Digitalization and Publishing of Ostarbeiter-Archive

International Memorial (Moscow) is a non-profit organisation engaged in research and education in the field of 20th century history. It has its own museum, archive and library.

Since the late 1980s, the Memorial has been studying the fate of the Ostarbeiters, preserving and popularizing the memory of it. The archive of the society contains:

  • about 300 biographical interviews with former Ostarbeiters and prisoners of concentration camps
  • approximately 320,000 letters of former Ostarbeiters which were sent to International Memorial in 1990. These letters contain short biographies and memoirs
  • approximately 20,000 original documents of the Ostarbeiters, coming from the territories occupied by Germany, from the Third Reich and the post-war USSR (photographs, official documents, letters, etc.).

The program for the digitization of the Ostarbeiter archive was launched in 2014 and is supported by the Foundation Remembrance, Responsibility and Future (EVZ). During this time:

  • an open-source platform Archivist was created to publish interviews
  • more than 200 interviews were processed (100 interviews were published on the website)
  • a geographic index to biographies from the letters ( was created
  • the digitalization of the archive is in progress
  • the publication of the archival documents is being prepared.

Digitized documents became the basis for an educational program as well as for the book The Sign Will Never Fade (Moscow, 2016).

The website combines the interviews archive,  searchable by topic, place of work, place of imprisonment or name, with various journalistic texts, containing descriptions of different aspects of the life of Ostarbeiters, archives, etc.

The Archivist App

Archivist is an application designed to publish interviews and is distributed under the Creative Commons license. Its main functions are the following:

  • creating personal, geographical and thematic indexes with reference to a specific place of the interview
  • linking the interview transcript with the exact place in the original audio or video file
  • joint editing of the interviews, creating an integrated comments functionality

Geographical Index of Forced Labour in Germany

The site was created with a view to publication and crowdsourcing verification of the geographical index to Ostarbeiter 320,000 letters kept in the Memorial archive.

Digitalization of Ostarbeiters’ Letters

The digitization of the collection is conducted mainly with the help of interns from Moscow schools and universities. Concurrently with the digitization, a primary inventory is being prepared. The publication date is set for winter 2017/2018.


Organizations that will appear on the exhibition: International Memorial