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Lending a Hand to Trace the Past
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Shilpika Das
February 4, 2008

Each day, tracing specialists at the American Red Cross Holocaust and War Victims Tracing Center work tirelessly to help families learn the fate of loved ones lost during the Holocaust and World War II.

Lending a Hand to Trace the Past
Tracking History
  • The International Tracing Service, in Bad Arolsen, Germany, is the single largest repository of original Nazi documents in the world.
  • All tracing services of the American Red Cross are confidential and provided at no charge.
  • The Tracing Center has access to hundreds of additional archives, museums, and organizations through the worldwide network of Red Cross and Red Crescent societies, including Magen David Adom in Israel.
  • The Baltimore-based tracing center has been working on behalf of Holocaust survivors since 1990 and has conducted more than 40,000 searches for family members sent to concentration and forced labor camps during the Holocaust or separated from their loved ones during the aftermath of the war. Linda Klein, director of the tracing center, estimates that more than 14,000 requests have been resolved so far and more than 1,300 people have been reunited with their relatives.
    A Valuable Resource
    These number are sure to increase with the world’s largest archive of war records in Bad Arolsen, Germany, recently opening its doors to the public. It will share digitized copies of documents – containing details of more than 17 million people who went through the concentration camp – with the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum and other institutions around the globe.
    “This has resulted in an extraordinary number of new requests to our Baltimore Tracing Center because it is currently the only agency in the United States with complete access to these valuable records – even those not yet digitized” says Klein. “This means that aging survivors need the services of the Holocaust and War Victims Tracing Center right now.”  
    Lending a hand
    Boosting the efforts of tracing specialists and volunteers working to provide closure to Holocaust survivors is a $75,000 grant, gifted by the Joseph and Harvey Meyerhoff Family Charitable Funds. “We appreciate this important work the American Red Cross is doing and it is a pleasure for us to be among your supporters,” says Terry M. Rubenstein, executive vice president, in a letter to the Tracing Center.
    The grant will go a long way in supporting the efforts of the center’s capital campaign. “With additional funds for the staff needed, we can, over the next three years resolve over 17,000 searches for survivors who have already asked for help and others who may come forward,” says Melanie Sabelhaus, member of the American Red Cross Board of Governors and Chairperson of the Philanthropy Committee who helped secure the grant.
    Finding solace with answers
    More than 60 years after World War II, many in the shrinking survivor community are still looking for answers. Tracing specialists are doubling their efforts, helping aging survivors find the peace that truth can bring – even if it means delivering sad news.
    “When someone’s family is suddenly taken away with no resolution, it causes the most extreme pain,” says Klein. “To actually find someone alive and reunite them with family is a miracle we all treasure.”
    The American Red Cross helps people prevent, prepare for and respond to emergencies. Last year, almost a million volunteers and 35,000 employees helped victims of almost 75,000 disasters; taught lifesaving skills to millions; and helped U.S. service members separated from their families stay connected. Almost 4 million people gave blood through the Red Cross, the largest supplier of blood and blood products in the United States. The American Red Cross is part of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement. An average of 91 cents of every dollar the Red Cross spends is invested in humanitarian services and programs. The Red Cross is not a government agency; it relies on donations of time, money, and blood to do its work.

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