UNWCC archives

The archives of the UNWCC are extensive, covering over 450,000 pages of densely packed, largely unseen material, of interest to scholars and scholars, lawyers and historians, and members of the public interested in war crimes and international criminal law, human rights, and the history of the Holocaust and Second World War.


The material on this website is searchable as downloadable PDFs divided up into the numbered reels of Microfilm that the UN Archives in New York made from the paper files in the 1980s. (search up microfilm if it is new to you!)

The UNWCC archive can be searched with these clear guides.

In 1949 UNWCC staff created an index of what they thought to be most important. The 1949 Index refers to documents that can be found using this guide to using this microfilmed archive written by UN Archivists in the 1980s. SOAS researchers provide a step by step guide to understanding the documents to get you started.

Below, we have identified the individual files and document types that are available, along with a brief description of each document type.

These are the 8,000 Charge Files submitted by the various members states to the UNWCC. These were pretrial documents submitted to the Commission for approval; each contained the details of a given crime (suspects, location, laws violated, details of the atrocity or war crime in question), as well as a summary of the evidence available to prosecutors at the time (many of the early cases were submitted while the war was ongoing, meaning that they were based on evidence smuggled out of refugee camps). These were then assessed by the Commission, which judged whether there was a prima facie case or not; if there was, these would then be approved for prosecution in UNWCC-supported national courts.

This also includes a number of cases that were withdrawn by their member states, and not pursued. In the majority of cases, this seems to be because the charges in question were found to be erroneous, or lacking sufficient basis to even pursue charges.

These are useful sources of historical information – as well as providing extremely fulsome historical detail on war crimes and the Holocaust, they also provide useful historical context, showing how much was known at any given point (especially regarding official knowledge of the Holocaust). They also provide a valuable historical precedent in international criminal law, showing early legal rulings on issues such as war crimes, command responsibility, and the prosecution of sexual violence.

These are the documents produced by the UNWCC as part of its operation – Meeting Minutes from the UNWCC as a whole, from its various Committees (Facts and Evidence, Enforcement, and Legal Committee) and Offices. It also includes correspondence between the UNWCC and its various National Offices, as well as publications by National Offices and Allied militaries collected by the Commission.

These are the lists compiled by the UNWCC of war criminals, with particular emphasis placed on the staffs of major concentration camps.

These documents relate to the largely Australian and American detention and pursuit of suspected Japanese war criminals, as well as (in some cases) their trials.

The UNWCC – unlike bodies such as the ICC today – did not conduct trials itself, but rather operated in a supervisory and coordinating role for Allied states to carry out their own trials. When these were carried out, they were (usually) reported back to the UNWCC, although the latter’s early closure meant that many trials were concluded after the UNWCC had been shut down. Owing to different legal practices, different countries provided different degrees of detail in their cases.

This is a partial transcript of the International Military Tribunal for the Far East (IMTFE), also known as the Tokyo Trials. Convened in April 1946, it tried high-level leaders accused of participation in the waging of war and the commission, aiding, and abetting of atrocities.

This is a card index of suspects and charge file references for the entire UNWCC caseload, which occasionally includes identifying details and outcomes of trials for some cases. The non-German cases are less complete, but this remains an extremely useful tool for navigating the archive, especially as it cross-references individual perpetrators who were listed multiple times in Charges across the UNWCC member states.

A bundle of documents compiled by Plesch, Uczkiewicz and Kapasi on the prosecution of leading Nazi officials, by the UNWCC, during and following World War II.