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How to Document Victims and Locate Survivors of the Holocaust

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How to Document Victims and Locate Survivors of the Holocaust
by Gary Mokotoff
Copyright ©1995 by Gary Mokotoff
ISBN Number 0–9626373-8-6

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International Tracing Service Background
Immediately after World War II, when refugees were scattered throughout Europe, a common collection point of information about both survivors and victims evolved into what became the International Tracing Service (ITS). This was the first attempt to identify, in an orderly manner, the fate of the millions of persons, both Jewish and non-Jewish, who were displaced or killed during World War II. To this day, data is still being discovered and accumulated by ITS which is now part of the International Committee of the Red Cross. The service now has some 48 million pieces of information at their facilities in Arolsen, Germany.

The ITS maintains a master index of information relating to more than 14 million individuals. If the person was a survivor, an index card may exist from the time when the individual was in a refugee camp. It would show his name, age, place of birth, and possibly names of parents and where the person was at the time the information was recorded. When a refugee was relocated, another card would show the destination. From information acquired from death lists in cities and concentration camps, the index card would show the name of the individual, date of birth, place of birth, place of death and circumstances of death. There are also index cards created from inquiries by persons trying to determine the fate of friends or family.

Sample index card from the ITS collection. It identifies a person named Berek Mokotow whose name was found on a Dachau concentration camp document. Extracted from the Dachau register was his date and place of birth, his home address in Frankfurt, when he arrived at Dachau from Sachsenhausen concentration camp and when he died at Dachau.

How to Use These Records
There are three ways this information can be accessed, each with its own advantages and disadvantages. There is no charge for the use of the services or facilities of ITS, the Red Cross or Yad Vashem

  • Write to the ITS directly.
  • Use the Red Cross agency in your country
  • Use copies of ITS records located in the archives of Yad Vashem.

    Write directly. To write to the ITS directly, address your inquiry to International Tracing Service, Grosse Allee 5-9, 34444 Arolsen, Germany. The ITS will search only for specific individuals, and you must provide as much information as possible about the person. You must know the name of the individual, either the place of birth or town before the war, and an approximate age. If the name you are searching is reasonably unique, this should be sufficient for them to perform the search. If the name is common, you must provide additional information to identify the individual definitively. One major disadvantage of accessing ITS records by writing to them directly is the time it takes for a reply. It can take from six months to two years for them to determine whether they have information about an individual. Consequently, writing to ITS directly is the least desireable method of accessing their information.

    American Red Cross. [The description of the role played by the American Red Cross shown here is an update from the book and contains more accurate information--Author] If you live in the United States, a more rapid way of dealing with the ITS is through the American Red Cross (ARC). Their address is:
         American Red Cross
    Holocaust and War Crimes Tracing and Information Center
    Mount Hope Drive
    Baltimore, MD 21215
    Phone: (410) 764-5311
    Fax: (410) 764-7664
    E-mail: lklein@arc-cmc.org
    In 1990, ARC made special arrangements with ITS to act as an intermediary. There are a number of advantages to working through ARC. They will process your form immediately and reject it if they feel you have provided insufficient information about the person you are seeking. It can take as long as six months to get a comparable rejection letter for a request sent directly to ITS. The response time from ITS to ARC is faster because ARC constantly monitors its open inquiries. Another advantage is that ARC is part of an international network of Red Cross organizations and will contact its counterpart in another country if evidence indicates a survivor went to that country. If you would like general information about this service, which is performed at no charge, contact the Center in Baltimore. They will be happy to talk to potential inquirers to provide help through the process. Otherwise, go to the local Red Cross chapter in your area. If the local chapter claims they cannot process your inquiry, contact the national office for advice. This group can only process requests from inside the United States. If you do not live in the United States, contact the Red Cross in your country to place an inquiry.

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