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Last Updated: Tuesday, 16 May 2006, 18:54 GMT 19:54 UK
Nazi crimes archives set to open
Holocaust archive at Bad Arolsen, Germany
The files contain personal data on millions of the Nazis' victims
The 11-nation commission in charge of the vast Nazi German archive documenting war crimes have agreed to open it up to public access.

The move came after a meeting in Luxembourg and ends months of wrangling over privacy issues.

The 47 million files hold Nazi records of forced labourers, concentration camp victims and political prisoners.

They have been used to help people trace their relatives, but were kept closed to protect victims' privacy.

Many people felt the files should be opened to historical researchers to ensure the details of the Holocaust are not forgotten.

Personal information

Paul Mertz, the Luxembourg chairman of the commission, told the Associated Press they agreed to amend language in two documents that would allow access to researchers and historians.

But he said the agreement must first be signed by senior officials from the countries at a ceremony in Berlin and then begin a ratification process that could last the rest of this year.

The Nazis recorded everything - from the number of lice on a prisoner's head to the exact moment of their execution.

There is very personal information too - the names of collaborators, homosexuals and prostitutes.

The archive is administered by the International Tracing Service (ITS), an arm of the International Committee of the Red Cross.

The commission responsible for the ITS is made up of Germany, Belgium, Britain, France, Israel, Italy, Greece, Luxembourg, Poland, the Netherlands and the US.

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