Nine Historical Archives That Will Spill New Secrets

Declassified records and journals to be released in coming decades will shed new light on pivotal 20th-century figures and events

With archives still to open, historians look to learn more about pivotal 20th-century figures and events. (Central Press / Getty Images)
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2045: In May 1945, the British Royal Air Force (RAF) attacked two German ships in the Baltic Sea carrying 7,000 survivors of the Neuengamme concentration camp. Only 350 survived. RAF intelligence had mistakenly believed the vessels held Nazi officials escaping to Norway or Sweden. Because the RAF ordered the records to remain classified for 100 years, scholars have been unable to offer a complete account of one of the worst “friendly-fire” incidents in history.

2045: During World War II, the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) lent Britain highly skilled radar technicians—“the Secret 5,000”—who flew on patrols over the Atlantic Ocean to detect German submarines and aircraft. The RCAF deemed its work so classified it sealed all pertinent records about the operation for a century. Even today, the Secret 5,000 are not mentioned in official RCAF histories.

Mark Strauss is a senior editor at Smithsonian.


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