Museum says Holocaust documents will be made available to public

washington | Holocaust survivors are venting their anger at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum over its decision not to allow immediate electronic access to the long-secret records of the International Tracing Service at Bad Arolsen, Germany.

But museum representatives say the documents will be accessible. Arthur Berger, a senior adviser to the museum on external affairs, said the museum was waiting for the material to be released before it could provide specifics of how it would make the material available. He said the museum was committed to making the archive widely accessible.

“The museum has been leading the effort for years to open the archives at Bad Arolsen, and we’ve really been working aggressively to help survivors nationwide gain access to the archives,” he said. “We have done whatever is possible and we will continue to have the highest commitment to ensure that when we have the material, we will do everything in our power to get access to that information to survivors. Whatever it takes.”

In the era of instant access to documents offered by Google, Yahoo, Proquest and Lexis-Nexis, Holocaust survivors and advocates say they don’t understand why the documents can’t be made available to local libraries or home computers the way government documents ordinarily are accessed.

Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, who served on the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council under three presidents, said, “I would hope that the Bad Arolsen archives could be as easily accessible as modern science makes possible. Those archives are for the survivors’ needs and use first, and scholars later.”

The documents are expected to be transferred to the Holocaust museum under an international treaty. The archives include millions of images relating to concentration-camp prisoner documents.

Some survivors assert that the archive transfer is just a pretext for the museum to engage in aggressive fundraising.

Berger maintains that the Holocaust museum was the natural choice to house the archive.

“As America’s national memorial for victims of the Holocaust and one of the two largest repositories of Holocaust-related documentation in the world” — the other is the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem, which also will receive the Bad Arolsen documents — “the museum is the appropriate site in the United States for this collection,” he said.