American Red Cross Marks Twenty Years of Helping Holocaust Survivors Reconnect

Center has reconnected 1,600 families separated by Second World War

WASHINGTON, September 23, 2010 — The American Red Cross Holocaust and War Victims Tracing Center on Friday will commemorate two decades of providing essential answers to survivors and their families about loves ones who have been missing since the Second World War.

“The need to know what happened to a parent, sibling or child who vanished without a trace never goes away,” said Gail McGovern, president and CEO with the American Red Cross.  “More than 60 years since the liberation, many families are still searching for answers and struggling to understand.”

At a time when Nazi and Soviet records were first beginning to surface, a small group of American Red Cross volunteers had the vision to open a national clearinghouse dedicated to gaining access to archives and learning the fates of the missing.

The American Red Cross Holocaust and War Victims Tracing Center opened its doors for the first time in Baltimore on September 24, 1990. In the 20 years since, thousands of people have turned to the Red Cross for information about loved ones lost during this tragic period.

“For the families, every answer is a gift,” said McGovern. “People of Jewish faith, for example, give great significance to the date of a person’s death—for it is on the anniversary of death that loved ones light candles in their memory.  Even when the exact date cannot be found, often the date a relative was taken to a concentration camp or ghetto is enough to provide solace.”

In tribute to the compassionate and committed volunteers who have processed more than 43,000 requests for information and documentation from survivors and in turn eased their suffering, a celebration luncheon will take place on Monday, September 27 during the center’s annual meeting in Baltimore.

“Many of these volunteers helped find people alive after half a century—people thought to be missing or dead,” said McGovern. “For the more than 1,600 families brought together through the work of the center, this information is priceless and life-changing.”

Tracing activities are offered at no cost for survivors and their families so they can obtain information, resolution and, in some cases, documentation that will help them secure reparations.

 After receiving a request, the center will research the fate of the missing by consulting the global Red Cross Red Crescent network as well as various archives, museums and partner organizations throughout the world. The International Tracing Service of Arolsen, Germany, which contains more than 47 million Nazi documentation records, proves to be an invaluable resource for the center’s work.

More information on the Holocaust and War Victims Tracing Center can be found at local Red Cross chapters or at www.redcross.org/services/intl/holotrace/.

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