3.2.1 IRO “Care and Maintenance” Program
- Reference code: DE ITS 3.2.1
- Title: IRO “Care and Maintenance” Program
- Description level: Holdings/collection
- Number of immediately classified documents: 1,823,593
- Creator /provenance: IRO, UNRRA, PCIRO
What information can I find here?
(Form and contents)
The documents contained here were amassed by the International Refugee Organization (IRO) and its predecessor organizations between 1947 and 1952. They document the care and maintenance of Displaced Persons (DPs) in the Western-occupied zones in Germany as well as in Italy, Austria, Switzerland and England. The foremost document type is the “Application for Assistance” questionnaire. Displaced Persons were required to complete this questionnaire in order to apply for support from the IRO. The form is also referred to as “CM/1,” where “CM” stands for “Care and Maintenance” and “1” for the respective form type. The majority of the applicants were Holocaust survivors, former concentration camp inmates and Nazi forced laborers. There were also persons who had fled the sphere under Soviet control for political reasons. In addition to the CM/1 forms, the collection also encompasses questionnaires for DPs, confirmations of eligibility for assistance, applications for change of status (CM/3 forms), photos of the applicants, correspondence, memos and health records. The last-named were excluded from the online publication on account of their sensitive content but can be viewed at the ITS on request. The records in 126.96.36.199 document appeal procedures filed with IRO headquarters in Geneva.
Who created the documents and what are they used for?
The IRO was founded in December 1946 when the United Nations adopted the Constitution of the International Refugee Organization. It was intended to supersede the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA). For political reasons, initially only the Preparatory Commission of the International Refugee Organization (PCIRO) could begin its work in 1947. The IRO finally embarked on its activities with a full mandate in September 1948. The organization ceased its work in 1952 when the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) was established. Apart from the direct care and maintenance of the DPs, the UNRRA’s overriding aim had been their repatriation. Only later did it come to be accepted that there could be legitimate reasons for a person not to return to his or her country of origin. At that point in time, this still applied to some one million persons. Their assistance was included in the IRO mandate. They received help either in becoming integrated in their country of residence or in their efforts to emigrate. To apply for this support, DPs in the Western-occupied zones had to complete the “Application for Assistance” (CM/1) form. On the basis of this questionnaire and an interview, the Department of Protection, Mandate and Reparation decided whether the applicant could receive assistance and, if so, to what extent. The IRO mandate applied to DPs from United Nations member states as well as persecution victims of Germany and its allies. Persons whose applications were rejected could file an appeal with the main IRO office in Geneva (see Holdings 188.8.131.52 Appeal Procedures, IRO office, Geneva).
How were the documents created and how did they come to the ITS?
The so-called CM/1 form “Application for Assistance” was completed by applicants in assembly centers, in part with help from IRO staff, in the period from 1947 to 1952. Initially, the documents were destroyed following the applicants’ emigration; from 1951 onward they were stored at the behest of the Western German reparation authorities. It is not known how many CM/1 files were destroyed before that time. After the dissolution of the IRO in 1952, the regional offices sent their records to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Bonn. At the end of 1952, the still-existing CM/1 files from Germany were turned over to the International Tracing Service (ITS) in Arolsen. In 1953, the ITS removed personal documents (birth, death and marriage certificates, professional certificates, passports, etc.) from the files and sent them back to the UNHCR so that they could be returned to their owners. Records of no relevance for the ITS’s tracing function were destroyed if there was documentation of them. The CM/1 holdings from Austria, Switzerland, Italy and England came to the ITS in the early 1960s. Now the original order of the entire CM/1 files was dissolved. The material on each applicant or family was compiled in an envelope and sorted alphabetically by the name of the “main applicant.” The ITS digitized the entire collection in the late 1990s and published it in its online archive in 2018.