holocaust archive 298 .
(photo credit: AP)
A vast archive of Nazi-era documents started accepting online requests Thursday for information from victims of Nazi crimes and people tracing relatives - a move meant to speed up an often-slow process.
The move by the archive, based in the central German town of Bad Arolsen, should make it easier for people to get information from the 50 million files of the International Tracing Service. It will not, however, allow victims or researchers direct access to the files over the Internet.
Until now, people hoping for data from the files had to submit a written request either directly, or through their local Red Cross chapter. The International Committee of the Red Cross administers the ITS.
The archive was founded in 1955 with the aim of helping to reunite families in the wake of World War II and shed light on the fate of millions of victims of the Nazi Holocaust.
It still receives an estimated 10,000 requests for information each year, and about 60,000 requests are currently pending.
For decades, processing of the inquiries was painfully slow, leading to frustration among victims and their families, who often had to wait several years before receiving a response.
The International Tracing Service says on its new site that it aims to process requests within eight weeks and have the backlog whittled down by mid-2008. But it warns that some more complex cases may take longer.
The move to make submitting requests easier is separate from an international push to open the archive to the public - a complex diplomatic process involving permission from 11 nations, which is expected to be completed by year's end.
Earlier this year, digital copies of some of the records were handed to archives in the Israel, Poland and United States, in an effort to make the data more accessible to more people.