Jan Meisels Allen
The Arolsen Archives has made additions to their archive. In mid-December they acquired the collection of materials by journalist and author Dorothee Schmitz-Köster. The SS founded the “Lebensborn” association (English: Fountain of Life) on December 12, 1935, as an instrument of its race and population policy. The Nazi regime set up maternity homes in Germany and in occupied countries in northern and western Europe to provide pregnant women with support. The only proviso was that the expectant mothers themselves, the fathers, and the unborn children had to be deemed “racially and genetically valuable.” This is expected to be put online in the future.
The 529 files held by the Arolsen Archives represent a large proportion of the surviving original documents on the “Lebensborn” association. They include the association’s statutes signed by Heinrich Himmler. In the early years following the end of the war, the International Tracing Service (ITS, now Arolsen Archives) used the documents to try to clarify the fate of non-German children who had been forcibly Germanized by the Nazis. Various Nazi organizations – including the Lebensborn – had torn tens of thousands of girls and boys from their homes, falsified their identities, and forced them to learn German. They then transported the children to Germany to place them with German adoptive parents as “orphans.” Thanks to the efforts of the ITS, the fates of some of these children could be clarified.
The #everynamecounts project (crowds sourcing) was launched one year ago. More than 10 000 volunteers have registered with the project and are helping Arolsen to enter the data of Nazi persecutees into our database. Data from more than 2.5 million documents have already been transcribed. aim is to finish linking the names to all the documents in the archive by 2025. It should be possible to find every single name that is on a document in the Arolsen Archives with a simple online search!
The Arolsen Archives upload selected documents and ask volunteers to transcribe various pieces of information. The names and the dates of birth are the most important pieces of information, of course. But a person’s prisoner category, their last address, and their profession are important too, as this information can be used later to reconstruct the fates both of individuals and of larger groups.
Many documents also list the names of the prisoners’ parents, for example. In the case of Jewish people in particular, we can assume that their parents were persecuted too, although the names of the parents may not be mentioned in any other documents.
The project is freely accessible in English and German. On January 27 Arolsen plans to launch an international campaign. The project is going to be translated into more languages to make this possible.
To read more about this project see:
Jan Meisels Allen
Chairperson, IAJGS Public Records Access Monitoring Committee