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April 17, 1987 - Image 94

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1987-04-17

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■ 1111111111 ■ 11•11111=111111111111=

o one in America is closer to the

truth about the Holocaust than one
man, Robert Wolfe.
Wolfe is the archivist in charge of Nazi
documentation at the National Archives in
Washington, and since 1961 has been en-
trusted with the organization and safe-
keeping of millions of documents relating
to the Holocaust era. That responsibility
has compelled him to conclude, "There is
no greater evidence of the Holocaust than
the contemporary records of the
perpetrators themselves?' Wolfe is both the
guardian of that truth and the man deter-
mined to make it accessible.
Reposing in numberless oblong docu-
ment boxes and microfilm reels, captured
Nazi records in the massive National Ar-
chives building are stored in high-security
vault-like chambers along a maze of con-
fusing corridors. Some doors are protected
by combination locks. Cages separate
storage areas within the chambers. In
many areas, visitors must log in and out
when passing from room to room. In this
impenetrable repository, four floors at the
front of the building physically are on dif-
ferent levels than those at the rear of the
But if anyone knows his way around the
cavernous archive, and its holdings, it is
Wolfe. Although no one possibly could be
aware of every Reich document contained
within some 30,000 microfilm reels, Wolfe
is one of the four or five most knowledge-
able archivists of Nazi records in the coun-
try. He began his career as a "screener" in
the 60s, as part of American Historical
Association research team reviewing
unorganized captured Nazi papers. Later,
when the National Archives organized the
collection, Wolfe was placed in charge and
wrote some of the guides to SS materials.
With experience comes a special exper-
tise about Nazi documentation that has
guided thousands of Holocaust and Nazi-
era scholars who have come to him for
assistance. "A researcher experienced in
one area may not know what he is reading
in another area?' Wolfe says. For example,
suppose a memo to Hitler is found. "The
researcher must understand that Hitler
didn't read a lot of his memos, he was no
bureaucrat, and relied upon his aides to
report to him. So we must ask, who sent
the memo — was it an obscure official or
someone important — and did Hitler ever
see it?
"Unless researchers have the back-
ground, unless they know what happened
when, and who was responsible for what,
they will either get lost or draw false
assumptions from the documents they
see." For this reason, major Holocaust con-
troversies often end up on Wolfe's desk for
In 1978, for instance, Central In-


Archivist Robert Wolfe, at home among the numerous Holocaust documents in his office at the National
Archives in Washington, D.C.

Photo by Barbara Cotell

Guardian Of The
Terrible Truth

Robert Wolfe of the National Archives,
who is in charge of millions of Nazi documents
about the Holocaust, says records by the
perpetrators are the most important pieces of
information about the period.


Special to The Jewish News


Friday, April 17, 1987


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