28 November 2007

Nazi archive opens today, ends secrecy

The Arolsen archives opened today (Wednesday, November 28) after 60 years of secrecy, according to AP, which will be updating the story throughout the day.

The last of 11 countries involved in the 2006 agreement, Greece filed papers with the German Foreign Ministry to permit the unsealing.

AMSTERDAM, Netherlands (AP) _ A vast archive of German war records opened to the public Wednesday, giving historians and Holocaust survivors who have waited more than 60 years access to concentration camp papers detailing Nazi horrors.

The 11 countries that oversee the archive of the International Tracing Service have finished ratifying an accord unsealing some 50 million pages kept in the German town of Bad Arolsen, ITS director Reto Meister said Wednesday.

"The ratification process is complete," said Meister, whose organization is part of the International Committee of the Red Cross. "We are there. The doors are open."

Until now, the archive had been used exclusively to trace missing persons, reunite families and provide documentation to victims of Nazi persecution to support compensation claims.

The U.S. government also has referred to the ITS for background checks on immigrants it suspected of lying about their past.

Meister said the ITS received 50 applications this month alone from academics and research organizations seeking to begin examining the archive _ including untapped documents of communications among Nazi officials, camp registrations, transportation lists, slave labor files, death lists and postwar displaced persons files.

"It's a relief. It took a long time - far too long," said Paul Shapiro of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, which has lobbied since 2001 to pry open the archive. "I am pleased that the archive of the International Tracing Service can now be opened for research," said Guenter Gloser, a German deputy foreign minister responsible for Europe. "I would like to invite all researchers to make use of this, and work through this dark chapter of German history."

To read more, click here.

Access to the data is expected to revive academic interest in the Holocaust.

Most importantly, it will help Holocaust survivors and families of victims learn more about their own lives and that of relatives. Some 17.5 million people are mentioned in the index; the files cover 16 miles (25 kilometers) of shelving.

Now, the US Holocaust Memorial Museum and Yad Vashem must organize the material they've been receiving so that the public can access it.

More information:

International Tracing Service
U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum
ITS inventory
Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial

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