By stealing World War II records from the National Archives and Records Administration and selling them to collectors, a thief victimized the American people and damaged the agency entrusted with safeguarding our nation’s records. Antonin DeHays recently received 364 days in prison and three years on probation, eight months of which are to be served in home confinement, along with 100 hours of community service, for the theft of records from the National Archives.
DeHays, a private researcher, stole and sold identification tags and related items from files of American servicemen whose planes were downed in Europe during World War II, as well as other original records from the National Archives at College Park.
Judge Theodore D. Chuang sentenced DeHays at the U.S. District Court in Greenbelt, Maryland, also ordering him to pay $43,456.96 restitution to those who unknowingly purchased the stolen goods. Chuang said DeHays committed “an egregious, morally repugnant crime” of “auctioning of our history to the highest bidder.”
As Archivist of the United States, I attended the sentencing and delivered a Victim Impact Statement, describing the tremendous damage that DeHays caused the National Archives, and asked for a maximum prison term as a consequence of the crime’s impact and in order to send a message to others about the serious nature of this offense.
I am pleased that Judge Chuang gave DeHays a stiff punishment for his crimes. His sentence sends a strong message to others who may contemplate stealing our nation’s history. The theft of records from the National Archives amounts to stealing from the American people, and it merits a severe penalty whenever it occurs. During his remarks, Judge Chuang stated:
“Mr. DeHays, you have committed a very serious offense. Your actions were an affront not only to every American who has ever served in uniform under the flag that stands behind me, but to every American child … who has ever pledged allegiance to that flag in their classroom, because it is for them that the National Archives are preserved, so that they can be inspired by our high points and learn from our low points, so as to make this nation and this world a better place in the future. We must ensure that no one will commit the same kind of crime again.”
I remain shocked and angered that a historian would show such disregard for records and artifacts. As a veteran, I am disgusted that anyone would steal records and artifacts documenting those captured or killed in the service of their nation.
When a theft does occur, we rely on the Office of the Inspector General and the Justice Department to build a case and bring the perpetrator to justice. I want to thank them and recognize them for their hard work and collaboration identifying the loss and working to ensure the return of stolen items. We can always learn from a theft such as this, including any weaknesses and vulnerabilities in our processes. The security of the holdings of the National Archives is my highest priority and I pledge to continuously improve our policies and procedures to ensure our holdings are safe, while maintaining the balance of providing access to the records of the American people.