After more than 60 years the largest archives containing records of the Nazis have been opened to the public. The International Tracing Service (ITS), located in Bad Arolson, Germany, contains over 50 million records related to the persecution and Endlösung of the more than 17 million people who went through the concentration camp and slave labour system.
The origins of the ITS go back to 1943 with the founding of the Tracing Bureau, charged with the task of tracing and registering missing persons. In 1947, the International Refugee Organization (IRO) took over the Central Tracing Bureau (the "Central" was added in 1944) and gave it its current name. "While preparations were being made in 1954 to revoke Germany’s status as occupied territory, steps were taken to ensure the continued existence of the ITS. The service was to remain under the umbrella of an international commission and would be managed by an entirely neutral institution, the ICRC (International Committee of the Red Cross) in Geneva."
The archives are under the control of the ITS International Commission, comprised of 11 countries (Belgium, France, Germany, Greece, Israel, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Poland, United Kingdom, United States of America), which supervises its work since 1955. Up until now the main objective of the ITS was helping people find what they call DP's (Displaced Persons). The members of the International Commission have now agreed to open up the archives in order to promote historical research, within limitations concerning privacy issues. It is not expected that these records will provide new insights in our understanding of the history of the Holocaust, but it will deepen our knowledge. It will help us to keep the memory alive of the human suffering caused by the delusion of a small group of individuals.
Recently the Simon Wiesenthal Center has launched Operation Last Chance, the final effort to hunt down and capture Nazi war criminals. The campaign offers € 10,000 ($13,000) rewards for information leading to prosecution. It is sometimes very difficult to actually convict someone, because of a lack of good evidence. Maybe the ITS archives can be of assistance here.