Huntington to Transfer Nuremberg Laws to National Archives
VIDEO • REMARKS: STEVEN KOBLIK DAVID FERRIERO GREG BRADSHER • FOR THE MEDIA
SAN MARINO, Calif., Aug.
25, 2010—The Nuremberg Laws bearing Hitler’s
signature, deposited at The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and
Botanical Gardens in 1945 by Gen. George S. Patton Jr., will be
transferred to and permanently placed in the National Archives in Washington, D.C.
, according to Steven S. Koblik
, Huntington president.
decision was made at the June meeting of The Huntington’s Board of
Trustees and following conversations between the archivist of the United
States, David S. Ferriero, and the director of The Huntington Library, David Zeidberg.
“The National Archives is the appropriate permanent home for this
material,” said Koblik. “The Archives is the repository for an abundance
of U.S. Army records from World War II, including those related to war
crimes. These documents comprise an extremely important part of that
The original four-page typewritten documents (there are two sets at The
Huntington), signed by Hitler and dated Sept. 15, 1935, are the only
ones known to exist in the United States. The transfer of both sets to
the National Archives takes place immediately.
Detail of an original 1935 typescript (right), signed by Adolph Hitler and other Nazi officials, of the “Laws for the Safeguard of German Blood and German Honor,” one of three documents collectively known as the Nuremberg Laws. Photo credit: National Archives
Gen. Patton brought the documents home with him to San Marino, Calif., at the close of the war. He deposited them in June 1945 at The Huntington, an institution with close personal ties to the Patton family. (Patton’s father owned the property next door.) Shortly thereafter, Patton returned to Europe; he died there in a car accident in December. Patton left no instructions for how he wanted the documents treated. Given the circumstances—that they were not expressly gifted to The Huntington—the documents were never formally accessioned into the collections.
In the months before his death, Patton had sent U.S. Army material related to his war experience to The Huntington, as well as a handful of other captured Nazi items. Patton also presented the institution with a confiscated deluxe edition of Mein Kampf.
In the late 1990s, the Skirball Cultural Center opened in Los Angeles, dedicated to exploring and presenting Jewish culture and heritage. Following a tour of that new institution, then-Huntington president Robert Skotheim determined, along with Skirball president Uri Herscher, that the Skirball offered the most appropriate venue for the temporary display of the Nuremberg Laws. Those documents and Mein Kampf were loaned to the Skirball in 1999 and put on public view; in late 2009, the Nuremberg Laws were removed from display for conservation analysis.
“Taking them off exhibition gave us a new opportunity to revisit the question of a permanent home,” said Zeidberg. “The Huntington had acted as a longtime caretaker, providing safekeeping, but given the national and, indeed, international significance of these historical documents, we felt it appropriate to examine the issue of whether this was the right place to keep them in permanent residency.” Staff and members of The Huntington’s Board of Trustees concluded that it made sense to explore the prospect with the National Archives of transferring permanent custody of the documents to them.
Once conversations ensued between the two institutions, staff at the National Archives located 1944 and 1945 SHAEF (Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force) policy directives issued by Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower indicating that captured Nazi Party and German government documents be held for administrative, intelligence, and war crimes trial uses. Since 1947, the Nazi Party and German government records that were used as evidence at the Nuremberg and subsequent trials have resided at the National Archives. Ferriero agreed: The Nuremberg Laws belonged there.
"Had Gen. Patton not taken the copies of the Nuremberg Laws back to California, undoubtedly they would have been used as evidence at the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg and been accessioned by the National Archives with the other IMT records,” said Ferriero. “We are very grateful that the Huntington Library is now providing these historically important documents to the National Archives, where they will join other original documents relating to horrors of the Third Reich.”
The Nuremberg Laws set in motion a legal process that would eventually lead to the systematic extermination of more than 6 million Jews in Europe. The laws comprise three decrees: “Law for the Safeguard of German Blood and German Honor,” prohibiting marriage, cohabitation, and relations between “Aryans” and Jews; “The Reichs Citizen Law,” defining a citizen of the German Reich as “of German . . . blood”; and “The Reichs Flag Law,” defining the flag of the Nazi state.
“What my predecessor did was courageous,” said Koblik. “He set in motion a process that would bring these documents to light and put them in proper historical context. We are proud to have stewarded and safeguarded them for 65 years. This next step—of moving them to Washington—completes the process, placing them in the nation’s most important historical repository.”