Vast archive of Holocaust evidence made public for first time since 1940s

The latest Jewish News

Read this week’s digital edition

Click Here

Vast archive of Holocaust evidence made public for first time since 1940s

The enormous trove of United Nations' War Crimes Commission documents are being opened at the Weiner Library this week

Adolf Hitler alongside senior Nazis Hermann Göring  Joseph Goebbels and Rudolf Hess (Wikipedia/U.S. National Archives and Records Administration)
Adolf Hitler alongside senior Nazis Hermann Göring Joseph Goebbels and Rudolf Hess (Wikipedia/U.S. National Archives and Records Administration)

An archive of Holocaust evidence long closed to public view has been made available in London for the first time since the 1940s, when it was used by the United Nations’ War Crimes Commission.

The vast UNWCC trove of documents, most of which were smuggled out of Eastern Europe during the early 1940s and later used to convict leading Nazis, are being opened at the Wiener Library this week.

Until now, only researchers with special permission from their governments and the UN were able to view them, and even then they were not allowed to take copies.

It shows how Britain, the U.S. and Russia were slow to press for leading Nazis to face trial for crimes against humanity, with countries such as Poland leading the call.

In another bundle of documents built up to indict Adolf Hitler for war crimes in Czechoslovakia, there is an affidavit from British soldier Harry Ogden, who was imprisoned in a prisoner-of-war camp next to Auschwitz-Birkenau.

The release shows how the Polish government in exile was able to provide extraordinary detail of the camps in which Jews and others were held and killed, with one 1944 description documenting how victims were forced to strip and how “the terracotta floors in the chambers… became very slippery when wet”.

The London library was originally founded in the Netherlands and is named after Alfred Wiener, who shipped his collection to the UK in 1939, subsequently working with British authorities to chart the crimes of the Nazi government.

Archivist Howard Falksohn said the release meant scholars “may be able to rewrite crucial chapters of history using the new evidence”.

The online release has been timed to coincide with the launch of ‘Human Rights After Hitler,’ a book by Dan Plesch, a London-based researcher who has had access to the archive for ten years. He helped convince diplomats to open access.

Plesch describes how the changing geopolitical landscape of the late 1940s meant that prosecuting Nazis became less important than rallying support for America’s anti-Communist offensive at the start of the Cold War.

Support your Jewish community. Support your Jewish News

Thank you for helping to make Jewish News the leading source of news and opinion for the UK Jewish community. Today we're asking for your invaluable help to continue putting our community first in everything we do.

For as little as £5 a month you can help sustain the vital work we do in celebrating and standing up for Jewish life in Britain.

Jewish News holds our community together and keeps us connected. Like a synagogue, it’s where people turn to feel part of something bigger. It also proudly shows the rest of Britain the vibrancy and rich culture of modern Jewish life.

You can make a quick and easy one-off or monthly contribution of £5, £10, £20 or any other sum you’re comfortable with.

100% of your donation will help us continue celebrating our community, in all its dynamic diversity...


Being a community platform means so much more than producing a newspaper and website. One of our proudest roles is media partnering with our invaluable charities to amplify the outstanding work they do to help us all.


There’s no shortage of oys in the world but Jewish News takes every opportunity to celebrate the joys too, through projects like Night of Heroes, 40 Under 40 and other compelling countdowns that make the community kvell with pride.


In the first collaboration between media outlets from different faiths, Jewish News worked with British Muslim TV and Church Times to produce a list of young activists leading the way on interfaith understanding.


Royal Mail issued a stamp honouring Holocaust hero Sir Nicholas Winton after a Jewish News campaign attracted more than 100,000 backers. Jewish Newsalso produces special editions of the paper highlighting pressing issues including mental health and Holocaust remembrance.

Easy access

In an age when news is readily accessible, Jewish News provides high-quality content free online and offline, removing any financial barriers to connecting people.

Voice of our community to wider society

The Jewish News team regularly appears on TV, radio and on the pages of the national press to comment on stories about the Jewish community. Easy access to the paper on the streets of London also means Jewish News provides an invaluable window into the community for the country at large.

We hope you agree all this is worth preserving.

read more: