International Tracing Service in Bad Arolsen, Germany, is the agency to contact for documents on relatives who were victims of Germany’s national socialism. The wait time for a response is 2 years but the ITS online database has expanded to about 2 million documents.
Thankfully, this database can be easily searched in English. Since a German-based organization runs the database, there are important changes in spellings of names and places to remember.
The most common spelling changes are that many people with names spelled with v’s are changed to w’s and y’s are changed to j’s. This even happens to names of places such as Kyiv/Kiev (Kiew in German) and Kharkov/Kharkiv (Kharkow in German). Some documents don’t have these changes but these changes are important to note.
Here are some other important hints to find documents on relatives.
- If only one match or many matches appear, make sure to click on “more persons” on the right for more matches.
- Search for relatives using all known spellings of their names.
- If the last names are complicated to spell, consider searching by unique first names.
- Remember to consider all matches whose names are spelled the same or similar. If dates or places are off, double-check that information with relatives. Some victims and refugees lost their documents and traveled with fake or recreated documents and those documents were not always accurate.
- The database also can be searched by city/town/village. It is important to spell those places as they were written near the time of World War II. Research the places to see if their names have changed over time.
- The birth dates and event dates are provided in the European format of date.month.year.
- Naturally, there will be typos in the database so make sure to view the documents before eliminating results as matches.
- When nothing can be found, consider going through the database by the index of names. Have a list of possible name spellings to help find matches in the database.
Not everyone will find information and documents on their family but don’t be discouraged. Anyone can submit free requests for document searches here. Automated e-mail messages are sent when requests went through properly.
ITS sends responses to research requests by e-mail or postal mail. Make sure to check your spam and in boxes and provide a permanent postal address for your requests.
As time goes on, this database will be updated with even more documents. Follow this blog with the top right button to learn about the next major update and other important databases.
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