In 2009, the National Archives of Belgium received a digital copy of the archives of the International Tracing Service (ITS) in Bad Arolsen, Germany. Since September 2011, this copy is fully implemented in the State Archives databases.
Over 80 million digital images stored on some six terabytes can be accessed on demand by researchers or persecution victims and their relatives in the reading room of the National Archives of Belgium in Brussels.
The images concern work, concentration and extermination camps (about 18 million images), the central name list of the ITS (about 42 million images), the registration cards of displaced persons (about 7 million images) and documents on forced labour (about 13 million images).
These digital documents can be used for historical or genealogical research.
Beside Germany, Belgium is the only European country that provides a digital access, under certain conditions, to the ITS archives.
A search in practice
- Given the size of the digital copy of the ITS archives, the processing of research requests takes several hours to several days. Indeed, due to the complex structure of the database, the personnel of the State Archives must carry out preliminary research in order to provide correct answers to the inquiries it receives.
- For a smooth processing of the request, researchers, persecution victims and their relatives must fill in an access request form enabling the collection of the necessary data for a successful research.
- The request form must be sent by e-mail to researchWW2@arch.be or per postal letter to the National Archives of Belgium – Section 5, Rue de Ruysbroeck 2 in 1000 Brussels.
- If the research bears on data related to the privacy of persons and personal data, the researcher must provide a proof of kinship.
- Each request will be answered within two weeks. However, despite its impressive volume, the data base is not exhaustive. It does not contain any information about some deported. In general, half of all research is successful.
- If the database indeed contains information about the searched person, researchers can fix an appointment for consultation of the digital archive documents in the reading room of the National Archives in Brussel.
- For the consultation of a limited number of digital documents in the context of genealogical research, the requested documents are selected in advance from a list and can be viewed on screen in the reading room after the researcher has logged into the system with his or her user name and password.
- An appointment must also be made for general thematic research in the reading room, but in this case the researcher will be given access to the whole digital document series.
- The National Archives commits itself to giving each researcher an appointment within a reasonable period. Researchers may be assisted by an archivist if necessary.
- By signing the request form, the undersigned (researcher, persecution victim, relatives) commits himself or herself to abiding by the privacy laws in force. Non-observance of the legal provisions can lead to legal action. Reproductions of digital documents are subject to the applicable tariffs as fixed by the Ministerial Decree of 25 May 2009.