Resources Archive

Anne Frank Video

I’m late to the game on this one, but I want to be sure it is mentioned here on the blog, so here it is…

The Anne Frank House has created its own YouTube Channel (YouTube – AnneFrank’s Channel) which, among other things, contains the only known video footage of Anne Frank:

That’s certainly not the only interesting footage. Here, as another example, is footage of Otto Frank, Anne’s father:

Worthwhile viewing!

Resource: Digitized versions of NS Frauen-Warte

Resource: Digitized versions of NS Frauen-Warte

I was looking at a post at the German Propaganda Archive blog showing an example of the National Socialist “Frauen-Warte“, an official, bi-weekly women’s illustrated published by the party.  A search on the main site of the German Propaganda Archive led me to their full page on Frauen-Warte, which in turn mentions the digitized collection of the magazine which is available via the web at a site maintained by the University of Heidelberg.  So here we have yet another great resource, free and available to all of us netizens.

The purpose of the magazine was, of course, to put forward the National Socialist vision of women’s role in their society.  Stereotypically, this included a lot of what you would expect: care for the children, support the men, manage the house.  The higher purpose was service to the State; therefore, when the times called for it, the magazine also celebrated service outside of the home, or at least so it seems by looking at the first issue of 1941 as an example.  1941 was a war year, so to find the National Socialists emphasizing woman’s role outside of the home is not surprising, given that their men were busy being slaughtered on the Eastern Front.  As such, we’re told in the article “Die faschistische Frau im Dienste der Nation” how women in fascist Italy are working as trolley conductors, farmers, machine workers, etc., while their men fight.    The article’s German author assures her readers that their Italian counterparts took on these new roles with the greatest of enthusiasm.  (Die Frauen sind dem Aufruf auf die hochherzigste Art gefolgt.)

Propaganda though it all may be, the covert art for each issue is worth having a look at.  Some of it is really striking.

Big wins for Wikimedia Commons in Germany

Big wins for Wikimedia Commons in Germany

Germany has been a very friendly place indeed for Wikimedia Commons over the last several months, and all of us netizens reap the benefits. I’ve reaped a benefit right here, simply by putting in a rather random lead photo for this blog post. The photo is not mine, but I’m using it. Why? Because I can! Let me explain…

First there was the announcement in December of 2008 that the German Federal Archives, the Bundesarchiv, had donated 100,000 images to the Commons. Then, in late March of 2009, the Wikipedia Commons announced that they would be receiving 250,000 images under the Creative Commons license from the Deutsche Fotothek collection of the Land Library of Saxony – State and University Library Dresden (SLUB). Those images are still being uploaded to the Commons.

Because the latter collection is from Dresden, it contains a great many photos from the GDR (East Germany).  Here’s this one (cropped here in the blog post), for example, showing a “disco club” for the workers of a steel plant.  A large chunk of this SLUB archive consists of photos depicting industrial work in the GDR.


Disco club for steel plant workers. Click for original, including licensing and attribution info.

From what I’ve seen so far, I find the Bundesarchiv collection more interesting — at least the sample gallery page makes it seem so.  This picture of a Berlin street in February 1945 shows the aftermath of an Allied bombing.


Ruins on Mohrenstrasse, Berlin, 2/1945. Click for original, including licensing and attribution info.

Have a look through both collections. I’ve categorized this post under "Resources", because the images in these collections, being licensed under variants of the Creative Commons licensing family, are generally available for your use with only minor restrictions.

(Lead photo: “Ordensverleihung, Barzel, Weizsäcker“. Source: German Federal Archive. License: Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike 3.0 Germany.)

Berlin Wall link updates

I added ten or so links to my Berlin Wall links page over the weekend. Two of my new favorites are, unfortunately, only very useful for people who can read and understand German. The first is Hinrich Olsen’s private page, Friedliche Revolution und Mauerfall, which also has several photos so could be interesting even if you do not read German, and German broadcaster ZDF’s Mediathek, whereat you can type in a search for "DDR" and find lots of useful and interesting television clips. I particularly liked ZDF’s "Countdown Mauerfall" series, which shows clips from ZDF news on the same day in 1989 (e.g., today they will show their 17 August 1989 broadcast.)

For those who cannot speak/read German, one of the more interesting sites I linked to this weekend is Moments in Time: 1989/1990, from the federal office of civic education. It contains lots of material in English, and many of its photos are licensed under Creative Commons, meaning you can re-use them for non-commercial purposes.

German historians and tensions in contemporary history

German historians and tensions in contemporary history

I’ve been looking around for old journal articles that are available online and came across one by Prof. Dr. Mary Fulbrook.  Her name stood out to me, since I enjoyed her Anatomy of a Dicatorship: Inside the GDR 1949-1989 (Amazon US, UK, CA, DE [english]), which will very likely be our Book of the Week soon.  This particular journal article, “Approaches to German contemporary history since 1945: Politics and paradigm“, is available at the website of the journal Zeithistorische Forschungen.  I found it interesting because it describes a few of the controversies among post-war German historians.  Fulbrook acknowledges that all histories come “with a baggage of political overtones”, but in the case of Germany the connection between politics and history is more obvious than in other countries:

[I]n reflecting on the development of contemporary history in Germany since 1945, it is striking just how closely particular historical approaches are linked to positions on the political spectrum. [p. 1]

Prior to 1989 there was obviously greater diversity among West German historians than among their eastern counterparts, since history within East Germany could not deviate from the party line.  Therefore professional historians within West Germany were more likely to stir things up amongst themselves. “Thus contemporary history in West Germany before 1989 was characterised by periodic violent controversies.” [p. 4]

Some of the controversies which she points out include:

  • “Intentionalist” versus “Structuralist” approaches to the Holocaust. [p. 5]
  • Whether the “history of everyday life” was “merely a left-wing form of romanticism; even perhaps, unintentionally, some form of apologia for Nazi crimes.” [p. 5]
  • “Whether one should seek to treat the history of the Third Reich as just another short period of German history, a mere dozen years to be dealt with in the same way as any other – or whether this would be beyond the bounds of the morally permissible.” [p. 5]

I also found interesting her point concerning a (perhaps) surprising similarity in the West German and East German historical narratives concerning the Third Reich:

Equally, on both sides of the Wall a version of ‘false consciousness’ could be found: in the western case, the emphasis on Hitler’s personal charm suggested that many Germans were ‘duped’ and fell under his spell; in the East German case, the Marxist notions of ideology and false consciousness (‘the ruling ideas of the age are the ideas of the ruling class’) could be explicitly appealed to in order to explain (away) the role of the complicit masses. Thus we see extraordinarily similar political functions with respect to the exoneration of ‘ordinary people’ in historical interpretations which in other respects are politically totally opposed to each other. [p. 7]

(The photo collage accompanying the article shows a few of the historians mentioned by Fulbrook in the article. From left to right: Hartmut Kaelble, Alf Lüdtke, Stefan Wolle, Hartmut Zwahr.)

Fun with the CIA Archives

Fun with the CIA Archives

History nerds love archival material and celebrate the fact that more and more becomes available digitally on the web. In addition to the U.S. State Department Office of the Historian and the excellent UK National Archives, both of which I will discuss one day soon, the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) search site contains lots of useful information for professional and amateur historians alike.

The earliest mention of Austria which I came across at the site is contained within a February 1947 report by the Central Intelligence Group (the establishment of the Central Intelligence Agency would be signed into law later in the year) concerning the “Situation in Austria” (document id: NARA # NN3-263-92-005). If you don’t know much about the immediate post-WWII years in Austria, I can recommend it as a subject for study. While most attention was focused on Germany and especially Berlin, Austria was also experiencing quite an interesting time from a historical perspective. The battle lines of the cold war in Germany were fairly clear. In Austria, however, the situation was more uncertain.

Whither Austria? Within whose sphere of influence would Austria find itself? The countries to its east were completely occupied by the Soviets, whereas Austria was being governed by the four allied countries: the U.S., the U.K., France and the U.S.S.R. So too was Germany, but Germany was large enough to consider it feasible to partition between west and east. Austria was simply too small. Because it was also important to ensure that Austria not remain dependent on Germany (which had annexed it in 1938), the country needed to be large enough to be self-sustaining and have normal trade relations with multiple countries, not just Germany.

With that context in mind, the CIA report mentioned and linked-to above makes interesting reading. Of course it is only one agency’s assessment of what was happening in the Austria of 1947 and therefore should be considered as one piece of research, not the definitive story.

Here are a few excerpts of the report to whet your appetite:

The four occupying powers have recognized a coalition government in Austria which was formed after the national elections of November 1945.  The authority of the government is still limited by the conditions of four-power occupation and particularly by the hostile attitude of the USSR.


The USSR desires an Austrian regime subservient to Soviet policy.  Unsuccessful in its attempts to influence the Austrian Government by infiltration and intimidation, the USSR has concentrated on establishing control over the Austrian economy.  The USSR has implemented its policy in Austria by propaganda aimed at discrediting the government and by actions designed to disrupt its political and economic authority.  In order to further their economic aims, the Soviets have removed industrial machinery on a large scale, seized industrial assets, and forced factories to produce for the USSR. [Page 2]

German Historical Institute Washington DC

German Historical Institute Washington DC

The website of the German Historical Institute in Washington, DC, has a nice colletion of primary sources, including scans of photos, maps and original documents.  The collection is organized by the following time periods:

  • From the Reformation to the
    Thirty Years War (1500-1648)
  • From Absolutism to
    Napoleon (1648-1815)
  • From Vormärz to Prussian Dominance (1815-1866)
  • Forging an Empire: Bismarckian Germany (1866-1890)
  • Wilhelmine Germany and the First World War (1890-1918)
  • Weimar Germany (1918/19-1933)
  • Nazi Germany (1933-1945)
  • Occupation and the Emergence of Two States (1945-1961)
  • Two Germanies (1961-1989)
  • One Germany in Europe (1989-2006)

One of the items I stumbled across was this quote from a letter written by the novelist Theodor Fontane to his wife, concerning the march to war with France in 1870.  I think it captures quite well the anxiety that could be caused by modernity and the beginnings of mechanization:

The entire situation appears to me like a colossal vision, a Wild Hunt rushing past me; you find yourself standing there in amazement, without quite knowing what to make of it all. It is a Völkerwanderung [great migration of peoples] regulated by railways, organized masses, but masses all the same, ones within which you whirl around like an atom, not standing apart, not dominating; instead, you are entirely at the mercy of this great movement and have no will of your own. It is like being in a theater when someone shouts “Fire!”, you are swept toward an exit that is perhaps no exit at all, mercilessly squeezed, pushed, throttled, the victim of dark drives and forces. Some people love it because it means “excitement” – I am too artistically inclined to be able to feel comfortable under these circumstances.

(Photo is a screen capture of the top navigation bar at the site mentioned below. Credit: German Historical Institute, Washington, D.C.)

Documentation Centre of Austrian Resistance

Documentation Centre of Austrian Resistance

Have a look at a very nice Austrian history resource, the Documentation Centre of Austrian Resistance (Dokumentationsarchiv des österreichischen Widerstands [DoeW]).  As the name implies, the emphasis is on the history of fascism in Austria, particularly National Socialism and its victims.  Additionally, the Centre keeps tabs on modern-day Austrian right-wing activity.

Their english section contains a fair amount of content (click “english” on the left-side navigation when you get there), but of course the german content is more complete.

One of the more interesting sections of the DoeW’s site is the victim database, actually a collection of two databases, the first containing Gestapo arrest records, the second the names of 62,000 Holocaust victims.  Both databases are searchable by name.  The Gestapo search even contains an option to search by victim group.  For example, you can limit your search to Roma/Sinti arrestees.

You will definitely want to have a look if your area of interest is the Holocaust period or modern right-wing extremism.

Note: The photo accompanying this post comes directly from the Nicht mehr anonym project on the DoeW website.  The front page of that project shows random Gestapo victims (i.e., if you continue to refresh the page, you will see different victims each time).  This particular photo is described as follows:

Emma Bauer, Wien
Geboren am 28. Jänner 1889

Weil sie sich “wiederholt in abträglicher Weise über den Ausgang des Krieges” äußerte, wurde Emma Bauer am 21. 5. 1943 festgenommen. Gegen sie wurde Schutzhaft beantragt.

The reason given for her arrest is that she continuously made disparaging remarks about the outcome of the war.  At the time of her arrest she would have been 54 years old.