Federal Archives (Germany)

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Federal Archives
- BArch -

Archive type State Archives
Coordinates 50 ° 20 '33 "  N , 7 ° 34' 21"  E Coordinates: 50 ° 20 '33 "  N , 7 ° 34' 21"  E
place Koblenz , Rhineland-Palatinate
Visitor address Potsdamer Strasse 1
56075 Koblenz
founding June 3, 1952
Age of the archive material 15th century to the present day
ISIL DE-1958 (Koblenz Federal Archives)
carrier Federal Republic of Germany
Organizational form Higher federal authority
Website www.bundesarchiv.de
Office building in Koblenz
The Federal Archives in Koblenz
The Federal Archives in Koblenz
Supervisory authority
Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media
Authority management
Number of employees (as of December 31, 2012)
Locations and addresses
Federal Archives Koblenz

Potsdamer Strasse 1
56075 Koblenz

Federal archive office Berlin-Lichterfelde

Finckensteinallee 63
12205 Berlin-Lichterfelde

Federal archive office Berlin-Reinickendorf

Eichborndamm 179
13403 Berlin

Federal Archives - Film Archive Department

Fehrbelliner Platz 3
10636 Berlin

Load balancing archive

Dr.-Franz-Strasse 1
95445 Bayreuth

Federal Archives - Military Archives Department

Wiesentalstrasse 10
79115 Freiburg

Branch office Ludwigsburg

Schorndorfer Strasse 58
71638 Ludwigsburg

Memorial site for the freedom movements in German history

Herrenstrasse 18
76437 Rastatt

Interim archive Sankt Augustin

Federal Border Guard
Road 100 53757 St. Augustin-Hangelar

Hoppegarten interim archive

Lindenallee 55–57
15366 Hoppegarten

The Federal Archives ( BArch ) is one of the Federal Government Commissioners for Culture and Media (BKM) subordinate to the higher federal authority of the Federal Republic of Germany with 892 employees. It has to secure the archives of the federal government and its predecessor institutions in the long term, make them usable and scientifically exploit them. The Federal Archives Act forms the basis for this . The main office is in Koblenz .


Load balancing archive in the building of the former municipal hospital in Bayreuth

It was not until 1919, and thus later than in other European countries, that a central archive was established in Germany for the organs and authorities of the Reich. The location was the Brauhausberg in Potsdam . This Reich Archives has taken over documents from all the highest Reich authorities since the founding of the North German Confederation in 1867 and in 1924 also records from the German Confederation and the Reich Chamber of Commerce . The oldest documents in the Federal Archives come from these procedural files of the Reich Chamber of Commerce and go back to the year 1411; a continuous tradition begins in 1867, four years before the founding of the empire. The holdings have been and are being actively expanded to include non-governmental documents as well as film and photographic documents. Despite the relocation of the more valuable holdings, the effects of the war in the Second World War resulted in considerable gaps in tradition. The holdings of the Army Archives , which had been spun off from the Reich Archives in 1936, were almost completely destroyed .

In the Soviet occupation zone , the German Central Archive (from 1973 the Central State Archive) of the GDR was founded as the successor to the Reich Archives. It took up the Reich holdings that had been preserved through outsourcing and, at the end of the 1950s, received back parts of the documents confiscated by the Soviet Union at the end of the war.

In the Federal Republic of Germany, the federal government decided in 1950 to found the Federal Archives, which were established in Koblenz in 1952. The United States, Great Britain and, to a lesser extent, other countries handed over seized documents to the Federal Archives after the end of the war. In contrast to the national archives of most other countries, the Federal Archives have been responsible since 1955 for the permanent safeguarding of the military tradition of the Federal Government and its predecessors in the specially formed Military Archives Department . The tasks, responsibilities and possible uses of the Federal Archives are anchored in the Federal Archives Act of January 6, 1988 . They have been expanded by changes in the law since reunification ; after reunification, the German central archives were also merged into the Federal Archives. The state film archive and the independent military archive of the GDR were merged into the film archive and military archive departments of the Federal Archives.

The holdings of the Federal Archives today include the imperial traditions as well as the central provenances of civil and military bodies in the Federal Republic of Germany, the GDR and their parties and mass organizations. The state archives are supplemented by bequests, documents from parties, associations and societies with supraregional importance and collections of contemporary history. In addition to files , archival material also includes films , photos (e.g. the Beier collection ), electronic data carriers, cards , posters , documents and plans.

According to § 2 of the Federal Archives Act, all “constitutional bodies, authorities and courts of the federal government, the federal foundations under public law and the other federal agencies” are subject to submission to the Federal Archives. Regardless of this, parts of the state archives are in the Political Archives of the Foreign Office , in the Parliamentary Archives of the German Bundestag and in the Secret State Archives of Prussian Cultural Heritage . Since June 17, 2021, the Federal Archives also contain the material of the Federal Commissioner for the records of the State Security Service of the former German Democratic Republic . Documents from politicians, parties and parliamentary groups, on the other hand, are not part of the state archives and are collected in the archives of the party-related foundations .

With German reunification, only the records from central government agencies of the GDR were initially transferred to the Federal Archives. On the other hand, securing the archives and libraries of the parties and mass organizations of the GDR was legally problematic. These were not state institutions, but were very close to them due to the political structure of the GDR and even dominated them in the case of the SED. Since the Unification Treaty could not make any arrangements in this regard, a Bundestag initiative was launched in 1991 which aimed to also submit the documents of the parties and mass organizations of the GDR to the Federal Archives. As a result of this initiative, a bill was drafted to amend the Federal Archives Act, which provided for the establishment of an dependent foundation in the Federal Archives and which came into force on March 13, 1992 after approval by the Bundestag and Bundesrat. In accordance with the requirements newly incorporated into the Federal Archives Act, an dependent foundation under public law was set up in the Federal Archives under the name Foundation Archive of Parties and Mass Organizations of the GDR . Its task is to take over documents from parties as well as the organizations and legal persons of the GDR associated with these parties, to secure them in the long term, to make them usable and to supplement them. This also applies to other documents, materials and library holdings on German history. The foundation started its work on January 4, 1993.

When the State Treaty between the Federal Government and the State of Berlin came into force on May 30, 2018 and October 12, 2018 on January 1, 2019, all tasks, rights and obligations of the German Office (WASt) were transferred to the Federal Government and the Federal Archives. For this purpose, the PA (personal information) department was set up at the former WASt headquarters with the employees who were taken over.

Legal basis

The legal basis of the Federal Archives is based on the Federal Archives Act (BArchG), the usage regulations, the cost ordinance and the foundation decree.

The law on the safeguarding and use of federal archives (Federal Archives Act) of January 6, 1988 ( Federal Law Gazette I, p. 62 ) came into force on January 15, 1988 and was last amended by the Third Act amending the Federal Archives Act of January 27, 1988. June 2013 ( Federal Law Gazette I, p. 1888 ). It comprised 13 paragraphs. In 2017 the German Bundestag passed a new BArchG (March 10, 2017, Federal Law Gazette I p. 410 ).

The old BArchG contained the following: Section 1 outlined the task of the Federal Archives to secure the federal archives in the long term, to make them usable and to scientifically exploit them. In § 2, the bodies were named which must offer their documents to the Federal Archives for acceptance as soon as they are no longer needed directly to fulfill the tasks. The submitting agencies were therefore constitutional bodies , federal authorities and courts, federal corporations , institutions and foundations under public law and other federal agencies. Documents of the Socialist Unity Party of Germany, the other parties of the GDR and the organizations, legal persons and mass organizations associated with these parties were also defined as documents within the meaning of the law. The separate § 2a anchored the establishment of the “Foundation Archive of the Parties and Mass Organizations of the GDR” and its tasks. The following paragraphs contain guidelines for handling the documents of the submitting offices and regulate access to the archive material. Anyone could request the federal archives from more than 30 years ago, provided that there were no special interests worthy of protection to the contrary. Protection periods were shortened under certain conditions, e.g. B. possible for scientific research projects. The 30-year protection period did not apply to the Foundation's holdings. The archives relating to natural persons were generally only allowed to be viewed by third parties 30 years after the death of the person concerned. If there was reason to believe that the welfare of the Federal Republic of Germany or one of its countries would be jeopardized, that confidentiality regulations and the interests of third parties worthy of protection would be violated, or that the state of preservation of the archive material would be jeopardized, use was not permitted.

The usage regulations comprise seven paragraphs and came into force on November 11, 1993.

The usage regulations are divided into the following points:

  • Right of use: Everyone has the right to use the archive material upon request.
  • Type of use: Archives are presented in the original or as a copy.
  • Prerequisites for use: Application for use must be made in writing. Applicant must z. B. pay attention to copyrights .
  • Duty of care on the part of the user: Archives must remain in the usage room. The inner order is to be maintained.
  • Exclusion from use: If the user violates the regulations, he can be excluded from use.
  • Use by federal agencies.

The cost ordinance comprises six paragraphs and came into force on October 8, 1997. The use of archive material in the Federal Archives is usually free of charge. A list of costs attached to the Ordinance on Costs regulates the fees that are incurred in exceptional cases for use and regularly for the production of copies as well as for the commercially used reproduction of archive sources. There may be costs for archived material, the use of which requires special effort (e.g. cinema films, sound carriers and cards). However, no fees are charged for verbal and simple written inquiries. The publication of digitized images on commercial websites, for example, costs 191.73 euros per image for a period of one year according to section 4.35 of the list of costs (current status as of November 7, 2000). On non-commercial websites, the use of low-resolution photos (such as those made available by the Federal Archives on Wikimedia Commons) is free of charge, provided the complete “credits” (source Federal Archives, image signature / author / possibly CC-BY-SA) are given. For the images made available by the Federal Archives on Wikimedia Commons under CC-BY-SA, the free commercial use of these low-resolution photos is also possible in compliance with the license conditions.

The foundation decree comprises 14 paragraphs and came into force on April 6, 1992. The decree of the Federal Ministry of the Interior on the establishment of a "Foundation Archive of the Parties and Mass Organizations of the GDR" is primarily about the task of the foundation, the foundation's assets and the transfer of rights in favor of the foundation. The use of the documents and the use of the library material are also anchored here and the organization of the foundation is laid down. Sections 7, 8, 9 and 11 contain more detailed information on the organization (Board of Trustees, Scientific Advisory Board and the Advisory Board). The remaining paragraphs contain references to the Federal Archives Act, which is to be applied accordingly to the Foundation's archives.


Koblenz, foyer of the main building (1998)
Koblenz, Federal Archives, main building, reading room (1999)

Departments (tasks)

The Federal Archives are divided into eight departments and the Foundation Archive of Parties and Mass Organizations of the GDR in the Federal Archives (SAPMO):

  • Department Z (Central Administrative Affairs)
  • Department GW (Principle and Science)
  • AT department (archive technology and central technical services)
  • Department B (Federal Republic of Germany)
  • BE department (provision)
  • Department PA (personal information on the First and Second World War)
  • Department MA (Military Archives)
  • Department FA (film archive)

Department Z (Central Administrative Affairs)

Department Z is responsible for the central administrative matters of the archive. Their function is to provide the personnel, organizational, technical and financial resources for the performance of the archival specialist tasks in the individual departments of the Federal Archives. Their offices are in Koblenz and Berlin.

Department GW (Principle and Science)

The GW department is responsible for fundamental archiving and scientific matters. The headquarters of this department is in Koblenz. The GW department also publishes the “Documents on Germany Policy”. The “ Memorial Site for the Freedom Movements in German History ”, located in Rastatt Castle, is also subordinate to the GW department.

Department AT (archive technology)

The AT department (archive technology and central technical services) is responsible for cross-sectional archiving tasks. It is represented in Berlin and Koblenz and consists of three lectures with the following main areas of responsibility:

  • Principles of conservation (conventional and digital); technical construction matters; Magazines; workshops
  • Specialized IT of the Federal Archives: Development, coordination and administration of archival IT application processes; User support
  • Digital magazine (takeover, inventory maintenance, digitization, digital provision); Digital intermediate archive

Department B (Federal Republic of Germany)

Department B deals with the traditions of the constitutional organs, civil authorities, courts and other federal agencies with central jurisdiction (since 1949) as well as with the documents from the western zones of occupation (1945–1949). Digital records, photos, posters (section B6, picture archive) and the edition of the cabinet minutes of the federal government are also cataloged and published by Department B. The archives of the Foreign Office are currently kept in the Political Archives of the Foreign Office , as is a large part of its records from the period before 1945 and the entire record from the former Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the GDR.

The intermediate archives for the highest federal authorities in Sankt Augustin-Hangelar (near Bonn) and Hoppegarten (near Berlin) are also assigned to Department B. In addition, the traditions of political parties, insofar as they do not maintain their own archives, as well as the bequests of famous personalities are looked after in Department B. The main location of Department B is in Koblenz; it is also used there.

Another location of Department B houses the so-called load balancing archive in Bayreuth, in which the central archiving of the documents for load balancing takes place. It documents the recorded losses of German property and assets in the expulsion and resettlement areas, the fate of expulsion and resettlement (based on the Eastern documentation), the social, social and cultural conditions in the eastern areas of the German Reich and in Eastern and Southeastern Europe Settlement areas in the decades up to the beginning of the expulsion measures, the living conditions of Germans in the resettlement areas between the end of the war and resettlement as well as the activity and mode of operation of the entire burden equalization administration. The documents of the home information centers, the home town index and, in some cases, the assessment and performance files can also be viewed there. These Federal German holdings are supplemented by the documents of the tracing service of the Red Cross of the GDR.

Another branch of Department B is located in Ludwigsburg. This is where the documents that have been created at the “ Central Office of the State Justice Administrations for the Investigation of National Socialist Crimes ” in Ludwigsburg since 1958 are stored and used for historical research as well as for archival educational work.

BE department (provision)

The former German Reich (R) and German Democratic Republic (GDR) departments are combined in the Provisioning Department, based at Finckensteinallee 63 in Berlin-Lichterfelde . For many years, the focus of the tasks performed by these departments has been on use. In the long term, the BE department is to take on the lead for all user processes in the Federal Archives beyond Berlin-Lichterfelde and to standardize and optimize the usage processes (status 2018).

German Empire

The holdings from the period up to 1945, which were torn up by the Second World War and the division of Germany, were brought together at the site of the former Department R. In 1994, Department R also took over the documents of the NSDAP, its associations and divisions from the Berlin Document Center (BDC) that had been in American custody since 1945 , including the NSDAP membership file. There is also a copy of the Hexenkartothek created from 1935 onwards . Department R administered the records of the civil central authorities from the time


The GDR department was responsible for the civil handing over of the central state apparatus of the GDR and its predecessor authorities in the Soviet occupation zone (SBZ). This included the parliamentary documents ( Volkskammer ) as well as the documents of the highest organs of the state leadership (e.g. Council of Ministers of the GDR , President of the GDR , Council of State of the GDR ) and individual ministries as well as their subordinate institutions. The archives of the Ministry for National Defense of the GDR can be used in the Military Archives Department in Freiburg. The legacy of the Ministry for State Security was formally transferred to the Federal Archives on June 17, 2021 from the authority of the Federal Commissioner for the State Security Records of the former GDR ( BStU ). The archives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the GDR (including the missions abroad - embassies, permanent missions, consulates general, consulates, transport and trade agencies, cultural centers) are kept in the Political Archives of the Foreign Office (PA AA).

Department PA (personal information)

On January 1, 2019, the department of personal information on the First and Second World War took over the tasks of the German Service (WASt) at the Berlin-Reinickendorf headquarters . It ascertains evidence of the captivity of German soldiers, helps clarify the fate of missing persons and provides information about former members of the Army, the Reich and Navy and the Air Force, civil servants, employees and workers of the Wehrmacht as well as members of the entire male and female Wehrmacht succession of the organization Todt and the Reich Labor Service.

Department MA (Military Archives)

The Military Archives Department was set up in Koblenz in 1955, the year the Bundeswehr was set up, and moved to the former location of the Military History Research Office (MGFA) in Freiburg i. Br., Where it also took over the archive holdings of the document center there. In addition to final archiving tasks, the military archive also fulfills inter-archiving functions for the division of the Federal Ministry of Defense.

The archives managed in the military archive include documents

The military-historical documents of the other states of the German Confederation are in the archives of the respective states. The few archives of the provisional central authority from 1848, including the military parts, can be used in the Reich department in Berlin-Lichterfelde. An overview of all responsible positions can be found on the MGFA website.

Department FA (film archive)

With the incorporation of the State Film Archive of the GDR, the Film Archive department developed into the central German film archive on October 3, 1990 - one of the largest film archives in the world. It collects German films of all genres, including newsreels, documentaries, feature films and cartoons, as well as scripts, programs, photos, posters and other accompanying materials, thus documenting more than 100 years of film history. The headquarters of the film archive department is in Berlin-Lichterfelde . Other places of work are in Hoppegarten , Berlin-Wilhelmshagen and Koblenz.

Foundation Archive of Parties and Mass Organizations of the GDR in the Federal Archives (SAPMO)

The foundation provides archive material from the central management level of the parties ( SED , DBD and NDPD ), the trade unions (Archive of the Trade Union Movement, Berlin ( FDGB )) and the GDR mass organizations (e.g. FDJ , Society for German-Soviet friendship , Kulturbund der DDR ) ready for use. The parties and mass organizations or their legal successors have handed over their archival material, which sometimes extends to the period before 1945, to the foundation with transfer agreements.

In addition to the archives, the libraries of the Institute for Marxism-Leninism, the Institute for Marxism-Leninism at the Central Committee of the SED (IML) and other organizations have also been transferred to the Federal Archives, where they form the basis for the archive's own service library.

The CDU archives have been in the archive for Christian-Democratic Politics of the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung in Sankt Augustin since 1990, and the LDPD archives were transferred to the Liberalism Archives of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom in Gummersbach in 1991 . Finding aids can be found in the foundations for the traditions of both parties.

Office manager since 1952

Karl Bruchmann (Director of the Federal Archives, 1961–1967)
1952-1960 Georg Winter (director)
1961-1967 Karl Bruchmann (Director)
1967-1972 Wolfgang A. Mommsen (President)
1972-1989 Hans Booms (President)
1989-1999 Friedrich P. Kahlenberg (President)
1999-2011 Hartmut Weber (President)
since May 3, 2011 Michael Hollmann (President)

Living Museum Online

The Federal Archives are a cooperation partner of the online portal Lebendiges Museum Online .

Cooperation with Wikimedia

From December 2008 the Federal Archives cooperated with Wikimedia Commons and made over 100,000 digitized photographs publicly available. The images are published under a Creative Commons license ( CC-BY-SA ). At the same time, the personal data in the Federal Archives were linked to the corresponding Wikipedia articles and the personal name file (PND). Since then, the archive has tripled its own revenue from paid image licenses. But also cropped and unlabeled photos from federal archives were found more often on the Internet - the proportion of license violations in the uses is said to have been 95%. In autumn 2010 the picture archive ended the cooperation.

See also

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Draft of a law on the establishment of the federal budget for the budget year 2020. (PDF) In: http://dipbt.bundestag.de/ . Federal Council, August 9, 2019, accessed on September 4, 2019 (as of June 1, 2019).
  2. Astrid M. Eckert: Battle for the files. The Western Allies and the return of German archive material after the Second World War . Steiner, Stuttgart 2004, ISBN 978-3-515-08554-0 . Dissertation (FU Berlin). Review at Hsozukult
  3. The State Treaty entered into force on January 1, 2019 . German Office (WASt), January 1, 2019, accessed on January 1, 2019.
  4. Federal Archives: Cost Ordinance of September 29, 1997 . February 16, 2010. Archived from the original on August 23, 2010. Retrieved on September 3, 2010.
  5. Federal Archives: Establishment Decree, entered into force April 6, 1992 . February 16, 2010. Archived from the original on August 24, 2010. Retrieved on September 3, 2010.
  6. Departments . Federal Archives, as of January 1, 2019, accessed on January 9, 2019.
  7. Personal documents of military origin up to 1945 . Federal Archives, accessed on January 1, 2019.
  8. Inquiries to the MGFA with contact address and contact person
  9. ^ Contributions to the history of the library of the Institute for Marxism-Leninism at the Central Committee of the SED (IML). Funding Association Archives and Libraries for the History of the Labor Movement. Accessed on January 29, 2018.
  10. ^ Press and Information Office of the Federal Government: Change of President at the Federal Archives , Press Release 109 of March 30, 2011, accessed on April 1, 2017
  11. ^ Federal archive images at Wikipedia ( Memento from December 10, 2008 in the Internet Archive ). Stuttgarter Zeitung, December 10, 2008. See picture-book relationship on the Internet. Exemplary project realized by a public-private partnership: the Federal Archives provide Wikipedia with online images free of charge ( Memento of December 7, 2008 in the Internet Archive ). Press release from the Federal Archives on the press conference on December 4, 2008. Although the press releases speak of 100,000 images, only around 82,000 images were made accessible. (offline)
  12. Andreas Kilb: "Digital Cultural Heritage: Invisible Vases for Mankind" , FAZ , December 1, 2011.

Web links

Commons : Federal Archives  - collection of images, videos and audio files