UNITED NATIONS, NOV. 23 -- The United Nations opened its archives on Nazi and Japanese war crimes today, exposing facts and allegations about more than 36,000 people, including Kurt Waldheim, the former U.N. secretary-general.
Six researchers from the Nazi-hunting unit of the U.S. Justice Department were first to enter the building. They viewed microfilm of the yellowed and brittle files of the U.N. War Crimes Commission, which functioned from 1943 to 1949.
The Justice Department's Office of Special Investigations has used material from the archives to investigate five Americans suspected of having Nazi pasts.
There was no long line today, no flood of applications to see what some call a vital cache of information and what others contend is a stale library of old charges, most of which are known.
Archivists would not say whether the files contain the name of Josef Schwammberger, a 75-year-old Austrian arrested Nov. 13 on a ranch in Argentina.
The 8,500 files containing 36,000 to 40,000 names also deal with war crimes committed by the Japanese in China and other parts of Asia.
Today was the first day for new rules of broad, general access to the files. Under the old rules, the files were open only to the 17 governments on the U.N. War Crimes Commission, and then only if requests for specific files were made and strict confidentiality was pledged.