Shroud Of Secrecy To Be Lifted On Stories Of 17M Holocaust Victims

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Millions of Nazi files that describe the mechanics of mass murder were a step closer to being opened to researchers following an agreement Tuesday by an 11-nation panel that has kept the archive locked away since World War II, officials said.

But first the draft must be signed by government ministers in Berlin — a date has not been set — and be sent back to the countries for ratification, said Paul Mertz, the Luxembourg Foreign Ministry official who is the chairman of the commission that oversees the archive.

The process is likely to delay the opening of the 50 million files to researchers until at least the end of the year, Mertz said.

The move to unlock the storehouse in the German town of Bad Arolsen came amid pressure from the dying generation of Holocaust survivors and victims' families who feared their histories would be lost forever unless the rules were changed.

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Randolph William Baxter - 5/17/2006

What is the meaning of the "17M Holocaust Victims" in the title of this story, whose only other number is in a reference to 50 million documents? Could the editors please clarify this -- especially in light of the debate over the exact number of Holocaust victims?