Holocaust Memorial Museum to Receive Electronic Documents from International Tracing Service Archives

For 60 years the International Tracing Service (ITS), located in Bad Arolsen, Germany, has held the largest closed Holocaust archive of documents in the world. For most of its existence the archive has been accessible only to Holocaust victims’ family members while scholars were banned. But now, under the terms of a new treaty, the ITS will begin to distribute in electronic format some 13.5 million documents related to concentration camp records. The new treaty states that each country can designate only one repository to handle the material. According to a press release, the Holocaust Memorial Museum located in Washington, D.C., will be the American home to the records. While the museum staff will need to have extensive training and upgrades to its computer systems, documents may be available to scholars as soon as this fall.

More on this story can be found at the New York Times. The treaty and documents related can be found on the ITS web site.

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  1. Daniel Kadden

    Contrary to the assertion made in the blog entry, Holocaust survivors have been prevented for decades from direct access to the Bad Arolsen records, and their queries to the ITS have been answered, if at all, in a sketchy, incomplete and utterly unsatisfactory fashion. Those in the scholarly community should be aware that these records are of immense personal importance to Holocaust Survivors and families of victims. Survivors strongly support open access for historians, but are insisting that the their right to know the details of what their loved ones and friends experienced during the Holocaust be the primary goal here. They are demanding unfettered access via the internet. The U.S. Holocaust Museum’s tentative proposal to require survivors to submit queries to Museum staff falls far short of the “open” access promised by the Museum, and would, in effect, perpetuate the barriers of the past decade. In the interest of truth and transparency, historians should join with Survivors and families to demand the broadest possible access. After 62 years, isn’t it time?

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