Holocaust-Era Assets

Finding Aids: Holocaust-Era Assets Introduction

A Finding Aid to Records at the National Archives at College Park, Maryland

Finding Aid Table of Contents



The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) acquires, preserves, and makes available for research records of enduring value created or received by organizations of the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of the Federal Government. A substantial quantity of the NARA holdings relate to World War II and are held in its facility in College Park, Maryland. Other NARA facilities hold many records and donated material related to World War II, including records related to the subjects covered in this finding aid. This is particularly true of the Franklin D. Roosevelt, the Harry S. Truman, and the Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Libraries, and the Center for Legislative Archives. Researchers should contact the other NARA facilities for assistance in their research efforts.


NARA arranges its holdings according to the archival principle of provenance. This principle provides that records be attributed to the agency that created or maintained them and arranged thereunder as they were filed when in active use. In the National Archives, application of the principle of provenance takes the form of numbered record groups, with each record group comprising the records of a major government entity, usually a bureau of an independent agency. Most record groups include records of any predecessors of the organization named in the title of the record group. A few record groups combine the records of several small or short-lived agencies having an administrative or functional relationship with each other.

Within a record group, the records of a government agency are organized into series. Each series is a set of documents arranged according to the creating office's filing system or otherwise kept together by the creating office because they related to a particular subject or function, result from the same activity, document a specific kind of transaction, take a particular physical form, or have some other relationship arising out of their creation, receipt, or use.

NARA endeavors to keep records in the order in which they were maintained by the creating agency, in the belief that this best preserves their integrity and interrelationships. The agency filing systems were designed for administrative purposes and not for the benefit of future researchers. This finding aid seeks to assist subject-oriented researchers in understanding the complexities of the record keeping systems and in locating relevant material among the vast quantities of records.


The purpose of this finding aid is to assist researchers in locating records at the National Archives at College Park that pertain not only to the subjects of interest to the Interagency Group on Nazi Assets, but also to those records relating to the broader subjects of World War II economic warfare, including specifically: U.S. efforts in 1940-1942 to freeze, block and seize Axis and other assets located in the United States; U.S. efforts, in conjunction with the Allies, during the 1942-1944 period, to blockade the Axis to prevent them from obtaining the resources necessary to wage war; U. S. efforts during 1944 and 1945, to prevent the Axis from secreting and cloaking their assets in neutral and other countries (i.e., the Safehaven Program); U.S. efforts in 1945 and in the aftermath of the war to locate looted and other Axis assets; the U. S. postwar role in restitution and reparation activities; and the U. S. diplomatic efforts to work with the neutral countries to obtain the return of and disposition of Axis looted assets as well as other enemy assets. This finding aid also serves as a guide to records pertaining to Nazi confiscated and looted art and cultural items, Holocaust-Era unpaid and unclaimed insurance policies, slave and forced labor, looted and misplaced archives and libraries, other topics involving looted and/or missing assets of victims of Nazi persecution, and heirless assets in the United States. Researchers may use the finding aid as a starting point for pursuing an interest in the Holocaust, as well as World War II refugees, displaced persons, war criminals, war crimes, and postwar war crimes trials.

This finding aid's coverage is broad, but it is by no means comprehensive, given the time constraints in its preparation and the wealth of the holdings of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). There may well be other relevant series of records within the Record Groups mentioned or series in Record Groups not mentioned. There is also a possibility that some pertinent records are still in the legal custody of one or more Federal agencies.

For the most part, this finding aid describes records pertaining to activities in North America, Europe, and Latin America. Relatively minor attention is given to records relating to Africa, Asia, the Near East, and the Middle East. Researchers should be aware that NARA holds a substantial quantity of records relating to the just-mentioned geographic areas with regard to World War II economic warfare and the financial and diplomatic aftermath of the war.

Not all aspects of economic warfare are directly addressed in this finding aid. Primary attention is given to the financial and diplomatic aspects. Nevertheless the finding aid directly and indirectly identifies records or series of records on other aspects of economic warfare, such as preclusive buying, lend-lease, reverse lend-lease, and efforts by the Allies to prevent the Axis powers from obtaining military supplies and economic resources to feed their industrial and war machines.

It is important to note that there are very few records in the holdings of the National Archives at College Park that pertain to the personal assets of foreign individuals in foreign banks. The U.S. Government in the 1930s and 1940s did not systematically collect this information. The very few records of this type in NARA custody appear to be scattered among materials originating in the Office of Strategic Services, Foreign Funds Control, and Foreign Assets Control, information that does relate to individual accounts in foreign banks. But the quantity uncovered during the past two and one-half years has been relatively minuscule.

The finding aid consists of a list of pertinent records and an appended bibliography. The core of the finding aid, the list of records, is divided into three parts--the records of military agencies, records of civilian agencies, and records in the National Archives Gift Collection. The last segment is subdivided into individual collections of personal papers. The military and civilian agency sections of the finding aid are subdivided by Federal agency and then by Record Group. Within each Record Group the descriptions of the records are, for the most part, in a hierarchical order. For each series of records a Series Title is provided. In most instances the date span of the series is provided as well as the series entry number. In many instances an arrangement statement and full description of the records in the series is provided. When applicable, the total number of boxes in the series is given along with the beginning location of the series. Where specific boxes are identified, generally the exact box location is provided. When a folder or file title in a particular box or boxes of a series is given, the term "File Title" is used to indicate that only certain file titles are identified; when all the files in a box or series are given then the term "File Titles" is used.Citations to locations of records at the National Archives at College Park, Maryland, include the stack area, the row, the compartment, and the shelf. Thus a location of 450/34/7/01 would mean stack area 450, row 34, compartment 7, and shelf 1. There is one exception to this location practice. The newly accessioned Department of Treasury records, mainly from the predecessor offices of the Office of International Affairs, have been declassified and moved from their original stack location to a hold area adjacent to the Textual Research Room (Room 2000). The location for these newly declassified records is the hold area Compartment Number. The original stack location is cited in brackets. For example: Compartment 6 [450/34/33/01]. [Researchers should note that some records, now contained in Federal Record Center containers, will be, at some point, reboxed, renumbered, and relocated.]

Records located in stack 631, as a general rule, are classified. As they are declassified, they are being moved to nonclassified stack areas. Thus, researchers should check with the staff to determine whether records identified as being in stack 631 are still classified or have been declassified and moved to a new location.


Almost all of the records described in this finding aid are located in the National Archives at College Park, Maryland. The records are serviced by the Textual Archives Services Division. The Division's Modern Military and Civilian Records units assist researchers in locating records and the Customer Services Division's College Park unit assists researchers in the research room. Some of the records are microfilmed as NARA microfilm publications. These microfilm publications are located in Room 4050 of the College Park facility; they are self-service. Other NARA facilities have copies of many of these microfilm publications. Accessioned microfilm copies of the records of the Reichsbank's Precious Metal Department are also located in Room 4050.

To contact the Textual Archives Services Division about the archival holdings or to request records, call 301-837-3510. Ask to speak to either a military records archivist or a civilian agency records archivist depending upon the records in which you are interested. Please be as specific as possible so you may be directed to an appropriate staff member.

If you would like to write to NARA about the records and access to and/or copies of them please do so at the following addresses:

For Modern Military Records:

Modern Military Records (NWCTM)
Textual Archives Services Division
Office of Records Services-Washington
Room 2400
8601 Adelphi Road
College Park MD 20740-6001

For Civilian Agency Records:

Civilian Records (NWCTC)
Textual Archives Services Division
Office of Records Services-Washington
Room 2600
8601 Adelphi Road
College Park, MD 20740-6001


Because archives are arranged by their provenance and not by subject, doing research about a particular subject in archival materials can be challenging. For example, at least fifteen United States Government agencies created and received information about the various subjects covered by this finding aid. In most instances there is not just one, two, or even three best places to begin a research strategy.

A finding aid such as this one is intended to mitigate the complexities of subject-based research. Researchers should also consult with the Textual Archives Services Division reference staff. Their many years of experience working with the records often can assist researchers in pinpointing, or at least narrowing down, a particular group of records germane to the research interest.

Researchers can successfully navigate NARA 's holdings by acquiring some knowledge about which Federal agencies were responsible for or became involved in the subject(s) of their research interest. After all, the records reflect their creators and receivers. This can be accomplished in part by reading the "administrative histories" contained within this finding aid. It can also be accomplished by doing background reading in governmental and non-government publications. This finding aid includes many applicable references and concentrates relevant bibliographic citations in the appendix. It should be noted that many of the cited works make reference to NARA's holdings and thus provides valuable clues to the location of records of interest within and among the various Record Groups. The most valuable citations are those which adhere to NARA's preferred practices as summarized in the following section.


In general, citations to textual records of federal agencies should identify the record item, the file unit, the series, the subgroup, the record group, and the repository and its location. Each of these citation elements contains unique information that describes the context and source of the record, enhancing its value and facilitating its retrieval. When microform versions of Federal textual records are cited, the rules for citing textual records of federal agencies should be followed and the microform should be properly identified. Thus, if a cited record is part of a record series that has been microfilmed or microfiched by the National Archives, information about the publication should be supplied in parentheses after the series title. The information should include the publication number, roll or fiche number, and frame number(s) on microfilm rolls (if available). After the initial citation of any microform publication, subsequent citations to the same publication may be abbreviated by citing the publication, roll, and frame or fiche numbers. The National Archives accessions microforms from other agencies. Citations to accessioned microfilm or microfiche should identify the agency that produced it if the agency name is different from the record group title. Some accessioned microforms may have frame numbers while other may not. For more detailed information researchers are encouraged to read Citing Records in the National Archives of the United States, General Information Leaflet 17, before beginning their research and citing the records.


Most of the records described in this finding aid are readily available, and researchers are not required to make arrangements in advance to consult them. Some records, however, remain closed subject to national security restrictions or warrant withholding for reasons of personal privacy or because of specific statutes.

Many records described in this finding aid were never security classified. Others were security-classified but were declassified by Federal agency personnel prior to 1973; either before or after the records were transferred to NARA's legal custody. During the past quarter-century NARA has expended considerable resources to declassify security-classified records, including records described in this finding aid. Because of some misunderstandings about when and how NARA declassified records Marvin Russell of the Declassification and Initial Processing Division, prepared the following information:

Systematic declassification review began at the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) under Executive Order 11652 issued on March 8, 1972. Under previous Executive Orders, NARA could declassify records only by referring each individual document back to its creating agency. By 1972, the growing volume of World War II documents retired to NARA had overwhelmed that system. E.O. 11652 addressed the problem by requiring NARA to systematically review for declassification all its World War II holdings. NARA established a declassification unit and, in 1973, began systematic declassification review. By 1978, NARA had declassified almost all World War II records then at NARA. E.O. 11652 also required the review of all other documents that were 30 years old or older. NARA had declassified many of these by 1978 as well.

Executive Order 12065 issued on June 28, 1978, reduced the declassification review period from 30 years to 20 years and required all agencies to begin systematic declassification review of records still in their custody. NARA greatly expanded its declassification staff to meet the 20-year goal, and most agencies made some effort to meet the declassification review requirement. By April 2, 1982, when E.O. 12356 raised the declassification period back to 30 years and dropped the requirement that all agencies have declassification programs, almost all records relating to the "Nazi Gold" issue had been declassified either by NARA or by the creating agencies.

Other "Nazi Gold" related records were transferred to NARA in 1994 and 1995 when the new building in College Park opened and a freeze on transfers from the agencies ended. Most of these older records were either already declassified by the creating agencies or were easily declassified by NARA staff.

Determining the exact date when a specific document in NARA was declassified is not easy. In systematic reviews, NARA has always had an exemption to the requirement that every document be individually stamped at the time of declassification. Instead, NARA labels boxes with a collective authority covering all the documents in the box. That authority may represent an actual declassification decision by NARA, or it may merely confirm that the creating agency properly declassified the documents before shipment to NARA. In many cases, the authority covers a combination of both.

After some early experimentation, NARA now uses a six-digit case number as the standard authority for the box label. The first two digits of this number are the Fiscal Year in which the case was assigned, but the case may cover documents which were declassified years earlier. For example, the Department of Justice transferred a large collection of Nazi gold related material from the Office of Alien Property to NARA in 1994. The NARA declassification unit determined after examining the history of these files that they had been declassified prior to their original retirement to the Washington National Records Center in the 1950s. Thus, while the boxes bear labels with an FY 1996 case number, the records themselves have been declassified for 40 years.

The government-wide security requirement that a declassified document be stamped with the date of the declassification "action" adds to the confusion of declassification dates. If an archivist decides to stamp an original document, the "action" is the stamping, and the date is the date he or she applies the stamp. To use any other date compromises the archival integrity of the document. Everyone who saw the document before that date would have seen a document without a declassification stamp. Thus, the date of the declassification stamping is a fundamental part of the document and cannot be falsified. Similarly, the "action" date for copies of unstamped declassified documents is the date they are made. This is the date applied to the documents or to the slugs placed on the self-copiers in the research rooms.

Addressing specifically "Nazi Gold" related records, a NARA official recently estimated that approx-imately 50 percent of the relevant records were never even classified. A second estimate, based primarily on the general declassification history of record groups known to contain "Nazi Gold" related records, held that of those that were once classified, approximately 75 percent were declassified by 1982, 15 percent were declassified in 1982-1989, 5 percent in 1990-1994, and 5 percent in 1995-1997.


The dollar figures for gold assets cited in this finding aid, as in U.S. and Allied Wartime and Postwar Relations and Negotiations with Argentina, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, and Turkey on Looted Gold and German External Assets and U.S. Concerns About the Fate of the Wartime Ustasha Treasury, are based on the 1946 value of gold at $35 per troy ounce, or 32,150.7 fine troy ounces of gold per ton. Thus a ton of gold is valued at $ 1,125,000. At the time this finding aid is being published the value of gold has been 8 to 9 times higher than in 1946.

The dollar figures for non-gold assets cited in this finding are often from 50 years earlier. To convert their purchasing power into today's dollar (approximate values), multiply the figures by the following factors for the appropriate year: 1945: 8.9; 1946: 8.2; 1947: 7.2; 1948: 6.6; 1952: 6.0; and, 1962: 5.3.