UNITED NATIONS (May. 7)
The United States, in a shift, is now in favor of opening to the public the United Nations files on Nazi war criminals, diplomatic sources confirmed Thursday. The sources said that the U.S. has already informed Secretary General Javier Perez de Cuellar that it has changed its position on the issue.
In addition to the U.S., Holland and Yugoslavia are now also supporting Israel’s request to allow free public access to the UN archive, located on Park Avenue South in midtown Manhattan, which contains some 40,000 files on suspected Nazi war criminals and their collaborators.
Last March, the Secretary General rejected Israel’s request to open the files to public scrutiny, contending that the nations which were members of the long-defunct War Crimes Commission had objected to it. Only Australia, out of the 17 nations who were members of the Commission, consented last March to Israel’s request. Sources here told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency Thursday that the shift in Washington’s position came as a result of a direct order from Secretary of State George Shultz. The U.S. reportedly had initially opposed opening the files to the public, following a decision by low-ranking State Department officials.
‘A VERY IMPORTANT DECISION’
Binyamin Netanyahu, Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations, welcomed the shift in the American position. “This is a very important decision. The U.S. is assuming with this action the role of moral leadership that it deserves,” the Israeli envoy told the JTA. He predicted that “it is a matter of short time now” until all the files will be open to the public.
According to sources here, other members of the 17-nation War Crimes Commission, including Canada, Poland and Czechoslovakia, are reevaluating their position.
Meanwhile, the JTA learned that the Secretary General, in view of the new developments, opened consultations with members of the War Crimes Commission to determine whether a new policy on the files should be declared.
Israel has inspected, after receiving permission from the Secretary General, more than 300 files on suspected Nazi war criminals, including the file of Austrian President Kurt Waldheim, the former UN Secretary General.