Special to the JTA Effort to Open War Crimes File Fails; Another Effort Now Under Way
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Special to the JTA Effort to Open War Crimes File Fails; Another Effort Now Under Way

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The 17 former member-states of the United Nations War Crimes Commission are scheduled to meet here on October 14 for another attempt to reach agreement on opening the defunct Commission’s files on Nazi war criminals and their collaborators to the public.

Their meeting with UN Secretary General Javier Perez de Cuellar on September 22-23 ended without agreement. The new meeting was set for nearly a month later to allow representatives of the countries time for consultations and to receive new directives from their respective governments.

The issue is whether to allow access to the files to scholars, historians and researchers. The files, kept at the United Nations archives in a Manhattan building, reportedly contain the records of more than 40,000 accused Nazi war criminals. They are presently accessible only to the governments of UN member-states.

The former member-states of the War Crimes Commission are Australia, Belgium, Canada, China, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, France, Greece, India, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Britain, United States and Yugoslavia.


It was announced before last week’s meeting that at least 15 of them had informed the Secretary General they agreed to grant wider access to the files. Only France and India did not inform him of their positions. According to reliable sources, the files contain more accusations of war crimes committed in France than in any other country.

Some diplomats here said this might explain why France continues to oppose wider access to the archives. One source said the French suggested at last week’s meeting that scholars and historians be allowed to view the files but be forbidden to publish or announce their findings.

This would be in sharp contradiction to the intentions of Israel which originally demanded the opening of the files. For all practical purposes, the reported French proposal would still leave them sealed.

It was discovered last year that the archives contained the files of former UN Secretary General Kurt Waldheim, now President of Austria, who has been accused of complicity in Nazi atrocities in Greece and Yugoslavia when he served as an intelligence officer in the German army in the Balkans during World War II.

When Israel first demanded that the archives be opened, it was supported by only one former member of the War Crimes Commission — Australia. The joining of 14 other former member states, since then, including the United States, represents a major diplomatic victory for Israel.

Diplomats here expressed optimism Monday that the files will soon be opened and that some formula will be agreed to by the 17 former member nations for public access.

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