Search Form
First, enter a politician or zip code
Now, choose a category

Public Statements

War Crimes Declassification Event (Remarks as Prepared)

Location: College Park, MD


Thank you Archivist Weinstein, for that kind introduction. I'm proud to be here at the Archives, along with so many of the people who have been instrumental in the success we are commemorating today.

As many of you know, in 1998 Congress first passed an act that I introduced in the Senate, along with the late Daniel Patrick Moynihan, and which my colleague Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney introduced in the House - the Nazi War Crimes Disclosure Act. The purpose of this legislation was to make public previously classified information about a terrible part of history -the history of Nazi Germany and the relationship of the U.S. government with Nazi war criminals in the aftermath of World War II and during the Cold War. Undeniably, the Nazi era was one of the darkest chapters in human existence and there was a natural tendency to try to avoid focusing on any part of it, but I am glad to say that the Congress passed the Nazi War Crimes law - because we understood that we owe it to all those who suffered and died in the death camps and to their families to bring the whole truth to light.

Since 1998 the Nazi War Crimes Disclosure Act has been in effect, and most of its work product has been generated by the Interagency Working Group, also known as the IWG, which was created by the law. The IWG includes the Director of the Holocaust Museum, the Historian of the Department of State, the Archivist of the United States, the Director of the CIA, and the head of the Office of Special Investigations at the Justice Department, among others, as well as three outside appointees known as "the public members." The public members - Elizabeth Holtzman, Richard Ben-Veniste, and Thomas Baer, as well as a number of professional historians and archivists hired by the IWG, took on the task of locating, identifying, and recommending documents for declassification, as long as the declassification posed no threat to national security.

The public members of the IWG worked closely with the CIA, the FBI, the NSA, the Army, and a number of other agencies, to examine and evaluate an enormous number of documents. In fact, since 1998, the Interagency Working Group has coordinated the single largest declassification effort in American history. After years of work, and the declassification of over 8 million documents, the historians were able to create a book entitled, "U.S. Intelligence and the Nazis." This book now provides us with 15 chapters of insight into the Holocaust and the post-World War II era - insight into what federal government officials knew and when they knew it.

This book is further proof of the great success of the project, but the volume of information released was so great that even after several extensions of the law more time was needed to complete the job. And, unfortunately, after years of working together productively on this project, by 2005 some of the representatives of the CIA found themselves disagreeing with other members of the IWG as to exactly what types of documents the law required them to disclose. After discussing the issue with all the various parties individually I came to believe strongly that the law required greater disclosure than the CIA believed was necessary, and so we had a meeting to discuss it jointly- a meeting attended by many of the people here today.

That was a very productive meeting, and I'm happy to say we were able to resolve our differences with the same spirit of cooperation that has animated this entire project since back in 1998. So after that meeting, working with the IWG and the National Archives and the CIA, we were able to reauthorize the bill for another two years, which has given all the folks working on this project the additional time they needed to finish off their extremely important research.

And the good news is, we are succeeding; since then we have made exceptionally good progress. The CIA has gone back and looked at all of their files again, expanded their search, and agreed to disclose a greater range of materials - and as a result has provided a great deal of new and important historical information about Nazi war crimes and our government's dealings with Nazi war criminals in the post-war era. We are here today to publicly release some of that new information, so that we can share these terrible, but important stories, with the public and with other historians. We are not yet done, but we are continuing with the important work of finding out what was done in the past, so we can learn from it for the future.

There are many people to thank for the success we have had on this project - Senators Leahy, and Specter and Feinstein and Cornyn; of course Congresswoman Maloney, and all of the members of the IWG, as well as the historians, archivists and staff of all of the agencies involved. I would be remiss in my role as a United States Senator from Ohio if I didn't note with pride the role of Ohio University Professor Norman J.W. Goda, who has done a great deal of work on this project and will be speaking here today. And finally, I would like to acknowledge the role of one of my former staff members, Louis Dupart. Louis was instrumental in helping to make the idea for this legislation into a law, and we are all seeing the results of his inspiration today.

Again, I'd like to thank everyone for all their efforts and congratulate everyone on the success of this project.

Skip to top

Help us stay free for all your Fellow Americans

Just $5 from everyone reading this would do it.

Back to top