Thursday, April 20, 2006


Germany agrees in principle to open Nazi archive

If you're like me, you were unaware that there are literally tons of Nazi documents unavailable to the public—some 30 million1 that relate to 17.5 million individuals. Privacy concerns,2 you know.

I don't know what came over the Germans, but they've agreed at least in principle to consider whether the world should be allowed to take a peek. Perhaps it was the realization that since no one currently alive in Europe or the U.S. enjoys a right to privacy, it was patently silly to pretend to be concerned for the privacy of Jews, gypsies, queers and communists, dead or otherwise. Or maybe it was an uneasiness over the European imprisonment of people who deny the truth of—or extent of—the Holocaust3 while Germany forbids them access to original documents. Or maybe it was in anticipation of April 25—Holocaust Remembrance Day. Reporter Matt Moore says that it was "pressure from Holocaust researchers and Jewish organizations." When you consider the profound effect that certain Jewish organizations have on U.S. and European foreign policy, this seems at least plausible.

The CBC reports that

Germany has ended decades of resistance and agreed to work to open a huge archive of Nazi records on millions of concentration camp inmates and slave labourers.

Justice Minister Brigitte Zypries said on Tuesday that Germany will co-operate with the United States in its bid to allow access to the Holocaust archive, housed in a former SS barracks in the town of Bad Arolsen.

German officials must next present the idea to a commission of 11 nations that govern the archive at a meeting in Luxembourg in mid-May. The countries could then decide to amend the 1955 treaty that determines access to the files.

One of the largest storehouse of Nazi documents in the world, the archive holds an estimated 50 million files, many seized by Allied soldiers at the end of the Second World War.

If it is opened, historians and families of Holocaust victims will have access to the records.

Until now, survivors and family members have had to request access to files through the International Tracing Service, an arm of the International Committee of the Red Cross. They often had to wait years for a response.

Of course the archive should be opened. But the CBC goes on to say,

The remaining nine countries all still have to agree before the archive can be opened. Some countries need parliamentary approval before they endorse the plan.

So don't rush to pack your bags.

2:00 pm

Allan Hall of The Independent gives some intriguing detail on the contents of the archive—

It contains, among other things, details of death camp inmates, transportation trains, round-ups and Gestapo persecution before the outbreak of the Second World War. The files also hold data about the Lebensborn (fount of life) programme, where SS men were used to breed the nucleus of Hitler's Aryan master race; hideous medical experiments performed on camp inmates; and secret weapons programmes that slave labourers were used to work on.

Sounds quite explosive.


1The Associated Press reports an estimate of 30 million; the CBC estimates 50 million. [back]

2Any time a government, of its own volition, says it's worried about the privacy of its citizens, you should hold your nose and consider the matter further. Some Republican state legislators from Florida, agents of which recently murdered 14-year-old Lee Anderson on camera, are now suggesting that autopsy-related videos should be withheld from the public—for privacy reasons. Odd.

The privacy of information in the Nazi archive has been zealously guarded by Germany. Can you guess which other European country has opposed opening the archive? [back]

3Only 2 days ago a German extradited from the U.S. and a Belgian extradited from the Netherlands were indicted in Germany for denying the Holocaust. [back]

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