Inquiries to the GRC Tracing Service
Here you will find some frequently asked questions (FAQ) related to the tracing and clarification of fate of missing persons of the Second World War and answers of the GRC Tracing Service.
About which groups of persons can the GRC Tracing Service provide information?
The GRC Tracing Service provides information about the following groups of persons in connection with the Second World War:
- Missing Wehrmacht soldiers and missing civilians
- Prisoners of war and civilian internees
- Children who have been separated from their families
- Prisoners in Soviet special camps in the former Soviet Occupation Zone (SBZ) and the German Democratic Republic (GDR), as well as political prisoners in the GDR
You can find the online tracing request form here.
The Tracing Service is available to you personally in a GRC regional or district branch near you.
As a rule, we do not have documents on victims of National Socialism, for example on prisoners in concentration camps or foreign forced labourers in Germany. In this case, please contact the Arolsen Archives, formerly International Tracing Service (ITS), Bad Arolsen, at: arolsen-archives.org. Furthermore, the GRC Tracing Service cannot provide information on military careers in the German Wehrmacht. In such cases – as well as for inquiries about prisoners of war in Western Allied custody – please contact the Federal Archives at: www.bundesarchiv.de.
Is information from the GRC Tracing Service subject to a charge?
On behalf of the German government, the GRC Tracing Service provides family members with fate clarifying information about their relatives. The provision of information within the scope of tracing and fate clarification related to the Second World War is generally free of charge. In the case of inquiries which do not pertain to the institutionally funded area of work (for example, from persons who are not relatives but who can prove a legitimate interest), processing fees are due. We will inform you of these fees in writing before initiating processing.
I live abroad. Can I still submit a request?
Within their respective territorial jurisdiction, the tracing services of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies worldwide will review all requests with regard to tracing service criteria and data protection provisions before initiating any further tracing procedures. The decisive factor is not the nationality of the inquirer or sought person, but the residence of the person making the inquiry at the time the inquiry is made. We therefore ask you to contact your National Red Cross/Red Crescent Society.
The GRC Tracing Service also accepts requests for documentation or research from abroad. Submit your research request here.»
I already submitted a request in the past, unfortunately to no avail. Is it worth inquiring a second time?
The past years, the GRC Tracing Service has been receiving new documents from archives of the former Soviet Union. If your first inquiry was submitted more than ten years ago, it may therefore be worthwhile to contact the GRC Tracing Service again if it concerns the fate of prisoners of war or civilian internees, or, more generally, of people who have disappeared in Eastern Europe.
Can I also get information if I am not a family member?
In exceptional cases, the GRC Tracing Service may, for humanitarian reasons, also provide information to persons who are not relatives but who can prove a legitimate interest. In other cases, an inquiry can also be submitted if a relative has granted a power of attorney.
Information can also be provided to unrelated persons in the context of scientific inquiries, e.g. for school or study work, book or exhibition projects or work on chronicles. For this purpose, we will conclude a usage agreement with you based on the individual case, which will specify what the documents and data may be used for. You may also have to provide proof from your commissioning party. You can find further information here.
What information does the GRC Tracing Service require if the search is to be successful?
At the very least, the first and last name as well as the date and place of birth of the person sought are required. Any additional information may be helpful during the search. A search without these details, e.g. only by hometown or military unit, is not possible.
What is the reason for the longer processing time?
Every year, the GRC Tracing Service receives many thousands of tracing and fate clarification inquiries related to the Second World War. The inquiries come from private individuals, partner organisations and authorities in Germany as well as other National Societies of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Network from all over the world. The Tracing Service staff carefully examines each request and carries out searches in the databases; as they contain several million entries, the searches can be time-consuming. In particular, the examination of digital documents from the Russian archives is often very demanding, as different writing systems as well as phonetic transcriptions in German and Russian have to be taken into account.
The GRC Tracing Service always processes incoming requests chronologically and endeavours to process each individual request in a timely manner. Special individual cases are given priority in case of particular urgency, for example due to the advanced age or state of health of inquirers, or because of a compelling concern.
What data protection rules apply to the GRC Tracing Service?
The work of the GRC Tracing Service is governed by the provisions of the GRC Tracing Service Data Protection Act (GRC-SDDSG). In addition, it is bound by the provisions of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the German Federal Data Protection Act (BDSG) when handling personal data. Should your data need to be shared within the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement's Tracing Service Network, the parties involved will abide by the common data protection code of conduct. Your data is thus also protected in other countries.
Can I conduct my own search on site?
In principle, research can be conducted in the name indexes within the framework of extensive research inquiries after prior arrangement. However, the digital documents from Russian archives can only be checked and assessed by employees of the GRC Tracing Service. The other archive holdings can also only be viewed in special cases and by appointment. Please arrange appointments for visits in advance at info(at)drk-suchdienst.de; unannounced visitors cannot be attended to.
Which holdings are accessible online?
Of our holdings, only the lists of missing persons’ photo collections are accessible online. All other archive holdings, card indexes and databases can only be accessed on site.