Nu? What's New?
The E-zine of Jewish Genealogy From Avotaynu

Gary Mokotoff, Editor

Volume 8, Number 21 | November 4, 2007

Special Edition

France and Greece Ratify Public Access to ITS Records
Peter Landé reports that the French and Greek parliaments have ratified the agreement that will allow public access to the records of the International Tracing Service. They were the last two of the eleven countries who had to ratify the agreement. There are still some administrative actions required for formal approval, but for practical purposes, ratification is completed.

The holdings of the International Tracing Service, located in Bad Arolsen, Germany, are one of the most valuable sources of information about the fate of people, both victims and survivors, caught up in the Holocaust. Their records place an individual at a specific place and time during the Holocaust period. Their sources, to name a few, are deportation lists, concentration camp death lists, ghetto records and post-war refugee records.


The Treasure Trove in Bad Arolsen
I tell people, “I know I am getting old because I am getting wise.” For the first 50 years of my life, when I had a gut feeling about something, I kept it to myself. Lately, I have been speaking out about my gut feelings because I have found I am invariably right.

As an example, some years ago, there was the Benjamin Wilkomirski incident. Wilkomerski wrote a book in which he claimed he was a child survivor of the Holocaust. The book was so well written that it won awards, and Wilkomerski was idolized within the Jewish community. I read the book a few weeks after he was given the Outstanding Memoir Book Award of the National Jewish Book Council and, after putting it down, I wrote a letter to the president of the Book Council that stated in part “Put this letter in your Hold file. I must tell you that after reading Wilkomirski's book, the facts surrounding his survival do not add up; the book might be historical fiction rather than fact.” That was in 1996. Two years later, the book was declared a fraud.

Nu? What’s New? readers. Put this edition in your Hold file. I predict that public access to the records at the International Tracing Service (ITS) will disclose substantial documentation previously unknown to the world about what happened to individuals during the Holocaust. I will further predict that the principal discoverers of the scope of the Bad Arolsen records will be the genealogical community.

Think about how ITS has operated in the past. Their methodology has been, “We will not tell you what we have. You tell us what you need, and we will tell you if we have it.” Now that the records are being made public, thousands of people will descend on the facilities that have these records—currently U.S. Holocaust Museum, Yad Vashem and ITS itself—to find out the fate of relatives. I predict that the principal users of these records will be genealogists. Virtually all Jewish genealogists have had members of their family murdered in the Holocaust. Genealogists feel an obligation to document who these people were, what lives they led, and their fate. An attempt was made to eradicate the fact that they ever existed. Family histories that contain these names are memorials to the victims, demonstrating that they once lived.

Three attributes of genealogists are:
     * They will leave no stone unturned in their quest to find documentation of their family.
     * They are compulsive browsers. They think nothing about cranking microfilms for hours in the hope of discovering a scrap of evidence about their families.
     * When they discover something unusual, they share it with other genealogists.

As genealogists use the ITS records and discover documentation previously unknown to the world, they will share it with other genealogists and members of the public.

Sallyann Sack and I feel so strongly about the value of public access to the ITS records that we plan to visit Bad Arolsen, probably in December,  to rummage around and see exactly what is there. We will report back to AVOTAYNU readers what we find.


Shipping New Book: The Plaut Family: Tracing the Legacy
Avotaynu has begun shipping copies of The Plaut Family: Tracing the Legacy to purchasers. The book is the result of a 40-year effort by the late Elizabeth Strauss Plaut to document all Jewish families named Plaut. The family trees are organized by town of ancestry, all in Germany: Bodenteich, Bovenden, Falkenberg, Frankershausen, Frielendorf, Geisa, Gudensberg, Guxhagen, Melsungen, Obervorschuetz, Ottrau, Rauschenberg, Reichensachsen, Rotenburg, Schmalkalden, Wehrda, Willingshausen.

Additional information about the book including a sample tree and index to all names that appear in the book can be found at http://www.avotaynu.com/books/Plaut.htm.