Date          Mon, 9 May 1994 14 23 15  -0500                                    
Reply-To:     German History list                        
Sender:       German History list                        
From:         H-GERMAN MODERATOR Dan Rogers       
Subject:      What is the Berlin Document Center?                               
                                                                                
                                                                                
Submitted by:   Dan Rogers                        
                                                                                
U.S. Department of State Appendix to Testimony before the Subcommittee on       
International Organizations, International Security, and Human Rights April     
28, 1994                                                                        
                                                                                
              Access to Holdings of the Berlin Document Center                  
                                                                                
What is the BDC?                                                                
                                                                                
     The Berlin Document Center (BDC) is the largest repository of              
personnel and membership records of the Nazi Party (NSDAP) and its              
affiliated organizations.  From July 1945 until October 1953, Nazi Party        
records captured by the Western Allies were consolidated at the BDC under       
the authority of the U.S. Army for use in war crimes and denazification         
trials.  Since October 1953, the BDC has been under the jurisdiction of the     
Department of State, directly subordinate to, first, the United States          
Mission in (West) Berlin and, since German unification, Embassy Office          
Berlin.  Throughout this history, the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG) has     
borne the expenses of operating the BDC.                                        
                                                                                
     The records at the BDC contain both biographical files and                 
nonbiographical materials.  The biographical files, which make up the bulk      
of the collection, contain Nazi Party membership records and personnel          
records of the SS, SA, and other affiliated party and state agencies.           
                                                                                
     The BDC Research Collection constitutes the only nonbiographical           
records still held at the BDC.  All other nonbiographical Nazi records that     
were once held in the BDC were transferred to the FRG Government during the     
period 1959-62 pursuant to bilateral agreements between Germany and the         
United States, Great Britain, and France.  Much of the returned material        
was microfilmed at the time under the auspices of the American Historical       
Society [sic] or the Hoover Institution and has been readily available to       
scholars in the United States.                                                  
                                                                                
     Under a separate agreement (the Hallstein-Dowling exchange of notes,       
1956), German Foreign Ministry files (distinct from Nazi Party records)         
were turned over to the Foreign Ministry during the period 1956-58.  These      
were subject to selective U.S. microfilming, which on privacy grounds           
excluded personnel files.  While German Foreign Ministry archivists have        
declined to release these personnel files, they have routinely answered         
questions from scholars about their contents.                                   
                                                                                
Included in the records still held by the BDC are:                              
                                                                                
     Approximately 11 million NSDAP membership cards created and maintained     
     by party headquarters.  This collections is believed to constitute 90      
     percent of all such cards created by the NSDAP;                            
                                                                                
     personnel files of SS officers;                                            
                                                                                
     documents pertaining to rank-and-file SS members;                          
                                                                                
     and, documents relating to other NSDAP-affiliated organizations, both      
     para-military and civil.                                                   
                                                                                
                                                                                
Background to the Turnover                                                      
                                                                                
     State Department records indicate our intention as of 1952 to transfer     
captured German documents to Bonn's control in order "promote friendly          
relations with the Federal Republic of Germany on a normal basis."  Those       
documents whose release could endanger national security or whose contents      
dealt with the Nazi Party were to remain in U.S. control, "except where         
such transfer would not jeopardize the democratic way of life in the            
Federal Republic."  The U.S. and FRG Governments have discussed the             
transfer of BDC periodically since 1967.  Our policy since 1980 has been        
guided by a bilateral ad referendum agreement which provided for the            
turnover when microfilming of all BDC records had been accomplished.            
                                                                                
     Following a unanimous 1989 resolution of the German Bundestag              
requesting the immediate transfer, renewed negotiations culminated in the       
October 1993 agreement, under which we will transfer to Germany title and       
control of the German documentary materials contained in the BDC.  This         
transfer is to occur on July 1, 1994, by which time the BDC will have           
microfilmed, at German expense, all of the BDC records and transferred the      
microfilms to the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration (NARA).     
                                                                                
     Thus far in the microfilming project, over 52 million exposures have       
been made.  The BDC's system of "finding aids," which facilitate research,      
is being reproduced, and a computer data base of the files is also being        
created.  Some original documents are receiving preservation treatment and      
are being restored when necessary.                                              
                                                                                
     Upon completion of the project, the NARA will possess one of the two       
complete sets of microfilm currently in production (the German National         
Archives will receive the other set) and will begin making a set for use by     
public researchers.  NARA officials have already begun to examine the 32        
series of documents (as organized by the BDC's creators) for the purpose of     
identifying those series that merit the earliest release for researchers.       
                                                                                
Access in Germany                                                               
                                                                                
     Our agreement with Germany assures the U.S. Government of continued        
access to original documents held in the BDC for the official purposes that     
have characterized our use of the Center heretofore, namely:  (1) the           
purposes of comparing originals with microfilm copies and producing             
additional copies; (2) forensic purposes; and (3) judicial evidentiary          
purposes.  The Justice Department's Office of Special Investigations and        
State Department consular officials will continue to have full and timely       
access to records required in enforcing U.S. immigration law provisions         
against former members of Nazi-affiliated organizations.  Judicial              
officials in the United States will be able to receive from Germany and         
hold for a reasonable time any original documents that pertain to war           
crimes, other criminal, or civil actions before courts here.                    
                                                                                
     Many of the fears concerning access to BDC originals are unfounded or      
based on bad experiences in the past with a system that is no longer in         
place or that will not apply to BDC access questions.  Privacy                  
considerations will limit access, as they have under the U.S. stewardship,      
but not in the case of scholarly research treating persons in the public        
eye.  Since Germany's adoption of a new federal archives law in 1988,           
German nationals who desire access to BDC documents have had to apply to        
the German Federal Archives (Bundesarchiv).  The Bundesarchiv indicates         
whether it has any objections to access.  BDC management has been in a          
position, therefore, to monitor how the Bundesarchiv applies its discretion     
under the German law.  The Bundesarchiv has established an excellent track      
record of openness and accessibility.  In 1993, for instance, it posed no       
objections to access to BDC documents in the 863 cases involving German         
citizen requests.                                                               
                                                                                
     The turnover agreement provides that "public access to the documents       
in the Berlin Document Center and the microfilm copies in the National          
Archives of the United States of America shall be in accordance with the        
rules of the respective archives."  It provides also for a U.S. Government      
Berlin Document Center Liaison Officer, a diplomatic member of our Embassy      
Office in Berlin, who will be responsible "for representing American            
interests in access to the documents until the American copy of the             
microfilm is fully accessible in the United States of America."  Ambassador     
Holbrooke has assigned this important role to our principal officer in          
Berlin.                                                                         
                                                                                
     Pursuant to internationally-recognized archival principles, German         
authorities may undertake in the future to reorganize some BDC holdings         
from their current biographic ordering in an attempt to restore the files       
to their original provenance.  Such a reorganization, if undertaken, would      
be incomplete and misguided without a concordance that would permit the         
German authorities to reconstruct the BDC biographic organization.  Some of     
the BDC collections may at some point be distributed or consolidated to         
complement or complete existing collections held in Germany.  However, per      
the Note Verbale accompanying our agreement, "collections contained within      
the Berlin Document Center will not be moved from their current location        
absent prior consultation with the United States authorities and . . . the      
Agreement will continue to pertain to the documents . . . wherever they may     
eventually be located."                                                         
                                                                                
Access in the United States                                                     
                                                                                
     No microfilming project of this kind and scale has ever taken place        
before.  It is the result of careful planning and produces films of the         
highest quality.  (This state-of-the-art project has been highly praised by     
international specialists, and the BDC consults regularly with German           
agencies and archives that are planning similar projects.)  The U.S.            
National Archives is satisfied that microfilm as a medium is capable of         
rendering faithful copies of BDC documents.  We know of no instances of BDC     
documents that could not be microfilmed legibly due to lack of contrast. As     
with anything involving human beings that is the product of literally tens      
of millions of single actions, the microfilm produced by the BDC will           
likely contain some errors (a carefully-planned quality assurance program       
is designed to identify and correct all but the most random and isolated        
ones).  Any system designed to check the completeness of each individual        
frame of microfilm would entail staggering costs.  Our agreement with           
Germany provides for access to the originals for the purpose of correcting      
whatever errors may have crept into films.                                      
                                                                                
     The NARA will review for release by Autumn 1994 those series of            
microfilmed BDC files that are now most actively studied, namely, SS            
officers' personnel files and the NSDAP master membership files.  The           
Archives intends to open access to the 32 series on a rolling basis, as the     
user microfilm copies of each series are produced, over an expected two         
years or less starting July 1, 1994.                                            
                                                                                
                                                                                
                                                                                
                                Chronology                                      
                                                                                
April 1945     Large caches of Nazi Party documents intended for                
               destruction are discovered at a paper mill near Munich, in a     
               salt mine near Berchtesgaden, and at other locations in          
               Germany.  These are consolidated in Berlin with other            
               captured documents under the supervision of U.S. military        
               authorities.                                                     
                                                                                
1948-49        Captured German Foreign Ministry records, including many         
               that predated the Nazi regime, are removed from Berlin           
               during the airlift and stored at Whaddon Hall, England.  The     
               transfer of these documents, which were _not_ BDC holdings,      
               to FRG control was later the subject of the 1956 Hallstein-      
               Dowling exchange of notes and analogous agreements with          
               Great Britain and France.                                        
                                                                                
October 1952   Nearing the close of war crimes trials and denazification        
               actions, the USG establishes its intention to return seized      
               German documents.  Those documents whose release could           
               endanger national security or whose contents dealt with the      
               Nazi Party are to remain in U.S. control, "except where such     
               transfer would not jeopardize the democratic way of life in      
               the Federal Republic."                                           
                                                                                
March 1967     The BDC's possession of information on Chancellor                
               Kiesinger's Nazi past is publicized and causes tension in        
               U.S.-FRG relations.  Consultations with the FRG, Britain,        
               and France on placing the BDC under German supervision begin     
               but deadlock in 1968 due to U.S. concern over private            
               scholars' access to the holdings.  At the time, only three       
               of the BDC's 32 Biographic Collections ("series") have been      
               microfilmed in their entirety.                                   
                                                                                
1968-1972      Further BDC collections are microfilmed.                         
                                                                                
June 1979      Formal negotiations convene in Berlin and lead in 1980           
               Washington talks to an ad referendum agreement, never            
               formalized, under which the FRG and U.S. agree in principle      
               that the BDC should be transferred to FRG control when           
               microfilming of its entire holdings is accomplished.             
                                                                                
1987-88        A large-scale theft of BDC documents is discovered.  The         
               resulting focus on the BDC reveals many perceived weaknesses     
               in security and management which become the subject of           
               German Bundestag hearings.  Some documents are recovered and     
               security at the BDC is improved.  The return of the BDC          
               again becomes an issue.                                          
                                                                                
1988           Planning begins for resumption of the microfilming project.      
               The FRG Government guarantees complete funding.                  
               Microfilming resumes in June 1989.                               
                                                                                
April 1989     The Bundestag resolves unanimously that the BDC should be        
               transferred to German control.  Informal discussions of a        
               turnover resume.                                                 
                                                                                
October 1992   Acting Secretary of State Kanter approves Circular 175           
               authority to carry out the concluding negotiations               
               concerning the transfer.  An accompanying memorandum of law      
               identifies the statutory authority (44 U.S.C. Section 3302;      
               36 CFR Section 1228.60) to turn over title to the BDC's          
               holdings to the FRG.                                             
                                                                                
June 1993      Negotiations conclude.  State Department officials continue      
               to consult with NARA and with interested private groups on       
               the projected turnover.  Embassy Bonn staff also in              
               consultation with the U.S. Holocaust Museum and other            
               parties.                                                         
                                                                                
October 1993   Agreement is signed in Berlin October 18, 1993, accompanied      
               by a Note Verbale treating employment terms for German BDC       
               employees, official USG access, and the need for U.S.-FRG        
               consultation prior to the removal of BDC holdings to another     
               location.                                                        
                                                                                
December 1993  Congress notified of the agreement and provided a precis of      
               its contents, pursuant to the Case-Zablocki Act.