The International Tracing Service underwent a historic restructuring at the beginning of the year. In addition to its previous functions, it will be expanded into a research and documentation centre under a new leadership. Federal Foreign Minister Westerwelle welcomed the new International Commission of the ITS at its constituent assembly in Berlin.
Since 1955 the International Tracing Service in Arolsen, with its around 30 million original documents, has been a key institution for clarifying the fate of victims of National Socialism. Every month, around a thousand people still turn to the archive with search requests.
The archive will become a research and documentation centre.
With the signing of a partnership agreement with Germany’s Federal Archives and a new ITS agreement with the eleven member countries, the Tracing Service came under a new treaty regime on 1 January. The International Committee of the Red Cross withdrew from the leadership at the beginning of the year, and the Federal Archives became a new institutional partner. Professor Rebecca Boehling, the new director of the ITS, will also oversee the transformation of the archive into a centre of research, information and documentation.
The documents tell the stories of the fates of individuals
Since it was founded, the ITS has provided information on more than twelve million cases, has clarified the fate of individuals and reunited families. When he welcomed the new International Commission of the ITS at the Federal Foreign Office, Foreign Minister Westerwelle said that he was especially moved by the fact that a human story was behind every single record.
Protection against forgetting
The Foreign Minister thanked the representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross and the member countries of the International Commission for their dedication. The restructuring of the ITS was, he said, also a vote of confidence in Germany’s way of dealing with the dark side of its past. Germany was, he went on, aware of the significance of the collection and took its historical duties seriously. Because fewer and fewer first-hand witnesses were able to tell of the horrors of the Nazi period, the archive collection in Arolsen was also “protection against forgetting”, he added.