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The e-Guide of the International Tracing Service (ITS)

Since the end of the Second World War, the International Tracing Service (ITS) has kept documents of concentration camp inmates, displaced persons and forced laborers. Through the acquisition of documents - ie the acquisition of original maps and the copying of stocks from other archives and memorials - the archive continued to grow. On the basis of 30 million documents, today information can be given to 17.5 million people. Some of these maps, forms, and files are easier to understand than others. Some documents are not self-explanatory. For understanding in these cases, background knowledge is needed - and the e-guide should help.

Please note that the e-Guide has been designed for use on PCs, laptops and tablets. It can be viewed on smart phones as well, but not all of the features will be available. We therefore recommend exploring the e-Guide on a PC.

The e-Guide explains the context in which the documents in the ITS archive were created. It focuses on what are known as individual documents, which are file cards and forms that were produced for a single person. Unlike most lists, these documents are often not easy to understand by themselves. On the basis of five key questions, the e-Guide describes who used the respective cards and forms when, why and how. Interactive elements on the example documents explain individual sections, abbreviations and symbols. Links to a variety of other background information are also provided. Users can therefore decide for themselves how deep they want to go and which parts of the documents they want to have explained.

Although the collections in the ITS archive are very extensive, by far not all documents for all people persecuted by the Nazis have been preserved. Many documents were destroyed by bombing or fire during the war, and at the end of the war they were often deliberately destroyed or suppressed. There are always gaps in the records that have been preserved, which makes it all the more important to understand the existing documents as thoroughly as possible. Unfortunately, some documents include notes, abbreviations and stamps that even long-term ITS employees and experts from other archives and memorials have not yet been able to decrypt. But the e-Guide should grow as new insights are gained. Therefore, if you think a document description is missing or have any other comments, please contact us at eguide(at)its-arolsen.org – your knowledge can help enrich the e-Guide.

Unfortunately, it was not possible to translate every single German term in the documents for the English version of the e-Guide. The document explanations may still be of use, though, since they offer a basic overview of what kind of information was included on the cards. The German documents from the ITS archive that describe the context in which a card was created are also explained in English.