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American Red Cross Opening Files on Thousands Killed by the Nazis

February 13, 1992
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Records on 300,000 to 500,000 people killed by the Nazis will soon become available for the first time through the American Red Cross and its international counterpart.

The U.S. records, stored at the National Archives in Washington, were declassified in 1972. But it was not until recently that the American Red Cross became aware of their existence, said Ann Stingle, a spokeswoman for the agency.

Researchers from the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum alerted the American Red Cross in late 1990 to the records’ existence.

The American Red Cross has transferred an initial batch of microfilm, containing information on 7,000 people, to the International Tracing Service in Arolsen, Germany.

The records include death books, transport lists and records on victims of medical experiments and euthanasia. Also included are records from forced labor camps including Buchenwald, Mauthausen and the Hadamar Institute, where deformed children were killed.

The records can be accessed by filling out a tracing request with a local Red Cross chapter in the United States, with a national Red Cross office in countries outside the United States, or by directly contacting the center at Arolsen.

The forms can be obtained in the United States by calling (800) 848-9277. The requests are translated into German and take up to a year to research.

The Los Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Center, which tracks down Nazi war criminals in order to bring them to justice, has been clamoring for years to gain access to the Red Cross’ archival holdings.

But the Red Cross has refused such requests in order to maintain political neutrality, a policy it credits as having helped it acquire certain archival material in the first place.

Diane Paul, program manager at the American Red Cross’ 17-month-old Holocaust and War Victims Tracing and Information Center in Baltimore, has expressed concern as well that such material, if made public, could be used “in a distorted way” by revisionist scholars who deny many aspects of the Holocaust.

But Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Wiesenthal Center, said would support an open access policy, even if it meant that revisionists could see the material.

Since its inception, the Baltimore tracing center has helped reunite 52 long-separated relatives from 26 families who filed requests for information, Stingle said.

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