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Central names file

GDR data

The central names file is the most important source of information in the GRC Tracing Service.

The 50 million file cards contain information on:

  • new data
  • received cases
  • measures taken and
  • resolved and unresoved cases.

It contains statements on more than 20 million search cases.

History of the central names file

The history of this file began in the western zones of occupied Germany: in Hamburg, Munich, Stuttgart and Saarbrucken. At the same time, in the eastern occupied zone the index of the “tracing service for missing Germans” came into being.

As part of the centralisation of the research section, the Hamburg and Munich files were merged in 1950 at the Tracing Service Munich Office. The Tracing Service Hamburg Office took on the new duties of the post-war period: family reunification, material support, as well as material and health aid.

Digitalisation of the central names file

The work processes within the Tracing Service were increasingly organised electronically. The workflow-system and the electronic incorporation of different sources (such as via document acquisition) into the conventional use of the CNF led to undesired media disruptions. This required an adaption to the general technical standards. After over 10 years the cards were available in digital form and now fit on a five-terabyte hard drive. The utmost diversity of the document templates and calibres that distinguishes the CNF is also an enormous challenge in terms of technology, personnel, work and time management.

The CNF is now faster and easier to use. At the same time the content of the paper cards from the post-war period is now being protected from decay. The digital storage system is adapted to the original paper structure so that case workers can go back to the documents digitally in the way to which they are used. In 2014, the original cards, important historical documents, were transferred from their rooms in Munich to the Tracing Service Hamburg Office. They are carefully stored there and are available as before for researchers etc.

Contents of the central names file

Research in the central names file E. Gurian/DRK tracing service The central names file is the largest investigation file in Germany. It contains tracing requests and reports on all the groups affected for whom the GRC Tracing Service has begun investigations:

  • Missing soldiers and civilians,
  • Single children
  • Captives from the Soviet occupied zone/GDR

Alongside millions of search requests from private individuals, relatives and public bodies, the CNF has incorporated over the years a series of special files, for example:

  • Children’s index (names and features cards of unaccompanied minor children)
  • POW and missing persons’ registry from 1950
  • Total collection of the losses due to expulsion from 1955 to 1959 (ca. 124,000 index cards)
  • Central index of internees (ca.1,200 index cards including custody cases from the Tracing Service Hamburg Office)
  • Index cards of the “Combat Group against Inhumanity” (ca. 900,000 index cards including custody cases from the NKVD camp Soviet occupied zone/GDR, cases of arrest in the GDR)
  • Index cards from the comparison with the WASt (German agency which maintains records of members of the former German Wehrmacht), authorities, courts and other local supply authorities (returnee registration cards)
  • Index cards from the Danish Refugee Council in Denmark (around 200,000 cards) regarding flight across the Baltic Sea, arrival and internment in Denmark (ca. 200,000 cards)

Central names file‘ system

The central names file is arranged in alphabetical-phonetical order according to the surnames of the searched-for persons. The phonetic logging also enables the search and amalgamation of names with complicated spellings.

The file is the basis for every search in connection with the events of the Second World War. For this reason the fullest possible details on the missing person, as well as on the searcher, are required.

Data from the former GDR

The index cards of the GRC Tracing Services, formerly files of the “tracing service for missing Germans” has its roots in the “central index of the Province of Saxony” (Halle). It was founded in 1946 for the registration of the so-called re-settlers, that is refugees.

The file was transferred to the Tracing Service Munich Office in 1990. The roughly 8 million index cards are primarily made up of trace and data cards (that is from the tracing request files) and a comparison with the reporting authorities.

Because there was no state missing persons‘ register or a systematic returnees‘ survey in the Soviet occupied zone/GDR region, there are practically no extant reports of returned persons or registration cards.

This database is also checked during every tracing request.