WASHINGTON – United States Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (U.S. Helsinki Commission) Chairman Alcee L. Hastings (D-Florida) this week introduced H. Res. 240, bipartisan legislation urging all European nations to allow for open access to the Holocaust archives located in Bad Arolsen, Germany.
“62 years after the end of the Holocaust these crucial archives remain difficult to access for survivors and off limits to researchers,” said Representative Hastings. “After all of the horrors and suffering they have experienced, the world owes it to the remaining Holocaust survivors to inform them of the truth about their family and their loved ones without hassle or delay.”
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 4 out of the 11 Commission member countries (the United States, Israel, Poland and the Netherlands) have ratified the treaty.
In February 2007, United States Representative Hastings resolution led two additional bipartisan efforts with over 40 other Members of Congress to the German, British, French, Italian, Belgium, Greek, and Italian ambassadors urging these Commission member countries to expedite the ratification process.
“Recent progress to open the archives was made at the Commission’s recent meeting in the Hague. But until the amendments are ratified, their treaty obligations remain unfulfilled. The short time left for the remaining Holocaust survivors does not afford us time to delay any longer,” Representative Hastings noted.
Among the 32 original cosponsors of the bill were Foreign Affairs Committee Chair and Ranking Member Tom Lantos (D-CA) and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) and Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia Gary Ackerman (D-NY). The lead Republican cosponsor is Representative Mark Steven Kirk (R-IL).