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On the move!

Approximately 244 tons of documents were moved during the archive relocation. Until the new ITS archive is built, they will be stored in an interim storage area.

Moving all ITS documents from different locations under a single roof was a mammoth task. In just under six weeks, a specialist company transported 30 million original documents and more than 50 million reference cards to the newly established temporary storage facility. For decades, the documents themselves were the most important working material at the ITS. They provided information about the fates of individuals and the scale of the Nazis’ crimes. But now the archive has been almost completely digitized, and ITS employees use computers for their research. The working material has become archival material, and the entire archive has taken on the characteristics of a memorial. 

To preserve this memorial of paper, the temporary storage facility features modern, climate-controlled rooms. Experts from the German Federal Archives supported the ITS by offering advice on choosing and preparing these rooms. 

For the first time, all ITS collections have been brought together under one roof – and their incredible scope is impressive. These UNESCO Memory of the World documents are now waiting to be moved back to the historical site on Jahnstrasse, where a new archive building will be constructed. Funding for the new building in the amount of 5.082 million euros was approved by the German Ministry of Finance in 2017. 

The move and proper storage of the documents was a key issue in 2017. Preservation measures also played an important role, since decades of working with the irreplaceable originals every day had taken their toll on the collection.

  • Heart of the ITS has been relocated

    The Central Name Index is a good example of the effort it took to move the documents to the temporary storage facility. Prior to being digitized, this was the most important research tool and thus the heart of the ITS. The index cards – from around 29,000 open cartons – were repacked by a specialist company in closed, age-resistant archive boxes before being moved to the alternate storage facility. The team folded every single box, relabeled it and filled it with the contents of the old cartons. In the end, the Central Name Index alone amounted to around 51 tons of paper to be transported by the moving company. The volume of these documents is readily apparent in the temporary storage building: they take up 2,030 meters of shelving.

  • 56,000 files from the Child Search Branch restored

    The ITS needed to take urgent action on the files of the Child Search Branch, some of which were seriously worn. The complete restoration of these 56,000 files was made possible by a grant of 100,000 euros from the Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media. This funding came from the Commissioner’s special program in 2017 for preserving Germany’s written cultural heritage. These files, some of which include photographs, document the fates of thousands of children. After being restored and deacidified, the 428,000 sheets of paper in 1,078 folders were packed in conservation-standard archive boxes by the ITS. This project was chosen on the recommendation of the Advisory Board of the Coordination Center for the Preservation of Written Cultural Heritage (KEK).

  • Maps and site plans repaired and deacidified

    Another severely damaged collection of documents consisted of large-format site plans from concentration camps and maps showing the routes of death marches. The Coordination Center for the Preservation of Written Cultural Heritage chose this project for restoration. The Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media and the Cultural Foundation of the Federal States funded the restoration with a grant of 20,000 euros. Specialists repaired creases, tears and damage from adhesive tape or lamination, and they deacidified the paper to prevent any further decay. Some of the selected documents came from the SS administration offices of the concentration camps. The maps showing the routes of death marches, however, were drawn up by the ITS immediately after the war to document the fate of the prisoners and the last systematic crimes of the Nazis. Experts estimate that around 250,000 people were murdered on these death marches.

  • Administrative files: Digitize and archive

    The ITS has started preparing its own administrative files to be added to its archival collection. In order to be made public, the files must be more than 25 years old and not subject to data protection regulations. At the moment, these historical administrative documents exist only on paper; they are sorted by file period and not archivally described. Interviews are being conducted with long-standing ITS employees to preserve their knowledge of these administrative and management files. The next step will be to determine which documents are historically interesting and should be preserved in the archive. ITS employees are currently developing a concept for archiving the documents and adding keywords to the collection to make it easier to search. The next step will be to scan the documents and include them in the general inventory. The documents will then have to be prepared for long-term archiving and conservation-standard storage. Documents from the Allies, for example, are in a larger format and would crease easily in standard boxes. Special boxes are needed for these.