Nazi archive to open in a year

Collection of 30 million to 50 million pages will be 95 percent scanned by the end of the year.

Nearly the entire collection of a long-closed archive of Nazi records will be ready for research within a year, and the archive's director said he is seeking approval at a meeting on Wednesday of its 11-nation governing body to prepare the documents for international access. Reto Meister, head of the International Tracing Service that runs the archive in the German spa town of Bad Arolsen, said the core documents - incarceration records, death catalogs, concentration camp registries and transportation lists - would be digitally scanned and ready for transfer to Holocaust institutions within two months. "It's been going even faster than anticipated," Meister said before the start of the two-day meeting. "We have been dedicating more resources to scanning the documents and integrating them into a database." But the 11-nation governing committee, which began a meeting in The Hague, must give its approval for the complex technical preparations for transferring digital copies to organizations like the US Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington and to Israel's Yad Vashem memorial in Jerusalem. The entire collection of 30 million to 50 million pages, filling 26 kilometers of shelf and cabinet space in six buildings, will be 95 percent scanned by the end of the year, Meister said. They include 3.4 million postwar files on displaced persons, many containing detailed testimonies on the horrors endured during Hitler's 12year rule. The captured documents were mostly seized from concentration camps after the war. The Tracing Service, an arm of the International Committee of the Red Cross, began administering the archive in 1955 to respond to requests to track missing persons and help reunite families, and later to validate compensation claims by Holocaust survivors or their relatives.