Over 13 million documents released online to ‘bear testimony’ to Nazi persecution

By Rosemary Collins, 22 May 2019 - 11:17am

The International Tracing Service has changed its name to the Arolsen Archives as it releases millions of concentration camp victim records online

The arrival of Hungarian Jews in Auschwitz-Birkenau, 1944
The arrival of Hungarian Jews in Auschwitz-Birkenau, June 1944 (Credit: Galerie Bilderwelt/Getty)

The Arolsen Archives, formerly known as the International Tracing Service, has announced a name change and the online release of over 13 million records of victims of Nazi persecution.

The free database consists of records from Second World War concentration camps, including prisoner cards and death notices.

In total, they contain the names of over 2.2 million victims from across Europe.

“Our archive bears testimony to the atrocities perpetrated by the National Socialists,” Floriane Azoulay, director of the Arolsen Archives, said.

“Soon there won’t be any survivors left to tell us about them.

“That is why it is so important that the original documents can speak to coming generations in their place.”

Arolsen Archives records
The Arolsen Archives database includes concentration camp prisoner cards

The Arolsen Archives was founded by the British Red Cross in 1944 under the name Central Tracing Bureau, in order to register and find missing persons.

After the war, it established its headquarters in Bad Arolsen in Germany.

It changed its name to the International Tracing Service in 1948.

It holds over 30 million documents, with records of 17.5 million people, which are listed on the UNESCO Memory of the World Register.

It is one of the major resources for tracing Jewish people, other minority groups, political dissidents and foreign forced labourers who were imprisoned or killed by Germany's Nazi regime between 1933 and 1945.

In addition to changing its name to Arolsen Archives – International Centre on Nazi Persecution, it has launched the online archive and a new website, intended “to reach out to a larger audience and inform more people about the consequences of anti-Semitism, discrimination and racism”.

The concentration camp database was developed in partnership with Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Remembrance Centre, which provided the technology for fast data management and extended place and name search.

The Arolsen Archives now plans to improve the searchability of the site, including by using text recognition methods, and to release more of its collections online in the future.

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