Ask the average person their image of an archivist and the likely answer you’ll get is someone resembling Wally Cox — a mild mannered bespectacled man behind a counter with rows of document shelves towering behind him.
My most distinct memory of Robert Wolfe is quite different: It is of a short, stocky man shaking with anger, banging on the door of an archive near Stuttgart and demanding access to the Nazi-era documents inside as a chill rain drizzled down on both of us, .
“In the name of history, open this door,” Wolfe bellowed — a phrase each of us started shouting again and again.
For decades, Wolfe, who died December 10 at the age of 93, was the chief archivist for captured Nazi documents at the National Archives in Washington. But by time we found ourselves standing together outside the archive near Stuttgart, he was retired and now volunteering his invaluable expertise to my project.
Together, we were seeking documents related to the IBM Corporation’s willing cooperation with the Nazi regime to facilitate the Holocaust. IBM, we would ultimately discover, eagerly helped the Nazis with its then cutting edge punch card technology to organize and systemize census data and thereby locate millions of Jews for shipment to the camps.
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