The Political Archive
The Political Archive holdings
The Political Archive holdings comprise:
- records of the (Federal) Foreign Office and missions abroad covering the period from 1867 to 1945 and from 1949/51 to the present day
- records of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and missions abroad of the German Democratic Republic from 1949 to 1990
- international treaties of the German Customs Union, the North German Confederation, the German Reich, the German Democratic Republic and the Federal Republic of Germany from 1831 on
- bequests of personal files relating to German foreign policy
- collections of photographs and audiovisual material
Please note that part of the Federal Foreign Office records from the pre-1945 period are stored at the Federal Archives in Berlin-Lichterfelde.
In principle you have access to all records over 30 years old, with the exception of classified material.
Access to records relating to natural persons is restricted until 30 years after their death, alternatively 110 years after their birth.
In the case of personal papers and private records, different access arrangements may have been agreed with the bequeather or owner.
The texts of international treaties are published in the Federal Law Gazette (Bundesgesetzblatt) and of pre-1945 treaties in the Reich Law Gazette (Reichsgesetzblatt). Both are available in the Reading Room library. There is no access to treaty originals.
Further information (in German)
Applications to use the Political Archive
Please submit your application by e-mail or letter, stating the topic, purpose, time and duration of your intended visit as precisely as possible. You may visit the Political Archive as soon as your application has been approved. On your first day you will be asked to complete a further form.
Preparing your visit to the Political Archive
Thorough preparation of your visit will save you time and trouble and enable our archivists to be of greater assistance.
Prior to your visit you should review all print sources and research literature relevant to your topic. Please take note particularly of the publications of Foreign Office files listed here:
If your research topic relates to the period from 1949 onwards, please refer also to the editor’s notes in the series Akten zur Auswärtigen Politik der Bundesrepublik Deutschland (Files on the foreign policy of the Federal Republic of Germany), which will direct you to other key documents – often de-restricted classified material – that is now freely accessible in the Archive’s B 150 record group.
The so-called Kent and Oxford catalogues, which can usually be found in major libraries or university history departments, provide an overview of our pre-1945 holdings.
Owing to frequent changes, however, the reference numbers given in these catalogues are not reliable and so cannot be used to order files in advance. You can look up the current reference numbers in the descriptive lists available in the Reading Room.
To prepare your visit, you are welcome to write to us in advance, indicating the subject of your research as precisely as possible so we can advise you what record groups are likely to be relevant.This will help you to identify, using the descriptive lists in the Reading Room, what documents are of interest to you.
Carrels in the Reading Room can be booked by phone (Tel. ++49 (0) 30 – 18 17 – 2179) or e-mail. Since it is often quite crowded, you will definitely need to reserve a carrel in advance. We recommend that you book in good time, i.e. at least three weeks ahead of your planned visit. If you already know the reference numbers of files you wish to consult, you can order up to 15 volumes in advance.
On arrival at the Political Archive please first introduce yourself to the Reading Room supervisor. He or she will explain what facilities and finding aids we have and will gladly help you with any questions or problems that may arise.
If you wish, you can also make an appointment with the archivist responsible for the area you are working on to discuss how best to proceed. Appointments can be arranged with the Reading Room supervisor.
The Reading Room has 27 carrels, most equipped with microfiche reader machines. They have electrical outlets for plugging in your laptop but no Internet access.
There is also a collection of reference works as well as publications on the history of German foreign policy, including notably books published by Political Archive users as well as several series edited by the Federal Foreign Office. Coats and bags must be left outside the Reading Room in the lockers provided. Please ask the Reading Room supervisor for a key.
You can order files and microfiches yourself on the two computer terminals in the Reading Room. There are two deliveries a day at 10.00 h and 14.00 h, on Fridays at 13.00 h. The files you have ordered will be ready for you to collect around 11.00 h and 15.00 h, on Fridays 14.00 h. No documents may be borrowed, they can be consulted only in the Reading Room.
Every document is irreplaceable and must be treated with scrupulous care. You therefore have a responsibility to ensure that no document is soiled or written on, no part of it removed and no change made in the order of any loose pages. Smoking in the Reading Room is not permitted; food and drink are also banned. Please observe the Regulations for Users of the Political Archive.
The services of the Political Archive are free of charge.
Reproduction of documents
In the Reading Room you may photograph documents with your own camera, as long as this is done quietly and without flash; the use of single-lens reflex cameras is not permitted. You can also order copies from a commercial company, usually this takes around four weeks. You will be charged 0.50 € per paper page and 0.30 € per microfilm page. Microfiche copies cost 0.35 € per paper page and 1.59 for a complete duplicate.