State Church Archives Bielefeld

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Bethelplatz with the “Assapheum” conference center and regional church archive.

The Bielefeld regional church archive is the final archive in the Evangelical Church of Westphalia (EKvW) for the in-house transfer of files and for those of the other church governing bodies, but also for the offices, institutions and works of the EKvW. On the other hand, the Landeskirchliche Archiv Bielefeld is entrusted with the ecclesiastical archive maintenance for the entire Westphalian church, ie in principle in the 28 church districts and the 522 parishes (as of February 1, 2018). Finally, there is the regional church archive, which also houses the office of the Commission for Contemporary Church History and, since 1997, the office of the Association for Westphalian Church History e. V. is to play the role of an "agency" for research on church history in Westphalia. The archive is integrated as section 63 in the regional church office of the regional church.

In addition to the Red Series, which are supplements to the Yearbook for Westphalian Church History as “Contributions to Westphalian Church History” and have been published since 1974 on behalf of the Regional Church Office and the Association for Westphalian Church History, the Bielefeld Regional Church Archive has been publishing the annual “ Archive communications from the Westphalian Church ”(yellow series) and, since 1995, the irregular gray series of the“ writings of the regional church archive ”.

The State Church Archive Bielefeld currently has more than 270 holdings with a circumference of 6000 running meters, including 426 documents from the time since 1235. The holdings are mainly documents from the provincial and regional church administration since 1815. There are also around forty bequests from important church personalities, u. a. Hans Ehrenberg (1883–1958), President Karl Koch (1876–1951), Johannes Kuhlo (1856–1941) and President Ernst Wilm (1901–1989). The Wilhelm Niemöller Collection (1898–1983) on the church fight and the Kurt Gerstein Collection (1905–1945) are also of national importance. For genealogists are digitized the church records kept of all churches of Westphalia. With these, the Bielefeld regional church archive also participates as a founding partner in the German church register portal Archion .

Archive history

The traditional relationship with the Association for Westphalian Church History , which was founded in 1897 and whose chairman is the respective archive manager in personal union, is a decisive aspect for the development of the regional church archives in Westphalia.

On January 1, 1963, the first regional church archivist of the Evangelical Church of Westphalia began working. Decided by the 4th Westphalian Regional Synod in October 1961, the historian Dr. At the beginning of 1963, Hans Steinberg (1920–1997) took up the first scheduled position of the Archives Council at the Bielefeld Regional Church Office. At this point in time the history of the regional church archive began. Up until now, Westphalia had been one of the few regional churches that had not yet appointed a full-time archivist and whose archive material was only maintained unsystematically and decentrally.

The archive tradition goes back far into the 19th century. For the first time in 1850 there was a presidential order to archive old files, which could serve both for legal verifiability and theological reassurance, just as they had to be available for historical use. In 1893 the XX. Provincial Synod even set up a provincial church archive, which after initial vigor was neither firmly budgeted nor properly looked after. So it remained the rudiment of a community history-oriented library and sporadic, but voluntary, provincial church archive maintenance in and for individual communities. In the course of the establishment of a provincial archives advice center in Münster in 1927, the idea of a provincial church archive also received a new impetus, especially since an office reform in the 1930s also required a new form of filing. For cost reasons, however, and because the archivist Dr. phil. Ludwig Koechling (1900–1968) had found a hard-working and frugal "archive folder", they were still content with a temporary archive.

In addition, there had been a further attempt to revitalize the archives , this time coming from outside . 1929 from the offered Baltic displaced former Russian Councilor Dr. Georg von Rieder offered his dubious services to the provincial synod for the order of the church archives - and he explicitly included all the parish archives in Westphalia. Around 1930, Rieder was able to organize numerous community and synodal archives without any consistorial mandate, but based his work little on existing archival concepts, but solely on the achievements of modern office organization, which, among other things, resulted in irreparable damage to the archive material due to uncompromising punching and filing and resulted in significant losses.

The historian and archivist Dr. Koechling, on the other hand, had been working as a freelance archive folder in the church province of Westphalia since 1929. In 1927/28 he had successfully completed the course for the introduction to the higher archival service in Berlin-Dahlem , but was not accepted into the state archives service due to poor eyesight. In the years and decades that followed, he hired himself to open up parish and parish archives. At an early stage, however, it should also organize the archives of the provincial church, for example that of the Westphalian Provincial Synod in 1930/31 and that of the Evangelical Consistory in 1931/32. He also benefited from an improved collaboration with the Münster archives advice center since 1933. Its previous director Heinrich Glasmeier (1892-1945), whose ideas of homeland security and cultural preservation were accompanied early on by racist, anti-Semitic and anti-republican positions, was already the full-time managing director of the NSDAP - Gaues Westfalen-Nord in the summer of 1932 and then in 1933 the first National Socialist director of the West German broadcasting in Cologne , whereupon the management of the archives advisory office in the hands of the state archives director Eugen Meyer (1893-1972). Koechling, who was co-financed by these bodies, was strongly recommended for further tasks "from various sides". Nevertheless, the future of church archive maintenance was controversial: On the one hand, Wilhelm Rahe (1896–1976), the chairman of the Association for Westphalian Church History, spoke out in favor of the establishment of a “regional church archive”, and on the other, pastors pleaded as well Archivists for decentralization.

Following the last church archival training at the end of November 1936 in Soest , which Koechling had also helped to shape, the consistory provided him with an open-ended contract as an unskilled worker in May 1937 - retroactively from December 1, 1936 - “a systematic To ensure processing of archive matters in our church province ”. In the Evangelical Consistory itself, Koechling wanted to leave it at a review of the 10,000 files there and not be entrusted with the details of the order of the consistorial archive , which "is more of a repositioned registry than an archive in the true sense". For these activities he recommended the consistorial inspector Wesemann, with whom he worked and who, especially years before, had set up the consistory's registry in an exemplary manner. Koechling himself saw his strengths, "according to my disposition, my career and my education", more in the indexing of older files and documents.

In addition to his personal suggestions, Koechling also emphatically submitted recommendations for the safekeeping of archival materials and files. He described the spatial conditions in the attic chambers and the basement of the consistory as unsuitable and cramped, and also contradicting air raid protection . Since the basement rooms had a low but latent humidity, in his opinion only two options were available: either the handover of extensive holdings to the state archive or the procurement or use of suitable and sufficient rooms outside the consistorial building. For Koechling, however, the first solution to handing over church archives to the State Archives was a purely emergency scenario, since - although these were former government files - neither the church administration nor church history research could do without these documents. In addition, a delivery of the archives to the State Archives would have contradicted the latest recommendations of the Commissioner for Church Archives and Church Records, who on November 1, 1937 had just suggested the establishment of provincial church archives . Although the contractual relationship with the Konsistorium de jure did not give rise to any entitlement to permanent employment as an employee or civil servant, Koechling also held the position of a provincial church archivist. His duties in the service of archival maintenance in the ecclesiastical province related a) to general matters relating to archival maintenance, b) the systematic recording, ordering and monitoring of all ecclesiastical archives in the ecclesiastical province and c) the church registers of the Münster consistory.

That changed after the Second World War with the constitution of the EKvW. Although improper cassations in the 1930s, destruction in the Second World War, in particular the service building of the consistory in Münster in October 1943, as well as theft (due to firing reasons!) In the post-war period destroyed a large part of the provincial church records, but the expansion was supposed to be destroyed of the regional church's fields of activity clearly demonstrate the shortcoming of the lack of an archive and archivist (who, according to the expert opinion, would have long been "fully utilized").

With the establishment of a regional church archivist in 1963, one had an archivist, but he first had to set up a functioning archive.

From its provisional beginnings onwards, the regional church archive has continuously developed in terms of space and personnel in accordance with the growing requirements and tasks: Since 1985, under the second archive manager Bernd Hey, not only has the number of permanent employees and civil servants been increased from four to twelve, it has also grown also the shelf space in the magazines from three to ten kilometers. The move from the Altstädter Kirchplatz, the official building of the regional church office, to the Kisker building complex on Ritterstraße / Mauerstraße - connected by one of the typical Bielefeld house bridges - took place in several stages: in 1989 the first two stores on Mauerstraße could be moved into, then in 1999 the final move of the remaining staff rooms and the archive management to Ritterstraße 19.

Since Bernd Hey's retirement in 2007, Jens Murken has headed the archive as his successor. In 2018 Wolfgang Günther took over the management.

In 2010 the regional church archive moved into a newly created purpose-built archive building at Bethelplatz in Bielefeld ( Bethel ). Together with the archives of the von Bodelschwingh Foundation Bethel , a church-diaconal archive center was established there.


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Coordinates: 52 ° 1 ′ 17 ″  N , 8 ° 31 ′ 59.2 ″  E