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Extension of Nazi War Crimes and Japanese Imperial Government Records Interagency Working Group

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. DeWINE. Mr. President, I rise this morning to urge support for S. 384, a bill that would extend a very important law; that is, the Nazi War Crimes Disclosure Act. This act launched a mission of discovery, and what we have learned from this bill has been extremely disturbing. It has been necessary that we learn what we have learned from this bill.

I will take a few moments to talk about the act's specific merits, but before I do that, there are some people I will thank. First, I thank the majority leader and his staff for allowing us time today on the Senate floor to debate this measure. I also thank Judiciary Chairman ARLEN SPECTER for agreeing some time ago to schedule a hearing about our bill. It was not necessary to hold the hearing, but it was important that he schedule it. It was his strong support for our efforts that allowed us to move so quickly on this issue. Senator Specter gave a strong push to all involved to resolve their differences and to move forward so we could be in the position that we are today. I thank him for his leadership and for his support.

In 1998, Congress first passed the Nazi War Crimes Disclosure Act, which our friend and colleague the late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan and I introduced, along with my friend Congresswoman CAROLYN MALONEY, who introduced it in the House.

The purpose of this law was to make public previously classified information about a terrible part of history, the history of Nazi persecution and also the relationship of the U.S. Government to the Nazi war criminals in the aftermath of World War II and during the Cold War.

The bill provided that we would disclose, within the constraints of national security, the information we had about these Nazi war criminals. Undeniably, the Nazi era was one of the darkest chapters in human existence and there is a natural tendency not to even want to think or talk about it. 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. We also owe it to their families to bring the whole truth to light.

The Nazi War Crimes Disclosure Act has been in effect since 1998, and it has resulted in a tremendous amount of information. These results have been produced primarily through the good efforts of a group called the Interagency Working Group, also known as the IWG, which was created by that law. By statute, the IWG includes the director of the Holocaust Museum, the historian of the Department of State, the Archivist of the United States, representatives from the CIA, FBI, Department of Justice, specifically the Office of Special Investigations, the Department of Defense, and three outside appointees, known as public members, who are Elizabeth Holtzman, Richard Ben-Veniste, and Thomas Baer.

The IWG also includes a number of professional historians and archivists, who, along with the public members and the other IWG members, took on the task of locating, identifying, and recommending documents for declassification, of course always provided as long as the declassification posed no threat to national security.

At this point I think it is important to offer thanks to all the members of the IWG for their years of hard work on this project. The staff, including the archivists and historians, has done remarkable work and has helped to produce a tremendous amount of research on this critical project. In particular, we owe a debt of gratitude to the public members of the IWG--Elizabeth Holtzman, Richard Ben-Veniste and Thomas Baer--who have worked without compensation and spent literally hundreds and hundreds of hours of their own time on this effort. We give them our thanks. They have contributed mightily to the knowledge of this terrible era in world history.

Once the IWG was created, it 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 specifically focused declassification effort in American history. In its first year of operation alone, the IWG screened so many documents for possible declassification and uncovered so much work to do that Congress extended its life in 2001, under the leadership of Senator Feinstein, and then again with my sponsorship in 2004.

At this point, over 100 million documents have been screened for possible relevancy, and over 8 million documents have been declassified and used to create a book titled, U.S. Intelligence and the Nazis. This book, which I have right here, now provides us with 15 chapters of insight into the Holocaust and the post-World War II era--insight into what U.S. Government officials knew and when they knew it. It makes for absolutely fascinating reading. We can be assured that, as more documents are uncovered and as historians have the opportunity to study what has already been uncovered, there will be more articles published, more interpretation, more understanding of history.

When I came to the floor almost 7 years ago to introduce and help pass the Nazi War Crimes Disclosure Act, I brought with me several aerial U.S. intelligence photographs taken in 1944 of Auschwitz. In the photographs, which were discovered by photo analysts from the CIA in 1978, prisoners were being led into gas chambers. This confirmed that our government knew that these atrocities were occurring. What else did they know? At that time, we could not be sure.

Now, however, due in great part to this law, we are much closer to answering that question. The book has contributed to our understanding of history--much more so than we ever hoped. Let me tell just a couple of the many stories this research has uncovered.

Let me tell a couple of the many stories that this research has uncovered so far.

For example, the historians were able to examine a range of documents produced by Gonzalo Montt, the Chilean consul in Prague during the early 1940s. Montt was a Nazi sympathizer and, as such, appears to have had significant access to Nazi plans regarding ``the Jewish problem'' and how the regime was planning to address it--and that plan involved moving the Jews into ghettos, expropriating their assets, and eventually eradicating the Jewish population.

British intelligence got access to many of Montt's dispatches to his home government and provided them to the United States as early as March 1942. Under the law, the IWG recommended that these documents be declassified, and our government agreed. These documents show that certain officials in our government had some evidence of Nazi intentions toward the Jews at least 6 months earlier than had previously been known.

Further, as the authors, themselves, say, these documents show again that:

for many Americans and Britons inside and outside of government, the central, overriding concern during 1939-1945 was the war, itself--not the barbaric policies that accompanied it.

Our job in Congress, at least in passing the law, was not to judge history. That is up to historians. That is up to the people who read it. That will be up to us, later on. As these documents come out, we can begin to judge it.

The point is, though, to make this information available, to let the truth come out, whatever that truth is. Let these raw documents come out to let people make judgments based on those documents. Let historians view it. Let historians argue about them. But to get those documents out in front of the historians and, ultimately, in front of the American people and in front of the world.

We learn from history. We learn from the truth. What this bill is about is getting out the truth.

Other documents showed other details. For example, in a chapter written by Professor Norman J.W. Goda, a professor at Ohio University, the book details how the German government, in coordination with a number of U.S. and European banks, worked together to funnel money illegally expropriated from the accounts of German Jewish nationals back to Germany. Although the details are somewhat complex, in essence, the German government used these expropriated assets to lure a prior generation of German immigrants back to Germany from the United States and, essentially, invest in the German war effort.

A large U.S. bank was intimately involved in this scheme, and profited greatly from it. The scheme was discovered in late 1940 by the FBI, and it began a lengthy investigation. Rather than shut down the operation, the Bureau surveilled the many participants and eventually did arrest a large number of them. At some point during the investigation, the bank, itself, did cooperate with the investigation and was never prosecuted in order to protect FBI and Army intelligence sources. Until this project began, this story had never fully been exposed.

As this book shows and those stories illustrate, this project has been a great success, and the IWG has been very effective at their task--but the law is due to expire at the end of March and the IWG needs more time. Unfortunately, during the course of the last year, the IWG and the CIA have had several ongoing disagreements about the correct interpretation of the law and what type of disclosure the law requires.

After a great deal of effort, the parties have finally come to a common understanding of what the law requires. Specifically, it is now understood that the law was drafted broadly, so that as much information as possible may be released--both about specific Nazi war crimes and also about the relationship the U.S. Government had with Nazi war criminals in the post World War II and Cold War era.

With this understanding going forward, the various parties who comprise the IWG agree that there is a need for some more time to conclude their important work, and I agree, as well. Accordingly, yesterday I introduced, along with Senators FEINSTEIN and CORNYN, legislation that will extend the life of the IWG for 2 additional years, until March 2007. Both the IWG and the CIA agree that 2 years is a reasonable amount of time for the extension, and I agree.

I hope and expect that well within those 2 years, the IWG, working closely with the CIA, will be able to examine the remaining documents and release the important information that still lays within the files of the CIA--unexamined by the public until now. We have come a long way and told a large part of the story, and it is time to finish the job.

Finally, I would like to note for the record the contributions of the many people who have helped us to get to where we are today. Once again, Senator Specter, the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, was instrumental in putting the power of the Judiciary Committee behind our effort to move this issue quickly. I also would like to thank Senator Leahy, the ranking member of the Judiciary Committee, who has been a leader on this issue since the beginning, along with our co-sponsors on the Committee, Senator Feinstein and Senator Cornyn.

In the House of Representatives, as I mentioned earlier, Representative CAROLYN MALONEY has been my counterpart and the leader on this issue since the beginning. I look forward to working with Representative Maloney and with Chairman Davis, Chairman Sensenbrenner and Chairman HOEKSTRA to help move this legislation in the House.

Of course, I also must recognize the commitment, dedication, and vision of the late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan. He spent countless hours involved in this issue. He knew how important this was to deepening our understanding of history. He appreciated the value of uncovering this information and what it would mean to those who suffered through the Holocaust and their families.

I also must mention that the CIA, of course, has played a critical role in resolving this dispute and moving forward toward the completion of this project. I'd like to thank former DCI George Tenet for his efforts in that regard and, in particular, mention current DCI Porter Goss, who, as a Congressman from Florida, was a cosponsor of the original legislation in the House. Again, as I noted earlier, the members and staff of the IWG, including the public members, deserve our special thanks.

I should mention again the efforts of leadership and Floor staff, particularly Sharon Soderstrom and Laura Dove, for helping to move this legislation so quickly and make sure we had the opportunity to consider it prior to the expiration of the IWG next month.

Finally, on a personal note, I thank the staffs of all of the Members who have played such a large role on this issue. In particular, I would like to recognize the contributions of my former Judiciary Committee Staff Director Louis Dupart. Louis was a critical part of the team that helped us turn this idea into law back in 1998. Even though he is no longer working in the Senate, he has never stopped working to help promote this legislation and the effective implementation of the law. His ongoing efforts have been crucial to the success of our efforts here today.

Again I urge my colleagues to vote for this important and timely legislation to extend our efforts to finally and fully open our files regarding this horrific period in history and give the victims of the Nazi era and their families as complete an accounting as possible. We owe them no less.

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