According to the state of Saxony's Ministry of Science in Dresden, the internet archive includes some 700,000 records of World War II prisoners, most of whom died after their capture by German soldiers. A second database contains the names and birth dates of more than 10,000 German citizens convicted by Soviet military tribunals during and after the war. Many of those convicted have since been rehabilitated by the Russian government.
“These unique databases allow millions of people to get information on the fate of their deceased or missing relatives from both during and after the war,” Prof. Sabine von Schorlemer, Saxony's minister of science, said in a statement.
Some 85 percent of those listed in the database or their relatives did not know their convictions had been overturned, due to problems contacting them more than 60 years after the initial ruling.
The documentation centre for the Saxon Memorial Foundation in Dresden has set up an online portal that allows the public to search the databases, which are expected to be updated often as new information becomes available. Launched in 2000, the project has received support from the governments in Russia, Ukraine and Belarus.
The foundation’s director Klaus-Dieter Müller said records had previously been used for administrative purposes only, or in line with specific requests.
“Now family members of those involved can search themselves,” he said. The database includes basic records information, such as name, birth place and birth year, though family members are permitted to request more detailed information.
Both databases are accessible in German and in Russian.
Müller said some 35,000 people were convicted by Soviet military tribunals between 1945 and 1949 in the Soviet zone of occupation in Germany and later in East Germany, according to German public broadcaster MDR.