Nazi Documents Open to Public for the First Time

A massive storehouse of Nazi documents will now be opened to the public.

ByABC News
February 9, 2009, 3:43 PM

PASSAU, Germany, Nov. 28, 2007 — -- The Red Cross announced today that for the first time one of the largest storehouses of Nazi documents in the world would be opened to the public, ending more than six decades of secrecy.

Sixty years after World War II ended, families of Holocaust victims and history researchers will now have direct access to the millions of files that contain the most detailed information of Nazi atrocities committed during the war.

The huge archive of Nazi records, administered by the Red Cross Tracing Service, has details on millions of concentration camp inmates and slave laborers. Most of the estimated 50 million files were seized by Allied troops at the end of World War II.

"Today we see the conclusion of a long and difficult process," International Red Cross President Jakob Kellenberger said in a statement issued in Geneva. "The sensitive information stored at the International Tracing Service is now available to researchers and the broader public. This dark chapter in German history must never be forgotten."

The archive will continue to serve the purpose for which it was originally created -- tracing missing persons, reuniting families and providing documentation to victims of Nazi persecution to support compensation claims.

Until now the Holocaust archive, housed in a former SS barracks in the small town of Bad Arolsen in central Germany, has been used exclusively by the Tracing Service, which has helped people trace loved ones who went missing during World War II. Holocaust survivors and family members had to request access to the files stored in Bad Arolsen though the International tracing service, an arm of the International Committee of the Red Cross. They often had to wait years for a response.

Last year, there were about 150,000 requests for information about lost relatives who went missing during the war.

"The sheer dimensions of the collection and its unique nature both enable these documents to make plain the horrors inflicted systematically and on an enormous scale by the Nazi regime from 1933 to 1945," Reto Meister, director of the Tracing Service in Bad Arolsen, told "It will now be possible to carry out detailed research on, for example, the transport of prisoners, the camp populations and the health of forced laborers."