At the end of the Second World War, the collapse of the Prussian archival system lead to a gap in archival administration. Education and training of archivsts who broke ties with Nazi-era principles, and who adopted ties to American archival theory and practice, became a priority. This article first examines the contribution of American archival protection officers to this endeavor, including the establishment of an archival school in the American Zone, and the influence of Ernst Posner's archival theory. This article examines the historical context of these events and concludes by asking the question of what traces the American commitment has left behind in the archival system of Germany.

After the end of the Second World War, Germany was divided into four occupation zones under American, British, and French control in the West and Soviet rule in the East. Together, they exercised the supreme authority over Germany in the Allied Control Council. The second proclamation of this council on September 20, 1945, officially put the German public archives back into service less than half a year after the end of the Second World War.1 The victorious powers needed the support of functioning state and city archives to administer occupied Germany. However, a number of problems burdened the reopening of the archival system. Many administrative buildings had been badly damaged by the fighting, archivists were dead or found themselves in captivity, and the records were hidden in storage facilities all over the Reich's territory. Even more serious was the collapse of the Prussian archive administration. Since the nineteenth century, this archive administration had not only been the largest in the German Reich, but also the most influential in terms of expertise, and it had set far-reaching content-related standards for the profession.2 With the centralization of administration under the National Socialist regime and the fusion with the Reichsarchiv in the person of Dr. Ernst Zipfel, its importance grew from 1933 onward.3 However, just as the Allies were quick to conclude that the state of Prussia should finally be banned, it was clear to the British and American military governments that the Prussian archive administration should not be resurrected either. This central administrative bond, which connected a large part of the German state archives, was irretrievably broken. The rebuilding of the German archival system after 1945 had to follow new paths, which, in the Western Zone, were closely linked to the requirements of democratization and denazification. Western Allied archivists and scientists, as acting officers of the Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives Section (MFAA),4 worked together with selected German archivists to promote the reconstruction of the archives. American representatives in particular pursued the goal of bringing a new spirit into the West German archival system. One important issue in this endeavor was the future training of young archivists. The central training institution, the prestigious Preußisches Institut für Archivwissenschaft und geschichtswissenschaftliche Fortbildung (Prussian Institute of Archival Science and Advanced Historical Studies) (IfA), also ceased to exist in 1945. A new institute had to be set up to train new types of professionals to replace the old nationalist archivists who had become entangled in National Socialism.

This article examines the contribution of American archival protection officers to this endeavor in two steps. First, it outlines the archival policy developments in which American archival protection officers, such as Major Lester K. Born, played a major role in founding an archives school in the American Zone. In this way, they were able to achieve their goals even against the wishes of the British Allies.5 Next, the article addresses the ideas and concepts that were to find their way into the new formation of archivists, which are essentially attributable to Dr. Ernst Posner. Could this influence be asserted, or did the German traditions of the profession stand in the way? This article is based on sources from the United States, Great Britain, and various archives in Germany, which together illuminate a facet of international archival history.6 The final conclusion brings the results together and approaches the question of what traces the American commitment has left behind in Germany's archival system.

With the arrival of British and American troops into the Reich's territory from 1944 onward, a series of tasks was assigned to the MFAA officers. Their most urgent task at first was to hunt for German documents to secure them and to analyze them. German authorities and archives had relocated large parts of their holdings due to the increase in the bombing war and the advance of the Red Army, so the Allies had to find the storage sites of the documents not destroyed by the Nazis.7 In the process, a race developed between the Western Allies and their Soviet brothers-in-arms, as the break-up of the anti-Hitler coalition foreshadowed the new clash of systems in the Cold War.8 But this was not the end of the duties of the British and American MFAA officers. The consolidation of these documents—which were buried in mines, castles, fortresses, and forests as well as in document centers—and their preparation for evaluation by intelligence services and the armed forces were also extremely important tasks.9 An initial spark for this location, evaluation, and preservation of files was a 1943 paper by Ernst Posner, in which he explained the fundamental importance of the knowledge stored in archives for warring parties.10 At the same time, the MFAA officers had also committed themselves to the protection of cultural assets, so that the loss of documents would not become a breeding ground for a resurgence of Nazi propaganda.11 With regard to the German archives, this meant concrete support in returning the outsourced historical documents and assistance in repairing damaged archive buildings. The scientists involved, dressed in the uniform of the MFAA, left behind a number of very lively reports on their activities on the European scene, providing insights into the balancing act between intelligence analysis and the securing of the documents.12 In addition to these tangible tasks performed by the archive officers, there was also the mission of implementing new structures, “a new German machinery for the care of archives.”13 That the old, centralistic system, based primarily on the Prussian archive administration, would be renewed was, as the British concluded in their typical understatement, “most unlikely.”14

An important aspect in this restructuring process was the training and education of young archivists. The Allies depended on the knowledge and cooperation of German archivists for the evaluation and storage of files in the documentation centers, the “arcanum arcanorum”15 as Posner called it. Although denazification procedures were considered less strict in the British Zone,16 it was still difficult for the British to find German archivists who were not sympathetic to the Nazi cause.17 Major Cecil Anthony Francis Meekings reports that out of four applicants for the management of the Staatliches Archivlager Goslar (Goslar Zonal Archive Camp), three withdrew due to their Nazi past, and even the remaining fourth was a member of the Nazi Party and involved in German occupation policy.18 A new educational institution therefore had to be founded to provide the German archival profession with well-trained and politically unencumbered graduates. But, in the summer of 1945, the British and the Americans were no longer able to agree on the procedure for establishing an institute for archival science.

Even during the war, the cooperation of the two Western Allied brothers-in-arms in the field of archival protection had not always been smooth, as the American archivist Oliver W. Holmes conceded: “There were, as usual, differences between the viewpoints of the British and the Americans.”19 After the occupation of Germany and the hunt for the hidden documents, areas of conflict increasingly arose that can only be outlined here.20 While the British MFAA officers pursued the plan, largely devised by Sir Hilary Jenkinson, to keep the German files found on-site, the Americans advocated the idea of centering the documents within Germany or even transferring them to Washington. At the same time, daily work on the files of the German foreign ministry, which had been gathered at the collecting point in Marburg, and their political analysis led to conflicts of competence.21 This was overlaid by American anger about British special treatment of Legationsrat (legation councillor, a diplomatic rank) Karl von Loesch. The latter had wrested certain freedoms from the British as a reward for pointing out the location of microfilms of files of the Reich Foreign Ministry. In addition, the handling of the so-called Windsor file, which contained compromising material on the abdicated King Edward VIII's connections with the Nazis, overshadowed the relationship between British and American MFAA officers.22 When the Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force (SHAEF) was disbanded on June 14, 1945, the question of future archival policy cooperation remained completely open: “What degree of cooperation with the Americans can be maintained after dissolution of the present unified command?”23 But for the British, it was soon clear that from now on “Anglo-US policy could only be coordinated by informal contact between British and American archivists.”24 This Anglo-American disagreement and the certain dependence on the German archivists opened up room to maneuver for the latter in the future organization of the archive system, especially regarding professional training or education.

In the spring of 1946, Meekings took the initiative in the British Zone and approached the director of the State Archive in Düsseldorf, Dr. Bernhard Vollmer, with the idea of an institute for archival science.25 Although he, like his colleague from the State Archive in Muenster, Prof. Dr. Johannes Bauermann, was not on the so-called white list of unencumbered German archivists and historians created by the British,26 both of them became the central contacts for the establishment of archive structures in the British occupation zone. Meekings's advance fell on fertile ground for Vollmer and Bauermann, as they had already begun to think about a realignment of professional training in the autumn of 1945, which, according to their ideas, should be free of a state character in the future.27 The Westphalian city of Muenster was to become the new heart of archival science in the British zone, despite its severe war damage. With the Westphalian Wilhelms University, whose History Department was housed in the rooms of the State Archives due to the war; the university library; the rich holdings of the archive; and the person of Bauermann, who in addition to his function as head of the archive also taught as professor of auxiliary sciences of history at the university, the external conditions seemed to be optimal.28

The fact that in Berlin the former Prussian Privy State Archive (GStA), which had been degraded to a “Main Archive for Official Files,” was actively working to reopen the renowned IfA only played a marginal role in the considerations in the British Zone.29 With rather flimsy justifications, Bauermann gave the head of the Main Archive for Official Files a dressing-down: He could not send his young archivists from Muenster to Berlin for their training, as travel between the occupation zones was not guaranteed.30 The Berlin concept of education and training still relied heavily on the old, state-fixed Prussian ideas. In Berlin, the signs of the times had not yet been recognized; neither the occupying powers nor the directors of the state archives desired a revival of Prussia and, with it, the supremacy of the Prussian archive administration.31 Although the archivists demanded the creation of shared structures as quickly as possible and wanted to preserve the scientific tradition of Prussian archival studies, the archive directors, who had risen to become minor archival princes after 1945, did not mourn the tight administrative corset of the Prussian archive administration. In addition, the Main Archive, including the defunct IfA in Berlin-Dahlem, was under the control of the American Zone and therefore not an acceptable address to the British. Meekings worked with Bauermann and Vollmer to establish the Institut für Archivwissenschaften und Geschichtliche Quellenkunde (Institute for Archival Sciences and Historical Source Studies) in Muenster. The British archival protection officer encouraged the Germans to work faster, promised financial resources, and even negotiated personally with Dr. Georg Winter, who later became the founding director of the Federal Archives of Germany.32 Despite his National Socialist past, he was considered one of the leading theoreticians and practitioners in his field,33 and it was imperative that he be recruited as a professor for the project in Muenster. In 1946, the British were involved with such zeal that Dr. Wilhelm Kisky, who was actually responsible for the archives in the North Rhine-Westphalian state administration, complained in the review that he was, “so to speak, forced to agree to the archives school in Muenster by the English special officer” (Meekings).34 Because the military governments were superior to the German state governments, the German archivists, in cooperation with the MFAA protection officers, were able to override their own state administration.

A good understanding with the Allied MFAA officers was of fundamental importance for German archivists to influence developments in their favor. In particular, a lack of personal ties had a negative effect. Thus, Dr. Ulrich Wendland, the head of the Berlin Main Archive for Official Files, the former GStA, emphasized in his notes when a conversation with Major Born, for once, was harmonious and stimulating.35 The men didn't get along with each other, and the American did not in the least support the Berliners' plans to rebuild the old IfA. Rather, Born repeatedly put off the unloved Wendland, who was dismissed in 1947 for concealing his membership in the Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei (NSDAP). Despite the advanced plans of the British, a new school of archival studies was also to be established in the American Zone, but a Prussian archive institute in Berlin, reopened under a different name, did not at all coincide with Born's aims. Rather, the latter found an active ally in Dr. Georg Wilhelm Sante. After 1945, the Wiesbaden archivist quickly succeeded in portraying his membership in the NSDAP and his activities in occupied Belgium as an accident and gained the trust of Major Born.36 Sante (who was sometimes described as being as slippery as an eel) possessed diplomatic tact that was praised by his companions37 and a good command of English. He was probably the most suitable companion for Born to implement his vision of a new German training course for archivists. The small university town of Marburg in American-occupied Hesse seemed the ideal place for this. The town had been largely spared from the war, the Philipps University quickly resumed teaching after 1945, and the former Prussian State Archive in Marburg had one of the most modern archive buildings, erected in 1938. In addition, it was headed by Prof. Dr. Ludwig Dehio, an outstanding archivist and historian,38 who had been professionally sidelined by the National Socialists because of his Jewish origins and was therefore considered politically absolutely reliable. In addition, the memory of the Erste Marburger Archivschule (First Archives School Marburg) (1894–1904) was a remnant of tradition that could be instrumentalized and that Sante was to exploit to the full in the following negotiations.39

While the Berlin dreamers of a resurrection of their old institute for archival science and thus of their supremacy in the German archival system were rejected by the British and their plans were buried by the Americans, Sante and Born had to eliminate another opponent in the American occupation zone. The tradition-conscious Bavarian archive administration had the firm intention of quickly reopening its archives school in Munich, which had existed since 1821.40 The question was therefore raised as to why not all German archivists should receive their higher training in Bavaria in future? Although archival studies in Munich had always been tailored to the special needs of Southern Germany and Bavaria, there were certainly signals from the Bavarians to adapt its curriculum for the post-Prussian archival world.41 But Born was critical of this request. Due to his experiences with representatives of libraries and archives in Bavaria, he had an extremely bad opinion of the South Germans: “Nor have they been helped by their own selfish attitudes of non-co-operation, exemplified in the greatest degree by Bavaria,” he wrote.42 Sante also never tired of feeding the cliché, widespread in Germany, of stubborn Bavarians who would never renounce their special rights, in this case the Archives School in Munich, for the supposed good of all.43 An agreement had to be reached if the projects were to succeed and if the British around Meekings, Vollmer, and Bauermann were not to take profit from the struggle between the different groups of archivists within the American occupation zone. Hessian and Bavarian archivists, therefore, discussed the advantages and disadvantages of their respective archives school plans in December 1946 and were not able to win over the other side for their project. A compromise formula initiated by Dehio finally saved the day: on paper, the archives schools in Munich and Marburg were to form a unit, coordinate teaching content, and even exchange their students.44 Archivists from the British Zone could only scoff at this absurd agreement,45 which was not pursued in reality, but it convinced the American occupying power. With the agreement between Munich and Marburg, and the cancellation of the Berlin plans, the British project in Muenster remained the last obstacle to a new archives school in (West) Germany.

The information slowly leaking out from the American occupation zone about Born's and Sante's actions to set up an archives school was initially not taken seriously in the British Zone. Meekings was emphatically calm and did not attach great importance to the American-Hessian plans.46 After all, practically everything was organized in Muenster. Financing was secured, the curriculum had been worked out, an interaction between the university and the State Archive had been regulated, and at official meetings British representatives always assured the high importance they attached to the institute in Muenster.47 In addition, no one had been idle in the British Zone, and in 1946, they had made significant progress in other areas of archival policy. A new journal on archival science called Der Archivar (The Archivist) was to be published by Düsseldorf under Vollmer's leadership and would concentrate on the discourse among professional scholars. For the same purposes, a professional association was founded in the small Westphalian town of Bünde, the Verein deutscher Archivare (VdA) (Association of German Archivists), which still exists today.48 Compared to developments in the British Zone, however, the work on the Marburg Archives School was still in its infancy.

But, at the turn of the year 1946–1947, the German archivists in the British occupation zone lost the momentum for their project. The fusion of the British and American administrative areas to form the Bizone was announced, and, at the same time, the MFAA Section ceded control of the archives to the German administrations at the beginning of 1947.49 While Meekings largely withdrew from the operative business, Sante continued to receive support from Born and the Americans, who pressed for a unified archives school for West Germany in Marburg. For them, another institution in addition to the inevitable Munich school would be a “wasteful duplication” of urgently needed resources.50 Although the need for young archivists was great, it in no way justified the founding of three different archival institutes in war-torn Germany. The spokespersons from the British Zone, Bauermann and Vollmer, were chosen as negotiators to reach an agreement with the Americans and the archivists from their zone.51 On the American side, Theodore A. Heinrich, chief of the MFAA Section of the Office of Military Government for Greater Hesse, instructed Sante to negotiate a deal. It might be possible to accommodate Vollmer and Bauermann by transferring the journal published in the British Zone entirely to the future Bizone, but if they could not reach an agreement, a separate publication organ would be published from Wiesbaden in Greater Hesse.52 The framework for negotiations was thus defined, but Vollmer and Bauermann achieved even more in return for giving up their institute: on the one hand, the periodical, Der Archivar, published by Vollmer was chosen as the leading journal, and, on the other hand, the association VdA, headed by Vollmer, was also extended to the American Zone.53 The prize for the founding of the archives school in Marburg was the Düsseldorf archival director's supreme position in the West German archival system.54 After an arrangement had been found behind the scenes, Major Born was able to present himself at the great archival conference in Bamberg in April 1947 as the founder of a new German archival system and, in his introductory speech, recommended to the assembled archivists the establishment of an archives school in Marburg.55 The British project in Muenster was thus finally buried.

The American support for the Archives School Marburg proved to be decisive in the first phase of the founding process. Major Born in particular was the most important supporter of the undertaking, which brought down the competing plans in Berlin and marginalized them in Munich. The year 1947 thus marked a watershed in the archival-political relationship between the Allies and the Germans. With the transfer of responsibility into German hands, Americans and Britons went from being active designers to passive companions: “The Germans can have what Zonal bodies they require . . . and can invite us to them.”56 But Marburg was far from reaching its goal. In the second founding phase, the Hessians and Sante, though benevolently accompanied by Born, found themselves confronted with the West German directors of the State Archives, who, as small princes in the federal states, wanted to be persuaded by the Archives School Marburg. The negotiations dragged on for more than two years, during which various archivists tried to bring their influence to bear on the design of the learning content, the organization of the school, and its financing. Major Born was increasingly frustrated by the miserable delays—but was able to do little to influence developments.57

What influence would Born have liked to have played out? What goals did he pursue for German archives, and what educational function did he assign to the archives school? To answer these questions, a brief digression on Born's professional socialization and American archival training is necessary.

Lester Kruger Born had moved from an assistant professorship as a “properly unopinionated and unprejudiced practitioner” in the mid-1930s to archive administration.58 For lack of a regulated archival training, he was, like all the founding fathers of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), ultimately a lateral entrant. At the same time, the actors themselves increasingly perceived this state of affairs as a grievance, and the first intrinsically motivated attempts to set up training courses for archivists were already being made in the late 1930s.59 A decisive impulse for the American training of archivists came from outside, in the person of Prussian archivist Ernst Posner. Through the support and mediation of leading archivists Solon J. Buck and Waldo Gifford Leland, Posner, who had fled from the Nazi racial furor because of his Jewish origins, took on teaching assignments for archival studies at American University in Washington beginning in 1939. Until his retirement in 1961, he taught this subject in various formats, primarily in two-semester courses and shorter summer schools, and earned an enormous reputation among his students.60 In the unanimous opinion of researchers, Posner's teaching laid decisive theoretical foundations for the archival system in the United States and shaped an entire generation of American archivists.61 Even Born, who was already well versed in practical matters, was in close contact with him, regarded him as a kind of mentor, and followed Posner's interpretations and theories to a large extent, especially with regard to the German archival system.

Posner was repeatedly seen as a bridge builder and mediator between Prussian and American archival studies.62 His work, however, was more complex than just connecting these two worlds: during his fifteen-year career in the Prussian archives service, Posner not only dealt with various topics, from visitor support and indexing work to archive construction, but also taught and developed corresponding content as a lecturer at the IfA. During his active time in the 1920s and 1930s, archival studies in Prussia, mainly at the Geheimes Staatsarchiv in Berlin-Dahlem and the associated IfA, was so dynamic that one can speak of a threshold period for the subject.63 Socialized in this cosmos and involved in this development, Posner, as an intimate connoisseur of Prussian archival studies, conveyed their scientific foundations to the American archival system, which was currently being established. At the same time, the new framework conditions of his work and life within the democratic United States led to a fundamental process of reflection on the familiar: “His new experiences after emigration allowed him to observe as an outsider what he had left behind.”64 Posner not only taught, he also learned about the achievements of American archival studies.65 Thus, he dealt for example with records management, which was not known in Prussia in this form, and the Anglo-American idea of unbroken custody.66 His maturing criticism of his old, Prussian socialization, however, was aimed less at the content-related theorems than at the habits and professional understanding of the role of Prussian state archivists. Posner saw a fundamental need for correction in these points.

In his opinion, German archivists traditionally understood their professional position as a mixture of higher administrative official and historical researcher, and saw themselves as servants of the state and science: what was lacking in comparison was service to society. Posner drew the picture of elitist, nationalistic, authoritarian-state-oriented academic officials who merely maintained contact with other civil servants and university scholars and conducted their research for themselves and their equals.67 They definitely did not see themselves as social service providers and did not regard the archival materials entrusted to them as cultural assets for society as a whole. This sweeping criticism was largely, but not entirely, true: indeed, the profession of academic archivists was unquestionably status-conscious in view of a long university education, strict selection criteria, postgraduate training following state examinations and doctorates, and socialization into the Prussian corps of civil servants.68 State service and historical research shaped the self-image of the archivists, but it did not stop at isolation in this dualism: from the late nineteenth century onward, Prussian archivists were required to become involved at a regional level in historical societies (Geschichtsvereine) that communicated historical knowledge to nonacademics.69 During the 1930s, archival public relations work experienced an enormous boom in the form of press articles, popular science publications, guided tours, and exhibitions.70 In addition were the mountains of ancestral and racial evidence demanded by National Socialism that brought archivists into contact with almost all social classes.71

Regardless of the actual circumstances, Posner's view of the Prussian German archivists provided the interpretation grid for the MFAA. In his theoretical reflections, Lester Kruger Born made Posner's view of things completely his own.72 In technical terms, he conceded that “German archives are a model acknowledged by the Americans,” but that this is ultimately meaningless if the academic archivists “didn't place themselves at the service of society and the public.”73 The archives should involve civil society and help to shape it by developing appropriate educational offerings, presentations, exhibitions, and publications for a broader public.74 In addition, Born demanded that archivists turn away from nation-state principles and, in return, open themselves to international contexts and research.75 For him, all this was a question of education—Born made success in the implementation of his goals entirely dependent on the founding of the archives school under American patronage. When it threatened to fail, he turned to Posner in frustration and expressed his fear that “nothing ‘new' will appear, that no conception of the social responsibilities of public institutions will filter through, that nowhere will there be a place for the basic philosophy that public servants serve the people and not the property placed in their care.”76 With its educational aspirations, American archival policy fits into the broad concept of Anglo-American re-education, which aimed to lead the Germans to democracy, social participation, and a turning away from the authoritarian state.77

Born and, from 1949, Ernst Posner, who had temporarily returned to his old home country, tried to pursue their educational goals even after the end of the Allied supervision of German archives. The meeting of South German archivists in Stuttgart on June 28 and 29, 1949, was in fact an instruction of leading South German archivists by Posner and Born. Both of them presented five lectures on American archives, each followed by a discussion between the American and the German participants.78 It was an intensive course for German archivists in American archival science. Both remained in close contact with the training of archivists and, from then on, supplied the Archives School Marburg and its responsible persons with literature and informational materials.79 Sante received information from Major Born about the constitution of the International Council on Archives (ICA) and invited him and other archivists from Hessen to a conference on American archiving.80 On May 31, 1949, Born and Posner gave a presentation at the first Deutscher Archivtag (Convention of German archives) after the war in Wiesbaden and had a documentary film about the archival system of the United States played in the plenary session.81 Posner gave several guest lectures at the archives school on the US archival system and maintained a close exchange of letters with the lecturers of the institution.82 Instead of using coercion, Posner and Born persistently relied on the persuasiveness of ongoing offers and consultations.

How did the German archivists react to the criticism and the intention to transform their profession away from Prussian traditions and toward the American model? Did they accept or refuse the offers? The reactions were complex and characterized by a peculiar mixture of resistance and partial reception. The fundamental criticism of the orientation of the profession they rejected: Vollmer, who himself had attempted to free archival education from its close ties to the state, did not accept Born's criticism of the state-fixed archivist who conducted research in the office. The reality of life and work had been completely different for years. However, he conceded that the German archives, following the American model, must have a greater impact on society.83 Partly as a result of the social upheavals of the war, there was initially even a certain willingness among archivists to lower the high entry requirements for admission to the Archivrereferendariat,84 for example, to forgo the doctorate,85 which Posner and Born had made partly responsible for the elitist status of archivists.86 While Sante and Dehio, in direct contact with Born and Posner, may have been open to a certain degree of change, these positions were noticeably sanded down in the negotiations with the heads of the state archives administrations. In particular, Dr. Rudolf Grieser, the head of the state archives of Lower Saxony, was firmly rooted in Prussian traditional contexts. He successfully insisted that the state archive administrations select the next generation of archivists and made the Prussian requirements for employment, of all things, an indispensable condition for sending archive aspirants from Lower Saxony to Marburg in the future. Otherwise, he would refrain from participating in the Archives School Marburg.87 To finally commit the archive administration of Lower Saxony and with it a large part of the British occupation zone to Marburg, Grieser's demand was given way. Thus, less than two years after the dissolution of the state of Prussia by the Allied Control Commission, the Prussian requirements were established in the West German catchment area of the Archives School Marburg, with the exception of Bavaria, as a quasistandard for the next generation of archivists.

While broad reception of the content of the doctrines of Anglo-American archival studies cannot be discerned, new impulses have nevertheless seeped in from outside, for example, in the support of government agencies or archival preservation, in this case from France. From 1951 onward, a large number of German archivists, and above all the lecturers at the Marburg school, attended the so-called stage technique international d'archives at the École des Chartes in Paris, an advanced training course lasting several weeks, which familiarized them with the conditions and methods of the French archival system, which in the times of Prussia and the Reich had gained the highest recognition.88 Prof. Dr. Paul Fridolin Kehr, who later became general director of the Prussian state archives, had admitted during the First World War in 1915 that “the French archives were probably the best in the world.”89 After 1945, this reputation continued, though under different circumstances, while Anglo-American archival studies apparently promised less profit.90 The influence of French archivists on West German archival studies after 1945 cannot be examined more closely in this article and must be left to later research.91

A certain openness to innovation can thus be observed, but the German archivists left no doubt that they were neither prepared to give up the status Prussian archival science had reached, nor to shake the traditional orientation of the profession between administration and academic research. On the contrary: the teaching of administrative expertise combined with the training of experienced historian-archivists, from whose ranks a considerable number of university professors were to emerge, was the declared goal of all the intended training institutions after the Second World War,92 including the Archives School Marburg.93 In fact, between 1945 and 1970, a considerable number of academic archivists were appointed to full university professorships. Under the presidency of Vollmer and his successors, the VdA undertook numerous efforts to raise the status of the archivists to that of university professors, a position that had already been the standard of comparison before 1945 and was now to remain so.94 The ideas propagated by the American archivists were far ahead of their time in Germany. It was not until the 1990s, based on a discussion of the principles of archival appraisal, that a debate about the job description of archivists began. With recourse to American thinkers such as Ernst Posner or Theodore Schellenberg, a greater willingness to provide services, but also more proximity to the administration, was called for. The Prussian-style archivist came under considerable pressure.95 A general change in society and the challenges of digitization contributed to the change in the job profile. The attention to diversified user groups, the service to society, and the reference to a democracy-promoting function of archives are nowadays a natural part of the archival profession in Germany.96 In the decades after the Second World War, however, the professional status of academic archivists either remained largely constant, or they attempted to develop their own status in academic terms.

American influences could have a lasting effect where they were compatible with this self-image or could even serve to strengthen it. The majority of archivists were—at least to the outside world—prepared to give up their national limitations and open themselves to international contexts. At the ceremonial opening of the Archives School Marburg, the Hessian minister of culture, Dr. Erwin Stein, gave a speech written by Sante and Vollmer, in which he declared the teaching of international contexts to be the central educational goal with regard to recent history: at the archives school, a generation of archivists had to be raised who “could grasp European history in its manifold interrelationships with the world” and who were capable of making visible “the great contexts that have brought the peoples into inseparable dependence on one another.”97 Born, who was present at this ceremony along with Posner, donated extensive specialist literature to the new training center and expressed the hope that “progressive ideas” would be taught in Marburg in the future.98 But a closer look at Stein's speech reveals that the international references are at the same time linked to Prussian tradition. The disintegration of Prussia and the resulting parceling out into individual state archives administrations threatened the young archivists with “the danger of narrowing their horizons.” To remedy this problem, “the tradition cultivated in Berlin-Dahlem must find a new home in Marburg.” The archives school and the broad horizon it communicated were also a substitute for the regrettable loss of Prussia.

Irrespective of its justification, this appeal was not limited as an ornamental element to the ceremonial opening speech, but found its way into the conceptual considerations and teaching activities of the archives school. In the form of presentations by foreign guest speakers, stays abroad by lecturers and students, involvement in international committees, archival development aid for other nations, and foreign guest students, the German training of archivists was internationalized to a certain degree.99 Ludwig Dehio, who was generally in favor of a revision of the science of history and its international opening,100 consciously promoted this development as a founding director of the Archives School Marburg and saw it as a means of “conquering new scientific ground.”101

Leading archivists such as Sante and Vollmer from then on referred to their broad international network. Ironically, during the Second World War, they had established these networks with Belgian and Dutch colleagues as commissioners for archival protection in the Wehrmacht-occupied countries and, in the postwar period, with the Allied archival protection officers. As university historians in Germany were also under pressure to become internationalized,102 archivists used their new cosmopolitanism to raise the profile of their own profession. With regard to their better relations abroad, they considered themselves clearly superior to university historians and asserted this on their own behalf.103 Any dissonances between claim and implementation were smoothed out; thus, as time went by, Ernst Posner was increasingly reinterpreted as one of their own guild brothers who had simply taught Prussian science to the Americans. The achievements of the Prussian Posner on the other side of the Atlantic, therefore, partly radiated back to the German profession. His development and the sceptical view of his professional roots were skillfully ignored.104

In the decades after the Second World War, the influence of American archival theory and practice on German archival studies thus led to a broadening of horizons beyond the borders of one's own state or language area. The partly elitist status of the profession could not be broken by the overseas influences, but rather they even unintentionally promoted it by selectively absorbing those influences and making them the basis for further professionalization.

Competing concepts and a complicated cooperation and opposition between the various groups of actors characterized the archival policy of the Anglo-American occupying powers after the Second World War. While research on the postwar period emphasizes the close political and economic ties between the American and the British occupation zones,105 a serious rupture occurred in the field of archival policy only a few months after the weapons fell silent. While cooperation in this area between the occupying powers was now difficult to achieve, the archive protection officers of both countries could not do without the cooperation of experienced German archivists. Although they had often been heavily entangled with National Socialism, they were involved at an early stage. British and American both postponed a cleaning and reorganization of the German archivists as an objective for the next generation of professionals and declared retraining an educational goal. For this purpose, a new institution for professional training had to be set up, in which the German archivists also had a great interest, not least in being able to pass on Prussian traditions to the next generation without, however, reviving the Prussian archive administration itself. Thus, for some years, professional training and education became the most important issue in the German archival system after 1945.

In alliance with the influential archive directors of the state archive administrations, a competition for the foundation of an archives school began under the leadership of the occupying powers. At first, the British Zone with the trio of Meekings, Vollmer, and Bauermann seemed to win the game. Within the American Zone, Berlin, Marburg, and Munich rivaled each other. For various reasons, in particular the good relationship between Sante and Born, Marburg prevailed. The greater perseverance of the American occupying power ensured that the British were driven out and the archives school was founded under the aegis of the United States. In this way, the Americans secured a decisive influence on the German archival system and would potentially be in the best position to reshape it in the future. Because the MFAA's direct power of disposal over the German archives had ceased after 1947, such a reorganization had to take place indirectly, as a gentle re-education, and could not simply be commanded. Posner, socialized in the Prussian archival cosmos, and Born, who was influenced by him, were constantly at work to ensure this. Through presentations, publications, and discussions, they endeavored to transform the German archives sector into a social service provider, to break up the elitist understanding of the profession of archivist, and to open up the profession beyond national borders.

How is the American influence on the reshaping of the West German archival system immediately after 1945 to be assessed? An answer to this question must be twofold. On the one hand, Born's commitment to the Hessian archives school plans cemented the archival structures of Germany, which still exist today. Thus, the majority of state archive officials will continue to be trained in Marburg, and the Archives School in Munich will continue to exist in Bavaria. The journal Der Archivar, which was extended to the American Zone as a concession to the archivists of the British occupation zone, is still the leading journal of the profession, which is also organized in the VdA, the professional association recognized by the Americans.

On the other hand, the substantive goals of Born and Posner are to be considered: the results of these efforts were extremely mixed. There was no striking change in the occupational profile; the Prussian tradition was not abandoned. Successful under the American influence, however, was an adaptation of international issues and contexts. This partial realignment, however, was incorporated into the traditional image of Prussian-style archivists and added a further facet to their professionalism. Thus, the American involvement in the field of German archives had a strong institution-building effect, but could only have a limited impact on re-education with regard to the professional content and orientation of the profession.


Amtsblatt des Kontrollrats in Deutschland No. 1, October 29, 1945, Proklamation No. 2, September 20, 1945, Part XII No. 47, pp. 8–19, here p. 19. See also Friedrich P. Kahlenberg, Deutsche Archive in West und Ost. Zur Entwicklung des staatlichen Archivwesens seit 1945 (Düsseldorf 1972), 25–26; Astrid M. Eckert, Kampf um die Akten. Die Westalliierten und die Rückgabe von deutschem Archivgut nach dem Zweiten Weltkrieg (Stuttgart, 2004), 123–24. We would like to thank Prof. Astrid M. Eckert, who encouraged us to write this article, and our editor, Ulrike Guthrie, for her swift and precise work.


To name only one example: in the form of the so-called Kassationskommission (appraisal commission), the Prussian archive administration developed common standards for archival appraisal during the 1930s. Heinrich Otto Meisner, “Schutz und Pflege des staatlichen Archivgutes mit besonderer Berücksichtigung des Kassationsproblems,” Archivalische Zeitschrift 45 (1939): 34–51; Hermann Meinert, “Die Aktenbewertung. Versuch einer methodologischen Zusammenfassung,” Mitteilungsblatt der preußischen Archivverwaltung 8 (1939): 103–10; Matthias Buchholz, Archivische Überlieferungsbildung im Spiegel von Bewertungsdiskussion und Repräsentativität (Köln, 2011), 23–24. The Prussian archive administration also carried out fundamental work on the principle of provenance: Philip Haas, “‘Organisches Wachstum' und Provenienzprinzip. Grundlage oder Altlast der Archivwissenschaft?,” Archivalische Zeitschrift 98 (2022), in publication.


See, among others: Torsten Musial, Staatsarchive im Dritten Reich. Zur Geschichte des staatlichen Archivwesens in Deutschland 1933–1945 (Potsdam, 1996); Tobias Winter, Die deutsche Archivwissenschaft und das “Dritte Reich.” Disziplingeschichtliche Betrachtungen von den 1920 ern bis in die 1950er Jahre (Berlin, 2018); Ingeborg Schnelling-Reinicke, “Gegeneinander—miteinander: Der preußische Führungsanspruch unter den deutschen Staatsarchiven und das Reichsarchiv,” in Archivarbeit im und für den Nationalsozialismus. Die preußischen Staatsarchive vor und nach dem Machtwechsel von 1933, ed. Sven Kriese (Berlin, 2015), 145–64; Sven Kriese, “Gute Freundschaft mit dem kleineren bayerischen Bruder.' Die Generaldirektoren der Preußischen Staatsarchive und Reichsarchivleiter Albert Brackmann und Ernst Zipfel und die Staatlichen Archive Bayerns,” Archivalische Zeitschrift 96 (2019): 11–30, here 17–26.


See, among others: Laila Hussein Moustafa, “Cultural Heritage and Preservation: Lessons from World War II and the Contemporary Conflict in the Middle East,” American Archivist 79, no. 2 (2016): 320–38, See also, Monuments Men and Women Foundation, “The Heroes,”; and the crowdsourced transcription project of some of the MFAA records at Smithsonian, “Monuments Men,”


The developments in the French occupation zone are not the subject of this study for several reasons. The majority of the archives in the French occupation zone had not been part of the Prussian archival administration and had therefore been influenced by Prussian archival science at most indirectly. After 1945, the archivists working there were not involved in the discussion about a new archive school and a reform of training. In addition, there is a lack of preliminary studies on the archival system in the French occupation zone, which cannot be remedied here.


The following monograph has recently been published on the outlined complex of topics: Philip Haas and Martin Schürrer, Was von Preußen blieb. Das Ringen um die Ausbildung und Organisation des archivarischen Berufsstandes nach 1945 (What Remained of Prussia. The Struggle for the Training and Organization of the Archival Profession after 1945) (Marburg, 2020). The present article deepens an aspect that is only partially examined in the book. All German source quotations have been translated into English by the authors.


Johannes Kistenich-Zerfaß, “Auslagerung von Archivgut im Zweiten Weltkrieg. Selbsthilfe der Staatsarchive oder zentrale Steuerung durch den Kommissar für Archivschutz?,” in Archivarbeit im und für den Nationalsozialismus. Die preußischen Staatsarchive vor und nach dem Machtwechsel von 1933, ed. Sven Kriese (Berlin, 2015), 407–76; Martin Schürrer, “Das ‘Synagogenarchiv Königsberg' im Staatlichen Archivlager Göttingen. Der Transfer jüdischen Archivguts von Ostpreußen über Niedersachsen nach Israel—1933–1959,” Niedersächsisches Jahrbuch für Landesgeschichte 90 (2018): 243–67.


Eckert, Kampf um die Akten, 57–69. Numerous studies exist on the beginnings of the Cold War. At this point, we would like to refer to the following standard works: John Lewis Gaddis, The United States and the Origins of the Cold War, 1941–1947 (New York, 1972); Bernd Stöver, Der Kalte Krieg. Geschichte eines radikalen Zeitalters 1947–1991 (München, 2007).


See also, Douglas Cox, “National Archives and International Conflicts: The Society of American Archivists and War,” American Archivist 74, no. 2 (2011): 451–81, here 457–58 and 472,


Ernst Posner, “Public Records under Military Occupation,” The American Historical Review 49, no. 2 (1944): 213–27, here p. 217, With a reference to the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, Posner describes taking possession of archives as a central war aim: “the archives of the enemy were the arcanum arcanorum that contained information on his secret policies, his resources, and his administrative techniques, hence, getting hold of them, especially the archives of the foreign office, was the urgent desire of the invader.” Oliver W. Holmes recalled that Posner's paper was “the spark that suddenly lit our sluggish imagination and opened our eyes to the importance of protecting records as a military measure.” Oliver W. Holmes, “The National Archives and the Protection of Records in War Areas,” American Archivist 9 (1946): 110–27, here 110–11.


Angela Kaiser-Lahme, “Westalliierte Archivpolitik während und nach dem Zweiten Weltkrieg. Die Beschlagnahmung, Sicherung und Auswertung deutscher Archive und Dokumente durch die Amerikaner und Briten 1943–1946,” Der Archivar 45 (1992): 397–410, here 398.


Holmes, “National Archives and the Protection”; Seymour J. Pomrenze, “Policies and Procedures for the Protection, Use, and Return of Captured German Records,” in Captured German and Related Records. A National Archives Conference, ed. Robert Wolfe (Athens, OH, 1974), 5–30; Lester K. Born, “The Ministerial Collecting Center near Kassel, Germany,” American Archivist 13, no. 3 (1950): 237–58,; Lester K. Born, “The Archives and Libraries of Postwar Germany,” The American Historical Review 56, no. 1 (1950): 34–57,; Hilary Jenkinson and H. E. Bell, Italian Archives during the War and at Its Close (London, 1947); Cecil Anthony Francis Meekings, “Germany. Archives 1939–1947,” The Year's Work in Librarianship 14 (1947): 314–20.


The National Archives, London (TNA), PRO 30/90/3, Duties of Archives Officer [undated].


TNA, PRO 30/90/13, Duties of Archives Officer.


Posner, “Public Records,” 217.


Cornelia Rauh-Kühne, “Die Entnazifizierung und die deutsche Gesellschaft,” Archiv für Sozialgeschichte 35 (1995): 35–70, here 60. Meekings reports that the denazification regulations were interpreted very broadly for the benefit of the archives: “For all but the blackest the regulations were interpreted with the well being of the institution as a guide. No one was removed whilst he could be of service.” Meekings, “Germany,” 315.


The denazification of German archivists and the problems that arose with it have been the focus of extensive research in the last years. In general, the archivists, who were often entangled in National Socialism, succeeded in denying their involvement in the Nazi regime by shifting all the blame onto Ernst Zipfel. This topic will not be further explored in this article. See, with references to further sources and literature: Haas and Schürrer, Was von Preußen blieb, 54–62.


TNA, PRO 30/90/15, Budget for the Repository Goslar from Meekings [undated].


Holmes, “National Archives and the Protection,” 120.


See, in detail, Eckert, Kampf um die Akten, 76–104.


The evaluation and form of publication of the files of the German Foreign Ministry and the transfer of these documents from Marburg to Berlin into the care of the Americans continuously caused conflicts between the two Allies. Eckert, Kampf um die Akten, 101–17; Paul Sweet, “Der Versuch amtlicher Einflußnahme auf die Edition der ‘Documents on German Foreign Policy, 1933–1941,'” Vierteljahrshefte für Zeitgeschichte 39 (1991), 265–303.


The Windsor file contains information on the abdicated King Edward VIII and his wife, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, and their sympathies for Hitler and Nazi Germany. When these documents were discovered, the British asked their American colleagues to destroy them to avert potential harm to the royal family. The Americans refused. George Kent, “Editing Diplomatic Documents. A Review of Official U.S. and German Document Series,” American Archivist 57, no. 3 (1994): 462–81, here 473–76,


TNA, PRO 30/90/3, Report from Major R. H. Ellis to Brigadier E. S. B. Gaffney about a visit to SHAEF on 19.06.1945.


TNA, PRO 30/90/3, Meekings note on document centers [undated].


Universitätsarchiv Münster, Best. 174 Nr. 608, Letter from Vollmer to Bauermann, May 6, 1946. On Vollmer, see Gerhard Menk and Sierk F. M. Plantinga, “Die Ehre der deutschen Staatsarchivare und Historiker wahren. Bernhard Vollmer und seine Tätigkeit in den Niederlanden,” in Das deutsche Archivwesen und der Nationalsozialismus, ed. Robert Kretzschmar, Astrid M. Eckert et al. (Essen, 2007), 217–73.


TNA, PRO 30/90/1, White-List of German Personnel [undated].


Universitätsarchiv Münster, Best. 174 Nr. 677, Letter from Vollmer to Bauermann, November 22, 1945.


See on this complex of topics: Haas and Schürrer, Was von Preußen blieb, 14–62.


Jürgen Kloosterhuis, “Staatsarchiv ohne Staat. Das GStA in den ersten Nachkriegsjahren 1945 bis 1947. Eine archivgeschichtliche Dokumentation,” in Archivarbeit im und für den Nationalsozialismus, 479–599.


Geheimes Staatsarchiv Preußischer Kulturbesitz, Berlin (GStA), Rep. 178 B Nr. 1643, Letter from Bauermann to Wendland, August 12, 1946.


Haas and Schürrer, Was von Preußen blieb, 76–79. “Provincial autonomy” was intended by the British side in the field of archives. TNA, PRO 30/90/3, Duties of Archives Officer [undated].


On Georg Winter, see, among others, Astrid M. Eckert, “Im Fegefeuer der Entbräunung. Deutsche Archivare auf dem Weg in den Nachkrieg,” in Das deutsche Archivwesen und der Nationalsozialismus, 426–48, here 434–44; Stefan Lehr, “Ein fast vergessener ‘Osteinsatz.' Deutsche Archivare im Generalgouvernement und im Reichskommissariat Ukraine” (Düsseldorf, 2007), 182–208.


As the Prussian archivists repeatedly pointed out, Winter was the one who provided Zipfel with the necessary archival expertise. He had gained great renown through an international scholarly debate with the Swedish archivist Carl Gustav Weibull on the principle of provenance (the so-called Winter-Weibull controversy). See Carl Gustav Weibull, Arkivordningsprinciper (Lund, 1930); Georg Winter, “Archivordnungsprinzipien,” Korrespondenzblatt des Gesamtvereins der deutschen Geschichts- und Altertumsvereine 78 (1930): 138–47; Carl Gustav Weibull, “Archivordnungsprinzipien. Geschichtlicher Überblick und Neuorientierung,” Archivalische Zeitschrift 42/43 (1934), 52–72; Haas, “‘Organisches Wachstum' und Provenienzprinzip.”


Landesarchiv Nordrheinwestfalen Abt. Rheinland, Duisburg (LAV NRW), NW-4 Nr. 129, Letter from Kisky to the Minister of Finance Dr. Weitz, September 17, 1947.


GStA, Rep. 178 B Nr. 1008, Note of conversation between Born and Wendland, April 24, 1947.


On Sante, see, among others: Els Herrebout, “Georg Sante und der deutsche Archivschutz in Belgien während des Zweiten Weltkrieges,” in Das deutsche Archivwesen und der Nationalsozialismus, 208–16; Gerhard Menk, “Ein Wiesbadener Archivar als Graue Eminenz im Archivwesen der Nachkriegszeit: Georg Wilhelm Sante,” Archivnachrichten aus Hessen 10, no. 1 (2010): 33–39. The close and confidential relations between Born and Sante are described in the mutual letters in Santes's Nachlass (the collection of manuscripts, notes, correspondence left behind when a scholar dies), Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv, Wiesbaden (HHStAW), 1150 Nr. 236.


Hessisches Staatsarchiv, Marburg (HStAM), 156 e Nr. 677, Letter from Dehio to Sante, August 13, 1951.


Ludwig Dehio was one of the leading German historians of the postwar period. He held a key position as editor of the Historische Zeitschrift, the most important journal of history in Germany. As founding director of the Marburg School of Archives, he shaped the entire profession of archivists. See Thomas Becker, Abkehr von Preußen. Ludwig Dehio und die deutsche Geschichtswissenschaft nach 1945 (Aichach, 2001); Sergio Pistone, Ludwig Dehio (Neapel, 1977); Theodor Schieder, “Ludwig Dehio zum Gedächtnis 1888–1963,” Historische Zeitschrift 201 (1965): 1–12.


In fact, this so-called archives school had consisted of an assistant professorship for historical auxiliary sciences, held by Dr. Paul Fridolin Kehr, and lectures on archival studies by the head of the Marburg State Archive, Dr. Karl Friedrich Gustav Könnecke. Together with some professors of the Philipps University of Marburg, they also formed an examination committee for the examination of archive aspirants. The archives school had already been considerably weakened in 1895 with Kehr's departure and soon after lost its monopoly on examinations and led only a shadowy existence until its dissolution in 1904. See Michèle Schubert, “Paul Kehr und die Gründung des Marburger Seminars für Historische Hilfswissenschaften im Jahre 1894. Der Weg zur preußischen Archivschule Marburg,” Archivalische Zeitschrift 81 (1998): 1–59.


National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), Washington RG 260 File 31, Letter of the Staatsarchivrat [State Archives Councillor] Dr. Walther E. Vock to the US MFAA, November 24, 1946; Letter of the Director of the State Archives Dr. Hans Pregler to the US MFAA, December 2, 1946; Bayerisches Hauptstaatsarchiv, München (BayHStA), Abgabe 9/2012, lfd. Nr. 425, Letter from Hösl to MFAA–Munich Department, November 2, 1946.


Haas and Schürrer, Was von Preußen blieb, 85–88.


Born, “The Archives and Libraries,” 48.


See, among others: HHStAW, 1150 Nr. 236, Letter from Sante to Born, April 27, 1949.


NARA, RG 260 File 31, Protocol of the Wiesbaden Archive Conference of December 10, 1946.


HStAM, 156 e Nr. 650, Letter from Spieß to Bauermann and Vollmer, January 14, 1947.


LAV NRW, RW-29 Nr. 67, Protocol of Vollmer about the meeting with Major Meekings in Bünde, November 19, 1946.


TNA, PRO 30/90/13, Opening speech by A. J. L. McDonnel at the meeting of archivists in the British Zone in Bünde, June 25, 1946.


See Haas and Schürrer, Was von Preußen blieb, 36–37; Philip Haas and Martin Schürrer, “Zwischen Trümmern und Tradition ein Neuaufbruch auf Raten. Gründung und Anfangsphase des Verbands deutscher Archivarinnen und Archivare anlässlich seines 75-jährigen Bestehens,” Archivar 74 (2021): 149–57. Today, this association is called “Verband deutscher Archivarinnen und Archivare.”


Meekings, “Germany,” 314.


NARA, RG 260 File 31, Note of conversation between Theodore A. Heinrich (MFAA) and Sante and Cremer, December 17, 1946.


TNA, PRO 30/90/13, Protocol of the third meeting of the Archivbeirats [Archive Advisory Board] in Bünde, on December 11, 1946.


NARA, RG 260 File 31, Note of conversation between Theodore A. Heinrich (MFAA) and Sante and Cremer.


GStA, Rep. 178 B Nr. 1008, Discussion note between Born and Wendland, April 24, 1947.


Haas and Schürrer: Was von Preußen blieb, 36.


“Archivartagung in Bamberg am 10. und 11. April 1947,” Der Archivar 1 (1947–1948): 9–14, here 12.


TNA, PRO 30/90/13, Letter from an “Anne” to Meekings, January 15, 1947. Underlined in the original.


HHStAW, 1150 Nr. 236, Note from Sante about a conversation with Born on August 4,1948.


Ken Munden, “In Memoriam Lester Kruger Born (1903–1969),” American Archivist 33, no. 1 (1970): 79–80, here 79,; Eleanor Mattern, “World War II Archivists: In the Field and on the Home Front,” Library and Archival Security 24 (2011): 61–81, here 69.


Jane Zhang, “Archival Scholarship in the Nation's Capital. Ernst Posner,” in Archival Research and Education Selected Papers from the 2014 AERI Conference, ed. Richard J. Cox et al. (2015), 135–55, here 137.


In his obituary for Posner, Ross gives the exiled Prussian the unofficial title “Dean of American Archivists.” Rodney A. Ross, “Ernst Posner: The Bridge Between the Old World and the New,” American Archivist 44, no. 4 (1981): 304–12, here 304,


See, in particular, Ross, “Ernst Posner,” 306–7; Angelika Menne-Haritz, “Ernst Posner–Professionalität und Emigration,” in Archivarbeit im und für den Nationalsozialismus, 111–41, here 126–27. For the beginning of the training of archivists in the United States, see Karl L. Trever, “The Organization and Status of Archival Training in the United States,” American Archivist 11, no. 2 (1948): 154–63,; Samuel Flagg Bemis, “The Training of Archivists in the United States,” American Archivist 2, no. 3 (1939): 154–61,; Ernst Posner, “What, Then, Is the American Archivist, This New Man?,” American Archivist 20, no. 1 (1957): 3–11,


Posner also introduced the American public to the archival science of other countries. See, for example, Ernst Posner, “European Experiences in Training Archivists,” American Archivist 4, no. 1 (1941): 26–37,; Ernst Posner, “Archives in Medieval Islam,” American Archivist 35 (1972): 291–316,; Ernst Posner, “The Athenian Cavalry Archives of the Fourth and Third Centuries BC,” American Archivist 37, no. 4 (1974): 579–82,


See, in particular, Dietmar Schenk, “Die Deutsche Archivwissenschaft im Nationalsozialismus und in der Nachkriegszeit,” Der Archivar 70 (2017): 402–11.


Angelika Menne-Haritz, “Ernst Posner's Archives and the Public Interest,” American Archivist 69, no. 2 (2005): 323–32, here 323,


This is impressively illustrated by his explanations in Ernst Posner, “Das Archivwesen in den Vereinigten Staaten Amerikas. Bericht über die Tagung süddeutscher Archivare in Stuttgart am 28. und 29. Juni 1949,” Der Archivar 4 (1950): 63–75.


The concept of unbroken custody, that is, the idea that archival materials must be passed on in an unbroken chain of authorized state custody to preserve their authenticity, is still completely foreign to German archival studies. Hilary Jenkinson rightly said that, in this respect, the English archive tradition makes “some real contribution to the sum of Archive Science.” Jenkinson, A Manual of Archive Administration Including the Problems of War Archives and Archive Making (London, 1922), 9. On Posner's reception of this concept, see Posner, ”Das Archivwesen in den Vereinigten Staaten Amerikas,” 69 and 74.


See Eckert, Kampf um die Akten, 129–30, with a detailed source quotation to Posner on the state fixation and scientific self-sufficiency of the archivists.


See Heinrich Otto Meisner, Der Archivar. Die akademischen Berufe, edited by the Akademisches Auskunftsamt Berlin in connection with Amt für Berufserziehung und Betriebsführung in der Deutschen Arbeitsfront, 2nd ed., n.d. (first edition published in 1938), here, the strict admission requirements on 14–15. Samuel Bemis claimed in 1939 that the IfA “has the distinction of being the most serious and rigorous school of higher learning in the world for the special preparation of archivists.” Bemis, “The Training of Archivists,” 156.


See Johanna Weiser, Geschichte der Preußischen Archivverwaltung und ihrer Leiter. Von den Anfängen unter Staatskanzler Hardenberg bis zur Auflösung im Jahre 1945 (Köln, 2000) (Veröffentlichungen aus den Archiven Preußischer Kulturbesitz 7), 66–69.


Weiser, Geschichte der Preußischen Archivverwaltung, 120.


Gerhard Hetzer, “Überlieferungsbildung und Politik. Kontinuitäten und Wandel des Archivierens im Nationalsozialismus,” Archivalische Zeitschrift 96 (2019): 347–74, here 352.


The German archives . . . have always been staffed with archivists who regarded themselves primarily as servants of the state. In time they recognized their responsibilities to the research scholar but never have they thought of the papers in their custody as the treasure-trove of the people, as something which should be used to bring back the past and to contribute to the cultural enjoyment of the general public. Not only were the archives bureaucratic in concept, but by nature they were nationalistic.” Lester K. Born, “The Archives and Libraries of Postwar Germany,” The American Historical Review 56 (1950): 34–57, here 34.


GStA, Rep. 178 B Nr. 1008, Note of conversation between Born and Wendland, April 24, 1947.


Posner, “Das Archivwesen in den Vereinigten Staaten Amerikas,” 75.


Born never ceased to stress the point of international cooperation among archivists: “Archivists must be aware of ideas, must be ready to exchange ideas and materials with their colleagues in other countries.” See Lester K. Born, “International Cooperation to Preserve Historical Source Materials,” American Archivist 15, no. 3 (1952): 219–30, here 220, Sante made clever use of this. See HHStAW, 1150, Nr. 236, Note from Sante, August 4, 1948, Agenda item III: “In connection with this [the archives school], I stressed the need to re-establish closer INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS between the archives; they are a necessity because history does not stop at national borders. Born replied that the military government, for its part, was in favour of maintaining international relations, especially with its western neighbours, the Netherlands, Belgium and France, and that outside of Germany, a lively academic exchange was already underway again, which also extended to the archives.”


NARA, RG 260 File 31, Letter from Born to Posner, March 11, 1947. During his work in Europe, Born became quite disillusioned with the European willingness to adopt American ideas: “We Americans should have no illusion about the reception of American plans and proposals, even of American money, in Europe. I shall not make the mistake of risking a generalization. I shall say only that views differ widely, and that not all are friendly.“ See Born, “International Cooperation,” 222.


See, among others, David Phillips, Educating the Germans. People and Policy in the British Zone of Germany, 1945–1949 (London, 2018); Wolfgang Benz, Deutschland unter alliierter Besatzung. 1945–1949 (Stuttgart, 2009), 111–36.


Posner, “Das Archivwesen in den Vereinigten Staaten Amerikas,” 63–75.


Born even asked Meekings, whom he had outbid in the archives school question, whether he could provide the Marburg staff with special English literature, as the lecturers “like professional German personal elsewhere had no connection to international publications.” See TNA, PRO 30/90/2, Letter from Born to Meekings, June 10, 1949.


See HHStAW, 1150 Nr. 236, Letter from Born to Sante, May 2, 1949, and the attached ICA Constitution.


See HHStAW, 1150 Nr. 236, Letter from Sante to Born, April 27, 1949.


See Johannes Papritz, “Die Institution der Gastvorlesung an der Archivschule Marburg,” Der Archivar 9 (1956), 303–12; Menne-Haritz, “Ernst Posner—Professionalität und Emigration,” 134–37.


Bernhard Vollmer, Literaturbericht. [Review] Lester K. Born, The Archives and Libraries of Postwar Germany, Der Archivar 4 (1950): 78–79.


An archival traineeship that finishes after two years with the Second State Examination. This Archival State Examination was and still is almost without exception the prerequisite for employment in the higher state archive service in Germany.


See LAV NRW, NW-4 Nr. 129, Letter from Brackmann to Dehio, September 14,1948. Brackmann considered it advisable to refrain from doing a doctorate in future.


Ulrich Wendland notes how much importance Born attached to the fact “that in future not only applicants with a fully completed academic education would be admitted to training for the higher archives service, but also beginners or doctoral candidates and those aspirants who had already proven their suitability and who had absolutely committed themselves to catching up on their academic studies and the necessary examinations in due course.” GStA, Rep. 178 B No. 1008, Note of a conversation between Born and Wendland, April 24, 1947.


Grieser demanded for his Archivreferendare, in addition to a doctorate in philosophy with at least a “good” grade, a state examination for teaching at Gymnasien (possibly comparable with a college-preparatory school), passed with good results, in history and German as major subjects and Latin and French as minor subjects. For the civil servants of the upper civil service, the Abitur (a qualification granted by a Gymnasien) was awarded, with knowledge of Latin and German as major subjects and Latin and French as minor subjects. See LAV NRW, NW-4 Nr. 129, Letter from Grieser to Kisky, June 18, 1948.


See Paule Rene-Bazin and Marie-Francoise Tammaro, “Le Stage Technique International d'Archives: An Historical Overview and Future Prospects,” American Archivist 53, no. 3 (1988): 356–62,


GStA, PK I HA Rep. 89 Nr. 3787 Pag. 91-95v, Memorandum by Kehr on the aims and tasks of the Prussian archives. Reprinted in Weiser, Geschichte der Preußischen Archivverwaltung, 262–67, here 264. It should be noted, however, that Kehr makes this judgment with reference to the École des Chartes to propagate the need for a similar archives school for Prussia. In this respect, his report is tendentious, but, nevertheless, it had to be based on a real appreciation of the French archival system by the addressees of the letter.


In the decades following the Second World War, articles on French archival science are omnipresent in German journals, which is not the case for Anglo-American archival science. Even topics that emanated from or were influenced by Anglo-American archival systems were received by German archivists via the French detour. Records management, for example, was received under the French catchword “Archives en formation.” See Walter Goldinger, “Der einheitliche Aktenfond—ein Ziel der Zukunft,” Der Archivar 6 (1951): 112–14; Klemens Stadler, “Ausscheidungsgrundsätze für Akten der Staatsbehörden,” Der Archivar 6 (1951), 114–16.


First approaches to this topic can be found in Philip Haas, “Von Preußen über Europa nach Afrika. Die internationalen Aktivitäten der Archivschule Marburg und die Erschließung der Kolonialakten Deutsch-Ostafrikas,” Blätter für Deutsche Landesgeschichte 155 (2020): 659–94.


With numerous source references in Haas and Schürrer, Was von Preußen blieb, especially 62–102.


HStAM, 502 Nr. 79, Letter from Sante to Prof. Dr. Joseph Grisar (Pontificia Università Gregoriana), March 2, 1951: “We do not want to train archivists in Marburg who only know their profession, but we want to train primarily scientific archivists, i.e. those species of historians who have a particularly close relationship to the sources. . . . We are fortunate to be able to call upon professors who were themselves archivists in the past—they are the teachers given at the archives school.”


On the circumstances before 1945, see, in particular, Winter, “Die deutsche Archivwissenschaft und das Dritte Reich',” 350–56. For the decades after the Second World War, see Philip Haas, “Neuorganisation der Geschichtswissenschaft? Universitätshistoriker, Archivare und ihre Berufsverbände in der Nachkriegszeit. Der kombinierte Historiker- und Archivtag des Jahres 1951 in Marburg,” Historisches Jahrbuch 141 (2021): 285–324.


See Angelika Menne-Haritz, “40 Jahre Archivschule Marburg. Perspektiven der Archivarsausbildung,” Der Archivar 42 (1989): 165–76; Angelika Menne-Haritz, “Umrisse einer zukünftigen Archivwissenschaft,” Der Archivar (Beiband 2). Nordrhein-Westfälisches Hauptstaatsarchiv, “50 Jahre Verein deutscher Archivare” (Siegburg, 1998), 177–85, here 183–85; Volker Schockenhoff, “Nur ‘zölibatäre Vereinsamung?'—Zur Situation der Archivwissenschaft in der Bundesrepublik 1946–1996,” Der Archivar (Beiband 2): 163–75. A review of the dispute is drawn up by Robert Kretzschmar, “Die ‘neue archivische Bewertungsdiskussion' und ihre Fußnoten. Zur Standortbestimmung einer fast zehnjährigen Kontroverse,” Archivalische Zeitschrift 82 (1999): 7–40.


See, for instance, “Die Archive am Beginn des 3. Jahrtausends. Archivarbeit zwischen Rationalisierungsdruck und Serviceerwartungen. Referate des 71. Deutschen Archivtags 2000 in Nürnberg,” Der Archivar (Beiband 6). Siegburg 2002; “Verlässlich, richtig echt—Demokratie braucht Archive! 88. Deutscher Archivtag 2018 in Rostock” (Tagungsdokumentationen zum Deutschen Archivtag, Band 23). Fulda 2019.


Angela Menne-Haritz, “Die Eröffnungsrede am 2. Juni 1949: Dokument eines Neubeginns [gehalten von Erwin Stein],” in Überlieferung gestalten. Der Archivschule Marburg zum 40. Jahrestag ihrer Gründung, ed. Angela Menne-Haritz (Marburg, 1989), 25–29.


Rainer Polley, “Erwin Stein und die Archivschule Marburg,” in Erwin Stein (1903–1992). Politisches Wirken und Ideale eines hessischen Nachkriegspolitikers, ed. Andreas Hedwig and Gerhard Menk (Marburg, 2004), 159–72, here 168–69. For the opening, see also Fritz Wolff, “Organisation und Lehrplan der Archivschule Marburg (1947–1972),” Der Archivar 26 (1973): 157–68, here 159.


See Haas, “Von Preußen über Europa nach Afrika”; Haas, “Deutsche Akten Afrikas. Erschließung und Verfilmung von Kolonialakten durch die Archivschule Marburg und das Bundesarchiv,” Archivnachrichten aus Hessen 19, no. 2 (2019): 65–68.


See, in particular, Thomas Becker, Abkehr von Preußen. Ludwig Dehio und die deutsche Geschichtswissenschaft nach 1945 (Aichach, 2001).


LAV NRW, NW-4 Nr. 129, Protocol of the second advisory board meeting of the archives school, September 22, 1950.


In the years after the Second World War, a rich revisionist literature was created, which demanded a turning away from Prussian-German traditions, including nationalism. See, in particular, Winfried Schulze, Deutsche Geschichtswissenschaft nach 1945 (München, 1989), 46–76 and 302–11. A list of relevant titles of “Revision Literature” can be found on p. 47.


LAV NRW, RW-29 Nr. 21, Letter from Sante to Vollmer, April 30, 1951. In this letter, it is explained in what the archivists are superior to the university professors. They also had better connections to the administration and politics. Sante, the ministerial advisor, emphasized that he could regularly and successfully point out the international orientation of the archivists to the ministerial bureaucracy.


Very clearly at Wolfgang A. Mommsen, “Ernst Posner, Mittler zwischen deutschem und amerikanischem Archivwesen. Zu seinem 75. Geburtstag,” Der Archivar 20 (1967): 217–30, here 229–30. An opportunity to actually put his archival ideas into practice in Germany opened up for Posner in 1950–1951 during the founding phase of the Federal Archives in Germany. Posner was brought into play as founding director by influential German archivists, but without pursuing his vocation with ultimate dedication. His nomination was rather seen as a concession to the Americans, in the hope that Posner would decide against remigration. In the end, Posner also declined. See, with source documents, Eckert, “Entbräunung,” 443.


See, among others, Benz, Alliierte Besatzung, 141; Gunter Mai, Der Alliierte Kontrollrat in Deutschland 1945–1948. Alliierte Einheit—deutsche Teilung? (München, 1995), 64ff.

Author notes

Philip Haas (born in 1986) is a German state archivist in the service of the state of Lower Saxony (Niedersächsisches Landesarchiv) in Wolfenbüttel. He studied history, classics, German language and literature, and educational science at the University of Marburg and the University of Innsbruck, graduating with a PhD in history of the early modern period. From 2017 until 2019, he worked in the state archives of Hanover and graduated from the archives school in Marburg. His main historical research interests are history of the early modern period, auxiliary sciences of history, history of the state of Lower Saxony and, in particular, archival history.

Martin Schürrer (born in 1986) is a German state archivist in the service of the state of Lower Saxony (Niedersächsisches Landesarchiv) in Osnabrück. He studied history and German language and literature, and educational science at the University of Münster, graduating with a PhD in medieval history. From 2017 until 2020, he worked in the state archives of Hanover and Oldenburg and graduated from the archives school in Marburg. His main historical research interests are medieval history, history of the early modern period, history of the state of Lower Saxony and, in particular, archival history.