We tend to identify the Bad Arolsen, Germany – based International Tracing Service with the files and/or index entries of 17.5 million persons folks killed or persecuted by the Nazis. However, AP reporters recently located a file marked “Escapee Program” in the attic of the archive. These files contain a list of thousands of names of people who escaped the Iron Curtain that divided Europe after World War II. Many of these people relocated to the United States.
The file adds yet another previously unknown element to this Cold War episode. It seems that for years a humanitarian group dedicated to family reunification ran background checks on the escapees – all at the United States’ request.
Each name on the list found in the file gave a reference to a case file. The “Escapee Program” files reviewed by the AP gave personal details, names of relatives, movements and jobs before and after they fled to the West. As of today, how many people were involved is not known, but the ITS says it handled more than 7,400 cases in the program’s first year.
For more information, see the article in the January 4, 2009 edition of the San Francisco Chronicle.