Holocaust archives in Germany are unlocked at last
28 November 2007, Berlin - The world's biggest collection of Holocaust records was finally unlocked for historians Wednesday, more than 60 years after relief officials had created the archives to trace millions of people who vanished under the Nazis.
28 November 2007
Berlin - The world's biggest collection of Holocaust records was finally unlocked for historians Wednesday, more than 60 years after relief officials had created the archives to trace millions of people who vanished under the Nazis.
"It will now be possible to carry out detailed research on the transport of prisoners, the camp populations and the health of forced labourers," said Reto Meister, Swiss director of the International Tracing Service (ITS) in Bad Arolsen, Germany.
Jewish groups have campaigned for years for the ITS to release digitised copies of its collection, so that relatives can discover the fate of their loved ones in the death camps while the last of the survivors are still alive.
The opening had to wait until the 11 nations which own the archives gradually altered their treaty with the International Committee of the Red Cross, which manages the documents.
Until now, only Red Cross employees and next of kin, not historians or cousins, were allowed to see the papers.
Most historians are expected to use the computerised copies being set up in Jersusalem, Washington and Warsaw rather than travelling to Bad Arolsen, a remote hill town in the centre of Germany.
In Berlin, Foreign Office official Guenter Gloser said Germany was pleased they were now available for research.
The 1955 treaty governing the archives was changed in May this year, but all 11 nations including Germany had to ratify this.
The Bad Arolsen facility, spread over several buildings, began as a British Red Cross card index in 1943 and was used to reunite families from 1946 on. It now has details on an estimated 17.5 million civilians killed or forced to leave their homes by the Nazis.
It includes meticulous records kept at concentration camps by the Nazis and a complete post-war index of every non-citizen who was on German soil during the war years.
"Today saw the conclusion of a long and difficult process," said Jakob Kellenberger, ICRC president.
"This dark chapter in German history must never be forgotten."
Subject: German news