28 November 2007

Arolsen: Yad Vashem statement, updates

Yad Vashem's chairman Avner Shalev just issued the following statement on the opening of the International Tracing Service archives in Bad Arolsen:

The opening of the ITS archive is a significant step forward. This represents a breakthrough to bring information and documents to survivors and others. Our understanding and knowledge of the personal story of the Holocaust will be deepened. All the resources and expertise of Yad Vashem will be dedicated to ensuring that survivors, their families, scholars and students, receive the information in the most comprehensive manner. Our staff is already providing copies of original documents from the ITS to survivors and their families.

A special team at Yad Vashem has begun working with the ITS material, based on 50 years of experience working with ITS documents, some of which have been located at Yad Vashem since the 1950s. In addition, new personnel will soon be added to assist with public and survivor inquiries - some 25,000 of which are handled annually -drawing upon the new ITS material, the ITS documents that have been at Yad Vashem, and the other material among the 75 million pages of documentation housed in the Yad Vashem Archives.

Yad Vashem has a team that is combing through the ITS material that we receive, to recover more names and enrich Yad Vashem's Central Database of Shoah Victims' Names, which currently contains over 3.3 million names of Jews murdered in the Shoah."

Yad Vashem updates will be found here.

The Associated Press updated its earlier story. Some additions:

- The archive plans a summer 2008 scholar's conference to map unexplored contents.

- New staff will be hired by the Tracing Service, the Washington museum and Yad Vashem to help.

- Bad Arolsen opened a computer-equipped visitors room to enable searches of scanned files.

- The archive has never been organized by a historian or a professionally trained archivist, while the main database has 50 million name entries which are often duplicated in variant spellings.

- The Associated Press, during several visits, saw the Netherlands deportee list to Auschwitz (including Anne Frank), the list of Oskar Schindler's employees, medical records counting the number of lice on prisoners' heads, and the list of Neuengamme labor camp inmates - evacuated by the Nazis - who died on prisoner boats bombed mistakenly by the British Air Force.

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