Legal information

Federal Archives Law

Federal Archives Law, © Jörg F. Müller


The statutory basis for the legal status, competence, responsibilities and use of the Political Archive is explained here.

Important information

Archival material is open to the public

Upon application, anyone can work with Federal Foreign Office archival material. To apply, please use the contact form and complete all fields. Please state the subject, purpose, date and probable duration of your research in the Political Archive. There is no need to send exposés, supporting documentation or similar in the first instance. If we need to see anything like that, we will let you know.

What limitations do you have to bear in mind when consulting archival material?

Use of Federal Foreign Office archival material is regulated by the Federal Archives Act. This means:

  1. in principle, all archival material over 30 years old can be consulted. Exceptions:
  2. records relating to a natural person normally cannot be consulted until ten years after the individual’s death;
  3. classified material cannot be consulted.

In cases 1 and 2, it may be possible under certain circumstances to apply for the period of closure to be reduced. We will be happy to explain the possibilities to you.
In exceptional cases, there may be other reasons why it is not possible to consult specific archival material. For instance, the material may be in such a state that it needs to be preserved. In such cases, we will let you know. This is why you can also see copies (generally microfiches) as well as originals in the Reading Room.
Whatever archival material you are using, you are required to handle it with extreme care. You may order up to 10 files and 10 microfiches per day. You may photograph files with your own camera, subject to the approval of the Reading Room staff. For example, it is not permitted to photograph records relating to a natural person.

Are there any restrictions on how your findings can be used?

We will give you a written application form including a declaration which you are required to sign before consulting archival material. With this declaration, you undertake to respect the rights of third parties that may arise from the content of the material:

  1. personal privacy
  2. copyright and related rights.

It is your own responsibility to ensure that you respect these rights. In particular, the Federal Foreign Office is generally unable either to grant you rights of use for out-of-house material or to confirm whether material is in the public domain.
If you have been granted a reduction in the period of closure for records relating to a natural person, you will as a rule have to give a written undertaking that you will fully anonymise all personal information.
We ask that you take this obligation very seriously: we are aware of legal conflicts between individuals and careless archive users!
You will only need a special publication licence from us if you intend to publish the complete text verbatim (transcription, edition or facsimile).

Additional content

Section 1: Right of use Records kept in the Political Archives of the Federal Foreign Office (Section 10 of the Foreign Service Act of 30 August 1990, Federal Law Gazette I pp 1842-1848) are freely…

Regulations for the Use of the Political Archive of the Federal Foreign Office

1. [Opening hours] The Reading-Room of the Political Archive is open Monday to Thursday from 8.30 to 16.30 h and on Friday from 8.30 to 15.00 h. It is closed from mid-December to mid-January and on…

Reading Room Regulations

Act on the Preservation and Use of Federal Archival Documents (Bundesarchivgesetz)

Federal Archives Act

§ 10 Foreign Service Act (Gesetz über den Auswärtigen Dienst, GAD)

§ 10 GAD

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