Sen. Biden Reiterates Call to Open Bad Arolsen Archives to Holocaust Survivors
Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Joseph R. Biden, Jr. (D-DE) called the announcement that transfer would begin of the Bad Arolsen Nazi archives to Holocaust research centers a welcome first step in the process to provide the truth about Nazi atrocities to Holocaust survivors. Under the agreement reached last night, the research institutions can organize and integrate the archival documents into their systems, but unfortunately public access for survivors is still prohibited pending full ratification.
"More than 60 years after the Holocaust, why are survivors denied access to files documenting what happened to them and their relatives?" asked Sen. Joe Biden. "Making the Bad Arolsen archives available to Holocaust research institutions is a welcome first step, but we have a long way to go. The agreement yesterday gets the ball rolling, but it accomplishes nothing substantive until ratification is complete. Italy, France, Luxembourg and Greece must ratify the accords immediately. There is no excuse for further delay."
The International Commission of countries that supervise the International Tracing Service announced yesterday that digital copies of the documents at the Bad Arolsen, Germany archive would begin to be transferred to research institutions around the world. The Bad Arolsen archives contain between 30 and 50 million pages, penned by the Nazis themselves, which chronicle the individual fates of more than 17 million Holocaust victims. Thousands of Holocaust survivors, however, are still being denied access to these files and archives. After the Allies won the war, they took possession of millions of files and documents which detailed individual atrocities committed by the Nazis. To maintain this catalogue, the Allies established an archive called the International Tracing Service, in the town of Bad Arolsen, Germany. This Tracing Service was established to unify families and help survivors learn the ultimate fate of their lost loved ones. Yet, access to the records is severely limited, and very few survivors have ever been allowed direct, much less prompt, access.
Eleven countries serve on the International Commission that supervises the Tracing Service. Last May, after years of delay, they agreed to make these archives public for the first time. They also agreed to place digitized copies at Holocaust research centers in other countries, but only after each of the 11 countries - the United States, Israel, Belgium, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Poland, and the United Kingdom - completed their own ratification procedure. In light of the advanced age of the remaining survivors, all committed to make ratification an urgent priority, with the goal of concluding the process by the end of 2006. These eleven countries have announced that digital copies of the database will soon be made available to Holocaust research centers - but these centers cannot offer unfettered access until all 11 countries ratify amendments to a treaty.
Senator Biden first advocated opening up the Bad Arolsen archives in December 2006, writing to the ambassadors of those Tracing Service Commission countries that had not yet ratified. Since then, the United Kingdom, Poland, Belgium, Germany, and the Netherlands have joined the United States and Israel in ratifying the accords. Last month, the Senate unanimously passed Senator Biden's resolution calling on the remaining countries to complete ratification of the agreement to make the Bad Arolsen archives public. The resolution also called on the International Commission to approve immediate distribution of electronic copies of the documents from Bad Arolsen to research centers around the world, including the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, so that survivors will be able to document their experience, and learn the fates of their lost loved ones.