Red Cross releases new Shoah files

Millions of names of displaced persons transfered to Holocaust museums in US, Israel, Poland.

new yad vashem 224.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
new yad vashem 224.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Digital copies bearing the names of some 3.5 million people displaced after World War II have been provided to Holocaust memorial groups and museums in the United States, Israel and Poland by a recently opened archive of Nazi-era documents. The International Tracing Service of the International Committee of the Red Cross said Tuesday that it had handed over a third round of documents to the Yad Vashem Memorial in Jerusalem, the US Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington and the Warsaw-based National Institute of Remembrance. The archive, based in Bad Arolsen, Germany, said the transfer involved copies of index cards bearing the names of people who were freed from Nazi concentration and labor camps as well as prisoners of war. The transfer came after a meeting March 18-19 of representatives of national organizations from the member nations of the International Commission, which oversees the Tracing Service. "It is essential that we can share, thanks to the opening of the archives, our documentation on the fate suffered by the victims of the Nazi regime," said Reto Meister, director of the International Tracing Service. "This will facilitate access to the information that is of such great value to the victims and their families, irrespective of whether they live in Europe, Israel or America." The move is part of a wider process begun by the Tracing Service late last year to make the names it has maintained available to family members, friends and now researchers. For more than 60 years, the information was locked away in the secretive archive, which houses records scooped up by Allied troops from concentration camps, Nazi SS offices and postwar displaced-persons compounds. It will take the International Tracing Service two more years to finish copying onto hard drives the 16 linear miles of papers that fill a half dozen buildings. So far, about 67 million images of documents have been transferred to the memorials and museums. Paul Shapiro, director of the center for advanced Holocaust studies at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, said the records were extensive. "It's an incredibly rich resource," he said. There are millions of index cards, documents and files, some of which contain detailed family histories. Sharing the files will allow survivors and victims' relatives to see true images of documents - transportation lists, Gestapo orders, camp registers, slave labor booklets, death books - that demonstrate their tortures and that may have determined whether they lived or died. "We aim at providing easier access to the documents available at the Tracing Service for the victims and their families, and researchers alike," Meister said in a statement. "For this it is essential that we create a close cooperation between all the institutes that plan on working with the documentation available at the ITS. This will allow us to share experiences, and what's more, share the tremendous time and effort that will be needed for this indexing and cataloging work." Avner Shalev, Chairman of Yad Vashem said: "We are pleased that the transfer of material from ITS to Yad Vashem is continuing apace, and that we are already able to provide information from the Bad Arolsen material. The material received last week is another important piece in the puzzle as we attempt to learn the fates of the individual Jews of Europe - both those who survived the Holocaust and those who were murdered." According to a statement released by the museum, "Yad Vashem continues to invest efforts and resources in merging the material into Yad Vashem's 75 million pages of archival documentation, and to providing the most comprehensive answer to the public's inquiries. Yad Vashem's reference staff continues to answer inquiries sent to the Archives via fax, email, and the on-line information request form available at" On the Net: International Tracing Service: US Holocaust Memorial Museum: Yad Vashem: Institute of National Remembrance: