Senate Urges International Commission to Help Open Secret Nazi Archive

The Senate is urging quick action by six countries to open a secret Nazi archive that documents the lives and deaths of millions of World War II concentration camp inmates.

In a resolution passed Wednesday, the Senate urged the international commission that controls access to the archives to speed up a process to make them public. The commission meets next month in Amsterdam, Netherlands.

Until recently the archives held in Bad Arolsen, Germany, had been kept in secrecy. The documents' importance became clearer in recent months after The Associated Press obtained extensive access to the material on condition that victims not be identified fully.

At its meeting last month, the 11-member commission set in motion a process to open the records by the end of this year after all 11 had ratified the decision. Britain, Israel, Netherlands, Poland and the United States have ratified; Belgium, France, Germany, Greece, Italy and Luxembourg have not.

The Senate resolution, introduced by Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del., chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, urged the commission "to approve the immediate distribution of copies of the documents from the Bad Arolsen archives" that already have been digitized.

It also urged the countries that have not ratified the opening to follow through and do it. Germany and Luxembourg have said they will ratify before the Amsterdam meeting. The positions of the other four have not been announced.

The Bad Arolsen archives contain 30 million to 50 million pages of documents that record the individual fates of more than 17 million victims of Nazi persecution, the resolution says.

It commends the commission for its amendments voted last May to leading to eventual opening of the archives and to put digitized copies at Holocaust research centers, including the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, but only after the ratifications.

Copies of the resolution were sent to ambassadors in the United States of the countries on the international commission.

The files have been used since the 1950s to help determine the fate of people who disappeared during the Third Reich and, later, to validate claims for compensation.