Berlin, 29. August 2023
Every year, countless people around the world disappear without a trace.On the occasion of International Day of the Disappeared on 30 August, the German Red Cross (GRC) remembers these people and their relatives. For over 150 years, the Red Cross has been helping in the worldwide search for missing persons. “We try to find answers for people who are torn by uncertainty every day. In many cases, the GRC provides clarification – be it about the fates of refugees or those who went missing during the Second World War, for example,” says GRC President Gerda Hasselfeldt. The GRC Tracing Service, with its counselling on family reunification, is also an anchor for relatives who sometimes have been desperately trying for years to reunite as a family after being separated during their flight.
To clarify the fates of missing persons, the GRC Tracing Service works closely with the tracing services of the other Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. As part of the international tracing service network, the GRC can obtain information on the whereabouts of sought-after relatives worldwide and put separated family members back in touch with each other. Following a successful search, the GRC Tracing Service also helps to reunite families, having provided 19,692 consultations on issues related to family reunification throughout Germany in 2022.
Approximately 670 enquiries were made regarding current missing persons cases in the first half of 2023. Most of these cases involve persons seeking protection, mainly from Afghanistan, Ukraine, Syria, Iraq, Iran and Eritrea, who have lost contact with their relatives during their flight.
However, the GRC Tracing Service, which has been institutionally funded by the Federal Ministry of the Interior and Community (BMI) since 1953, not only deals with current tracing cases, but also provides support in clarifying the fates of persons who went missing during the Second World War. This service also continues to be in high demand: In 2022, the GRC Tracing Service received 10,277 enquiries, and in the first half of 2023, the number of enquiries had already reached 4,348.
“The Tracing Service is a success story. Even if the news we deliver is not always positive, we at least provide redemptive certainty in many instances. We see the great demand for the offers of the Tracing Service as a clear signal: The Tracing Service as the core task of the German Red Cross and its humanitarian mandate remain of central importance,” stated Hasselfeldt.
In the context of the GRC Contemporary Witness Project, relatives tell about their search, the loss and the redemptive certainty regarding the fates of persons who went missing during the Second World War. Fifteen film portraits as well as explanations on how the GRC Tracing Service succeeds in clarifying such fates can be found at the following link: https://www.drk-suchdienst.de/zeitzeugen/
The Red Cross community will be drawing attention to the fates of missing and searching persons on International Day of the Disappeared by launching a worldwide social media campaign under the motto “Families need answers”.
The press office will be happy to arrange interviews with the GRC President and the GRC Tracing Service.