Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Germany agrees to open Holocaust records

From Haaretz 19/04/2006, By The Associated Press (also refer to our earlier posting on this subject) ....

WASHINGTON - Germany said Tuesday it would help clear the way for opening records on 17 million Jews and other victims of the Nazis, a major step toward ending a long battle over access to a vast and detailed look into the Holocaust.

German Justice Minister Brigitte Zypries said her country would work with the United States to assure the opening of the archives, which are held in the German town of Bad Arolsen, and allow historians and survivors access to some 30 million to 50 million documents.

Until now, Germany had resisted providing access to the archives, citing privacy considerations.

The dramatic announcement, made at the U.S. Holocaust Museum, came after a 20-year effort by the museum and some other countries to get the archives opened. Negotiations intensified in the past four or five years and took on even greater momentum in the past two years, said Arthur Berger, spokesman for the museum. In a meeting Tuesday with museum director Sarah Bloomfield, Zypries said Germany had changed its position and would seek immediate revision of an 11-nation accord that governs the archives. The 10 other countries also must agree if the records are to be opened, a process she said should take no more than six months.

Edward B. O'Donnell Jr., the State Department's special envoy for Holocaust issues, said he was encouraged, but he added: "We still have negotiations to do."The next step is a meeting in Luxembourg on May 15, when all 11 countries would have to reach consensus. In some instances, parliaments would have to approve the archives' opening as well. Opening the archives would enable many survivors and families of victims of the Nazis to learn with more certainty what happened to their relatives."We are losing the survivors, and anti-Semitism is on the rise, so this move could not be more timely," Bloomfield said in an interview.She said the move was "something of moral and historical importance in a critical time."

.....Besides Germany and the United States, the other countries involved are Belgium, Britain, France, Greece, Israel, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Poland.

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