WASHINGTON – The U.S. House of Representatives today unanimously passed a bipartisan resolution calling on European nations to grant open access to Holocaust archives located at Bad Arolsen, Germany. Introduced by U.S. Representatives Alcee L. Hastings (D-FL) and Mark Kirk (R-IL), House Resolution (H. Res.) 240 calls on all members of the International Commission of the International Tracing Service (ITS) to ratify amendments to the 1955 Bonn Accords, thereby opening millions of records on ghetto life, deportations, labor camps, death camps and post-war displacement.
“It is beyond shameful that for 62 years, Holocaust survivors, their families and historians continue to be denied immediate access to Nazi archives,” said Representative Hastings, who serves as Chairman of the United States Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (Helsinki Commission) and President Emeritus of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe Parliamentary Assembly (OSCE PA). “In our world, filled with Anti-Semitism, hate, racial bigotry, xenophobia, and religious intolerance, it is imperative to expose the horrors of the Holocaust to all humanity. If European countries are truly committed to closing this dark chapter in world history and combating modern day anti-Semitism, then they must agree to open the archives immediately.”
The Holocaust archives located in Bad Arolsen remain the largest closed Second World War-era archives in the world. Inside the archives are 50 million records that disclose the fate of some 17.5 million individual victims of Nazism. In order to allow for open access to these important archives, each of the 11 members of the International Commission of the International Tracing Service (ITS) (the United States, Belgium, France, Germany, Greece, Israel, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Poland, and the United Kingdom) must individually ratify through their respective parliaments the May 2006 amendments to the 1955 Bonn Accords. To date, however, only six out of the 11 Commission member countries (the United States, Israel, Poland, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and Germany) have ratified the treaty.
“At a time when the President of Iran sponsors official Holocaust denial conferences, Europe bears a unique responsibility in helping us bring Nazi archives to public view,” said Representative Kirk, who serves as co-chair of the House Taskforce on anti-Semitism and co-chair of the bipartisan Iran Working Group. “More than 60 years ago, we made the promise of ‘Never Again.’ As President Ahmadinejad threatens a second Holocaust in Israel, we must open these archives and renew that vow.”
In January 2007, United States Representative Hastings and Robert Wexler (D-FL) led a bipartisan letter with over 40 other Members of Congress to the German ambassador urging immediate action. In February of this year, Representatives Hastings, Kirk and Wexler recruited nearly 50 members of Congress to send similar letters to British, French, Italian, Belgium, Greek, and Italian ambassadors, urging these Commission member countries to expedite the ratification process. In March 2007, Representative Wexler, as Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Europe, held a hearing on the Bad Aroloson archives. All of these efforts helped pressure Great Britain, the Netherlands and Germany to ratify the amendments.