Files Likely to Spur Holocaust Research
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Denial of access to these records has allowed a warped and minimized view of the killing to take hold, all in the name of "protecting" victims. Killing on this scale could not be done by an elite few, there was active participation by all segments of German society.
The archive has some 3.4 million files of DPs—Displaced Persons. They include names such as John Demjanjuk and Viorel Trifa, who immigrated to the United States and later became internationally known because their role in the Holocaust came into question.
Between 1933 to 1945, the Nazi persecution grew to assembly-line proportions, slaughtering 6 million Jews and an equal number of Gypsies, homosexuals, mental patients, political prisoners and other "undesirables." Tens of millions were conscripted as forced laborers.
To operate history's greatest slaughter, the Nazis created a bureaucracy that meticulously recorded the arrest, movement and death of each victim. Sometimes even the lice plucked from heads in concentration camps were counted.
But as the pace of genocide stepped up, unknown numbers were marched directly from trains to gas chambers without being registered. In the war's final months, the bookkeeping collapsed, though the extermination continued.
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Over the years, the International Tracing Service has answered 11 million requests to locate family members or provide certificates supporting pension claims or reparations. It says it has a 56 percent rate of success in tracing the requested name.
But the workload has been overwhelming. Two years ago it had a backlog of nearly half a million unanswered queries. Director Blondel says the number was whittled down to 155,000 this summer and will disappear by the spring of 2008. New queries have slowed to just 700 a month.
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