Polski Czerwony Krzyż. Biuro Informacji i Poszukiwań

  • Office of Information and Tracing of the Polish Red Cross

History

Office of Information and Tracing of the Polish Red Cross operates continuously since 1919. In 1919-1921 it was involved in collecting information about the victims of national uprisings and the transfer of information to prisoners of war. Office also took part in the reception of Polish political prisoners coming from the Soviet Union at the Polish border and was looking for their families and documents. With the outbreak of World War II the Office began to prepare lists of the dead, the wounded, sick and missing. A database of names was created. On 23 September 1939 the seat of the Office of Information and Tracing was bombed. Workers were trying to protect the remainder of the documents. The Red Cross branches in various Polish cities organized Sections of Information and Research. Information was collected from parish and municipal offices and from private individuals. In the temporary camps for prisoners of war, Polish Red Cross registered the prisoners and participated in the transmission of letters from their families. Since December 1939 Polish Red Cross Delegations started their activities in many countries. They conducted searching of Polish citizens, both military and civilian, and prepared the database of Polish of prisoners of war, staying in Oflag and Stalag camps. Thousands of requests for search were sent and much information about persons deported and interned was obtained. Thus a new Office database was created. After the discovery in 1943 of the mass graves of Polish officers murdered in Katyn, the Technical Committee of the Polish Red Cross was appointed, which led the exhumation in the period from April until June 1943. Thanks to the work of the Commission the list was prepared by the Delegation of the Polish Red Cross in Geneva, comprising 2805 names. For a long time it was the only basis for the issuance of certificates to the families of victims. On August 2, 1944, during the Warsaw Uprising, the Office of Information and Tracing has been set on fire by SS. Then the painstakingly created database comprising over 1 500 000 cards was burnt down, together with thousands of valuable documents. Again the Office began to write down losses and to prepare site plans of temporary graves for the future exhumation. Hospitals of the Polish Red Cross prepared the lists of the names of the sick, the wounded and the dead, and then, if possible, the family were notified. On 21 October, 1944, employees of the Office together with the whole of the material collected had to leave Warsaw. Office facilities opened in many places. Families were informed about the fate of people evacuated from Warsaw. After the war, the most urgent thing was to find the children sent to Germany by the "Lebensborn". The number of Polish children submitted to Germanization was estimated on 200 000. Delegations of the Polish Red Cross in Germany were supposed to find the children and to reclaim them. Office of Information and Tracing in Warsaw transferred the lists of missing children to the Delegations in Germany. Polish Red Cross was also receiving transports of children from Germany and Austria. In the years 1946-1948 tens of thousands of children returned to Poland. Another important task was the exhumation of war graves, conducted with the participation of the Red Cross throughout the country. In some places the municipal and county offices led the exhumations, and documents were forwarded to the Office of Information and Tracing, permitting to identify thousands of individuals. Collected and recorded were also accounts of people who witnessed mass executions. Information and Tracing Office also led the search for the graves of foreigners, dead and fallen on Polish territory. After the war the Information and Tracking Office took over the files of the Polish Red Cross Delegations operating abroad, local branches of the Polish Red Cross, the materials received from the Allied military authorities, the International Committee of the Red Cross, many documents were transferred from the Main Commission for the Investigation of Nazi Crimes in Poland. The Office of Infromation and Tracing participated in the action of helping former prisoners of Nazi concentration camps, subjected to pseudo-medical experiments. In 1960. The Government of the Federal Republic of Germany has decided to grant a one-time financial assistance to surviving victims of pseudo-medical experiments performed in Nazi concentration camps. Due to the lack of diplomatic relations between Poland and the FRG, assistance was obtained through the International Committee of the Red Cross in Geneva. Polish Red Cross has been authorized to represent the interests of the Polish victims at the ICRC. The Office gathered all the documentation on these matters and transferred it to ICRC. In the last few years, the Office has issued about 30 000 certificates proving stay in concentration camps, forced labor and prisons on the basis of the documents submitted by former prisoners or obtained from domestic and foreign archives as a result of the efforts taken by the Office. It was related to the payment of cash benefits by the Government of FRG for the victims of the Third Reich.

Mandates/Sources of Authority

Polish Red Cross is the national association of the International Red Cross within the meaning of the Geneva Convention for the Protection of Victims of War of 12 August 1949 (Journal of Laws No. 38, 1949) and the Additional Protocols to the Convention of 8 June 1977 (Journal of Laws No. 41, 1992). Red Cross operates under the Act of 16 November 1964 on the Polish Red Cross (Journal of Laws No. 41, 1964), the Statute confirmed by the Council of Ministers on 20 September 2011. (Journal of Laws No. 217, 2011). The internal rules of operation and specific competencies of particular offices are defined by the Association Rules approved by the National Council of Representatives of the Red Cross.

Building(s)

The Office archival collection is stored in the Polish Red Cross building at Mokotowska street in Warsaw

Archival and Other Holdings

The Office of Information and Tracing has rich archival collections, among them:

  • original files of Polish prisoners of war in POW camps
  • original files of prisoners of Nazi concentration camps and prisons
  • death certificates of Poles who died during the II World War in the camps and prisons in Germany and occupied Poland
  • partial documentation of Polish children submitted to Germanization
  • a small file of Polish forced laborers in Germany
  • protocols of the exhumations of victims of war
  • lists of the dead and fallen soldiers of the Polish Armed Forces in the West
  • copies of the lists of Polish prisoners of war detained in camps in Kozelsk, Ostashkov and Starobelsk
  • file of Soviet soldiers, fallen and buried on Polish territory
  • a multi-million general file

Conditions of Access

Requests for tracing people to determine their fate and grave location or for issuance of the certificate should always be made in writing. The application shall contain details about the person sought, the date and circumstances of the loss of contact, current address of the request maker and his relationship to the person sought. When writing the application, you can use the printed form, which must then be sent to our address (by post or e-mail).