Politisches Archiv des Auswärtigen Amtes / Auswärtiges Amt Politisches Archiv

  • Political Archive of the Federal Foreign Office
  • PAAA
  • PA-AA

History

In 1936, during the Nazi dictatorship the “Guilt Division” was merged with the Political Archive and since then the archive has also served as a “historical division”. During the Second World War, the Political Archive was involved in raids of the archives of other countries’ foreign ministries which took place up to summer 1940. The seized files were all returned, at the latest by the end of the war.

1936 saw a further organisational reform, followed by the mass handover of files from the missions abroad in light of the danger of war following the annexation of the Sudetenland in 1938. This saturated the capacity of the Political Archive and forced more archive material to be transferred to the Reich Archives.

In 1943, archive director Johannes Ulrich (1902 – 1965), who had close ties to the national conservative resistance, initiated the process of evacuating the holdings of the Political Archive to palaces in the Harz mountains. The holdings that were moved included all documentation for the period up to 1920 and most of the material from 1920 to 1936. However, as they were being transported a large part of the classified files and parts of the documents from this period belonging to the Cultural Directorate-General were burned in a fire due to an accident.

Most of the files from the period from 1936 onwards which had still been needed for business ongoing in 1943 fell victim to bombs or, in the last few months of the war, deliberate destruction of Foreign Office premises. The losses cannot be precisely described – however, they affected in particular: files from the Political Directorate-General on countries with which the German Empire still maintained diplomatic relations in 1943; files from the Office of the Reich Minister (which in any case have been partly preserved on microfilm); personnel files of officials still active in 1943.

The evacuation sites of the Political Archive were not directly impacted by the war. In April 1945 the order was given to destroy the classified files, but the archivists working at the relevant locations delayed carrying it out, meaning losses were minimal. In the end predominantly archive material of the following provenance were incinerated: Political Directorate-General I Military; Trade Policy Division; the Embassy in Paris. The Western Allies salvaged the contents of the Political Archive stored in other locations, amalgamated them with Foreign Office files found in Berlin as well as material from other sources (including the Reich Chancellery) and transferred them to Whaddon Hall in Great Britain in 1948. A selection from the archives were filmed and it is still possible to request duplicates of the films from the United States National Archives. The Oxford and Kent catalogues were compiled using the collection of material available with the help of old descriptive lists, and they served as the primary finding aids for the records until 1945. Eventually, work began on the edition “Akten zur deutschen auswärtigen Politik 1918–1945” (ADAP) [“Files on German Foreign Policy, 1918-1945”]. Overall, the Foreign Office archive material stored in the Reich Archives did not suffer any major war losses. The archives were safeguarded by the Soviet Union along with segments of the remaining office files from Foreign Office premises in Berlin and elsewhere, and they were transferred to the German Central Archives in Potsdam up to 1960. Remains of this archive material from the former Legal Directorate-General are still in the Special Archive of the Russian State Military Archive in Moscow or have gone missing.

In 1951, the Western Allies gave the Federal Republic of Germany the personnel and budget files which were needed in order to set up the new Federal Foreign Office. The Political Archive was reinstated as a division in order to to enable these files to be archived. By 1959, the remaining archive material had been transported to Bonn on the basis of an agreement concluded in 1956, and since then they have been fully accessible for research purposes. German historians participated, on an equal footing, in running the ADAP publication project.

The files of missions abroad left behind after 1938 had been either destroyed or confiscated by their host country when war broke out against Germany and/or at the end of the war. Nearly all of the files impounded since 1951 were returned, but the records offices of some missions abroad are still located in institutions belonging to foreign countries. After 1951 the Political Archive initially served as a selective archive which sought to store only files from the new Federal Foreign Office which were truly worthy of being retained. Just as in 1920, the systematic collection of material to be archived began with files from the political directorates-general. In order to fully unburden the registries of old files, a separate registry was set up and it was not merged with the Political Archive until 1968. Previously, due to space constraints, it had primarily destroyed files from the early 1950s from country divisions within the Economic Directorates-General.

The records centre was set up in 1972 as a comprehensive repository in which all files submitted from Germany are stored before being processed and allocated to the archive which corresponded to their provenance. A second comprehensive repository was set up for the archive material from the missions abroad. Work on processing the contents of the final archive began in earnest in the 1980s. In connection with this, the files from the Zentrale Rechtsschutzstelle [central legal protection office], which had been part of the Federal Foreign Office from 1953 to 1970, were handed over to the Federal Archives.

The edition of ADAP was concluded in 1995. At the same time, on behalf of the Federal Foreign Office, the Munich/Berlin Institute of Contemporary History (IfZ) started publishing the “Akten zur Auswärtigen Politik der Bundesrepublik Deutschland” [Files on the Foreign Policy of the Federal Republic of Germany – “AAPD”]. This annual publication presents the events which took place 30 years previously, the first edition on the year 1963 was released in 1993.

In 1951, an administrative archive to temporarily store files was set up in the Ministerium für Auswärtige Angelegenheiten der DDR [Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the GDR – “MfAA”]. It obtained the status of “Endarchiv” [final archive], independent of the GDR’s state archive administration in 1966. Ultimately, the archive became responsible for: open files from the MfAA headquarters and missions abroad; formerly classified files opened for public use; interministerial agreements between the GDR and other countries. (Source: http://www.archiv.diplo.de/Vertretung/archiv/en/05-Ueber-das-Archiv/5-1-geschichte.html)

Archival and Other Holdings

Among others contains restitution- and/or compensation-related materials: Auswärtiges Amt; archive holds "global agreement files;" closed files

Opening Times

Monday to Thursday: 08:30 am to 04:30 pm Friday: 08:30 am to 03:00 pm

Sources