Thu, May 08, 2008 - Page 6 News List

British historians raise alarm over forged documents

AP , LONDON

If the World War II files at Britain’s National Archives can’t be trusted, what documents can?

That is the point being made by eight leading British historians who signed an open letter on Tuesday seeking a public report on the discovery of 29 forged World War II documents placed surreptitiously in 12 separate files at the National Archives since 2000.

The phony documents allege, among other things, that wartime prime minister Winston Churchill ordered the assassination of Nazi SS chief Heinrich Himmler, an assertion rejected by mainstream historians because there is no evidence, except the faked papers, to back it up.

Historian Andrew Roberts, who signed the letter published in the Financial Times, said police must take action against the perpetrators to deter others from sprinkling the trusted National Archives with fakes.

“It’s creating false memory syndromes abut a very important part of our national story,” he said. “If the guy gets away with it, it will be a green light to manufacture evidence. It’s been done in a criminal way, and yet the police don’t seem very interested in dealing with it.”

He said the phony documents are grossly unfair to Churchill because they accuse his government of having secret, cordial negotiations with Himmler at the height of the war and then ordering his death near the end of the war to keep their discussions secret.

“That’s a blood libel against Churchill and totally untrue,” said Roberts, who called the National Archives “the bedrock” used by all serious historians for detailed study of British history.

He was joined by John Keegan, Antony Beevor, Niall Ferguson and other prominent historians in the call for a public accounting of the forgery affair.

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