Inventory Description

The Child Search Branch collection consists mainly of internal and external administrative correspondence. The correspondence reflects the Child Search Branch´s core activities: the search for missing children and youth, the identification, registration, care, as well as the repatriation or emigration of unaccompanied children and youth. The collection also contains a significant of field, monthly and annual reports comprised by UNRRA and IRO Staff, reflecting the changing structures of the Child Search Branch as well as its activities. The reports contain statistical data on missing children in Germany´s three western occupation zones, predominantly the American zone. The efforts of the Child Search Branch to locate children subjected to “Germanization” are documented in the files concerning the “Limited Registration Plan” (LRP) of registering all foster and adoptive children and those raised in orphanages in the Western zones of occupation and in reports concerning the inspections of German children’s homes and foster or adoptive families aimed at finding the children of Allied Nations’ members. To a lesser degree the collection also includes individual tracing cases and an interview with a child as well as newspaper articles and search ads placed by the Child Search Branch.


The Child Tracing Section (CTS) was set by the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA) in 1945. It was formed as a separate Division within UNRRA, charged with addressing the needs of “unaccompanied children”. The Term refers to a heterogeneous group comprised of survivors of the National Socialist concentration and extermination camps, minors subjected to forced labor, the offspring of forced laborers, children abducted by the German occupiers and subjected to programmed “Germanization” as well as children and youths who spent the war in hiding.The CTS was the central authority for tracing “unaccompanied children” in liberated Europe and tending to their needs. Another task of the Child Tracing Section was to establish their identities, provide them with personal documentation, unite them with their families and prepare for their repatriation and emigration. It was mainly active in the Western allies´ occupation zones due to the Soviet Military Government´s refusal to set up DP camps in their area of control, and forced repatriation policies perused by the Soviet authorities. In 1946, UNRRA handed the responsibility for the CTS to the Preparatory Commission of the IRO (PCIRO), the International Refugee Organizations (IRO) precursor. The IRO’s succession to the UNRRA did not necessarily involve its adopting UNRRA’s search activities. It was not until the French government had exerted pressure and UNRRA had declared its willingness to continue managing the CTB up to late June 1947 that the PCIRO assented to the plans on 21 February 1947 and took over the CTB in a new and changed organizational structure on 1 July 1947. The IRO’s takeover of the tracing activities on 1 July 1947 was accompanied by the organizational integration of all the Western zone tracing bureaus into the Central Tracing Bureau. This measure allowed the IRO to tighten its organizational setup, to improve control and information flow and to lay the foundation for the build-up of a comprehensive central documentation office. In 1948 the CTS received a new name – The Child Search Branch (CSB). The growing awareness to the issue of “Germanization” of children by the National Socialist regime following the proceedings against the SS staff of the Rasse und Siedlungs Haupt Amt (RuSHA, Race and Resettlement Main Office) held in 1948, prompted the CSB to prepare a so-called Limited Registration Plan (LRP). This plan provided for the registration of all foster children, adoptive children and children raised in orphanages in the Western occupation zones. The CSB was tasked with coordinating all pertinent search activities outside Germany, handling requests relating to children as well as with building up an adequate documentation office - the so-called Documents and Intelligence Section. The CSB´s work was closely connected with the IRO Child Welfare Program. The Child Welfare Program was responsible for the care of unaccompanied children in Children’s Centers. – Housing minors until their identification, reunification with their relatives, or repatriation. In conjunction with the forthcoming withdrawal of the IRO, the mandate was scheduled to end in late 1950, all on-site activities of the Child Search Branch were stopped in April 1950, although the IRO would actually continue until 31 March 1951. The registration and clarification of individual fates work carried out in connection with the “Limited Registration Plan” could not be brought to fruition. In September 1950 a smaller child tracing service moved to Arolsen and was integrated within the main administrative Organisation there (the Child Search Branch had previously been accommodated at the US zone tracing bureau in Esslingen) where it has pursued its activities to this day.

History of Ownership

The bulk of the collection contains administrative files opened by the CSB (in its various phases) from 1945 to 1951. Folders 0016 and 0003 contain documents from the years prior to 1945, i.e. copies and translations of Lebensborn and Germanization documents which were probably created by CTS. Folder 0003 contains monthly and annual reports, produced by the CSB of the International Tracing Service (ITS) between 1952 and 1955, a period in which it was governed by the High Commission of Germany (HICOG). The monthly reports from September 1950 hint that all the CSB files found at the ITS by that time, came into possession of the ITS as part of the CSB´s move from Esslingen to Arolsen. The creation dates imply that the creation and arrangement of documentation continued at the ITS. The collection is comprised of 58 administrative files, kept in 18 folders, filed by type of document. The collection is digitized and catalogued.

Access Restrictions

The files are fully digitised and, for preservation reasons, in principle can only be looked at in digital format.

Other Finding Aid

Finding aid "ITS 1: Child Search Branch" can be found in the OuS "Verzeichnung Client" and online under

Corresponding Collections

Further documents of the Child Search Branch can be found in the collection holdings of “Kindersuchdienst” (Child Tracing Service) (OuS 3.3.), in the “Fallbezogene Akten des Kindersuchdienstes 1947-1951” (Case-Related Files of the Child Tracing Service 1947-1951) (OuS 6.3.2), in the holdings of the “Listenmäßige Erfassung von DPs in DP-Lagern” (Registration Lists of DPs in DP Camps by Lists) (OuS as well as in the holdings of the “Vorgängerorganisationen” (Predecessor Organizations) (OuS 6.1.1).Folder 46 deserves particular mention here. The collection ITS 1 – Child Search Branch contains only a part of the Child Search Branch’s overall documentation. Further documents can be found at the ARMS (The United Nations Archive) in New York City and at the Archives Nationales in Paris. Documents on the activities of the Child Search Branch in Austria are included in the “Register of the Aleta Brownlee Papers, 1945-50” in the Hoover Institution Archives at California’s Stanford University.


Andlauer, Anna: Zurück ins Leben. Das internationale Kinderzentrum Kloster Indersdorf 1945-46, Nürnberg 2011.

Holborn, Louise Wilhelmine: The International Refugee Organization. A specialized agency of the United Nations. Its History and Work 1946-1952, London 1956.

Woodbridge, George: The History of United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration, 3 Bde., New York 1950.

Urban, Susanne: Neuere Literatur zum Thema Jüdische Displaced Persons, in: Schüler-Springorum, Stefanie (Hrsg.): Jahrbuch für Antisemitismusforschung 21, Berlin 2012, S. 425-443.

Zahra, Tara: The Lost Children: Reconstructing Europe`s Families after World War II, Cambridge 2011.

Zimmer, Bernd Joachim: International Tracing Service Arolsen. Von der Vermisstensuche zur Haftbescheinigung. Die Organisationsgeschichte eines "ungewollten Kindes" während der Besatzungszeit, Bad Arolsen 2011.

Other Data

For the user of the finding aid it is important to know that those describing the collection attempted to provide it with subject-related titles on the file level without changing the original registry order in which they found it. The result of this development is files with relatively general titles and detailed content descriptions of what is included. This makes the ability to do a full-text search of increased importance however.