Testimony of Paul A. Shapiro

Director of the Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

Before the Committee on Foreign Affairs, Subcommittee on Europe

“Opening up of the Bad Arolsen Holocaust Archives in Germany”

March 28, 2007

Mr. Chairman, Distinguished Members of the Committee, Survivors of the Holocaust, Ladies and Gentlemen.

On behalf of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, I would like to thank the Committee for organizing this important hearing regarding the archives of the International Tracing Service (ITS) in Bad Arolsen, Germany.

Who would believe that six decades after the end of World War II an archival repository of 35 to 50 million pages of documentation relating to the fates of 17.5 million people victimized by the Nazis would remain virtually inaccessible to survivors and their families and absolutely closed to scholarly and other research? Who would believe that 11 democratic governments, including our own, have exercised supervisory control over the repository and thus, whether knowingly or not, or placing a higher value on diplomatic consensus than on human compassion, bore responsibility for keeping the documentation hidden? And who would believe that those governments and the International Committee of the Red Cross—all with admirable records of humanitarian good deeds, and many with very positive records of confronting Holocaust-related issues—appeared ready to see the last remnant of the Holocaust survivor generation disappear from our midst without providing them with the reassurance that the records of what happened to them and to the loved ones they lost would not be conveniently kept under wraps? No one would believe it, and yet this has been the situation.

The archives of the International Tracing Service constitute the most extensive collection of records in one place tracing the fates of people from across Europe–Jews of course, but members of virtually every other nationality as well–who were arrested, deported, sent to concentration camps, and murdered by the Nazis; who were put to forced and slave labor under inhuman conditions calculated in many instances to result in death; and who were displaced from their homes and families and unable to return home at war’s end.