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International Tracing Service

INTERNATIONAL TRACING SERVICE, founded in 1945 in Arolsen, German Federal Republic, by the Supreme Headquarters, Allied Expeditionary Forces. Since 1955 it has been directed by the International Committee of the Red Cross in Geneva, though financed by the German Federal Republic. The archives contain nominal records of inmates of German concentration camps from 1933 to 1945, of foreigners who worked in Germany during World War II, and of *Displaced Persons in Western Europe immediately after the war. There are approximately 2,500,000 pages of lists and 8,000,000 individual records. New documents are continually acquired. There is a master index of 28,000,000 reference cards for the records, which are classified exclusively for the checking of individual cases. Excerpts from documents are established according to subject matter, such as deportation, detention in concentration camps, or death in such a camp. Since 1955 a staff of more than 200 persons has answered about 150,000 inquiries annually. The service has published a Catalogue of Camps and Prisons in Germany and German-occupied Territories, 19391945 (2 vols. and supplement, 1949–51), and official documents of a general character referring to concentration camps were collected for a revised edition of which a first volume was published in 1969 in German under the title Vorlaeufiges Verzeichnis der Konzentrationslager und de ren Aussenkommandos sowie anderer Haftstaetten unter dem Reichsfuehrer-SS in Deutschland und deutsch besetzten Gebie ten 19331945 ("Preliminary Register of Concentration Camps and their Commandos and of other places of detention under the control of the Reichsfuehrer-SS in Germany and German-occupied territories"). With the passage of time, tracing represents a small percentage of the activities of the ITS, whose main task is to assemble, classify, and evaluate records about prisoners of the concentration camps and other places of detention, Jews who were deported, foreigners who were in the territory of the Reich, displaced persons under the care of international relief organizations, and children who were separated from their parents due to the war.

In 1990 the American Red Cross opened the Holocaust and War Victims Tracing Center after the release of files on 130,000 people detained for forced labor and 46 death books containing 74,000 names from Auschwitz. It provides tracing services free of charge and expedites requests to the ICRC's International Tracing Services in Arolsen, Germany. As of 2005 it had received more than 30,000 inquiries and had confirmed 7,000 deaths and found 1,000 persons still alive, thus facilitating family reunification.


J. Robinson and P. Friedman (eds.), Guide to the Jewish History Under Nazi Impact (1960), 140–2.

Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2007 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.