UNITED NATIONS (AP) — U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power announced Thursday that the United Nations has agreed to give the U.S. Holocaust Museum a full copy of the archive documenting thousands of cases against accused World War II criminals in Europe and Asia.
She told the Anti-Defamation League's National Commission Centennial Meeting on Thursday that the archive of the United Nations War Crimes Commission will benefit scholars "at a time when Holocaust denial is embraced by many who prefer diversionary fantasies to inconvenient facts."
The commission was established in October 1943 by 17 allied nations to issue lists of alleged war criminals — ultimately involving about 37,000 individuals — and examine the charges against them and try to assure their arrest and trial. It was shut down in 1948.
Its unrestricted records, related to more than 10,000 cases, were put online in early July by the International Criminal Court after an agreement with the United Nations. Its restricted files — which will now be given to the Holocaust Museum in Washington — contain some 30,000 sets of pre-trial documents submitted by national and military tribunals to judge whether the case should be pursued, according to British academic Dan Plesch, who has led the campaign for greater access to the archive.
He expressed delight that representations to the U.S. government and the Holocaust Museum, which is a federal agency as well as recent support from leading international legal figures including Justice Richard Goldstone "will finally make this archive available as the commission itself intended in 1948."
Plesch explained that the files contain details of many charges of crimes that are not being prosecuted extensively today. "The importance of the release of this material is that it will make it much easier to bring modern war criminals to book, whether leaders or foot soldiers, for a wider range of crimes," he told The Associated Press.
"This is because the archive contains a greater variety of legal judgments than the narrow base of the Nuremberg and Tokyo trials" for major World War II war criminals, Plesch said. "This wider base can support many different types of prosecutions, including rape and forced prostitution."
Plesch, director of the Center for International Studies and Diplomacy at the University of London's School of Oriental and African Studies, said the U.N. commission endorsed war crimes trials for some 10,000 individuals.
It is known that 2,000 trials took place in 15 countries including the United States, he said. U.N. chief archivist Bridget Sisk has said the original files, in about 400 boxes, are kept in the main U.N. headquarters building for security and preservation. The documents have been transferred to 184 reels of microfilm, including about 370,000 pages, which are locked in a building near the U.N. complex.