The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

Shofar FTP Archive File: places/russia/press/soviets-transfer-archives

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 

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

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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