Germany opens up extensive Holocaust archive
27 July 2006, BERLIN - Researchers will gain access to the world's biggest archive of Nazi documents under an agreement signed by Germany and seven other nations in Berlin on Wednesday.
27 July 2006
BERLIN - Researchers will gain access to the world's biggest archive of Nazi documents under an agreement signed by Germany and seven other nations in Berlin on Wednesday.
Administered by the International Tracing Service, an arm of the International Committee of the Red Cross, the archives in the German town of Bad Arolsen encompass 50 million documents, among them Schindler's List.
The files contain personal data on some 17.5 million victims of the Nazis, including concentration camp inmates, slave labourers and people who were forced to flee their homeland.
The signing follows a deal reached in May by the 11-nation governing body of the tracing service grouping Belgium, Britain, France, Germany, Greece, Israel, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Poland and the United States.
Poland, Belgium and the Netherlands did not attend Wednesday's signing ceremony but will have to endorse the protocol before the archives can be fully opened as planned on November 1.
Historians have had access since 1996 to archive data on conditions in the concentration camps and slave labour but the files on individual detainees have been off-limits.
The US administration, Jewish groups and researchers at former Nazi concentration camp sites had long pressed for access to victims' personal data contained in the archives, saying they would provide fresh insights into how the Holocaust was carried out.
They list chilling details such as the date and place of detention and official cause of death, but also whether inmates were homosexual, criminals or sick - all reasons for the Nazis to send them to the camps, where millions died.
German officials had feared that releasing the names of victims would lead to a raft of lawsuits, similar to the pressure that led the government and German companies to compensate Nazi-era slave labourers in recent years. There were also concerns for the privacy of Nazi victims.
"I am extremely happy that an agreement has finally been signed that allows wider research into the tragic period of National Socialism," said Israel's ambassador to Germany, Shimon Stein.
US Ambassador William Timken said: "Anyone who experienced the Holocaust will welcome having access to the archive."
The archive was set up in 1955 as a repository of Nazi records seized by the victorious World War II allies.
The archive's name comes from its original humanitarian function immediately after World War II, when the tracing service sought to track down non-Germans missing in war and to reunite surviving family members.
The agency later shifted its focus to archiving the fates of concentration camp and death camp inmates, slave and forced labourers and children.
Each member state of the tracing service will receive a digital copy of the files, but the documents will not be published on the Internet for reasons of data protection.
Subject: German news