Monday October 28 10:20 EST Russia Gives Archives to U.S. Holocaust Museum MOSCOW (Reuter) - In a bold display of post-Cold War openness, Russia Monday handed to the Washington-based Holocaust Memorial Museum a raft of documents from the former KGB archives on Nazi atrocities against the Jews. Alexander Yakovlev, who heads Russia's Commission for the Rehabilitation of Victims of Political Repression, presented the 15,000 pages of archives to museum officials in a Kremlin ceremony also attended by U.S. Ambassador Thomas Pickering. "These documents can no longer be kept in archives -- they must be made known to all" said Yakovlev, a former adviser to Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev. The documents include wartime field reports of atrocities committed by the Nazis after Hitler launched his invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941 and also materials on trials of German Nazis and Soviet collaborators from 1946 to 1949. "This transfer of archive materials is unprecedented in terms of scope and breadth," Pickering told a news conference. Officials said the transfer of the materials, whose full historical importance has still to be assessed, followed several years of discussions with the KGB's post-communist successor, the Federal Security Service (FSB). Walter Reich, director of the Holocaust Memorial Museum, said the documents were especially valuable because the Nazis'mass killings of Jews had begun on Soviet soil. "It was here that these mass killings began as the Einsatzgruppen (special murder squads) swept in behind the invading forces," he told reporters in a prepared statement. Quoting Winston Churchill's words at the time, he said: "We are in the presence of a crime without a name." Around 1.5 million Jews were killed in these murderous operations accompanying the German invasion, Reich said. Records of postwar trials of Nazis would shed light on another group of victims, Soviet prisoners of war, who he said "were killed in a kind of macabre shooting gallery or became subjects of experiments to demonstrate the effectiveness of new hand grenades." The trial documents also include information about Soviet citizens who collaborated with the Nazi occupiers. Some became particularly sadistic camp guards who were later captured and brought to trial, museum official Carl Modig told reporters. Vladimir Naumov, a distinguished Russian archivist, said the documents showed that responsibility for the atrocities was not limited to the murder squads but pervaded the whole German army from the lowest to the most senior ranks. He said the materials would help historians get a clearer idea of how many Jews perished at Nazi hands, adding that he believed the figure exceeded the generally cited 6 million to 7 million computed after the war. Naumov also recalled how honest, objective investigations into the Nazis' genocide suffered because of hardening anti-Semitism in Stalin's postwar Soviet Union. Wartime efforts by leading Soviet intellectuals to compile "blackbook" of anti-Semitic crimes had to be abandoned, though some of their material was later published in the United States. "Any mention of Jews (at that time) was seen as heinous anti-Soviet propaganda," Naumov said. Reich hailed Naumov's words as marking a watershed in Russian attitudes toward the Holocaust. "What Dr. Naumov has said reflects a kind of fresh thinking and a new look at the historical facts that is especially needed in this country, which for so long looked at history through an ideological lens," Reich said. Russia is still coming to terms with its own long history of anti-Semitism. This month the first synagogue built in Moscow since the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution opened its doors in a move seen by some Jewish leaders as a partial atonement for the past. The U.S. officials said they hoped Monday's archive transfer would be part of an ongoing process of sharing information. Their museum, founded in 1980 by an act of Congress, aims to promote an understanding of the Holocaust and to serve as a memorial to its victims. The museum receives some 7.25 million visitors annually, 80 percent of them non-Jewish.
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