August 21, 2007
UNITED STATES HOLOCAUST MEMORIAL MUSEUM RECEIVES FIRST SHIPMENT OF RECORDS FROM INTERNATIONAL TRACING SERVICE
Material Being Prepared In Advance of Archive’s Opening
Washington, DC — The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum on Monday received the first shipment of archival materials from the International Tracing Service (ITS) archive in Bad Arolsen, Germany. Digital copies of the approximately 13.5 million pages of deportation files, arrest records, and ghetto and concentration camp documentation were delivered to the Museum by Reto Meister, Director of the International Tracing Service (ITS). It is the first of several scheduled transfers of records that will eventually total over 50 million digital images of archival material. Once completed, the ITS collection will double the number of pages in the Museum’s archival holdings.
“This first transfer is the beginning of a major undertaking,” says Museum Director Sara J. Bloomfield. “Our goal is to help survivors, and the archive cannot be made available to the public until all eleven ITS nations have completed their ratification procedures. France, Italy and Greece must do this urgently.”
The Museum pressed hard for the transfer to take place in advance of the final ratification to begin the complex process of preparing the archive to be searched. That way, when the archive is officially opened, the Museum will be able to respond quickly to Holocaust survivors who have waited far too long for this information. At that time, survivors will be welcome to access the collection in the Museum’s archives, but no survivor will have to travel to Washington, D.C. to obtain information about themselves or loved ones. Survivors will be able to submit requests for information by postal mail, e-mail, fax, or via the Internet and will be provided copies of documentation pertaining to their request at no cost.
The Museum led the years-long effort to make the documentation at ITS, which was created after the war as a tracing service and yet has remained closed to the public, accessible to survivors and others. The archive is governed by an 11-nation board; unanimous consent is required to open its contents. While the documents cannot yet be accessed, the Museum and the ITS are preparing an inventory of the archive’s collections that will be available on the Museum’s Web site at www.ushmm.org/its and ITS Web site at www.its-arolsen.org.
Under the agreement, each of the 11 nations may receive a copy of the archive. Two other nations have designated their national repositories. Yad Vashem will be the recipient of Israel’s copy, and the Institute of National Remembrance in Warsaw will receive Poland’s copy.
The arrival of the first part of the material permits the Museum to begin the process of making the documentation searchable. Currently, only a small fraction of the massive amount of material is indexed for computer searching. With the data in Museum possession, technical experts can begin developing software to search the collection. To further prepare for the archive’s opening, several Museum researchers have recently completed two weeks of on-site training at Bad Arolsen.
Future transfers will include the ITS Central Name Index, which is scheduled for delivery in the fall. Millions of pages of forced and slave labor records are expected to arrive early next year. Displaced persons camp and resettlement records are scheduled for delivery in late 2008 or early 2009.
Survivors and others can obtain more information on the ITS archive at the Museum’s Web site, www.ushmm.org/its or call by calling the Museum toll-free at 866-912-4385.
A living memorial to the Holocaust, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum inspires leaders and citizens to confront hatred, prevent genocide, promote human dignity and strengthen democracy. Federal support guarantees the Museum’s permanence, and donors nationwide make possible its educational activities and global outreach. For more information, visit www.ushmm.org.