Family members, scholars, journalists, hobby researchers, sometimes even the survivors themselves: Every year, thousands of people from all over the world contact the Arolsen Archives to learn more about the fates of victims of Nazi persecution. Our most important tasks after the war were search work and the clarification of fates, and these are still our foremost tasks today. The requirements for this work are empathy, interest for history, command of foreign languages and staying power.

We send the inquirers copies of the documents on file in the archive. But the processing of the inquiries also involves giving pointers on where else it might be worthwhile to ask for information and inviting family members to come to Bad Arolsen to study the documents in the original. Our employees then guide them through the fate of their relatives, explain the documents and provide contextual information about the system of Nazi persecution, forced labor or everyday life in the concentration camps. This service does not only apply to relatives: we also do research for hobby researchers, historians, journalists and anyone interested in Nazi persecution. Of course, everyone can do their own research on-site at the Arolsen Archives and will receive comprehensive advice and support from our employees.

Research on-site at the Arolsen Archives.


Paths of persecution

Many of the victims were persecuted for years, arrested multiple times, and deported to various locations. Nazi terror sometimes took these people all over Europe. The perpetrators kept meticulous records of the deportations, the committals to the concentration camps, and the illnesses and deaths suffered there. These records have not survived from all of the camps, but the Allies managed to seize large quantities of documents at the time of the liberation. The collection was systematically expanded to make as much information as possible available from a single place.

Criss-crossing all over Europe: the paths of surviving forced laborers and concentration camp inmates who emigrated to the United Kingdom from 1945 onward.

As a result, the Arolsen Archives staff are able to provide information in somewhat over 50 percent of the cases. Sometimes they only have fragmentary information to offer; other times it proves possible to reconstruct a victim’s persecution history in its entirety, from initial arrest to death or liberation. In many cases, however, the names of the victims have not come down to us. That is because, in the extermination camps and in the context of the mass shootings in Eastern Europe, the murderers no longer went to the trouble of recording the people’s names.

Tracing Individual Fates

“It’s not work, it’s a mission.”

Malgorzata Przybyla has been working for the Arolsen Archives since 1992. She has worked on hundreds of inquiries, primarily from Poland. She sees her work as a matter of the heart that presents her with ever new challenges: The questions younger generations ask about Nazi persecution are entirely different from those of their grandparents. Digitalization has changed a lot. And every search brings to light individual fates that in turn testify to the impact of National Socialism on people throughout Europe.

Active research and outreach

As a documentation center with the world’s largest archive on the victims and survivors of National Socialism, the Arolsen Archives today have many new tasks. Some of our employees carry out extensive topic research for scientists or journalists or actively work to present the topic of Nazi persecution effectively in the public. We are also advancing the clarification of the millions of fates that no one has asked about yet – for example with our #StolenMemory campaign or the search calls that we launch on our website and via social media.

Three Women, Three Generations

After his liberation from the Dachau concentration camp, Mirjam’s grandfather Abraham emigrated to Israel without his wife and daughter. His German granddaughter wanted to find out more about him and asked the Arolsen Archives for help. Abraham’s fate, which took him through various concentration camps over the course of many years, proved to be well documented in our archive. An Israeli aid organization supported us in the search for other relatives and quickly found out that Abraham had had a son and another daughter in Israel. During a family reunion in Israel, Mirjam, her daughter, and her half-sister Yaffa talk about what it feels like to suddenly have a “new” family:


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