What is the Arolsen Archive?
The Arolsen Archive is an institution that has been serving as a source of information on the victims of Nazi activities since 1952. The beginning of actual activity can be dated to the time when, under the Bonn Agreement (1955), the International Commission was established, which currently includes 11 countries (Belgium, France, Germany, Greece, Israel, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands , Poland, United Kingdom, United States). Another act against the Arolsen Archives was the 2011 Berlin Agreement replacing the Bonn Agreement. It regulated, for example, issues related to the method of financing institutions.
The archives have so far collected over 30 million documents, personal cards and lists of Holocaust victims, concentration camp prisoners, foreign forced laborers and survivors. Moreover, according to the official website of the Archives, it is currently in the possession of over three million files containing correspondence on the fate of individual victims of Nazi persecution. The original documents from the local collections were entered on the UNESCO "Memory of the World" list in 2013. When it comes to the systematics of archival resources, it should be noted here that the collections are divided thematically into 3 groups. Information about former prisoners can be found in the collections on concentration camps, extermination camps, ghettos and Gestapo prisons. Data on forced laborers are contained in labor books and registration cards. Information about the liberated Survivors, referred to by the Allies as Displaced Persons, was also devoted to a separate collection.
In the initial phase of its operation, the Arolsen Archive dealt with searching and collecting all documentation related to the victims of Nazi crimes. In the 1950s, the collections were based solely on questionnaires in which former prisoners provided information to the International Tracing Service (ITS) about little-known places of detention. Questionnaires were sent to communes and former prisoners to document the so-called Death marches, which many concentration camp prisoners were forced to make. Today, the archives seem to tell about nearly 17.5 million people, and the present day has forced employees to digitize the collected resources (started in 1998). Therefore, you can get acquainted with the Archives' collections online at https://collections.arolsen-archives.org/en/search .
"Let this archive, which is intended to compensate the victims and their families, be a warning to all future generations not to allow similar misfortunes again." This quote comes from a letter of intent, written in three languages, embedded in the main building of the Arolsen Archives on the day of its opening, i.e. August 20, 1952. It seems that it fully reflects the character and spirit of the institution which, apart from being a huge base of historical information, also serves as a symbolic place to commemorate those murdered during the Nazi regime.