As time goes on, the number of Holocaust survivors is dwindling. In their aging years, survivors want to research their pasts by obtaining records of the Holocaust which have been collected and preserved over the years. In 2006, these records were made public after years of survivors’ efforts to obtain them. However, what they have found is that the records are still tightly kept and poorly organized, making them no better off now than they were a year ago.

After the records were opened in May 2006, about 425,000 requests from survivors poured in to access their files. However, some tight rules have been implemented that keep their requests from being fulfilled. The collection was started by the Red Cross after World War II and is over 17 miles long. The papers sit on shelves in Bad Arolsen, Germany, a small town that is extremely difficult for many survivors to get to. The files contained are priceless with information from Holocaust celebrities like Anne Frank and Oskar Schindler to details of unknown victims recording head lice, house sizes, and lists of murdered prisoners. There are also deportation records, imprisonments, slave labor assignments, and displaced person camps established after the war.

The International Trading Service runs the archive. The group was formed after the war to help surviving family members reconnect and inform them of the deceased. Since Bad Arolsen has opened, people have had difficulty receiving the files they have requested by mail, by internet, or by phone.

Steps are now being taken to ratify changes to this policy. France and Italy are the last two countries of the 11 to ratify it by the end of the year. As late as early 2008, the changes will allow for digital copies to be made and circulated around the world. One of each copy will also be made available at the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C.

So far, under 40 percent of the collection has been indexed in its computer database even though 70 percent has been scanned. Most of the available records are from concentration camps searchable through a database available only at the museum. There will also be a hot line that survivors can use to request that archivists look up records and send free photocopies to the survivors and their families. Some survivors are upset that the museum is not making the archive available for public search on the Internet. However, these changes will be a great improvement on their own.

For related articles visit http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/07196/801821-82.stm and http://www.usnews.com/usnews/news/articles/070513/21archives_3.htm

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