Germany

History

Adolf Hitler was appointed Reich Chancellor on 30 January 1933. Within half a year, his National Socialist German Workers’ Party succeeded in establishing a one-party dictatorship. Political enemies of the Nazis were taken into “protective custody” and held in concentration camps under emergency regulations. After the death of Reich President Paul von Hindenburg in 1934, Hitler declared himself head of state. As of 1938, the German Reich expanded by force, annexing Austria and the Czech Sudetenland. They invaded the remaining Czech lands in March 1939. In September 1939, Germany invaded Poland, thus provoking declarations of war by Poland’s allies Great Britain and France. During the ensuing Second World War, German troops occupied much of continental Europe. Throughout the areas under German control and in territories controlled by its allies, apparent and actual resisters as well as “racial” undesirables were persecuted and murdered. Most German territory was occupied by the Allies by the spring of 1945. The German army unconditionally surrendered to the Allies in May 1945.

In early 1933, the German Reich had a total population of over 65 million inhabitants. About 552,000 of them were adherents of the Jewish faith. Many of them opted for emigration when they were threatened by Hitler’s rise to power. As antisemitism was a cornerstone of his Nazi Party’s ideology, it was quickly put into practice. Supported by a prevalent antisemitic sentiment in Germany, the Nazis propagated their pseudo-scientific “racial” anti-Jewish beliefs, managing to exclude German Jews both socially and economically: According to the 1939 census, which applied “racist” criteria, there remained approximately 242,000 so-called “full Jews”, some 20,000 of whom were not adherents of the Jewish faith. The Nazis considered 85,000 other people as “half-Jews” and “quarter-Jews”, i.e. people with a certain degree of Jewish descent.

First, a Reich-wide boycott of Jewish businesses was implemented in April 1933 and all Jews were dismissed from state employment. In 1935, the racist Nuremberg Laws forbade marital and sexual relations between Germans of non-Jewish descent and those of Jewish descent, unless they were already married. Jewish businesses and properties were subject to “Aryanisation”, which amounted to full-scale expropriation of the Jews in Germany. After leaving behind most of their possessions, many of those who successfully emigrated from Germany during the 1930s settled in European countries, which were later affected by the Holocaust. During a Reich-wide pogrom in November 1938, practically all synagogues in Germany were systematically attacked and destroyed, Jewish shops and homes looted, hundreds killed and some 30,000 Jewish men taken to concentration camps. German antisemitic ideology and propaganda increasingly affected Germany’s allies and spread to all occupied areas.

The remaining 214,000 Jews in Germany were almost completely isolated, suffered from radically reduced rations and soon had to move to special “Jewish houses”. They were now obliged to join the Reich Association of Jews in Germany (Reichsvereinigung der Juden in Deutschland), which was subjected to the Gestapo; many Jews were subjected to forced labour and the first attempts at mass deportations were made in 1939/40. In autumn 1941 the obligatory “Jewish Star” was introduced and the few remaining possibilities of emigration were shut off. For all but a small minority of Jews, mostly those protected by so-called “mixed” marriages, the deportations “to the East” began. There, they were either murdered upon arrival or temporarily left in impossible living conditions. Ultimately, those who survived were sent on to extermination camps. Very few of the deportees survived the war. Most early deportations went to the Reichskommissariat Ostland, the Litzmannstadt Ghetto or camps and ghettos in the General Government in occupied Poland; later deportations were mostly headed to the Theresienstadt Ghetto or directly to Auschwitz. As of mid-1943, the Reich was declared “free of Jews”; the remaining 20,000 Jews, most of them in “mixed marriages” or of “mixed race”, were completely excised from German law and were now entirely subjected to the Gestapo. Only very few were able to go into hiding. Since mid-1944, Jewish forced labourers from areas outside of the Reich entered concentration camps within Germany. As the Allies approached, a disproportionately large number of members of the large Jewish group among the prisoners put on death marches died. Overall, about 130,000 Jews deported from Germany (and 35,000 German Jews deported from other countries) perished in the Holocaust.

Archival Situation

Germany exhibits a highly differentiated archival system without much centralisation. In addition to the Federal Archives and their departments (governed by the Bundesarchivgesetz or Federal Archive Law), each Bundesland has its own State Archive, governed by the respective state archive law. There are over 1,300 municipal archives. The religious communities in Germany, first and foremost bodies and organisations of the Catholic and Protestant Churches, exhibit a rich array of archival institutions. There are also university archives, archives of noble houses and a number of other, mostly topical archives as well as libraries holding archival material.

EHRI Research (Summary)

Key institutions identified by EHRI include the Bundesarchiv (Federal Archive with all its departments) and the respective state archives (Landes-, Hauptstaats- and Staatsarchive) of the German Bundesländer as well as the Geheimes Staatsarchiv Berlin (for former Prussian institutions), which hold surviving files of central and regional administrative bodies, occupation authorities, the Nazi Party, personnel and membership files as well as post-war investigations. Similar holdings can be found in the Nazi period archive assembled by the East German State Security Service (Ministerium für Staatssicherheit, MfS or “Stasi”), now held by the Behörde des Bundesbeauftragten für die Unterlagen des Staatssicherheitsdienstes der ehemaligen Deutschen Demokratischen Republik (BStU). Municipal archives most pertinent to Holocaust research include the city archives of Nuremberg and Frankfurt am Main; the archives of concentration camp memorial sites (pre-eminently Buchenwald, Dachau and Sachsenhausen), other memorials (Stiftung Denkmal, Haus der Wannsee-Konferenz) and research institutions such as the Institute of Contemporary History Munich-Berlin (Institut für Zeitgeschichte München-Berlin, IfZ); the Evangelical Central Archive and the Centrum Judaicum Archiv in Berlin; and the supranational International Tracing Service in Bad Arolsen. EHRI has identified a number of guides on German archives. For an overview, see the extensive report.

EHRI Research (Extensive)

A. EHRI approach to Germany: Pre-existing research and archival guides, expert support

In the case of Germany, research on the Holocaust has been conducted worldwide and for decades now. It follows that a full and up-to-date account of the available literature cannot be given here. However, a reference to the 16 volume series „Die Verfolgung und Ermordung der europäischen Juden durch das nationalsozialistische Deutschland 1933-1945“, which is co-published by EHRI-partner Institute for Contemporary History Munich-Berlin (Institut für Zeitgeschichte München-Berlin, IfZ), especially to volumes 1, 2 and 3 (already published) and volumes 6 and 11, which were still in preparation at the time of writing this report, is appropriate. All volumes contain introductions based on international research. A translation of the series into English is in preparation.

With the help of IfZ, EHRI was able to identify a number of Holocaust-relevant online resources and archival guides on Germany.

An important online resource is the Zentrale Datenbank Nachlässe, provided by the Bundesarchiv, at http://www.nachlassdatenbank.de/

The following archival guides are also available:

  • [2009] Archive in Deutschland, Österreich und der Schweiz. Ein Adressenverzeichnis(Münster: Ardey, 2009). Book + CD-ROM [lists all archives],
  • [1996-2001] Jersch-Wenzel, Stefi & Andreas Reinke (eds), Quellen zur Geschichte der Juden in den Archiven der neuen Bundesländer (München: Saur, 1996-2001, multiple volumes, 1-6b),
  • [1995] Bauch, Herbert, Quellen zu Widerstand und Verfolgung unter der NS-Diktatur in hessischen Archiven. Übersicht über die Bestände in Archiven und Dokumentationsstellen, Wiesbaden 1995,
  • [1995] Boberach, Heinz (ed.), Inventar archivalischer Quellen des NS-Staates. Die Überlieferungen von Behörden und Einrichtungen des Reichs, der Länder und der NSDAP, Teil 2 (München u.a.: Saur, 1995), Also included in the commercial database is “Deutsche Geschichte im 20. Jahrhundert Online: Nationalsozialismus, Holocaust, Widerstand und Exil 1933-1945”, http://db.saur.de/DGO.
  • [1994] Leaman, George & Robert Wolfe, The holdings of the Berlin Document Center. A guide to the collections (Berlin: Berlin Document Center, 1994),
  • [1994] Post, Bernhard, Jüdische Geschichte in Hessen erforschen. Ein Wegweiser zu Archiven, Forschungsstätten und Hilfsmitteln, Wiesbaden 1994,
  • [1991] Boberach, Heinz (ed.), Inventar archivalischer Quellen des NS-Staates. Die Überlieferungen von Behörden und Einrichtungen des Reichs, der Länder und der NSDAP, Teil 1 (München u.a.: Saur, 1991), Also included in the commercial database is “Deutsche Geschichte im 20. Jahrhundert Online: Nationalsozialismus, Holocaust, Widerstand und Exil 1933-1945”, http://db.saur.de/DGO.
  • [1977] Granier, Gerhard, Josef Henke & Klaus Oldenhage (eds). Das Bundesarchiv und seine Bestände (Boppard am Rhein: Harald Boldt Verlag, 1977 3rd edition),
  • [1962-1972] Kent, George O. (ed.), A Catalog of Files and Microfilms of the German Foreign Ministry Archives 1920-1945 (Stanford, CA: Hoover Institution Press, 1962-1972, 4 vol.). (Politisches Archiv des Auswärtigen Amtes).

Finally, there is an important edition of sound recordings which deserves to be mentioned:

  • Audiovisuelle Quellen zur Geschichte und Kultur des europäischen Judentums und zur Geschichte und Wirkung des Holocaust. Hrsg. von Friedrich P. Kahlenberg, Julius H. Schoeps und Hanno Loewy Verlag für Berlin-Brandenburg, Potsdam 1996-1997.

B. Characteristics of the German archival system and specific challenges

Germany exhibits a highly differentiated archival system without much centralisation. In addition to the Federal Archives and their departments (governed by the Bundesarchivgesetz or Federal Archive Law), each Bundesland has its own State Archive, governed by the respective state archive law. There are over 1,300 municipal archives. The religious communities in Germany, first and foremost bodies and organisations of the Catholic and Protestant Churches, exhibit a rich array of archival institutions. There are also university archives, archives of noble houses and a number of other, mostly topical archives as well as libraries holding archival material.

Key institutions identified by EHRI include the Bundesarchiv (Federal Archive with all its departments) and the respective state archives (Landes-, Hauptstaats- and Staatsarchive) of the German Bundesländer as well as the Geheimes Staatsarchiv Berlin (for former Prussian institutions), which hold surviving files of central and regional administrative bodies, occupation authorities, the Nazi Party, personnel and membership files as well as post-war investigations; similar holdings can be found in the Nazi period archive assembled by the East German State Security Service (“Stasi”) now held by the BStU; municipal archives most pertinent to Holocaust research include the city archives of Nuremberg and Frankfurt am Main; the archives of concentration camp memorial sites (pre-eminently Buchenwald, Dachau and Sachsenhausen), other memorials (Stiftung Denkmal, Haus der Wannsee-Konferenz) and research institutions (such as the Institute of Contemporary History Munich–Berlin); the Evangelical Central Archive and the Centrum Judaicum Archiv in Berlin; and the supranational International Tracing Service in Bad Arolsen.

C. EHRI identification and description results on Germany

C. I. In Germany

In Germany, EHRI has identified well over 300 repositories, including a number of memorial sites and documentation centres concerning the Holocaust or, more generally, the Third Reich dictatorship.

The EHRI portal includes collection descriptions provided by Bundesarchiv (BArch), the International Tracing Service (ITS) and the Institut für Zeitgeschichte (IfZ).

The Bundesarchiv is the main institution holding the remaining records generated by the central administrative bodies of the German Reich under National Socialist rule. In a first step, EHRI and the Bundesarchiv decided to focus on the Reich (“R”) and NSDAP (“NS”) record groups. Since almost all state administrations and Nazi Party organisations were involved either directly or indirectly with measures against Jews, no further selection of records was undertaken apart from the chronological one (i.e. collections with an end date of before and including 1932 were excluded from the import to the EHRI Portal). The Bundesarchiv also holds extensive holdings on post-war dealings with the Holocaust (e.g. compensation and judicial issues), as well as personal collections and film and photo materials. However, the inclusion of these holdings remains to be done. Descriptions from the Bundesarchiv for materials currently accessible at the Politisches Archiv des Auswärtigen Amtes have equally been included in the EHRI portal. The Bundesarchiv Agency in Ludwigsburg holds the prosecution files of the Central Office of the State Justice Administrations for the Investigation of National Socialist Crimes (Zentrale Stelle der Landesjustizverwaltungen zur Aufklärung nationalsozialistischer Verbrechen). These cover almost all violent crimes committed during the Nazi regime and the Holocaust.

The International Tracing Service (ITS) is a center for documenting National Socialist persecution and the liberated survivors. Former victims of Nazism and their families receive information regarding their incarceration, forced labor, and if available, postwar Allied assistance. The archives provide the foundation for research and education. ITS collections include original records generated by the ITS, correspondence, and copies from other institutions and archives that helped the ITS fulfilling its tasks. Having exclusively records that deal with National Socialist persecution and its aftermath almost all collections are relevant to EHRI. In a first step, ITS’s archivists and historians and EHRI have integrated the following sets of collections into the portal:

  1. Incarceration and persecution
  2. Registrations of Persons of non-German Nationality by German State Authorities
  3. Registrations and Files of Displaced Persons, Children and Missing Persons
  4. Special NSDAP Organizations and Activities.

For IfZ, the existing archive thesaurus was used for content selection. Giles Bennett and the IfZ Archive staff agreed on a selection of keywords identified as Holocaust-related that were used to select records from the IfZ database (public entries: http://archiv.ifz-muenchen.de) to be included in a data export for the EHRI portal. Unfortunately, the export of the full hierarchical list of each individual term connected with an individual record is not technically possible at this point, so that only the lowest level of the exported term is visible in the EHRI Portal. For record groups that are currently not reflected or not well reflected in the public IfZ database, collection descriptions were manually entered after coordination with the IfZ Archive.

C.II. In other countries

Due to frontier changes after the Second World War, a number of archives relevant to Holocaust research on Germany are today located in northern and western Poland, specifically in Gorzów Wielkopolski (formerly Landsberg an der Warthe), Koszalin/Köslin, Olsztyn/Allenstein, Opole/Oppeln, Szczecin/Stettin, Wrocław/Breslau and Zielona Góra/Grünberg.