The German-based International Tracing Service has handed over digital copies of millions of Holocaust-related documents to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.
The documents, from the archive at Bad Arolsen, are part of a trove of 50 million records of deportation files, arrest records and concentration camp documentation whose release has been sought for years.
The museum received the files on behalf of the United States, one of 11 nations that control the archive. Yad Vashem recieved Israel’s copy. However, no documents will be available to the public until all 11 countries have given their consent. France, Italy and Greece are the three who have not yet done so.
Jakob Kellenberger, president of the International Committee of the Red Cross, which manages the archive, said in a press announcement on August 21 that he was “satisfied that a first step has now been taken” in opening the archives to the public. Though materials have technically always been available to victims of Nazi persecution or their families, strict privacy laws in member countries have made it difficult to release the documents to scholars and the general public. Many survivors say their inquiries to the archive have gone unanswered.
Though the documents won’t be immediately available, the museum announced that an inventory of their contents would be available on its Web site.