Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Largest Holocaust Archives In The World, In Bad Arolsen Germany, To Be Opened And Fully Digitized For World-Wide On-Line Study

WASHINGTON, April 18 — "Germany agreed Tuesday to allow access to a vast trove of information on what happened to more than 17 million people who were executed, forced to labor for the Nazi war machine or otherwise brutalized during the Holocaust.

The German government announced at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum here that it was dropping its decades-long resistance to opening the archives kept in the town of Bad Arolsen. The files, which make up one of the largest Holocaust archives in the world, are more than 15 miles long and hold up to 50 million documents, some seized by the Allies as they liberated concentration camps.

"We now agree to open the data in Bad Arolsen," Justice Minister Brigitte Zypries said at a news conference here. She said her country would seek revision of an international arrangement that governs the archives, The Associated Press reported.

The accord ends a nasty diplomatic dispute between the United States and Germany. More important, officials at the Holocaust museum said, it will open the documents to historians and researchers, whose access has been blocked because of Germany's strict privacy laws.

"Sixty years after the end of the war, it's time," Arthur Berger, the Holocaust museum's senior adviser on external affairs, said after Ms. Zypries pledged that Germany would work with the United States to make the documents available. The 11-nation commission that oversees the archives is to meet on May 16 in Luxembourg.

Paul Shapiro, the director of advanced Holocaust studies at the museum here, said the documents would offer insights into the day-to-day evils of the Nazi era, "the routine process of deportation, concentration camps, slave labor, killing." And perhaps, he said, the paperwork will offer clues to "a few new perpetrators" who, if no longer subject to earthly justice, can at least stand before the bar of history.

Mr. Shapiro said museum officials hoped to make the documents "truly accessible," available for computer viewing at Holocaust research centers around the world. Since 1998 about half of the documents have been copied in digital form. About 20 percent of the documents were copied on microfilm before 1998, Mr. Shapiro said.

Until now, Holocaust survivors and their relatives have been able to seek information from the Bad Arolsen archives, but they have sometimes waited years, said Sara J. Bloomfield, director of the Holocaust museum in Washington.

The files are controlled by the International Tracing Service, which operates as an arm of the International Committee of the Red Cross. The service, which since the end of World War II has used the files to help people learn about relatives who were victims of German atrocities, has been swamped. Its budget, provided by Germany, has been cut as part of national austerity measures.

The tracing service is run by a commission representing the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands, Greece, Israel, Poland and Luxembourg. Germany has long insisted that for the archives to be opened, all 11 countries would have to vote to amend the 1955 treaty that set up the tracing service as it restored German sovereignty.

In Washington on Tuesday, Ms. Zypries said Germany would move at a meeting in Luxembourg next month to change the treaty to open the archives. She said her government would try to persuade Italy, which had also resisted opening the documents, to go along." ...

David Stout "Germany Agrees to Open Holocaust Archive" New York Times, April 19, 2006 via

Thousands of trainloads of Ukrainian Ostarbeiter [slave laborers] were sent to Germany for slave labor from cities like Kovel, Volhynia, [West] Ukraine in 1942.

... "Koch was ordered to provide 450,000 workers a year from Ukraine for German industry by "ruthless" means, according to Reitlinger. German documents said that the Ukrainian Ostarbeiter would be "worked to death." Although 40,000 Ukrainians a month were being sent to Germany as Ostarbeiter (slave laborers), armaments minister Albert Speer complained that his work force was dwindling. This would mean that more than 40,000 were dying every month.

In one memorandum from Fritz Sauckel to Alfred Rosenberg, there was a demand for one million men and women in four months at the rate of 10,000 a day and more than two-thirds were to come from Ukraine. In all the major Ukrainian cities the German army kidnapped young adults off the streets and shipped them to Germany as virtual slave laborers to work in the worst and most dangerous conditions. On the orders of the German administration, Ukrainian cities were to be permanently depopulated by starvation and deportation. About three-quarters of the over 3,000,000 Ostarbeiter were Ukrainians. Prof. Kondufor's statistic is that 2,244,000 Ukrainians were forced into slave labor in Germany during World War II. Another statistic puts the total at 2,196,166 for Ukrainian Ostarbeiter slaves in Germany (Dallin, p. 452). Both of these statistics probably do not include the several hundreds of thousands of Galician Ukrainians, so a final total could be about 2.5 million. There were slightly more women than men Ostarbeiter employed in agrilculture, mining, manufacturing armaments, metal production and railroads.

For example, on September 3, 1942, Hitler demanded that half a million Ukrainian women be brought to Germany to free German women from housekeeping. Hitler thought there was a Germanic strain in Ukraine because the Ostro-Goths and Visi-Goths had lived in southern Ukraine 1,800 years earlier and the "chaste peasant virtues of Ukrainian women" appealed to him. In the end only about 15,000 girls were taken to Germany to work as domestics. The other two million Ukrainians worked mostly in the armaments factories including the V-2 rocket factory at Peenemunde." ...

Text and photo credit: Andrew Gregorovich "World War II in Ukraine: Koch versus Rosenberg" via history/ww2/page-13.html With thanks.


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