Russia gets back Nazi-Stolen archive

A Communist Party archive which sheds light on dire Soviet developments of the 1920s and 1930s has found its way back to Russia. Alexander Vershbow, U.S. Ambassador, handed over a symbolical container with an archive document inside to Mikhail Shvydkoi, Russia's Culture Minister. The basic part of the archive will be passed to the Russian Embassy in Washington, D.C.

A German war trophy of 1941, the archive belonged to the Smolensk regional Communist Party committee, whose premises were seized by SD units as the aggressors took the city in July 1941. Retreating Soviet troops rescued a half - roughly, 120,000 files, which were evacuated to Kazakhstan. The other half fell into the hands of Alfred Rosenberg, father of the Nazi racial theory, whose headquarters were responsible for removal of Russian cultural values.

The archive was dispatched to Vilnius in 1943, and on to Silesia two years later, shortly before the end of World War II. The archive was divided there. 540 files were taken off to Bavaria eventually to get into American hands in the Allied advance. Soviet soldiers recovered the rest to deliver the documents back to Russia within the same victorious year 1945.

The 540 files were selected by U.S. experts for the information they contained about party purges, mass reprisals and other evils of Soviet totalitarianism. Later on, the papers were extensively used in anti-Communist propaganda.

The United States made an initial offer to restore the archive to the Soviet Union in 1958. Moscow indignantly turned down the offer, saying the documents were forged - to accept them would mean to acknowledge that the gory facts in them were true.

The archive fate made an U-turn in December 2001, as Russia and the USA made a partnership agreement to track down cultural values seized by Nazis during World War II.