Here you will find some frequently asked questions (FAQ) about information provision from documents related to the tracing and clarification of fate of missing persons of the Second World War and answers of the GRC Tracing Service.
Why can our records contain different or deviating information and spellings for one person?
The personal data in our records generally originate from the information that the family members provided to the GRC Tracing Service at the time of the nationwide registration of prisoners of war and missing persons in 1950. The corresponding index cards were usually filled out by ear and handwritten according to verbal information provided by employees of the respective admission office. This repeatedly resulted in phonetic deviations in the spelling of names, short forms of names (Friedrich->Fritz), concealment of second and third first names or different dates of birth. This was especially the case when the persons reporting were distant relatives or when the names originated from other language and writing systems. The information provided was – unless corrected in time – later also used in the compilation of the missing persons’ photo collections or the GRC reports.
We ask for your understanding that today we are not able to make corrections or insert new photos in the original historical documents. We assure you, however, that different spellings of names or minor deviations in birth dates did not at any time influence the results of the search, as deviations were generally taken into account by our staff.
Can the GRC Tracing Service issue a death certificate?
The GRC Tracing Service cannot issue death certificates for persons who were killed in action or who died in captivity. If our prisoner of war files contain evidence that a person who has been missing to date has died as a prisoner of war, we automatically inform the Federal Archives, which, if applicable, will arrange for the notification of a war-related death to the responsible registry office. On request, you can obtain a death certificate from this office.
From which documents can inquirers receive copies?
With each individual request the GRC Tracing Service checks all relevant internal archive holdings. All inquirers receive copies of the corresponding missing persons’ photo collection, the GRC report or the Russian prisoner-of-war file, provided that these documents were compiled for the person sought at the time. We may also send additional information on the respective division or camp for further reading. If still available, we will return original pictures that relatives provided to the GRC Tracing Service after the war for the purpose of missing persons’ photo collections and interviewing returnees.
All other archive documents, such as registry files, returnee statements or index cards of the Central Name Index, are internal working tools and cannot be given out to relatives in copy at this time for reasons of data protection. Scientific inquiries may be subject to different regulations following the conclusion of a usage agreement.
Does the GRC Tracing Service have documents on the First World War?
The GRC Tracing Service exists in its present institutional form since the end of the Second World War. Documents on the search for missing persons and the welfare of prisoners of war in the First World War are therefore not included in our documentation. We recommend that you contact the Federal Archives, Department PA in Berlin (contact: www.bundesarchiv.de), which still has remnants of registration documents on soldiers of the First World War, or the National Association of the German War Graves Commission (VDK), which has been responsible for the care of war graves since 1919 (contact: www.volksbund.de).
In addition, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Geneva has set up an online search facility in its archives to search for prisoners of war and civilian internees of the First World War.
Can the GRC Tracing Service provide translations of documents?
Documents dating from the post-war period are usually available in German, as they are the GRC Tracing Service's own documents. The prisoner-of-war files available here, however, were written in Russian. In the final report, the staff of the GRC Tracing Service summarize the most important information contained therein pertaining to the person, captivity, death or homecoming. In addition, the inquirers receive an outline of the structure of the questionnaire along with the report. Due to the high number of inquiries, however, the GRC Tracing Service cannot offer a complete translation of the prisoner-of-war file from Russian into German.
Can groups of visitors find out more about the work of the GRC Tracing Service on site with regard to tracing and fate clarification of missing persons of the Second World War?
The Tracing Service Munich Office is open to interested parties by appointment. We will give you an insight into our work and offer a guided tour through the archive (limited number of participants). Please note in this context that the Central Name Index is no longer located at the Munich site and unfortunately cannot be visited.
We kindly ask you to make an appointment in advance at info(at)drk-suchdienst.de.