Accessing Hitler’s archives

100 million records stayed sealed away in Germany for decades.

German chancellor Adolf Hitler looks out at a rally staged by the Nazi Party (photo credit: Courtesy)
German chancellor Adolf Hitler looks out at a rally staged by the Nazi Party
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Today it is taken for granted that anyone interested in Holocaust research will be able to easily access such information, because it is no farther than a computer and an Internet connection Not long ago, it was not so simple to find: confirmation of having been a concentration camp inmate or having worked in a forced labor unit; information on relatives and friends who did not survive; names of death camps; Nazis policies and deportations; in fact, anything related to the Holocaust The world wide web became operational on August 6, 1991, and a regular communication and data source later.
It took longer still to make the Holocaust Archives at the International Tracing Service at Bad Arolsen in Germany accessible.
Common sense would dictate that material collected by allied forces liberating the camps would be available as soon as it was put into order.
But it remained inaccessible until December 2006, when the 11-country commission that sets policy for the International Tracing Service, voted to unseal what CBS’s 60 Minutes called “Hitler’s Secret Archive.”
In June, 2007, Scott Pelley, one of the program’s anchors, brought three Holocaust survivors to Bad Arolsen to examine records relating to them.
They were shocked. One survivor, Mickey Swartz, who was sent to Buchenwald from Hungary as a 14-year-old, discovered that he was to be transferred to Dora, where the V-1 and V-2 rockets fired at Britain were made. His name was on the list, but someone had put a line through it and through the name of another prisoner.
Very few people emerged alive from Dora.
Former maid to Adolf Hitler interview with Israeli media on life at private estate‏
The person who for years lobbied, wrote and lectured about the need to make the archives accessible, was Paul A. Shapiro, director of International Affairs and director emeritus of the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.
Shapiro told his harrowing story at the Van Leer Institute in Jerusalem this week. For years he kept striking a wall in his bid to have the archives opened. It pained him that survivors looking for relatives, who might also have survived, waited years without any reply to their requests.
The archives contained thousands of testimonies taken by liberation forces, many of which identified perpetrators of atrocities who had hidden among the prisoners.
Photographs, post cards and ID cards were among more than hundred million records kept from survivors and scholars by the commission.
“They were ready to deny the last remnant of the Holocaust generation access,” said Shapiro, whose own request from the mammoth archives was denied.
Shapiro feels the commission’s attitude was meant to minimize post-war interest in the Holocaust.
“We’re still dealing with genocide,” he said. “Antisemitism is bad for the Jews but also extremely dangerous for everyone else,” Shapiro was in Israel under the auspices of Phyllis Greenberg Heideman, Richard D.
Heideman, the B’nai B’rith World Center – Jerusalem and the Israel Forever Foundation.