How Do I Make an Inquiry to an Archive?
Basic information can often be found through your own research. However, not all holdings of archives, museums, and memorial sites are accessible online due to privacy protection. In this case, it is advisable to submit an inquiry to an archive.
1. How Can Archivists Help?
Employees at archives and memorial sites often have access to additional holdings. Due to their experience in clarifying what has happened to prisoners, they can place documents in their historical context and explain the connections. If your own research has reached a dead end, they often have tips about how further research can be accomplished.
2. To Whom Do I Address My Inquiry?
If you know in which concentration camp the person you are seeking was imprisoned, it is recommended that you place your inquiry to the respective memorial site. It’s usually possible to submit archive inquiries directly on the respective websites.
At the Bergen-Belsen Memorial, the Research & Documentation department is responsible for handling inquiries.
On the website of the Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial Site, the archives field questions about prisoners, members of the SS, and overarching themes via a contact form.
The Flossenbürg Concentration Camp Memorial has been operating its online Memorial Archives database since 2012, which can also be used to research prisoners at other concentration camps. Inquiries about prisoners of the Flossenbürg concentration camp can be made directly to the archives in the database. The memorial’s website additionally has a digital Book of the Dead, which can be used to independently research prisoners who died in the camp.
The Mauthausen Memorial offers an online database with an overview of the collection’s holdings, which requires registration for use. There is also the possibility to search for people who died or were murdered in the camp in the Room of Names, a digital memorial book. An online form is also available for inquiries.
The Mittelbau-Dora Concentration Camp Memorial has an online Book of the Dead, which can be searched for people who died or were murdered there. Archive inquiries can be made via a contact form. The memorial’s Documentation Center additionally offers a digital index (in German) as well as a photo database.
3. The Arolsen Archives
If you don’t know where the person you are looking for was imprisoned, we recommend that you contact the Arolsen Archives. Founded during the post-war years, until 2019 the institution was known as the International Tracing Service. With more than 30 million documents and records on around 17.5 million people, it is the largest archive on victims of the Nazi dictatorship. Bad Arolsen is also home to all the remaining original documents from the concentration camps.
A large part of the holdings can now be viewed in its online archives. Since not all documents can be made public and the employees often have further information, a written request can still be useful. This is possible via the inquiry form.
4. What Should I Include in My Archive Inquiry?
So that the inquiry can be processed by the archive staff, it should contain enough information about the person you are searching for. Often there are prisoners with the same name, so the date of birth, place of birth, and/or the last known address are helpful in order to narrow down the search. Sometimes an alternate spelling of the name, or a nickname can also assist in locating the correct person in the database.
Is there anything already known about the entire period of and lead-up to the person's imprisonment? Families often pass down stories about how relatives were arrested and in which camps they were imprisoned. If you have already found documents during your research, scans of these can be sent along with the inquiry.