The archives of the International Prisoners-of-War Agency will be available for consultation by the public in August 2014, through an online application.
During the First World War, the Agency collected, analysed and classified information it received from the detaining powers and national agencies about prisoners of war and civilian internees. It compared this information with requests submitted to it by relatives or friends, in order to restore contact between them. The Agency’s archives also contain diplomatic correspondence between the ICRC and the warring countries on protection for detainees and reports on visits by ICRC delegates to prisoner-of-war camps.
The archives of the International Prisoner-of-War Agency are included in UNESCO’s Memory of the World Register.
The Agency’s collections consist of some 500,000 pages of lists and six million index cards. Each year up to July 2011, the ICRC processed several hundred requests for information submitted by historians and relatives of prisoners.
In 2008, the ICRC’s archivists began a project to restore and scan the lists and index cards. As a result, the documents are currently unavailable for consultation and the ICRC cannot at present deliver certificates of captivity for people who were prisoners during the First World War.
Once this project has been completed, more efficient research methods can be developed and time will be saved in accessing the information. Thanks to the online application, anyone will be able to search the archives directly on the internet as of August 2014.