Massive Nazi Archive to Open

by Kevin Jon Heller

Excellent news for historians researching the Holocaust: the 11-nation governing body of the International Tracing Service, which oversees a massive archive of Nazi documents in Bad Arolsen, Germany, has voted to begin distributing the documents electronically to member states:

The archive contains Nazi records on the arrest, transportation, incarceration, forced labor and deaths of millions of people from the year the Nazis built their first concentration camp in 1933 to the end of the war in May 1945. It also has a vast collection of postwar records from displaced persons camps.

The name index refers to 17.5 million victims, and the documents fill 16 miles of shelves.

[snip]

Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem, which sent a representative to the meeting, welcomed the decision. “I am delighted to see this project moving forward,” said the memorial’s director Avner Shalev.

“This was a huge hurdle for many people” on the commission, said J. Christian Kennedy, the State Department’s special envoy for Holocaust issues. He said the U.S. government would work to ensure the final four countries ratify the accord quickly.

Those countries — Italy, Greece, Luxembourg and France — have all pledged to endorse the agreement by the fall, Meister said. The U.S., Israel, Britain, the Netherlands, Belgium, Poland and Germany have already finished the legal process.

Meister said the first 10 million pages — about one-fifth of the documents — will be ready for transfer to the countries by early September, with another huge batch following in November.

The U.S., France and Germany pledged to donate more than $700,000 to offset costs for preparing and transmitting the papers, Kennedy said, just short of the amount needed.

Seized by the Allies from concentration camps and Nazi offices after the war, the files were closed under a 1955 agreement to protect the privacy of survivors and the reputation of the dead who may have undergone humiliating medical experiments or been falsely accused of crimes.

Few people were allowed to see the actual papers. Since 1955, the archive has received more than 11 million requests for information, but it often responded with form letters giving minimal information. Sometimes, copies of documents were given to families.

If only every genocidal regime was so meticulous about documenting its atrocities, the practice of international criminal law would be much easier.

http://opiniojuris.org/2007/05/15/massive-nazi-archive-to-open/

4 Responses

  1. It will be very painful for people to look through this archives and see again how awful man can become.

    Best,

    Ben

  2. “If only every genocidal regime was so meticulous about documenting its atrocities, the practice of international criminal law would be much easier.”

    Indeed–though of course the Third Reich also destroyed a great deal of documents as well. And why do you think the U.S. “Coalition” forces are now prohibited from posting on YouTube (etc.)? Just go to YouTube and Search: “war crimes” and the answer becomes obvious. Also, the Iraqi Health Ministry has been significantly under-reporting casualties (as have the U.S. and U.K., in kind), and some 15,000 Iraqis have disappeared without a trace, according to human rights groups.

    (See: http://www.iraqslogger.com/index.php/post/2429 )

    Solzhenitsyn said that “Violence can only be concealed by a lie, and the lie can only be maintained by violence.” I would just add to this the reminder that, (1) in the case of Nazi Germany, the violence could only have been perpetrated on the scale it was in the first place with the help of IBM’s Hollerith machines (see IBM and the Holocaust, by Edwin Black)–as, likewise, in the case of Iraq and Vietnam, with the help of modern electronics and weapons technology; and that (2) modern computer technology also makes it potentially much easier to eliminate the recorded evidence of such crimes–themselves committed via high tech battle capabilities.

    Evil in the 21st century has become even more faceless, even ‘banal’, because and not in spite of the dazzling, Star Wars technology available to it. And I believe that it has therefore become more ‘evil’, both actually and potentially. And that should concern us greatly. As George Bernard Shaw said in the Devil’s Disciple, “The essence of evil is indifference.” Or,as the Rolling Stones ask, “Did you ever hear the screams, when the limbs are all torn off? –I doubt it.”

  3. Indeed–though of course the Third Reich also destroyed a great deal of documents as well. And why do you think the U.S. “Coalition” forces are now prohibited from posting on YouTube (etc.)? Just go to YouTube and Search: “war crimes” and the answer becomes obvious.

    You must get better search results from YouTube than I do. All I get are blatant propaganda videos by people who wouldn’t know a war crime from usual combat. Oh, and a lot of accusations that the US committed war crimes in WW2.

  4. Dear Mr. Gross,

    I don’t think you can call this a ‘blatant propaganda video (see last line)–unless it’s intended as an enlistment tool by the United Snakes military reminding all the mindless, soulless young products of American syphilisation how much fun it is to blow away the ragheads. As for whether it portrays war crimes, there is only one true answer, regardless of any number of pages of scholarly disputations. The simple, unavoidable truth is that the United Snakes launched an illegal war of aggression (‘the supreme war crime’, according to the Nuremberg tribunal) against the sovereign nation of Iraq, and now is engaged in an equally illegal occupation, which of course, involves what you call ‘usual combat’. The fact is that the very presence of United Snakes forces there IS A WAR CRIME, period.

    As for the United Snakes and World War II, there is considerable evidence of Allied war crimes during the second world war, and no historian worth his salt will tell you otherwise. I urge you to avail yourself of some of the scholarship and get the truth. That issue notwithstanding, however, but regarding the legacy of the U.S.vis-a-vis WW2 and the Holocaust, I would remind you that there are crimes of commission and there are crimes of omission, and a substantial committment to rescue European Jews on the part of the United Snakes could have saved several hundred thousand of the Nazi’s victims. As Edmund Burke said, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for the good to do nothing.”

    VIDEO: 1/5 Marines in Ramadi, Iraq: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xnyjH5wusqs

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