More than 50 years after World War II, the pain of family separation still weighs heavily in many hearts. The Nazi regime tore families apart as it conscripted millions of men, women and children into forced labor or shipped them to concentration camps. Throughout Europe, few families were unaffected by the long nightmare. Ever since, survivors have endured the anguish of not knowing the fate of loved ones.
If you are one of these survivors, the American Red Cross can help. We have the resources to find answers to questions you've asked for more than half a century.
A resource of hope, the Red Cross has worked to trace and, if possible, reunite family members separated by every major war in this century. With access to World War II records, it is now possible to determine the fate of many more victims of Nazi persecution. The Red Cross can often assist in securing the documentation of forced labor or internment in a concentration camp, which is required when survivors submit claims for reparations or pensions from the German government. Each year, thousands of people turn to their local Red Cross chapter to request an international search for unforgotten family members.
For many survivors, the search brings the solace of learning--after years of uncertainty--what happened to loved ones.
For some, it brings the miracle of a reunion.
Your search will begin when you contact your local Red Cross chapter, or by calling the American Red Cross Holocaust and War Victims Tracing Center at (410) 764-5311. Then, the Red Cross, through it's tracing center, accesses the extensive resources of the International Red Cross Movement, including the International Tracing Service, Red Cross societies throughout the world, Magen David Adom in Israel and hundreds of archives and museums.
Recently, additional war-era records have become available. Someone may be looking for you! If you submitted an inquiry before September 1990 about family missing during World War II in Europe or the former Soviet Union, please resubmit your tracing inquiry at your local Red Cross chapter.
Because of the complexity of the search and the enormous volume of requests being received, efforts may take a year or more. In about half of all cases some information is found, such as documentary confirmation of death or deportation. Almost miraculously, nearly 1,000 tracing requests have led to joyous reunions with loved ones located after half a century of separation.
There Is No Charge for This Service
All Red Cross programs are made possible by the voluntary services and financial support of the American people. Hundreds of dedicated volunteers work tirelessly to find the information that will bring resolution to each case and peace of mind to the waiting inquirer.
Whatever the results, you can depend on your local chapter caseworker to keep you informed of progress being made. Your search will be treated with the respect and compassion it deserves.
The American Red Cross Holocaust and War Victims Tracing Center is part of a national program for persons seeking the fates of loved ones missing since the end of WWII and the Holocaust and its aftermath. Opened September 24, 1990, the Center assists U.S. residents searching for proof of internment, forced/slave labor, or evacuation from former Soviet territories on themselves or family members. This documentation may be required for reparations.
While the American Red Cross has been providing tracing for victims of WWII and the Nazi regime since 1939, impetus for the creation of the center occurred in 1989 with the release of files on 130,000 people detained for forced labor and 46 death books containing 74,000 names from Auschwitz. Microfilm copies released to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) by the Soviet Union provided the single largest source of information since the end of WWII.
- All tracing services at the Holocaust and War Victims Tracing Center are confidential and free of charge.
- The American Red Cross pioneered a process with the ICRC's International Tracing Service in Arolsen, Germany, that results in expedited replies to searches.
- To facilitate tracing requests, the American Red Cross taps into the worldwide network of Red Cross and Red Crescent societies and the Magen David Adom in Israel or their equivalents, as well as consults museums, archives and international organizations.
- Cases remain open, and if new information becomes available, it is immediately shared with the inquirer.
- Inquiries are initiated through Red Cross chapters. The Center has sought the fate of more than 28,000 individuals missing since the Holocaust and WWII.
In September 2000, the Holocaust and War Victims Tracing Center will be celebrating its 10th Anniversary. In the last ten years, the Center, in cooperation with American Red Cross chapters across the country, has received more than 30,000 inquiries and helped more than 7,000 people learn the fate of their loved ones. For more than 1,000 people, their loved ones were found alive.
Location and family reunification
In a small but significant number of cases, tracing activities reveal that the person being sought has survived. Family members have been reunited with relatives they spent decades searching for.
Persons sought found alive: more than 1,000
In more than 7,000 cases, clients have received confirmation of death or deportation of family members. The deaths of people sent to the extermination camps were not recorded by the Nazis. While tragic for survivors and their families, this allows closure, an important part of the mourning process.
Reparations and pensions
The Red Cross can secure documentation regarding proof of forced labor, slave labor, forced evacuation from former Soviet territories or internment in concentration camps, required for submitting restitution claims.
Certifications of Internment: more than 1,000
1. An inquirer calls or visits his or her local Red Cross chapter and asks to complete a Red Cross Tracing Inquiry (Form 1609) for each sought person. All information provided on the form(s) remains confidential.
2. A chapter caseworker sends the completed Tracing Inquiry form(s) to the American Red Cross Holocaust and War Victims Tracing Center in Baltimore, Maryland. Each case is assigned a number and carefully evaluated.
3. In the search for information, the Center volunteers and staff correspond with museums, archives, organizations, and Red Cross and Red Crescent societies throughout the world as well as with the Magen David Adom in Israel.
4. As soon as the Center receives new case information, it is sent to the inquirer's local Red Cross chapter for prompt delivery to the inquirer.
5. The American Red Cross provides regular progress reports to the inquirer.
6. When a case is initiated through another Red Cross or Red Crescent society or the Magen David Adom in Israel, the Center coordinates with local Red Cross chapters to search for the sought person believed to reside in the United States. These searches can be extensive, as names and addresses listed on earlier records may have changed.
Holocaust and War Victims Tracing Center
4700 Mount Hope Drive
Baltimore, MD 21215-3231