Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has issued a press release about parts of a Nazi-Era diary that has been turned over to the Holocaust Museum for preservation and study.
While I’m happy that the “Rosenberg” Diary is going to the U.S. Holocaust Museum rather than being repatriated to Germany as some in the archaeological blogosphere have demanded, I think it’s wrong for ICE to blacken the reputation of a refugee German lawyer and Nuremberg Prosecutor to justify doing so.
Here is what ICE says about the lawyer, Robert Kempner, who held the diary in his papers:
Robert M.W. Kempner
Dr. Robert M.W. Kempner was a German lawyer who fled Germany for the United States during the war. At the conclusion of the war, Kempner served as the deputy chief counsel and was the chief prosecutor in the "Ministries Case" at the Nuremberg Trials. In this role, Kempner had access to seized Nazi documents in his official capacity as an employee of the U.S. government. At the conclusion of the Nuremberg Trials, Kempner returned to the United States and lived in Lansdowne, Pa. Contrary to law and proper procedure, Kempner removed various documents, including the Rosenberg Diary, from U.S. government facilities in Nuremberg and retained them until his death in 1993.
But the Holocaust Museum’s website tells a different story:
As the Nuremberg trials drew to a close, Kempner received permission from the Office of the Chief of Counsel of War Crimes to retain unclassified documents “for purposes of writing, lecturing and study.” He returned home with an unknown number of documents in his possession.
Why then is ICE claiming Kempner misappropriated the diary?
Let’s keep in mind Kempner preserved it and other Nazi papers for decades before his heirs turned over a major trove of such documents to the Holocaust Museum. Government procedures of the late 1940’s were likely not as clear as ICE now claims. Nor is it likely that as much historical significance would be attached to the diary back then as today.
Under the circumstances, shame on ICE for suggesting that Kempner—who can no longer defend his own reputation-- was a crook rather than a hero in the fight against Nazism.
One can only hope that the cultural property cops at ICE issue a “clarification” and soon.