September 5, 2007
JOINT STATEMENT BY THE UNITED STATES HOLOCAUST MEMORIAL MUSEUM AND INTERNATIONAL TRACING SERVICE
On Monday, August, 20, at the beginning of a week-long visit to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum by the Director of the International Tracing Service (ITS), the Museum received the first shipment of digital copies of ITS archival records. During the course of the week, ITS and Museum officials met with Holocaust survivors, members of the second generation and others to update them on the process of opening the ITS archive and making its contents available to Holocaust survivors, scholars and the public. Afterward, the Museum and the ITS issued the following statement:
“This week has been an important milestone in the effort to make this vast archive accessible to the public, and in particular to survivors and their families. The handover of the digital copies of the files on incarceration presents the two institutions with the opportunity to start constructing a cooperative relationship to make the archive’s contents available to survivors and the public and to facilitate historical research in these invaluable collections. It is urgent that the three countries on the International Commission of the ITS which have not yet ratified the agreement to open the archive—Italy, France and Greece—do so without delay.
While the transfer is an important first step, the challenges to making the material accessible are enormous. In its current state, the vast majority of the archive, including the more than 50 million digital images of the cards in the Central Name Index, cannot be searched using a Google-type search engine. While some of the ITS documents now exist on digital support, the overwhelming majority of the information in them has not been indexed into a searchable database. Finding information on an individual in the archive is a complex, time-consuming process even for people with extensive training and years of experience.
The Museum and ITS, in cooperation with national repositories in other countries, including Yad Vashem in Israel and the National Institute of Remembrance in Poland, are working to develop processes that will get accurate information into the hands of survivors as quickly as possible.
Survivors with any questions should please contact the Museum toll free at 866-912-4385 or at 202-488-6130, or visit the Museum’s Web site at www.ushmm.org/its.