German Office (WASt)
German office for the notification of next of kin of fallen soldiers of the former German armed forces (WASt)
|State level||State of Berlin|
|position||Division of the Senate Department for Health, Nursing and Equality|
|Supervisory authority||President of the State Office for Health and Social Affairs Berlin|
|founding||August 26, 1939|
|resolution||1st January 2019|
The German Office for the Notification of the Next of Relatives of the Fallen of the Former German Wehrmacht (WASt) , or German Office (WASt) for short , took on August 26, 1939 as an office of the High Command of the Wehrmacht (OKW) under the name Wehrmacht information center for war casualties and prisoners of war , resulting in the abbreviation contained in today's authorities designation derives its activities to (other spellings: Wehrmacht s informative spot, Wehrmacht information s point).
The facility was intended for the registration of all personnel losses of the Wehrmacht as a result of wounding, illness, death, missing and imprisonment. The personal details of soldiers who were searched for by their relatives after the war were also entered in the file, which currently comprises more than 18 million index cards. This information served u. a. the clarification of human fates (for example in civil , civil status or pension law issues) and the registration of war graves.
At the latest with the First World War there were attempts to humanize warfare. The Hague Land Warfare Regulations of October 18, 1907, Article 14, stipulated that at the beginning of the war the states involved had to set up information offices to prove the fate of their own and enemy soldiers.
Establishment of the WASt
According to Article 77 of the Geneva Convention on the Treatment of Prisoners of War of July 27, 1929, the Wehrmacht Information Center was set up on August 26, 1939. First in a vacated school at Hohenstaufenstrasse 47/48 in Berlin. It soon required more and more space. It originally employed 236 people. The number rose to 1650 and later to almost 4000 employees.
In the winter of 1942/43, the work of the WASt experienced a major turning point. The 6th Army of the Wehrmacht was destroyed in the Battle of Stalingrad . No one had been able to submit detailed reports to the agency. However, the relatives of the soldiers needed the death certificates . For this purpose, the army command set up a resolution staff in Rudolstadt, Thuringia . The fates of the soldiers were reconstructed on the basis of existing documents and interviews with survivors. The settlement center in Rudolstadt was originally set up exclusively for the 6th Army. However, the collapse of various army groups in the last years of the war soon made it a permanent institution.
As a result of the increasing threat to Berlin from the air, part of the authority was relocated to Thuringia in August 1943 . The Wehrmacht Loss Department (WVW) and important WASt reports came to Saalfeld / Saale , the rest of them to Meiningen . In the winter of 1943 all departments were relocated to Thuringia.
After the end of the war
On April 5 and 13, 1945, the US Army occupied both Thuringian cities and placed them under American military administration . After that, the work of the departments was initially suspended. In place of the director, who remained in office until the end of the war, the Americans entrusted staff intendant Otto Schlagk with the management, and the work was continued. At the end of the war, around one million unprocessed deaths were still on file. On July 1, 1945, US troops withdrew from Thuringia, which was now part of the Soviet occupation zone . The American authorities relocated the office to Fürstenhagen near Kassel . For reasons of transport, only the most important stocks, especially the central file and the unprocessed cases, could be taken. The files of the Western Allied prisoners of war had already been brought to Paris in May 1945. The files of the Soviet prisoners of war were probably brought to the USSR in August 1945 .
In January 1946 the archive was relocated to Berlin and was named Deutsche Dienststelle . From February 15, 1946 to July 1, 1946, 483,000 death notices were processed. This means that around half of the deaths present were processed. The International Red Cross had meanwhile started working with the German Office. Nevertheless, the Americans had planned to destroy the documents in early June 1946. They feared that the files could be used to reorganize the Wehrmacht. The U.S. officer in charge, 1st Lt. Henry Sternweiler , could only prevent this by subordinating the office to another occupying power. He won over the French captain Armand E. Klein . The French were interested in the fate of their compatriots who had fought in the Wehrmacht or Waffen-SS (mainly from Alsace and Lorraine ) and were now suspected of being a Soviet prisoner of war.
On June 14, 1946, the operation of the agency was transferred to the French occupation administration by the Allied Control Council .
By administrative agreement of January 9, 1951 between the Federal Republic of Germany and the State of Berlin, the former Wehrmacht information center was run under the name of the German Service for the Notification of Next Relatives of Fallen Wehrmacht (WASt) as an authority of the State of Berlin . After various interim shelters, the German Office moved into a former machine factory in 1951, which housed the German weapons and ammunition factories until the end of World War II , at Eichborndamm 179 in the Reinickendorf district . As an authority of the State of Berlin, it belongs to the Senate Department for Health and Social Affairs .
In the first post-war years , the German Office (WASt) recorded documents from other military and paramilitary archives. In December 1990, documents from the military archive in Potsdam and from the external storage of the State Archives of the GDR in Dornburg / Elbe were brought in.
The Federal Archives take over the tasks
On December 11, 2018, the law on the enactment and amendment of federal regulations in relation to the assumption of the tasks of the German Office for the notification of the next of kin of those killed in the former German armed forces by the Federal Archives was announced in the Federal Law Gazette. Thereafter, when the " State Treaty on the Transfer of Duties of the German Office for the Notification of Next Relatives of Fallen of the Former German Armed Forces between the Federal Republic of Germany and the State of Berlin " comes into force, the German Office will be dissolved as the authority of the State of Berlin. All tasks, rights, obligations and liabilities relating to them were transferred from the State of Berlin to the Federal Republic of Germany on January 1, 2019 and transferred to the Federal Archives (Department PA = Personal Information). The employees were taken over by the federal government in Berlin. The reason given is that with German reunification the reasons that led to the special status of the WASt as a federal state authority no longer existed. With a view to the fact that the WASt documents will eventually become archival material , the Federal Archives are assessed as a suitable federal authority for the takeover.
The German Office (WASt) had an extensive archive from various former Wehrmacht, naval and other sources as well as personal reports on losses, prisoners of war and the like. It was an important source for scientific study.
Most recently she had the following databases:
- War participant
- Alphabetical directory of more than 18 million military and paramilitary participants in World War II .
- Dislocations / Dog Tags
- Relocations to units and assignment of names to identification tags.
- Land and Air Forces
- 100 million personal information on transfers and identification tags of soldiers in the land and air forces of the Second World War.
- 5 million personal documents, e.g. B. Military passes, soldiers of the land and air forces of the Second World War.
- 2 million personnel files and naval master rolls of the Navy with mine clearance from the times from 1871 to 1947.
- War graves
- Over 150 million records of losses by the Wehrmacht and other military groups during World War II.
- Central register of war graves for 900,000 killed in the First World War and over three million in the Second World War.
- Prisoners of war
- 15 million documents about German, Austrian and allied soldiers who were captured by French, American or British prisoners of war as a result of World War II. Release documents of prisoners of war who returned from the USSR.
- 1.5 million files still available from foreign soldiers who fell into German captivity.
The processing of inquiries was carried out at the authority taking into account the individual question according to the given course via the following stations: alphabetical central file → identification tags directories / loss lists → Dornburg card file / grave card file → depending on the issue, the prisoner of war file or the navy department → further investigations, depending on the type of application, as well as external ones Research → Notification.
It was not only about determining the pension entitlements of former members of the Wehrmacht or their surviving dependents or about judicial investigations into war crimes by the Wehrmacht, but also about questions about nationality, length of service, war graves and the reporting of deaths in accordance with Section 44 (2) PStV .
The agency also provided information, in particular about the fate of German and foreign soldiers based on Article 77 of the Geneva Convention on the Treatment of Prisoners of War of July 27, 1929. The Volksbund Deutsche Kriegsgräberfürsorge and the Austrian Black Cross also supported themselves in the search for grave sites from Members of the Wehrmacht on information from the authority. Resettlers (including from Poland ) used information from the authorities to prove their German ancestry if ancestors served in the Wehrmacht.
Children of war ( occupation children ) were also able to inquire about the fate of their German fathers from the authorities. The WASt received corresponding inquiries, around 500 in 2009, mainly from France (2009: around 110), Norway, Denmark, Finland and the Netherlands. The children of former foreign Wehrmacht soldiers in Germany also received inquiries, e.g. B. a war child was looking for his French father.
- The main tasks in brief
- Registration and processing of reports about the German soldiers
- Registration and forwarding of reports on foreign prisoners of war
- Evidence of the war graves
- Custody of war wills
- Handover of bequests to relatives
- Safekeeping of the estates of lost heirs
- Reimbursement of the reports of the fallen soldiers
- Central verification office in Kornelimünster
- Sick book warehouse
- Wolfgang Remmers (edit.): Deutsche Dienststelle (WASt) 1939–1999: 60 years in the name of international law . Published by Deutsche Dienststelle (WASt), Berlin 1999.
- Rüdiger Overmans : German military losses in World War II. 3. Edition. Oldenbourg, Munich 2004, ISBN 3-486-20028-3 .
- German office in Berlin ao (ed.): Scars remain. The work of the tracing services - 60 years after the Second World War. 4th edition. GGB Media, Pößneck 2010 ( PDF ).
- ↑ a b c DD-WASt: We about us - origin and history. Retrieved February 15, 2016 .
- ↑ The State Treaty entered into force on January 1, 2019 . German Office (WASt), January 1, 2019, accessed on January 1, 2019: "[...] the German Office (WASt) was dissolved on January 1, 2019 [...]".
- ↑ a b c d e Laurent Guillet: La WASt . In: Amicale Nationale des Enfants de la Guerre (ed.): Des fleurs sur les cailloux . Editions Laurent Guillet, 2010, ISBN 2-918588-01-6 , pp. 233-235 (French).
- ↑ Christian Taske: "I thought they were crazy ." In: Spiegel Online . December 4, 2009 ( einestages.spiegel.de - He preserved the personal history of hundreds of thousands of Germans: Henry Sternweiler managed the Wehrmacht's archives in 1946. When the Americans gave the order to burn everything, the US soldier refused and saved tons of documents Now he receives the Federal Cross of Merit for this.).
- ↑ Agreement on the German office for the notification of the next of kin of fallen soldiers of the former German armed forces (WASt) and the office for the registration of war victims (AEK) .
- ^ German arms and ammunition factories, DWM . Berlin Center for Industrial Culture (Ed.): Folded folder for industrial culture in Berlin , accessed on January 9, 2019 (PDF).
- ^ Berlin-Reinickendorf . Federal Archives , accessed on January 9, 2019.
- ↑ BGBl. I p. 2257
- ↑ Transfer of the tasks of the German Office (WASt) to the Federal Archives . Federal Archives, December 21, 2018, accessed on August 26, 2018.
- ↑ Recommended resolution and report. (PDF) Printed matter 19/2630. In: Documentation and information system for parliamentary processes . German Bundestag, June 11, 2018, accessed on June 15, 2018 .
- ↑ State Treaty between the State of Berlin and the Federal Republic of Germany on the transfer of the tasks of the German Office for the notification of the next of kin of the former German Wehrmacht House of Representatives Berlin, Drs. 18/0959 of March 28, 2018.
- ↑ Alexander Barthou: Millions of names - Millions of fates: German service supports the Austrian Black Cross with investigations. Under updates on www.osk.at, accessed on June 24, 2014.
- ↑ a b Entretien avec Marie-Cécile Zipperling. Berlin, le vendredi February 26, 2010 à la WASt . In: Amicale Nationale des Enfants de la Guerre (ed.): Des fleurs sur les cailloux . Editions Laurent Guillet, 2010, ISBN 2-918588-01-6 , pp. 238-240 (French).
- ↑ Amitié Nationale des Enfants de la Guerre: Lettre ouverte , No. 4, January 2009, p. 6.