… “The soldier Fritz Unruh, born on the 17th of August 1907 in Kaidjenen, is searching for his wife, Martha Unruh, from Schoschen, in Heiligenbeil district. / You have been listening to the tracing service. Listeners able to provide information about the whereabouts of the persons named are requested to contact the tracing service…“ This excerpt from a one-minute missing persons announcement was broadcast on the NWDR radio station in 1946.
The missing persons announcements on the radio after the Second World War are closely linked to the history of the German Red Cross tracing service. In May 1945, one in four people in Germany was either trying to trace someone, or was a missing person. That same year, the Red Cross started to set up a tracing service. Large numbers of volunteers gathered data, questioned returnees, placed ads. They were wherever people congregated – and they were on site when trains full of returning POWs drew into the stations. But above all, the German Red Cross worked closely with radio broadcasters.
The bookshelves opposite show a complete original set of tracing service books from the 1950s. There are 199 volumes in all. Do you see the open book in the glass case? That’s what all the pages look like.
From the end of the war until May 1950, some 14 million tracing requests were made. In 8.8 million cases, the tracing service was able to provide information about next of kin. The campaign that began during the post-war period has still not come to an end. Wars, natural disasters and refugee movements still rip families apart.
But in the digital age, the Red Cross organises its tracing service on line. Tracing requests can be made and logged on the pages of the German Red Cross tracing service and on the “Trace the face” webpage.
Fotos: © Rotkreuz Museum