Germany's official military archive. Holds official documents regarding the German armed forces from the mid-19th century onwards.
Schedule & hours
Monday - Thursday: 8:00 - 18:00h
Closed on weekends and public holidays. May also be closed on other days for organizational reasons. This will be announced on the website, which is in German only, however. Public holidays include January 6th, November 1st, December 24-26 & 31st, Good Friday and Easter Monday, October 3rd and more. Make sure to check a German calendar before planning your trip.
German, but some of the staff speaks English.
A room with lockers is located on Ground Floor, where the reception is. However, at the time of my visit (May 2006) the reception desk was unstaffed. The reading room is situated on First Floor, stairway beside the Locker Room. The reception desk for the reading rooms is beside the stairway, left hand side. The desk is in the middle of the reading room, and divides the latter.
There are computers for document search and ordering, microfilm readers and shelves (where documents can be put down for later use, i.e. for the next day) in the part to the right of the desk, and the working places are to the left of the desk.
Freiburg is located on the fringes of the Black Forrest in the South-West of Germany. As the town name "Freiburg" and variants is not too uncommon in Germany, it is often referred to as "Freiburg im Breisgau" (abbrv: "Freiburg i. Br." or "Freiburg (Br.)"), "Breisgau" being the name of the area.
Nearby airports include Frankfurt Int., Stuttgart Int., Karlsruhe/Baden-Baden (Baden Airpark), or the EuroAirport Basel-Mulhouse-Freiburg. Frankfurt is probably the best choice if you're coming in from overseas, whereas the other airports listed are a good choice for flights from within Europe, as they all serve low-cost airlines, like Ryanair or EasyJet.
Freiburg is served by the A5 motorway (Frankfurt-Basel) and has a major railway station, from which fast train services (ICE etc.) depart c. every 30min.
Within the city an excellent public transport system is available, as Freiburg claims to be the "greenest" city in Germany. The Bundesarchiv is served by the bus line 11. From the Central Railway Station (German: "Hauptbahnhof"), take the bus (line 11) towards "St. Georgen" and get off at "Schopfheimer Strasse". From there it is just a two minute walk to the archive. Public transport vehicles in Germany often have displays inside the car that show the name of the next stop. Otherwise you might ask the bus driver, when you get on the bus, to stop there.
Freiburg and the Freiburg area are a hotspot of tourism. Accommodation is thus not hard to find, ranging from low-budget youth hostels and guesthouses to first-class hotels. Depending on the holiday season, however, many hotels may be booked out. Accommodation can be found through hotel portals or the official Freiburg website: http://www.freiburg.de
Description of holdings
The Bundesarchiv-Militärarchiv is the Military Archive (Militärarchiv) of the Federal Archive (Bundesarchiv) of Germany. All official documents (those that have survived) regarding the military history of Germany from the 19th century onwards are stored in this archive. Since Germany was not a unified state before the mid-19th century, but rather a commonwealth of German nations, archive material before that time is usually held in state archives elsewhere in the country.
The Bundesarchiv-Militärarchiv therefore holds the following documents of military history:
- Prussian Army since 1867
- North-German Confederation
- Imperial Army
- Paramilitary Units in the Weimar Republic (Freikorps etc.)
- Reichswehr (German army in the Weimar Republic)
- Wehrmacht (German Armed Forces during the Nazi era)
- German personnel in service for the Allies after 1945
- Armed Forces of the German Democratic Republic (Nationale Volksarmee, NVA)
- Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of German (Bundeswehr)
- Government agencies affiliated with the Armed Forces
Material is held as paper prints or on microfilms. Photographs, sound recordings and films are also in the archive (most films are in a special film archive in the Bundesarchiv branch in Koblenz, though). The material is generally in good condition. Materials include government circulars, offical correspondence, internal correspondence, minutes of meetings, etc. Although there is a collection of materials related to personell in the German Armed Forces, these include only high-ranking persons like Ministers and Generals.
History of the archive
The Freiburg branch of the Bundesarchiv was established in 1968. All collections regarding military history from other branches (from 1866 onwards) were transferred to it.
Many documents have been destroyed in bomb raids and resulting fires in World War II, when the national archives were located in Berlin. This, obviously, also concerns the government agencies of the Third Reich. I.e. don't expect to find too much material from offices of that time in the archive. Also, it still remains unclear how much of the material that was bagged by Allied and Soviet troops at the end of the war was returned. Especially the Soviet government seemed not to be too keen to return documents, as much material from the Third Reich was found in archives in e.g. Moscow and Prague after the end of the Cold War. There are still negotiations underway between German and Russian agencies to return said documents.
While the Militärarchiv holds some photographs and other medias, most sound recordings and films are held in a special Bundesarchiv branch in the city of Koblenz. http://www.bundesarchiv.de/aufgaben_organisation/dienstorte/koblenz/index.html
A number of documents on the military history before the 19th century are also in Koblenz.
As Germany was no single state before the founding of the Reich in 1871, military documents from smaller German states may reside in the respective state archives (e.g. Bavarian state archive). These are too many to list here, and it requires a good knowledge of the history of German nation building. You might contact those organizations listed under "Scholars" below, if you need help in tracking down documents. There are also printed archive guides for Germany available, university libraries and major archives in Germany should have copies.
You may also want to check the Marburg register of archives (page is in German only), which gives a list of almost all archives in Germany: http://www.archivschule.de/content/33.html
Catalogues & finding aids
Computers to access the internal document register are available in the reading room. Not all documents are stored in there yet. Printed finding aids are also available. An (incomplete) finding aid is online at: http://www.bundesarchiv.de/bestaende_findmittel/findmittel_online/online_fm_abt_ma/index.html
Due to the peculiar ordering mechanism (see below), it is advisable to ask a member of staff for help if you can't find the documents you're looking for, or are unsure.
The printed finding aids are also available for purchase from an external publisher: http://www.nw-verlag.de/ (Titles: "Findbücher zu Beständen des Bundesarchivs" and "Materialien aus dem Bundesarchiv"), or can be purchased in the archive.
Languages of materials
Since the Bundesarchiv is Germany's national archive, it is not too surprising that almost all documents in the archive are in German.
Restrictions & difficulties
Until 1945, the archive was located in Berlin. Allied bombings in the Second World War have destroyed many documents. At the end of the war, much material was bagged by Allied and Soviet troops. While most archivals have been returned later, it remains unclear whether everything has been given back to German authorities.
The biggest obstacle, however, that I have experienced during my stay (May 2006) was the rather chaotic catalog system. Some material is listed in the online finding aids on the web (see above). These lists are quite incomplete, though. The internal electronic catalog has more in its list, but is quite awkward to use. The printed catalog is most complete, but quite voluminous.
Then, orders can be made through the internal electronic catalog, but you may experience difficulties, since not all material is categorized in the database, and therefore cannot be ordered through the computer system, unless you are a member of staff. You could ask the archivist to order it for you. The system, however, seemed to be incomplete or simply faulty, as some documents were marked as "missing" or "on loan" when they weren't. I came to the conclusion that ordering via the old-fashioned paper slips works best. These are available from the staff desk in the reading room, and put into a box, which is regularly checked by the archivists.
According to German law, official documents are accessible by the public 30 years after their creation date. Restrictions regarding national security etc. may apply. Using newer documents requires an application in which you detail why it is vital to access the material in question.
Personal documents, i.e. non-official documents authored by individuals, are accessible 30 years after the person's death, or if the death date is unknown, 110 years after the person's birth.
By its very nature, the Militärarchiv hosts a number of documents that are not accessible per se. This is yet another reason why you should get in touch with the archivists well ahead of your visit.
Some material has not been categorized yet. Searching for and ordering of these documents is therefore restricted. At times, the documents can't be ordered with the user number on your reader's ticket, but by the archivist. In case of doubt, ask a member of staff for adivse.
Future of the archive
As the Bundesarchiv-Militärarchiv is a Federal archive and thus a government agency, it is unlikely to disappear. Furthermore, the location and structure in Freiburg is not being questioned and should also remain as it is. Staffing, however, seems to be a major problem, so don't expect the best service.
Note: While the staff is very helpful in general, and will help you tracking down relevant documents, they won't just do anything for you. There are external research agencies available that will charge for their service. You can find a list at: http://www.bundesarchiv.de/imperia/md/content/abteilungen/abtma/recherchedienst.pdf
It should be noted that these researchers work on your behalf, i.e. you still need to fill out a reader's ticket application form and send it to the archive before these agencies can start to work. Can't say anything about the quality of their work. They usually offer a "full service", i.e. they do the complete research and copying for you. Depending on the scale of your research, it might be cheaper to let them do the work for you instead of travelling to Germany.
All natural persons are eligble to use the archive upon application. A passport for identification should be enough, but I have no experience with foreign IDs, as I am a German citizen. You should check with the archive's staff.
Use of the archive is regulated through the German Federal Archive Law (German: "Bundesarchivgesetz"). The Bundesarchiv website offers a copy of it: http://www.bundesarchiv.de/benutzung/rechtsgrundlagen/bundesarchivgesetz/index.html
Also of relevance are the Conditions of Use of the Federal Archive: http://www.bundesarchiv.de/benutzung/rechtsgrundlagen/benutzungsverordnung/index.html, and the regulation regarding costs: http://www.bundesarchiv.de/benutzung/rechtsgrundlagen/kostenverordnung/index.html
In a nutshell: the Bundesarchiv is Germany's Federal Archive, i.e. a goverment agency. The archive is open to the general public (usual restrictions for public archives apply), and the usage is free of charge.
Anybody wanting to use the archive must request a reader's ticket by filling out an application form (German: "Benutzerantrag"). This can be done in advance via mail or on the spot. The form is available (in German only) at: http://www.bundesarchiv.de/imperia/md/content/abteilungen/abtg/g1/117.pdf
Apart from that, it is mandatory to write to the archive (e-mail or postal) and explain your intention of research. This helps the staff to prepare your visit and reserve a place for you in the reading room. While sending the application form in advance is not required, this message to the archive is. You won't get access without anouncing your visit and your intended research in advance. Furthermore, places in the reading room are limited (c. 20), and the reading room might already be booked out for the period you intend to stay. Contacting the archive is therefore also required to book a working place.
From personal experience, I highly recommend to correspond with the archivists ASAP. The archive is not staffed very well (in terms of quantity), but the staff is generally very helpful. I would advise to track down as many document numbers as possible and let the staff know what you want to look at beforehand, or ask the archivists via e-mail if they can track down relevant documents for you. I experienced a number of difficulties when ordering documents I hadn't pre-booked, as some documents were on loan in-house at the time and not available in short time. Also, at the time of my visit (May 2006), there was some confusion in regard to the ordering system and inventory system, which resulted in a document that took one week to be found in the storage rooms.
As you are obliged to introduce yourself and your intended research in mails before your visit (see above), all that needs to be done is filling out the application form for the reader's ticket. Your ticket is issued immediately, and since you were supposed to book at least some material in advance in said mails (and a seat being reserved for you), you can start right-away.
Permitted and prohibited items
- Permitted: Laptop Computers, Pens, Pencils, Paper, Notebooks
- Prohibited: Cameras, Scanners, Phones
Documents can be requested through the internal computer system or with paper slips. The latter is recommended, as the former does not appear as mature (see below). As outlined above, pre-ordering material is also advised. Usually, up to ten files can be pre-ordered. This seems also be the limit in regard to the number of documents you can use at a time. There seems to be no limit on the number of documents you can order at one time, though, just on the number of documents you can work with in the reading room.
Ordering classified material
Accessing classified material requires an (informal) written application to the archive, in which you detail your research and why you need to access the material in question. As I have never required such access, I am unsure about the procedure. It would be best practice to get in touch with the archive and inquire about the steps necessary to get access, I think.
Delivery time varies, but is usually 30min. As mentioned, the cataloging system seems to be immature, which caused some confusion among the archivist and led to lengthier delivery times, the longest time for a file to be delivered was five days. Pre-ordering your documents might help, but you have to get in touch with the archivist to make sure the document is available, as you usually don't get feedback on your order.
See above in regard to the number of items that can be consulted at a time.
Documents you are finished with are put on a tray, which is regularly collected by an archivist for re-shelving. If you want to use a file over several days, you can put it onto a special shelf in the reading room (near the microfilm readers) and pick it up from there the next day.
In case you want to order reproductions (see below) you can get a "bookmark" from the archivist which you are supposed to put in the file. The file is put on the tray as usual, but the bookmark indicates to the archivist not to re-shelf it.
Photocopying, photography, microfilming
Taking photographs is not allowed. There is no photocopier in the reading room. Documents on microfilms can be printed out in the reading room directly (sometimes there are both microfilms and hardcopies of the same document available, check with the archivist). All other reproductions need to be ordered. The ordering forms are available in the reading room (or online: http://www.bundesarchiv.de/imperia/md/content/abteilungen/abtg/selke_bestellformular.pdf). However, the reproduction is made by the private company Selke. They offer a broad range of services, including scans on CD-ROM. Current prices and conditions can be found at: http://www.bundesarchiv.de/imperia/md/content/abteilungen/abtg/merkblatt-euro_2007_.pdf
Selke usually operates on an invoice basis. I don't know how they handle orders from non-German residents. Selke has an employee sitting in the Freiburg archive: Mrs. Schöneberger, phone: +49-761-47817908. The archivists will also be able to give details about the service. Usually, you put a marker in the file to indicate to the archivist that a reproduction is being requested (so the staff puts it aside, and not back into the storage room), then you fill out the ordering form, give it to the archivist, and some weeks later (duration varies) you'll receive the copies via mail.
The only key form would be the application form for the reader's ticket: http://www.bundesarchiv.de/imperia/md/content/abteilungen/abtg/g1/117.pdf
In general, persons working in the public sector in Germany are sometimes hard to deal with. Staff in the Bundesarchiv are very friendly and helpful, but bureaucracy and inefficiency are also encountered (as in any government agency) and can be a pain at times. While I was there, the archivist (forgot the name, a middle-aged lady with a stern look) was extremely helpful, as she seemed to know just every document in the archive. Given the somewhat chaotic cataloging system (see above), her services proved invaluable, since she could sort out most issues in no time.
The material held in the archive is quite broad, to say the least. Therefore, there is hardly a person who knows all the stuff in there. There is, however, a history department at the Bundeswehr (German Armed Forces) dedicated to the military history of Germany, the "Militärgeschichtliches Forschungsamt" (Military History Research Institute). It is located in Potsdam near Berlin, but has an office in Freiburg, too, as the department has no archive itself and has to use the one in Freiburg.
Their website is accessible at http://www.mgfa.de/, through which contacts can be made. It is likely that they can direct you to a person of interest to your research.
The "Deutsches Historisches Museum" (German Historical Museum) in Berlin also has a renowned study group in military history, the "Arbeitskreis Militärgeschichte" (Military History Study Group): http://www.akmilitaergeschichte.de/, which functions also as scientific society (incl. annual conferences).
Too many to list here. Basically, all publications related to aspects of military history of Germany use material from this archive.
The Bundesarchiv itself also releases publications. Contact them to get a list.
There is no cantina in the archive building, only a vending machine on First Floor. However, the area of Freiburg where the archive is located is a commercial one, there are supermarkets and smaller restaurants in the vicinity. Food in the reading room is not permitted. There is a break room adjacent to the reading room (where the aforementioned vending machine is located), in which food can be consumed.
Lockers are available on Ground Floor, taking a 1 Euro coin as refund.
Restrooms are available on First Floor, adjacent to the reading room and break room.
See above section "Directions".
The archive itself offers no funding. Depending on the kind of research you may find other sources. Check the webpage of the German Academic Exchange Service: http://www.daad.de/en/index.html
Please see Gil-li Vardi'sdescription from Archives Made Easy.