A visitor to a Holocaust memorial exhibition in Berlin, June 6, 2010
A visitor to a Holocaust memorial exhibition in Berlin, June 6, 2010 Photo by Getty
Text size

International representatives governing a unique Holocaust-era archive are meeting in Brussels to pave the way for the vast collection of World War II-era documents to become a center for research and education.

Informal talks begin Tuesday, ahead of the annual meeting of the 11-member international commission that oversees the International Tracing Service archive, housed in this German spa town. The meeting is to lay a foundation for concrete agreements on the future of the collection, once the International Committee of the Red Cross withdraws from its management, which is to happen at the end of next year.

The ITS was established by the Western Allies in the final days of World War II to help uncover the fates of Holocaust victims, slave laborers, displaced persons and others who suffered under the Nazi regime. The Red Cross was brougèu in as a neutral organization to handle running what was originally only a tracing service.

In 2007, the international committee decided to allow scholars and researchers access to the documents, launching a period of transformation from a tracing service to an institution for research, information and education.

As part of that, copies of many of the documents have been made and circulated to member countries.

Use of and access to the documents, original and in copies, are among the key issues that must be agreed among the 11 member states.

Four years ago, the committee decided very specifically that it will have a unique legal status, the rules are that 25 years after creation of the documents they are open to the public, said Haim Gertner, director of the Yad Vashem archive in Israel which has assisted in ITS in recent years.

The main concern of the committee is how to continue that in years to come, Gertner said.

The commission members are Belgium, Germany, France, Greece, Great Britain, Israel, Italy, Luxemburg, the Netherlands, Poland and the U.S.