Opening the Red Cross International Tracing Service Archive


Kenneth Waltzer


VOL. XXVI • Spring 2009 • NO. 1 (table of contents)

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26 John Marshall J. of Comp. & Info. Law 161


The Red Cross International Tracing Service Archive in Bad Arolsen contains nearly 17.5 million names and nearly 50 million World War II and post-war era documents. The Bonn Accords designated the International Tracing Service (“ITS”) as the sole caretaker of these documents. A recent revision to the Bonn Accords has resulted in a reopening of archives at Bad Arolsen. ITS has started to digitize materials, and the data has been distributed to designated research institutions. The revision also resulted in access to the archives for research purposes. This expanded availability of the information has raised a number of important questions about access to these documents.

The significance of making the archives at Bad Arolsen available within organizations cannot be understated. The new records will effectively double the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum’s current holdings and it will be easier for interested survivors and families to explore the fates of specific categories of prisoners. The materials will provide the fullest account of Nazi persecutions on record to both scholars and students of the Holocaust. Nonetheless, many survivors and families continue to argue for direct remote access to the records without the approval of museum gatekeepers. While access to the records will continue to be hotly debated, the archives will remain a valuable window into the life and experiences of prisoners, which may help to further explain the complex social structure that developed in Nazi prisons during World War II.

Author Footnote:

Kenneth Waltzer: Professor of history in James Madison College at Michigan State University and director of Jewish Studies at Michigan State University. He is currently writing a book on The Rescue of Children and Youths at Buchenwald, drawing extensively on materials from Buchenwald at Bad Arolsen as well as memoirs, testimonies, and interviews with more than 100 former Buchenwald boys.

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