The Bundesarchiv-Militärarchiv in Freiburg holds the records of the German armed forces from 1870 to the 1990s. This is a documentation of extraordinary historical value, impressive in its scope and wealth of data, but in which, unfortunately, unbridgeable gaps have been created by the impact of war. The destruction is partly due to the effects of a bombing raid on Potsdam that hit the army archives there in 1945. In many cases, it was the German units and command authorities themselves that destroyed their secret records in the collapse of 1945. The remaining material was confiscated by the Allies and taken to the United States and London. In the 1960s, the documents were returned after being microfilmed.
Despite serious gaps, the German documentation material is very extensive. In Italy, between September 1943 and May 1945, a total of no less than 30 German divisions were grouped into eleven army corps and three armies. About one million men and several thousand women were organised in countless units and command posts of the army, the air force, especially anti-aircraft and intelligence units, as well as the navy and civilian shipping, and finally the various branches of the police and the SS.
The digitisation of the holdings is currently underway, part of which has been made accessible online in the INVENIO research database.
Bundesarchiv Berlin-Lichterfelde (German Federal Archives in Berlin-Lichterfelde)
An important location of the Federal Archives is in the Berlin district of Lichterfelde. One of the most interesting for our project is the fonds R 70 Polizeidienststellen in Italien (police offices in Italy), or R 70 Italien for short. It contains material about the police and SS commandos that were stationed there. In addition, the personnel files of SS and police members, the public administration, and NSDAP party files are kept in Lichterfelde. The latter, however, are incomplete.
Bundesarchiv-Abteilung PA (Department for Personal Information of the German Federal Archives)
The PA Department (Personenbezogene Auskünfte; Personal Information on the First and Second World Wars) of the Federal Archives, also known by its former name Deutsche Dienststelle (WASt, German Service for Notifying the Next of Kin of Fallen of the Former German Wehrmacht). Its new location is in the Berlin district of Tegel.
It holds the personnel files of 18 million German military personnel of all branches of service who served during the Second World War. The accessibility of these holdings for researchers is limited by regulations on the handling of personal data. The archive also contains extensive documentation on the losses of the German armed forces during the conflict: these are forms that the units filled out themselves in the event of a soldier's wounding or death. They provide information on personal data, location, date of loss and its cause. These materials are of great use for the reconstruction of individual massacres and episodes of partisan warfare.