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Hastings and Wexler Urge France to Allow Bad Arolsen Archives to Be Released

WASHINGTON – Today, Congressman Alcee L. Hastings (D-FL), Chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (U.S. Helsinki Commission) and Congressman Robert Wexler (D-FL), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Europe, along with 34 members of Congress sent the following letter to French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, urging France to ratify the necessary amendments to the Bonn Accords in order to expedite the opening of the Bad Arolsen Holocaust archives.

On May 15, 2007, 11 member countries of the International Commission of the International Tracing Service (ITS), agreed to begin the immediate transfer of documents to designated receiving institutions including, the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum and Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Authority in Israel. Unless the 1955 Bonn Agreement that governs the use of these materials is amended by the 11 countries, which constitute the ITS International Commission, survivors will not have access to these critical documents. Currently, eight of the eleven ITS International countries have completed the ratification process. France, Greece and Italy are the three remaining countries who have yet to ratify the Bonn Accords.

France held a presidential election in May and parliamentary elections in June. At present, the French Government has written the text of the draft law related to an amendment to the Bonn Accords, however the draft law is currently at the Council of State in Paris and requires approval by the Council of Ministers before it can be placed on the agenda of one of the Chambers of Parliament for ratification. (Please find below a copy of the letter along with co-sponsors)

July 25, 2007

The Honourable Bernard Kouchner
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs
37, Quai d’Orsay
F – 75351 PARIS

Dear Foreign Minister Kouchner:

We are writing to congratulate you on your new position as Foreign Minister and to express our support for further strengthening US-French relations.  To this end, we want to commend the Government of France, one of the 11 member states of the International Commission of the International Tracing Service (ITS), for agreeing in May to begin the immediate transfer of copies of the Bad Arolsen Holocaust archives to designated receiving institutions.  We urge your government to complete the ratification of the amendments to the 1955 Bonn Accords (which established the ITS), as a necessary step to ensure the timely and uninterrupted release of millions of Holocaust documents located at Bad Arolsen, Germany.  Without this step, receiving institutions (including the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum and Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Authority in Israel) cannot offer unfettered access to the archives until all 11 ITS countries have ratified the treaty.  

As you know, last year France joined the 10 other members of the International Commission of the ITS in signing amendments to the Bonn Accords.  When implemented, these amendments will finally allow survivors and researchers to access millions of pieces of vital Holocaust archives.  However, the amendments must be ratified (or undergo similar approval, according to national procedures) by the parliament of each member state. 

To date, 8 of the 11 Member States have successfully completed this task: the United States, Israel, Poland, the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, United Kingdom and Luxembourg.  Although your government has indicated its support for the ratification of the amendments to the Bonn Accords, it has not sent these important amendments for Parliamentary action, or stated when it will do so.  It is our understanding that the text of the draft law related to this amendment to the Bonn Accords is currently at the Council of State in Paris.  We urge you to play a leadership role in ensuring that this text is placed on the parliamentary agenda and is expeditiously ratified.

Holocaust survivors and their families around the world are waiting on action from your country.  For the sake of these survivors and their families, we strongly urge you to ensure the prompt ratification of these amendments. 

Thank you for your immediate attention to this matter, and we look forward to your expeditious response.

Co-sponsors
                                       
Congressman Alcee L. Hastings (D-FL)
Congressman Robert Wexler (D-FL)
Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL)
Congressman Tom Lantos (D-CA)
Congressman Mike Pence (R-IN)
Congressman Robert Aderholt (R-AL)
Congresswoman Louise McIntosh Slaughter (D-NY)
Congressman Gary L. Ackerman (D-NY)
Congressman Mark Steven Kirk (R-IL)
Congressman Henry Waxman (D-CA)
Congressman Barney Frank (D-MA)
Congressman Howard Berman (D-CA)
Congressman Dan Burton (R-IN)
Congressman Frank Wolf (R-VA)
Congressman Jim Saxton (R-NJ)
Congressman Michael R. McNulty (D-NY)
Congressman John Tanner (D-TN)
Congressman James P. Moran (D-VA)
Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY)
Congressman John Linder (R-GA)
Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney (D-NY)
Congressman Steve Rothman (D-NJ)
Congressman Frank A. LoBiondo (R-NY)
Congresswoman Janice D. Schakowsky (D-IL)
Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin (D-WI)
Congressman Michael Honda (D-CA)
Congressman Raul M. Grijalva (D-AZ)
Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL)
Congresswoman Madeleine Z. Bordallo (D-GU)
Congressman Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE)
Congresswoman Allyson Y. Schwartz (D-PA)
Congressman Ron Klein (D-FL)
Congressman Steve Cohen (D-TN)
Congressman Charles A. Gonzalez (D-TX)
Congressman Lee Terry (R-NE)
Congressman Rush Holt (D-NJ)                  
 

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