Senate Passes Bill on Nazi War Crimes

The Senate agreed Wednesday to allow more time for the declassification of government documents about Nazi war criminals, following a recent agreement by the CIA to turn over papers about agents it hired with Nazi ties.

"We have come a long way and told a large part of the story, and it is time to finish the job," said Sen. Mike DeWine, R-Ohio, sponsor of the bill, which extends by two years the mandate of the group working to declassify the documents.

A 1998 public disclosure law that requires the release all papers related to the Holocaust and Nazi war crimes already has brought more than 8 million pages of documents to light, including 1.25 million from the Central Intelligence Agency.

Those documents showed that the agency or its predecessor, the Office of Strategic Services, had sought former Nazi officials to provide expertise on the former Soviet Union during the Cold War.

But the CIA had resisted giving up specific information about what the former Nazis it hired did for the U.S. government. The agency had also refused to release documents on former Nazi SS officers who worked for the CIA after World War II.

The agency reversed its objections last month and agreed to release the documents.

"It is now understood that the law was drafted broadly, so that as much information as possible may be released," DeWine said.

The law already has led to the release of U.S. intelligence photographs taken in 1944 of Auschwitz and of dispatches from Gonzalo Montt, the Chilean consul in Prague during the early 1940s. Both confirmed that the U.S. government knew earlier during World War II than previously thought about the atrocities committed against Jews.

The law also led to new information about how the German government and several U.S. and European banks worked together to funnel back to Germany money that had been illegally taken from German Jews.

The Nazi War Crimes and Japanese Imperial Government Records Interagency Working Group, which was charged with reviewing and declassifying the documents, was to disband in March, but the Senate action would extend the group until March 2007. The group includes representatives from intelligence and law enforcement agencies, professional historians and archivists, as well as former lawmakers.

The Senate approved by unanimous voice vote DeWine's bill to extend the group's mandate. The House also was expected to quickly pass the measure.


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2005-02-16 17:51:32 GMT


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