange among academics and scholars, the web-user, upon registering, is offered the opportunity to post comments and any additional knowledge on the portal.
The ITS screens these comments before publishing them on the portal. User feedback will also be used to contribute to further development of the portal. In a 2-year cooperative project with partner organizations, the ITS will place further sub-collections online that have content related to the three topics placed online first.
Altogether, however, due to the enormous amount of data, only a small percentage of the entire ITS-Archive can possibly be made accessible via the online portal in the coming years.
Direct to: New Online Digital Collection
See Also: ITS History