The National Archives has released to Congress a new report on Nazi War Crimes: Hitler’s Shadow: Nazi War Criminals, U.S. Intelligence, and the Cold War. The report is based on findings from newly-declassified decades-old Army and CIA records released under the Nazi War Crimes Disclosure Act of 1998 (the Act).
These records were processed and reviewed by the National Archives-led Nazi War Crimes and Japanese Imperial Government Records Interagency Working Group (IWG), and written by IWG historians Richard Breitman and Norman J.W. Goda.
The report highlights materials opened under the Act, in addition to records that were previously opened but had not been mined by historians and researchers, including records from the Office of Strategic Services (a CIA predecessor), dossiers of the Army Staff’s Intelligence Records of the Investigative Records Repository (IRR), State Department records, and files of the Navy Judge Advocate General.
Hitler’s Shadow augments the IWG’s 2007 final report to Congress, and includes wartime and postwar US intelligence documents on the search for and prosecution of Nazi war criminals; Allied protection or use of Nazi war criminals; and the postwar activities of war criminals both in the United States and abroad.
The passage of the Nazi War Crimes Disclosure Act in October, 1998, set into motion the most intense, large-scale U.S. government effort yet to declassify records relating to a single subject. Preliminary surveys by twelve Federal agencies yielded a universe of more than 600 million pages of potentially relevant records, with more detailed surveys narrowing the universe to about 100 million pages.
Fifteen years later, more than eight million pages have been identified as relevant and declassified under the law. These records are now available to researchers to fill in the historical record, round out personal histories, answer longstanding questions about U.S. use of war criminals during the Cold War, and aid in tracing looted valuables. These answers may help to provide a measure of justice to some of the surviving victims of horrific World War II crimes.
President Clinton established the Nazi War Criminal Records Interagency Work Group (IWG) by Executive Order on January 11, 1999, and charged it with coordinating and expediting this immense undertaking among Federal agencies. He named the group’s members from the major agencies holding classified records and appointed three members to represent the public. Soon after its formation, the group set out to accomplish the tasks outlined in the statute: to locate, inventory, recommend for declassification, and make available all classified records of Nazi war criminal records.
In 2005, following the declassification and review of thousands of files containing newly-disclosed information about war crimes and war criminal documentation of the Nazis and the Japanese Imperial Government, the National Archives issued a final historians report summarizing insights gained as a result of the National Archives-supervised review of these documents. However, a large number of additional U.S. Army and CIA/OSS documents were received too late in the processing to be included in the 2005 report.
Subsequently, Congress provided funding to be used to report separately on these remaining documents – which may total as many as 2,000,000 more pages. Congress directed the National Archives to complete the review and historical analysis of these documents and to release a supplemental report to the 2005 IWG report U.S. Intelligence and the Nazis.