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U.N. Report Says 441 Files Located In Archives, Eight Untraced

December 12, 1987

UNITED NATIONS (AP) _ The United Nations said Friday that 441 files on Nazi war crimes said to be missing were found in its archives, but eight have not been located.

It denied files ever had been lost, saying that ″missing″ to an archivist does not mean ″missing″ in the layman’s sense of the word.

The United Nations acknowledged that eight files still were missing in the conventional sense, however, and U.N. investigator J. Richard Foran said, ″It’s a mystery.″

Embarrassment began when the first of a series of articles appeared Tuesday in the New York Post. The newspaper alleged gross lack of security at the archives building in Manhattan.

″I am satisfied that all but eight files have been accounted for,″ Foran said Friday to a pool of reporters taken to the U.N. War Crimes archives on Park Avenue.

″My dilemma is that I cannot substantiate that the eight files ever came here or ever left here.″ He said a search was under way.

Chief archivist Alf Erlandsson said the files may have been sent to Nuremberg, Germany, for the war crimes trials after World War II and never returned.

Two files are from the United States and six from Poland. The contents were not disclosed and Foran said only that they include such names as Heinrich Himmler, Herman Goering and Walter Brauchitsch, commander-in-chief of the German Army.

Foran, assistant secretary-general for general services, said the United Nations received custody of 8,100 files in 1949 when the War Crimes Commission was disbanded and had not examined them ″from top to bottom.″

He said there was no sudden discovery of missing files. ″Missing files ar not uncommon in archives,″ he said, and there was no urgent reason to investigate.

″Missing to an archivist means not there but not necessarily lost,″ he said, ″but to a layman, missing is missing is missing.″

He said technicians microfilming the records routinely noted on microfilm that certain files were ″missing″ when the brittle and yellowed original documents were out of sequence.

The ″missing files″ first were reported by New York Post correspondent Uri Dan. Dan said blocks of files were missing from the same reel of microfilm as documents relating to former U.N. Secretary-General Kurt Waldheim, who was an officer in the Germany army in World War II.

Foran said Friday that Waldheim’s original file, based on Yugoslav documents, is locked in a safe.

A report by Foran issued earlier Friday said the missing files were found in a group of separately filed documents concerning dead cases, located in the same building.

Those cases were adjourned or withdrawn for lack of evidence or because the alleged criminals could not be identified. They were not put on microfilm and were apart from the main archives of the U.N. War Crimes Commission, the report said.

Foran’s report said 465 files initially were unaccounted for, but 441 dead files later were traced; of the remaining 24 files, five were returned by the commission in the late 1940s to the submitting governments for additional information and did not come back.

Seven had dual numbers as a result of mistaken nationality of the accused, three charge numbers never were never used and one was withdrawn, according to the report.

It said the 441 files would be microfilmed and made available Dec. 15.

The United Nations ordered an investigation Tuesday after the Post said 433 files were missing. It quoted chief archivist Alf Erlandsson as confirming the disappearance and saying he could not explain it.

U.N. spokesman Francois Giuliani told reporters Friday that, when Erlandsson said ″missing,″ he meant filed separately or out of sequence. Giuliani and Foran said archivists thought Dan knew the researchers’ definition of ″missing.″

Dan was the first reporter to gain access to the files, sealed since the end of World War II and officially opened to governments, researchers and journalists Nov. 23.

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