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It even has a carbon copy of Schindler’s List, the 1,000 Jewish workers saved by German industrialist Oskar Schindler.
The Nazis’ meticulous record-keeping stopped only when Jews and other victims were herded into gas chambers.
“At death camps like Sobibor or Auschwitz, only natural causes of death are recorded - heart failure or pneumonia,” said spokeswoman, Kathrin Flor. “There’s no mention of gassing. The last evidence of many lives is the transport to the camp.”
The ITS still receives 12,000 enquiries a month and reunites up to 50 families a year, even though the number of Holocaust survivors is dwindling. This tracing work will continue.
Most enquiries come from Russia and Eastern Europe and Boehling welcomes the new phenomenon of grandchildren and great grandchildren, who have more emotional distance from the war, wanting to find out the fates of their relatives.
One major ongoing task is the digitalisation of records which will make it easier for outsiders to carry out keyword searches which had previously been impossible as everything was done in-house with a filing system based on name cards.
Despite its remote location, Boehling says the archive won’t be moved. It has become a something of a memorial for Holocaust survivors, like former Auschwitz inmate Thomas Buergenthal who visited the centre in 2012 after getting new information on where his father had perished.
Buergenthal, who escaped Nazi shooting squads, Auschwitz gas chambers and a death march before he was 12, was found by his mother in a Polish orphanage in 1947 through the Red Cross.
“This is my hallowed ground,” Buergenthal, 78, told Reuters from his U.S. home.
“These documents are more important for the future than for the past. They will be the common heritage of mankind of what really happened during that period. (They are) what we need to prevent it happening elsewhere in the world.”