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Key to opening U.S. archives on Nazis sits on Clinton’s desk

WASHINGTON, Aug. 9 (JTA) — Legislation that would open up thousands of classified U.S. files on alleged Nazi war criminals is awaiting President Clinton’s signature. Before adjourning for its August recess, the U.S. House of Representatives gave final approval to the Nazi War Crimes Disclosure Act in a unanimous vote last Friday. The legislation, approved by the Senate in June and supported by Clinton, would create a new multiagency working group to locate, identify and recommend that the National Archives release all classified information held by the government on Nazi war criminals. Elan Steinberg, executive director of the World Jewish Congress, said passage of the legislation “enables us to write the last chapter of the Second World War in a more accurate manner.” He said that while the bill may not necessarily lead to more prosecutions of alleged war criminals, “its greater significance is the historical realm and what it tells us about the search for the truth.” The government has been gradually releasing information it gathered during the war, but several federal agencies, including the CIA, the State Department and the Department of Defense, have refused to declassify certain documents, citing national security. “Some of the information might prove embarrassing for the United States,” said Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), who sponsored the bill in the House. “But there are important lessons to be learned from some of those documents.” Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-N.Y.), who co-sponsored the Senate bill with Sen. Mike DeWine (R-Ohio), said the documents “have been held far too long, well beyond the time when their disclosure might have posed a threat to national security.” “Those who suffered from the Holocaust are reaching the end of their life span. We owe it to them to make available as much information about that terrible period as possible,” Moynihan said.