The Wiener Library for the Study of Holocaust and Genocide made the UN’s files on WWII war crimes more accessible on April 21 by allowing the general public to search an online catalogue of the documents for the first time.
However, people will have to visit the library in London or the US Holocaust Museum to see the actual files.
Dan Plesch, Director of the Centre for International Studies and Diplomacy at SOAS University of London, believes that the move will certainly increase interest in the archives of the UN War Crimes Commission. Speaking at a press conference in London last week, he said that people could easily find the names of some 37,000 people, identified as war criminals and security suspects, in those documents. Although the commission operated in 1943-49, access to these documents was highly restricted mainly because of political reasons (especially during the Cold War).
Plesch stressed: “This is a whole hardware store of nails to hammer into the coffin of Holocaust denial. It’s the first time it is practically accessible to the general public as the commission initially intended.”
Plesch and his co-researchers have made it possible for common people to search the online catalogue by campaigning hard for the UN to open access to the files. Plesch, who penned the book ‘Human Rights After Hitler’, thanked the US Holocaust Museum for making the archive freely available at its reading room inWashington in 2014. In the past, all the records were locked away at the UN.
Meanwhile, Director of the Wiener Library Ben Barkow has welcomed Plesch’s effort, saying: “Nobody has paid any attention to it. It has been hidden in plain sight.” As far as contents in those documents are concerned, he stressed that people would get detailed information about Allied efforts to prosecute thousands of alleged Nazi and Japanese war criminals, from heads of state, like Adolf Hitler, to guards at the Auschwitz and Treblinka concentration camps. The archive further includes evidence gathered by local people. These people documented crimes long before the war ended and smuggled to Allied leaders in London.
Plesch told the press: “These people were meeting under aerial bombardment, dealing with affidavits smuggled out of occupied countries. Resistance movements were paying attention to the legal prosecution of oppressors.”