Eleven nations -- including Germany -- that share custody of millions of files on victims of the Nazis agreed Tuesday to open the archives to researchers more than 60 years after World War II.
The archives contain files on Nazi victims, including their "work books for foreigners"
"These amendments will permit the rich documentation preserved at headquarters of the ITS (International Tracing Service) in Bad Arolsen to be opened to researchers and historians," the countries' representatives said in a statement after a meeting in Luxembourg.
The world's largest archive of its kind based in the central German town of Bad Arolsen covers the fates of 17.5 million forced laborers and concentration camp inmates and has until now been open only to them and their relatives.
This fact had led US academics to accuse Germany of trying to cover up its past.
But in April, German Justice Minister Brigitte Zypries said Berlin was now prepared to give the go-ahead for broader access to the 47 million often macabre documents.
The decision required the approval of all 11 countries that have held control of the files in the post-war period.
Germa n y relucta n t at first
Germany in particular had been reluctant to give researchers access to the archives, which offer a chilling, detailed account of Nazi wartime atrocities for fear that it would compromise the victims' privacy.
At the meeting, representatives said that provisions would be taken to ensure the dignity of individuals covered in the files.
"Access to the archives and documents preserved by the ITS will take adequate protection of the personal data into account," the statement said.