The world's largest archive of Nazi German documents will be opened to historians for the first time, after an agreement reached by the 11 countries that control it.
The announcement was made after two days of talks by diplomats from the 11 countries, who were meeting in Luxembourg.
For six decades, the archive - housed in a storeroom at Bad Arolsen, in central Germany - has been used exclusively by a Red Cross agency that helps people trace loved ones who went missing during World War II.
It has taken several years of negotiations to reach this agreement, and the talks in Luxembourg also went on later than expected as diplomats discussed the details of the deal.
In April, the German justice minister, Brigitte Zypries, announced a policy shift when she said Germany would work with the United States to open the archived files.
Delegates in the legal negotiations said the German delegation had shown more flexibility than in any previous round of talks.
The decision taken yesterday will also allow each of the 11 countries to obtain a digital copy of the Bad Arolsen archive and to make it available to researchers and victims' relatives in those countries under controlled conditions.
Still unresolved were issues dealing with how quickly the Bad Arolsen archive could be copied into digital files and distributed to the member countries, and how to speed up the pace of ratification, delegates said. The Red Cross agency, responsible for the archive, says it has scanned 56 per cent of the files since 1999, but it cannot move faster without more funding.
May 17, 2006