David Irving's Relations with the German Federal Archives
Bundesarchiv and Bundesarchiv-Militärarchiv
"Irving is a historisches Trüffelschwein," said the Bundesarchiv (German Federal Archives) in an earlier press release after he donated the Adolf Eichmann papers to them in January 1992 -- and the archives hinted darkly that he had his "contacts to the political right wing" to thank for his good fortune in finding such nuggets.
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June 7, 2002
Berlin Celebrates 50 Years of the Federal Archive
THE German Federal Archive celebrated its 50th anniversary Tuesday (June 4), marking its longtime role in the preservation of Germany's past with a Berlin ceremony attended by President Johannes Rau and State Minister for Cultural Affairs Julian Nida-Ruemelin. Since its founding on June 3, 1952, the archive has served as the central repository for government papers, from the original copy of the Basic Law - Germany's constitution - to Otto von Bismarck's resignation deed. It has expanded from its headquarters in Koblenz to include a total of 11 branches across the Federal Republic, keeping some 800 staff members busy with the task of evaluating, preserving and organizing its extensive holdings.
"The anniversary celebration is more than a look backward - it's an occasion for looking ahead," said archive president Harmut Weber earlier this spring. "We take information from yesterday to make it available for tomorrow's research." Each year more than 8,000 historians make their way to the archive's reading rooms, where they can pore over documents dating back some 200 years. Officials say if all its files were placed end-to-end, they would stretch 175 miles. Almost one million rolls of movie film, close to 11 million photographs and more than 30,000 audiotapes are also among its holdings. A general list of items in the collection is now available online, and plans are in place make some of the documents themselves accessible through the Internet as well.
Over the years, the archive has played a part in some sensational historical controversies, as in 2000, when it provided papers that helped lawyers in a London court show British author David Irving had actively denied the Holocaust. In 1983, after the Hamburg magazine Stern announced the discovery of what it maintained were Hitler's diaries, it was the Federal Archive that proved the diaries were fake. "We are trying to get the forged Hitler diaries from Stern," Weber quipped, "but we wouldn't pay anything for them."
In addition to government and military files, the Federal Archive collects papers from the personal estates of prominent figures as well as the records of political parties and other German organizations. Among its holdings is an original copy of Schindler's list, the document industrialist Oskar Schindler used to save more than 1,000 Jews from death camps by requesting their labor for his company.
Like many other institutions of its kind, the Federal Archive is running a race against time. Many of its texts have been printed on acidic paper that crumbles as it ages. "A private firm is operating a paper deacidifier for us in Berlin," notes Weber. Digitalization isn't really the answer, he explains, because computer systems become obsolete even faster than paper.
Editors: Valerie Belz and Margaret Dornfeld
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