Washington, D.C., January 17, 2008 – Holocaust survivors, researchers and others can now request information from the digitalized archive of the International Tracing Service (ITS), based in Bad Arolsen, Germany, which was transferred to the Washington-based US Holocaust Museum last November.
Staff will search the archive and will cross-reference with the museum’s own archives and material that the ITS has yet to share with the museum. The newly accessible materials relate to wartime incarceration and concentration camps; still to come is material related to forced labor and postwar documentation.
“This moment is a wonderful victory for survivors, although long overdue,” said Museum Director Sara J. Bloomfield. “But the significance of ITS extends far beyond the survivor generation. With an increase in Holocaust denial and minimization, the evidence in this massive archive will serve as an authentic witness to the scope of the crimes of the Holocaust for many generations to come.”
All the material should be in hand by 2010, museum officials said. The inquiry process, launched last week, will integrate the 46 million documents already in the possession of the Holocaust museum, with more than 18 million documents made available by the International Tracing Service. The availability of the archives ends a decade-long political and legal battle to open the Bad Arolsen archives, which houses information on the fate of about 17.5 million Nazi victims.
More documents relating to slave labor and to post-war testimonies are slated to be released by 2010.
Anyone can make an inquiry, over the phone at +1-866 912 4385 or at www.ushmm.org/its. About 800 requests have been received so far by the US Holocaust Museum, mostly family inquiries.
The digital archives were simultaneously released last year to the 11 nations that control the tracing service. Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust memorial institution, was the first to establish a request-processing service last week, although it will not have an online capability until February 2008.
Much of the material delivered to the museums on hard drives packed into suitcases is not yet digitally searchable; images of the documents and 50 million index cards that arrived between August and November 2007 are in picture form. Converting those images to searchable files will take a long time and cost millions of dollars, officials of the US Holocaust museum.
Contact: Andrew Hollinger, Director Media Relations – US HOLOCAUST MEMORIAL MUSEUM – Tel.: (202) 488-6133 – firstname.lastname@example.org.