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Holocaust Archives

DW staff / DPA (als)
March 28, 2007

A US panel has approved a resolution calling for the world's largest Holocaust archive to be quickly opened to the public, saying it could help help counter Holocaust deniers like Iranian President Mohammed Ahmadinejad.

Documents recording forced labor in Bad Arolsen archiveImage: PA/dpa

The resolution passed by the US House of Representatives' Foreign Affairs Committee is aimed at seven European countries that have yet to ratify an accord to open the roughly 50 million Nazi files at Bad Arolsen, Germany to researchers.

Scholars say the records on Nazi-era concentration camps and the victims of Hitler's regime would fill gaps in history, in part because the archive has testimony of victims and ordinary Germans who witnessed the brutality of the time.

In addition, referring to Iranian President Mohammed Ahmadinejad, the panel said that in light of his "anti-Semitic rhetoric, and a resurgence of anti-Semitism around the world, the opening of the archives at Bad Arolsen could not be more urgent."

Opening the archive "is a vital contribution to the world's collective memory and understanding of the Holocaust," the resolution said. It needs the full House's approval to formally take effect.

Long-debated issue

Holocaust Gedenkfeier Israel
Opening up archives to defy Holocaust deniers?Image: AP

Of the 11 countries that oversee the archive's administration, Israel, the United States, Poland and the Netherlands have ratified changes in a 1955 treaty that banned the use of files for research.

Belgium, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Luxembourg and Britain have yet to ratify the changes.

The archive's 11-nation steering committee meets in May, and the panel urged members to agree to open the records at that meeting if any ratification are still pending at that point.

The US government and the US Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington have led international pressure to open the storehouse, which is administered by the Swiss-based International Committee of the Red Cross.

In a major step, the German government agreed last year to support the changes. Currently, Italy and Greece are seen as potential key holdouts.

Public access to the records "is a moral and humanitarian imperative," especially because of "the short time left to Holocaust survivors," the House committee said.

The panel is chaired by Tom Lantos, 79, a Hungarian-born Democratic representative from California and the only Holocaust survivor in the US Congress. The Democratic-led committee passed the measure by a voice vote.

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