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Russia Shares Archives Detailing Early Holocaust Attacks on Jews

By David Hoffman
The Washington Post
MOSCOW

Russia's Federal Security Service turned over copies of 15,000 pages from the archives of the former Soviet KGB to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Monday in a gesture of openness that may shed new light on the first mass killings of Jews after the German attack on the Soviet Union in 1941.

The documents, culled from wartime field reports and post-war Soviet legal proceedings, are expected to offer fresh evidence of the brutal attacks by the German units known as Einsatzgruppen, mobile killing squads that rushed into Soviet territory behind the invading German troops and slaughtered more than a million Jews and others in 1941 and 1942.

Most of the documents have not been seen before in the West and scholars have yet to examine them for their significance. But the decision to turn them over to the museum in Washington marks another milestone in Russia's gradual and sometimes hesitant path toward revealing the Soviet Union's darkest secrets, which still lie in its vaults.

Soviet archives have been opened to chronicle key turning points in the Cold War, to show how writers and poets were tormented, to reveal the secret pact between Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin, and to lay bare some aspects of the history of the Soviet Communist Party. But many other documents remain locked up, for now.

"Pages of these documents are soaked in blood and human suffering," said Alexander Yakovlev, chairman of the Commission for Rehabilitation of Victims of Political Repression and an architect of the policy of glasnost, or openness, under the last Soviet president, Mikhail Gorbachev. "These facts must not be archived in book storages, but known to everybody."

At a Kremlin ceremony, a sample of the files was symbolically handed over to Walter Reich, director of the Holocaust museum, and U.S. Ambassador Thomas Pickering. The full load required Russian experts to sort out "four freight trains of documents," according to Russian security service chief Nicholai Kovalyov. Pickering said the materials are to be trucked away, and flown back to Washington shortly.

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This story was published on Tuesday.
Volume 116, Number 54.
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