Founded two years after the end of World War II, the International Tracing Service (ITS) located in Arolsen, Germany has been operated by the International Committee of the Red Cross since 1955.

The ITS deals exclusively with information concerning civilian victims of Nazism in Germany and in territories occupied by the Third Reich. Their focus is on people who were separated from their families between 1933-1952 and whose whereabouts are unknown or whose deaths have not been confirmed.

The records archived at Arolsen consist of captured concentration camps records, hospital and infirmary records, transport lists, forced labor records, prison lists, names of persons who were in displaced persons camps and other related information. It is from the displaced persons list that I hoped to learn more about my Uncle Laibel and his family.

Through ITS, the American Red Cross also has access to death books, certificates, and lists containing hundreds of thousands of new names of victims imprisoned by the Third Reich. In addition the International Tracing Service contains documentary proof of persecution of Holocaust Victims in the form of certificates and excerpts from documents with which claims for reparations or old age pensions can be substantiated.

If documentation exists in the files at International Tracing Service, the information is then forwarded to the Holocaust and War Victims Tracing and Information Center of the Red Cross chapter.


In an unprecedented act, the USSR opened their World War II archives to the International Committee of the Red Cross and permitted microfilming of records recovered during the liberation of Nazi concentration camps.

The American Red Cross now has access to new information from Russia never before available. These records include the names of 400,000 persons who were interned in concentration camps, were forced laborers in various German firms or who died in Auschwitz.

At the International Tracing Service (ITS), there are 46 million documents, relating to 14 million people. For the first time, family members might be able to find out what happened to their relatives. The information contained in the documents is also extremely valuable in humanitarian terms in that it may provide the only information or clue as to a relatives' fate.

In September 1992, I submitted a request for information on ZIPPORA (FAGEL) Ajzenberg BERNSTEIN, my aunt. The request was reviewed, translated into German and forwarded to Arolsen where the files are kept. I have been told that, at minimum, there will be a two-year wait for any response.

Ironically, the Red Cross that has done so much in helping Holocaust survivors has recently apologized[1] about their behavior during the Holocaust. In October 1997, at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem, while handing over 60,000 pages of World War II–era documents, the International Red Cross director of archives, acknowledged an organizational “moral failure” in keeping silent while the Nazis murdered 6 million Jews. This was by far the Red Crosses most explicit acknowledgement that it could and should have done more

[1] Boston Globe October 8, 1997 Associated Press article "International Red Cross apologizes over Holocaust."

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