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Status of UN War Crimes File Still Subject to Discussion

October 15, 1987
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Representatives of the 17 former members of the United Nations War Crimes Commission were meeting with UN Secretary General Javier Perez de Cuellar Wednesday to inform him of their respective governments’ final position on opening the files of Nazi war criminals at the UN Archives in Manhattan.

A meeting on the issue held here Sept. 22-23 reached no agreement, and the second meeting was set for Wednesday to allow the representatives time to consult with their governments and receive new directives.

But informed sources told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that no decision was expected at the Wednesday meeting. They stressed that the final decision rests with the Secretary General, who has the authority to order the files open. It is not expected before the end of the month.

The issue is whether to allow access to scholars, historians and researchers to the dossiers on more than 40,000 accused Nazi war criminals. They are presently accessible only to the governments of UN member states.

The sources also told the JTA that 16 former members of the long-defunct War Crimes Commission have already expressed support for greater access to the files. The only country which has not yet disclosed its position is France.

After last month’s meeting, a source said the French had suggested that scholars and historians be allowed to view the files at the archives but not to publish or announce their findings. The French position was attributed to the fact that the files contain more accusations of war crimes committed in France than in any other country.

It is contrary to the intentions of Israel, which originally demanded that the files be open to all. The reported French proposal would, for all practical purposes, leave them sealed.

Meanwhile, the Los Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Center used the occasion of Wednesday’s meeting to release a list of what it says are 10 of the most notorious Nazi war criminals believed to be still at large around the world.

The list names Alois Brunner, chief deputy to Adolf Eichmann, who is believed to be living in Damascus under Syrian protection; Anton Burger, deputy commandant of the Theresienstadt concentration camp, at large; Friedrech Warzok, commandant at Janowska camp in Lvov, whereabouts unknown; Heinrich Otto Drechsler, a brigadier general in Latvia, whereabouts unknown; and Josef Schwammberger, commandant of Przemysl, Poland, believed to be in Argentina.

Also: Erich Gruen, chief doctor at Maidanek death camp, whereabouts unknown; Hans Wilhelm Koenig, a doctor at Auschwitz, thought to be in Scandinavia; Horst Schumann, also an Auschwitz doctor, whereabouts unknown; and Heinrich Mueller, head of Gestapo, thought to be in Eastern Europe.

Rabbi Marvin Hier, dean of the Wiesenthal Center, said, “It is outrageous that 45 years after its establishment, the UN War Crimes Commission should still be debating whether or not Nazihunters should have full access to important dossiers on these mass murderers.”

Noting that Nazi-hunter Simon Wiesenthal had urged the UN Secretary General in April 1986 to open the files, Hier said, “We were disappointed that the UN Secretary General threw the ball back to the members of the War Crimes Commission to decide, thus further delaying access to this crucial information.”

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