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German archives: a guide to discovering and using them: Discover German Archives

This guide is designed to help you finding your way through German archives and to enable you identifying exactly what you need for your research - quick and easy.

Archives on the web

On the pages of "Discover German Archives" you find lists of the most important German archives that have a website.
Far from all archives, however, have one. Quite possibly you will only get a postal address off the internet for some of the smaller archives.
To identify these archives please use Find it. Via the internet-portals listed there you can browse all archives of a specific region or a specific German state.

Archive or Digital Archive?

Particularly the big German archives have nowadays digitised some of their holdings. These so called "Digital Archives" are accessible via the website of these archives. So if you are lucky you can deal with your archival work whilst sitting at home at your own desk.
But beware! Digitisation is far from complete! Often you will not even be able to look at all the finding aids online. So in most cases it will still be necessary to pack your bags and travel to inspect the originals.

 

Archives in Germany

The German archival infrastructure is rather varied - and not always completely logical, but, as has been said before, historical! Thus, research can turn into a little challenge. But you may also discover surprising things along the way or even strike a little vein of gold.

Find out all that you need to know about the history and the organisation of German archives.

Thus equipped you are ready for discovering German archives. Listed below you will find public and private archives that have a website, sorted by categories. You can choose between:

Federal and State Archives

Municipal and Local Archives

Church Archives (archives of the Protestant and the Catholic Church as well as other religious groups)

Literary Archives

Economic Archives (For instance regional economic archives, archives of chambers of industry and commerce, of particular industrial sectors or of particular businesses)

Political Archives (archives of political parties or foundations)

Media Archives

University Archives and other scientific institutions

Movement Archives (for instance feminist, labour, or peace movement)

Archives of (noble) families are not listed above. Some of those have been deposited in public archives but most of them are run as private archives. The best way to find them is to use the regional search portals collected on "Find it".

Public and Private

The difference between public and private archives is crucial for you.

Public archives
These are the archives of public institutions, for instance federal archives, state archives, and community archives. University archives fall into this category too. These archives are state run and access to them is guaranteed and regulated by law.

Private archives
- for instance of noble families or corporations - are not bound by these laws. If and on what conditions they allow access is entirely up to them.