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Naftali uncovers intercepted Nazi plan to kill Italian Jews

Documents declassified Monday reveal that although Allies knew five days in advance about Nazi plans to kill Italian Jews, they took no action to warn the Jews.

The information comes from 400,000 pages of documents released by the Central Intelligence Agency's precursor, the Office of Strategic Services (OSS).

One intercepted 1943 order from Berlin said, "to seize and take to Northern Italy, the 8,000 Jews living in Rome. They are to be liquidated."

Assoc. History Prof. Timothy Naftali served as a consultant to the team that collected the information.

As a consultant to the Nazi War Criminal Records Interagency Working Group (IWG), Naftali helped the group examine the documents and release any information that is related to Nazi war crimes.

"IWG seeks the declassification of all documents relating to US knowledge of Nazi war crimes and the disposal of war criminals," Naftali said.

Naftali said the group wants to show what options the Allies had at the time rather than make judgements about the choices that were made.

"There were options that were open to the Allies," he said.

"It is up to the current generation to ponder these moral questons," he added.

Richard Breitman, a history professor at American University who worked with Naftali on the project, said some of the transcripts offer secretly recorded conversations of Nazi prisoners of war discussing atrocities against Jews.

These recordings make it difficult to say there was a single German view toward the Jews, Breitman said.

Today we look back and think "these are horrendous events and how could people have done these things," he said.

"Some [German soldiers] who did these things realized at the time that there would be legal and moral questions in the future," he added.

Naftali worked with Breitman to help IWG understand how the documents are organized.

"These agencies have current day problems" to focus on Naftali said.

Because of Naftali and Breitman's familiarity, as historians, with how the CIA worked during the cold war, they were able to help the agency "understand how their organization worked 50 years ago," Naftali said. "We help agencies know what their archives are like."

Naftali urged students to visit the archives in Washington.

"I'm very keen to encourage U.Va. students to make use of this resource," he said. "These documents are considered the most secret in the CIA archives.