Extract Reprinted From the “Handbook for Military Government in Germany Prior to Defeat or Surrender”, Issued by the Office of the Chief of Staff, SHAEF, December 1944

part iii

Chapter XVI—Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives

Section II


1196. Every Military Government activity in Germany will entail the use of German public documents, business papers, files and records of every kind, official and unofficial. Military, political, administrative, business, and historical interests will be equally concerned in them. The preservation of such records and files is of the utmost importance in connection with disarmament, the eradication of Nazi institutions, the control of property, and generally for the imposition of control. The Military Government Officer will assist the accomplishment of these objectives of military operations in Germany by securing, sealing and preserving records and files and by co-operation with Military Intelligence and other Allied agencies in making such records available.

1197. The European word “archives” is used hi this Handbook as it embraces all accumulations of documents, both active and historical, and whether public or private. Ancient and modern are frequently [Page 1504] preserved together, even forming continuous series. This Section applies, therefore, to German archives of all sorts, whether central, regional or local; whether of the Reich or the Nazi Party or belonging to any corporation, association, firm, person or ecclesiastical body; whether ancient or modern; whether housed separately in a special repository or preserved in the Office in which they are compiled.


1198. It is the policy of the Supreme Commander to ensure the preservation from destruction, alteration or concealment of all German records, documents, plans or archives of value to the attainment of the objectives of Military Government. (This policy is also set forth in Chapter III, Part I, of this Handbook.)

1199. Army Group Commanders will take such steps as are necessary to carry out the above policy. Supreme Headquarters will issue a List of Archives of Western Germany, containing classifications of records and archives of interest to Military Government and specific instructions for the guidance of military personnel in taking steps for their preservation.

1200. Army Group Commanders will seize and hold records and archives of interest to Military Government in cases where they deem such action is necessary for their preservation or as they may be instructed by subsequent directives of Supreme Headquarters.

1201. With respect to such of these records and archives as are not seized and held by them, Army Group Commanders will, in so far as the military situation permits, supervise their custody and preservation and will make provision for their availability to authorized persons where necessary for the continued functioning of organizations and agencies permitted to operate by Military Government.

1202. Records and archives may be of greatest value in the location in which they were created. Therefore, unless required for military purposes or safe preservation no attempt should be made to remove them. When possible duplicates should be made for sending elsewhere.

1203. Care should be used in handling of records and archives in order to avoid disorganizing them and possibly rendering them useless. Inventories, catalogues, indices, etc., should be preserved with the records to which they relate.

1204. Army Group Commanders will take such steps as are consistent with military necessity to ensure that no unnecessary or wanton damage is done to German records and archives by troops under their command. They will, at their discretion, place public buildings or other places containing records and archives of value to Military Government out-of-bounds/off limits to troops.

[Page 1505]

1205. Army Group Commanders will require German authorities to give them any assistance they may need in connection with the discovery, seizure, custody, preservation, disposal or study of German records and archives. Full responsibility for the preservation of records and archives not seized and held by Army Group Commanders will be placed on German authorities.

1206. Army Group Commanders will ensure that responsibility for the preservation of records and archives is placed on all Military Commanders. Military Government and Intelligence Officers will extend full co-operation and assistance to each other with respect to preservation of records and archives in which each is primarily interested.

Instructions to Military Government Officers

1207. Military Government Officers are responsible for carrying out the above policy.

1208. The attainment of the policy of the Supreme Commander with respect to German records and archives will require the attention of every Military Government officer. Although a few Military Government specialist officers may be available, the magnitude of the task and the fact that the records and archives are essential to Military Government operations in almost every field make it a subject of general interest.

1209. The preservation of records and archives is made the responsibility of every Military Commander. The particular interest of G–2/Int. is apparent, particularly in military and Nazi party records. Other staff divisions will have an interest in records of German agencies with which they are concerned. Military Government Detachment Commanders must co-ordinate records and archives activities with other interested elements of the staff, in particular to ensure that all elements have access to records and archives, but that they are not removed from their location except when necessary.

1210. Supreme Headquarters will issue a List of Archives of Western Germany containing classifications and locations of records and archives and guidance for all Military Government officers and military personnel in taking steps for their preservation.

1211. The Military Government Officer will facilitate in every possible way the use of records and archives under his control (particularly “live” records) by authorized users. He will, as far as practicable, ensure that the users are impressed with the necessity of handling the contents of the archives with care and that they are replaced after examination in the order in which they were found. Instances in which archives seem to have been removed, in whole or in part, or tampered with, will be reported.

[Page 1506]

1212. The problem of securing business or administrative archives in current use presents great practical difficulty. The type and importance of the business or administration and its archives and the likelihood of destruction, alteration or dispersal will have to serve as the guide for determining the manner and extent to which the German employees will be allowed to use them.