International Tracing Service (ITS)

The International Tracing Service (ITS) in Bad Arolsen is a center for documentation, information, and research about National Socialist persecution, forced labor, the Holocaust, and Displaced Persons. The archives of the ITS documents the fates of millions of victims, whose names and memory are to be preserved. UNESCO has inscribed the original documents and the Central Name Index of the ITS archives, which is based on an alphabetic-phonetic filing system specifically developed for the ITS and includes 50 million reference cards on the fate of 17.5 million people, into the Memory of the World Register.

The ITS counts among its principal tasks:

  • to clarify the fate of persons persecuted under the Nazi rule and to restore family links;
  • to supply with information survivors and family members of Nazi victims;
  • to carry out research and education and to support commemoration;
  • as well as to preserve and conserve the documents and to make them accessible.

ITS Historical Documents

ITS documents stem from the era of National Socialism and the immediate post-war period and include records on concentration camps, ghettos and Gestapo prisons, on forced labor and deportation, on the situation and status of Displaced Persons and on postwar migration. In addition, the archives contain records created in the context of the tracing work, such as the Central Name Index, the archives of the Child Tracing Branch and the correspondence with survivors, family members of the victims and other institutions. The public has access to them by means of digitization, a database and descriptive finding aids to facilitate research.

Information and Clarification of Fates

Some 70 years since the end of the Nazi era, almost a thousand requests per month continue to reach the ITS from victims of the Nazi regime and their next-of-kin. The ITS provides information on the persecution with the help of the documentation in the archives. The ITS also assists people with their search for family members from whom they were separated in consequence either of persecution, deportation or emigration and issues letters of confirmation for the purpose of pension payments and indemnification. Survivors and family members of victims are provided with a report and copies of original documents free of charge and will continue this humanitarian work as long as there is a need for it.

Research and Education

Research and educational activities at the ITS strive to promote scholarly analysis and examination of this era’s crimes thus keeping the memory alive. The ITS assists with research initiatives, initiates collaboration with other institutions and develops its own projects. A database, a scholarly library and reading rooms with PCs are at the users’ disposal. Access to the archives is governed by the regulations for access and fees and tariffs. Scholars may receive copies of documents related to their research.

The ITS has developed an educational concept for cooperation with schools, universities and other educational facilities, part of its mission to convey the significance of the collections kept in its archives to the general public and to succeeding generations.

Legal Basis of the ITS

An International Commission (IC) consisting of representatives of eleven member countries (Belgium, France, Germany, Greece, Israel, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Poland, the United Kingdom, and the United States) controls the work of the International Tracing Service. The legal basis is the Berlin Agreement signed on 9 December 2011. While the German Federal Government provides the budget of over 13 million Euros for the ITS, the IC provides the guidelines for the operations of the ITS and supervises it in accordance with the interests of the former victims of persecution. The ITS is supported by an institutional partner, the German Federal Archives, which alongside the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has the status of observer to the International Commission.