U.S. Lawmakers Call for More Access to Nazi-era Documents

The incoming head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and other lawmakers are pressing governments to speed up ratification of an agreement that will open up access to millions of documents from the Nazi era in Germany.

Earlier this month, Sen. Joseph Biden, who takes over as head of the committee when Congress reconvenes Jan. 4, urged Britain to move quickly on ratification so that the public can view the vast war-era archive.

"Further delay in release of this archive material would be unjust to Holocaust survivors, —-virtually all of whom are now elderly — still seeking compensation for the unspeakable crimes of the Nazi regime," Biden wrote Dec. 15 to British Ambassador Sir David Manning. "We owe it to them as well as their relatives to act promptly."

Biden, a Delaware Democrat, also said that the archival material stored in the west German town of Bar Arolsen would provide "further proof, if any were still needed that those who deny the occurrence of the Holocaust are dangerously deluded."

Iran drew worldwide condemnation for hosting 67 participants from 30 countries at a conference earlier this month debating whether the World War II genocide of 6 million Jews took place.

In the House, Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Fla., said he was deeply concerned about "the consistent delay of the commission members" of the International Tracing Service to permit Holocaust survivors access to the documents.

"This ongoing delay is a further example of how the Holocaust survivors, who have been part of such unimaginable, horrendous genocide and the greatest crime against humanity are forced to endure severe obstacles and difficulties," he said in a statement Wednesday.

Last April the 11-nation governing body of the International Red Cross' International Tracing Service, which administers the archive, agreed to expand access, overcoming the German privacy concerns that had kept it closed for 50 years.

The signatories to the agreement are Germany, the United States, Israel, Britain, France, Luxembourg, Greece, Italy, Belgium, Poland and the Netherlands. Now a ratification process is under way in most of those countries.