HIGHLAND PARK, Ill. — As the remaining survivors of the Holocaust diminish every day, family members of those victims grow increasingly desperate for answers. For many, a previously sealed data base is their last hope.
For decades, nearly 200 million documents from the Holocaust remained under seal in Europe. That changed in 2007 when the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum was granted full access to the collection.
Today, it is their mission to give survivors and victim’s families the answers they have been searching for.
Finding loved one’s documents in the collection is complicated, which is why it is conducted under the guidance of full-time researchers.
Families looking for answers to what happened to their loved ones that were killed, enslaved or persecuted is done by putting their names and any relevant information into the massive International Tracing System database. Most of those with inquires, find answers that were buried for decades.
“It was just incredible,” said Rita Mathias. “We gave the name of my father in law and the first thing that we saw was a document from Buchenwald Concentration Camp, proving that he was there.”
Chief Researcher for the museum’s International Tracing System, Diane Afoumado, said the data base may contain information about millions but it’s really about individuals.
“It’s always very emotional for the families looking for answers. It’s hard not to be overcome with emotion upon seeing a signature or the last photo of a father or mother. It’s not a job. It’s a passion. Because we know that looking at a document we might bring closure to someone and that in itself is a remarkable thing.”
For more information on how to make an inquiry through the United States Memorial Museum’s International Tracing System, log on to their website.