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Democrats push to release holocaust records { December 2007 }

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Associated Press
Lawmakers Press for Nazi Documents
By HARRY DUNPHY 12.29.06, 6:35 PM ET

The incoming head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and other U.S 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 countries that have to go through a ratification process to move quickly 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 in a letter to British Ambassador Sir David Manning. "We owe it to them as well as their relatives to act promptly."

Biden sent similar letters to other countries on the commission that oversees the archive.

Biden, D-Del., 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.

"In the Holocaust's aftermath, there have been far too many demonstrations of survivors and heirs of Holocaust victims who have been refused their moral and legal right to information, restitution of assets, or compensation for slave labor."

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. The signatures of the United States and Israel constitute ratification.

Miami attorney Sam Dubbin, who has represented Holocaust survivors, said the need to provide complete access to the archive is clear and should be sufficient to get immediate attention.

"But the compensation and restitution issues are also vital and mostly overlooked," he said. "We know that so much information has been hidden, and there have been so many 'surprises' when these Nazi records are actually examined, it would be a travesty to allow past restitution arrangements to stand until survivors and family members are given complete access to the entirety of the files."

Dubbin said the archive might include information about insurance policies, slave labor claims and other property claims.

Copyright 2006 Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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