Jun 27, 2000
Press Release

WASHINGTON, DC - Today, members of the Nazi War Criminals Records Interagency Working Group testified before Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY) and the Government Management, Information and Technology Subcommittee on progress made in the declassification of documents since the passage of Rep. Maloney's War Crimes Disclosure Act.

Yesterday, as a result of Maloney's bill, a decrypted Nazi message from October 1943 showing for the first time that the Allies had wide-ranging intelligence of the Nazi persecution of Italian Jews was released as part of a large effort to declassify World War II war crimes records.

Highlighting the fact that the Interagency Working Group has only been able to complete one third of its total declassification project, Rep. Maloney called on the GMIT committee to work toward ensuring that the IWG is given enough resources to adequately carry out its extremely important and sensitive task.

"Holocaust survivors are in search of the truth," Maloney said today. "This country of democratic roots is finally lifting the shroud of secrecy surrounding World War II. I am very proud to have authored the original Nazi War Crimes Disclosure Act, but I am even more proud to watch as America disassembles its culture of classification. We must now pledge to provide enough funding for the IWG to complete its work."

"As each year passes, fewer Holocaust survivors are alive to witness the truth being revealed about World War II crimes. After enduring loss and tragedy, survivors have unquestionably earned the right to watch our country acknowledge its actual role in the history of the holocaust. Difficult thought it may be, it is important for Americans to face the troublesome areas of our history," Maloney continued.

Testifying today were: Michael Kurtz, assistant archivist, National Archives and Records Administration; Kenneth Levitt, special counsel, Office of the Executive Director, CIA; and John Collingwood, assistant director, Office of Congressional and Public Affairs, FBI.

Excerpts from Maloney's statement today, presented during the GMIT hearing:

"I am very proud to have authored the original Nazi War Crimes Disclosure Act with my colleague, Mr. Horn, and with Senator DeWine, which was signed into law by President Clinton in 1998. This was an historic achievement, paving the way for the biggest declassification effort in our nation's history.

"I am very pleased that the Interagency Working Group established by my bill has been working diligently to declassify documents maintained by federal agencies about Nazi war criminals. The group's work has led to the release of 1.5 million pages so far, with 400,000 pages released yesterday from records of the Office of Strategic Services. With the release of these documents, we now have new information pertaining to our governments knowledge of the Nazi's Holocaust in Italy.

"These documents show that we had evidence during the war that the Nazi leaders were ready to extend their systematic destruction of the Jews to Italy before it began.

"Since I first came to Congress in 1993, I have been working as a member of this Committee to make our government work better, and have been following this issue very closely. I was surprised to learn that many U.S. government agencies had secret information on individuals who ordered, incited, assisted, or otherwise participated in Nazi war crimes.

"I believe that a half-century after World War II, there is no public policy benefit to the continued refusal of United States government agencies to disclose Nazi war crimes files. Especially when you consider that other nations including Russia, Argentina, Lithuania, France, Germany, and others are opening their war crimes files. It is time for our own government's information to be made public--whether the information that is uncovered is good or bad.

"We need to know the truth about the United States' role in World War II. Now is the time to finish the work of the IWG while we still have the individuals with first-hand knowledge of the atrocities of this time with us.

"There are still numerous documents to review without the necessary resources to accomplish this daunting task in a timely fashion. The statutory deadline for the Interagency Working Group ends October 2001. Even with its diligence and hard work, it is my understanding that the IWG is just 1/3 of the way through its research. As yesterday's release of documents shows us, it is vital to keep the work of the Interagency Working Group active. Yesterday's documents cover just one aspect of World War II and the Holocaust.

"However, with just two academics appointed to review the latest materials, I am concerned about the IWG's ability to reach their goals by October 2001.

"That means there are just two individuals working on more than 400,000 pages of material with millions of more pages expected. Today I look forward to hearing from our witnesses how the IWG plans to proceed with its work in light of the group's progress so far and with its current resources and what the group needs to finish this job and reach its goals. Thank you."