In late 1944, the UN War Crimes Commission indicted Adolf Hitler in secret, and it's far from the only clandestine thing related to the commission, which was commissioned before the actual United Nations was in 1945. As the Guardian reports, the secret material held in the UNWCC's archive for decades is now being made public. Previously, only researchers with government and the UN secretary general's approval could read the documents, many of which were smuggled out of Eastern Europe and used in subsequent Nazi trials. They'll be accessible online through the London-based Wiener Library, which describes itself as the "world's oldest Holocaust library." Its archivist says "it may well be that people will be able to rewrite crucial chapters of history using the new evidence." Among some of the details already making press:
- The Jewish News hails the "extraordinary detail" collected about Adolf Hitler's concentration camps, flagging an April 1944 description of how "the terracotta floors in the chambers… became very slippery when wet."
- Haaretz reports the material was removed from Eastern Europe beginning in 1943, which it interprets thusly: "the West knew of Nazi war crimes before discovering concentration camps." (Per the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, the first major camp was found in 1944, with Auschwitz, Buchenwald, and Bergen-Belsen liberated in 1945.)
- The Independent alters that date a hair and makes a more forceful assertion, writing, "The Allied Powers were aware of the scale of the Jewish Holocaust two-and-a-half years earlier than is generally assumed ... as early as December 1942, the US, UK and Soviet governments were aware that at least 2 million Jews had been murdered" and another 5 million were threatened.
- Another surprise from the archive, per the Guardian: Its documents show war crime tribunals were taking on crimes of rape and forced prostitution in the late 1940s, though it's popularly been thought the "legal innovation" arose after the 1990s Bosnian conflict.
(In other World War II-related news, a tunnel under a death camp turned legend into reality