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Hammer and SickleRussia Opens Missing German Files

FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) -- Russia's secret service has given the German Red Cross files on 30,000 Germans who disappeared at the end of World War II, a newspaper said Sunday.

Up to 300,000 German civilians disappeared in central and eastern Europe as Soviet troops advanced on Berlin in the spring of 1945, Welt am Sonntag said, quoting the German Red Cross.

The men and women were arrested, many ``the victim of sheer caprice,'' and sent without trial to Soviet camps or tortured and died during interrogation, the newspaper said.

Stalin's Red Army believed many belonged to the Nazi party, while others were minor government officials, town mayors and even German communists, the report said.

After talks between Germany's former Chancellor Helmut Kohl and Russian President Boris Yeltsin in the mid-1990s, Russia's Federal Security Service, the successor to the KGB, agreed to release the data, which had been kept for 54 years on card files in the KGB's archives.

The information arrived at German Red Cross headquarters in Munich last week.

To back its report, the newspaper published details of four people, omitting their last names for privacy reasons. Two pictures from one of the files was also published.

Each listed the person's name, date of birth, reason for arrest and burial place. On the back of each was stamped SMERT -- dead -- in Russian.

The German Red Cross is working to match the names with 1.2 million missing persons in its records, the report said.

In a separate discovery, the Red Cross said it found in Russia 50,000 thick folders containing letters written home by German soldiers during World War II, the newspaper reported.

The letters, found in an Interior Ministry archive at Podolsk, outside Moscow, were taken from captured Germans or from downed transport planes, it said.

AP-NY-01-31-99 2123EST

Copyright © Associated Press.

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