Files on the Foreign Policy of the Federal Republic of Germany, volume 1986, © AA
Important documents from the files of the Federal Foreign Office have been published with detailed comments in various academic series.
Why use edited collections?
Before visiting the Political Archive, you should make sure to look at the relevant edited collection of Federal Foreign Office files. These publications can be found in many academic libraries, and many of them are available online too. They offer a selection of very relevant documents picked out and annotated by proven experts. You can take these edited documents as the starting-point for your research. The documents selected reflect the key events, players and structures in German foreign policy. In the two older collections on the pre-1945 period (“Die Große Politik der europäischen Kabinette 1871 - 1914” (GP) and “Akten zur deutschen auswärtigen Politik” (ADAP)) in particular, the focus is very much on “classical” foreign policy. The newer “Akten zur Auswärtigen Politik der Bundesrepublik Deutschland” (AAPD) offers the user the additional advantage of being able to delve deeper into the material, thanks to numerous references in the commentary to documents in the archive holdings which are also relevant but did not make it into the book for reasons of space.
Information about the history of the edited collections and the principles followed in producing them can be found, inter alia, in Schöllgen (1999), Thimme (2001), Zala (2001) and Pautsch (2008).
Die Große Politik der europäischen Kabinette 1871–1914 [The Grand Politics of the European Cabinets, 1871–1914]
Collection of the diplomatic files of the Foreign Office. Compiled and edited on behalf of the Foreign Office by Johannes Lepsius, Albrecht Mendelssohn Bartholdy and Friedrich Thimme. 40 volumes (including comments), Berlin 1922–1927, second edition 1924–1927.
Reference code: GP
“Große Politik”, which was published in the 1920s, comprises 40 volumes, many of which consist of several parts. The publication documents the background from the foundation of the German Empire to the First World War. Although the idea behind the work was to counter the blame attributed to Germany in the Treaty of Versailles for causing the First World War, “Große Politik” remains a useful introduction, sorted by subject, to the German Empire.
The edition is available online. A completely digitised version is also available in the Political Archive´s reading room. This version includes concordances which help users to match the edited documents to their according files.
The book by Bernhard Schwertfeger,“Die diplomatischen Akten des Auswärtigen Amts 1871–1914. Ein Wegweiser durch das große Aktenwerk der Deutschen Regierung. Berlin 1924–1927” [“The Diplomatic Files of the Foreign Office, 1871–1914. A Guide to the German Government’s Extensive Collection of Files. Berlin, 1924–1927”] provides guidance on working with “Die Große Politik”. Schwertfeger´s publication features a chronological order of the documents as well as an order by topic.
Die deutschen Dokumente zum Kriegsausbruch [The German Documents on the Outbreak of War]
Complete collection of the official files compiled by Karl Kautsky, including some additional material. Published by Graf Max Monteglas and Walter Schücking, on behalf of the Foreign Office, after joint revision with Kautsky. Four volumes, Charlottenburg 1919; new edition with additional material, Berlin 1927.
Reference code: DD
In November 1918, the Council of the People’s Deputies commissioned the Social Democrat politician Karl Kautsky to review the Foreign Office’s files and to compile documents for a publication about the outbreak of war in 1914. The collection was ready for printing as early as March 1919, but was only published in December of that year following revisions made at the request of the Foreign Office. The texts of the published documents are authentic. However, it does not include certain important policy fields, as the selection of the documents was restricted to a few volumes of files concerning the First World War.
The first edition is available online. Several documents were added to the new edition published in 1927.
L'Allemagne et les problèmes de la paix pendant la première guerre mondiale [Germany and the Problems of Peace during the First World War]
Documents extraits des archives de l’Office allemand des Affaires étrangères (documents extracted from the archives of the German Foreign Office), André Scherer and Jacques Grunewald (eds.). Four volumes, Paris 1962–1978.
There is alack of published documents from the files of the Political Archive regarding the First World War. To date, only a collection of documents on an important aspect of peace efforts has been published. This collection was produced by two French editors, who had previously worked on “Akten zur deutschen auswärtigen Politik” [“Files on German Foreign Policy”]. Although the title of the publication is in French, the documents have been published in the original German. The original documents can be located in the archive´s holdings with the help of the film numbers provided in the collection.
Akten zur deutschen auswärtigen Politik 1918–1945 [Files on German Foreign Policy, 1918–1945]
From the archives of the Federal Foreign Office. 75 volumes (plus registers), Baden-Baden, Frankfurt am Main, Göttingen 1950–1995.
Reference code: ADAP
While the files were still held by the Allies in Great Britain, the United States and France started a joint project to publish important files dating from the end of the First World War to the end the Second World War. The material was edited by independent historians. Since 1960 German historians were also involved in the project. By the time the collection was concluded in 1995 it comprised 75 volumes. The documents were published chronologically, calendars and registers make the documents accessible. The original documents can be located in the archive´s holdings with the help of the film numbers provided in the collection.
The entire collection is available online.
Adenauer und die Hohen Kommissare“ [”Adenauer and the High Commissioners]
Published by Hans-Peter Schwarz on behalf of the Federal Foreign Office. Two volumes, Munich 1989–1990.
This forerunner to “Akten zur Auswärtigen Politik der Bundesrepublik Deutschland” [“Files on the Foreign Policy of the Federal Republic of Germany”] contains edited versions of the minutes of Federal Chancellor Adenauer’s meetings with the High Commissioners of the Western Allies between 1949 and 1952.
Die Einheit. Das Auswärtige Amt, das DDR-Außenministerium und der Zwei-plus-Vier-Prozess [Unity. The Federal Foreign Office, the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of the GDR and the Two-Plus-Four Process]
Commissioned by the Institute of Contemporary History (IfZ), published by Horst Möller et al. Göttingen 2015
This annotated collection, published to mark the 25th anniversary of German unity, contains 170 previously unpublished key documents from both German Foreign Ministries. They document the dramatic developments from the summer of 1989, when East German refugees sought shelter in the West German embassy in Prague, up until 3 October 1990.
The Institute of Contemporary History (IfZ) offers addidional douments which did not make it into the book as well as other documents concerning the same topic in the form of facsimiles on their website.
Die Einheit [Unity] – Additional documents
On 5 February 2015, the Federal Foreign Office celebrated 25 years of the series “Akten zur Auswärtigen Politik der Bundesrepublik Deutschland” [Files on the Foreign Policy of the Federal Republic of Germany], published by the Institute of Contemporary History (IfZ).
Press release on the 25th anniversary of the publication of the “Akten zur Auswärtigen Politik der Bundesrepublik Deutschland” (Files on the Foreign Policy of the Federal Republic of Germany)
Akten zur Auswärtigen Politik der Bundesrepublik Deutschland [Files on the Foreign Policy of the Federal Republic of Germany]
Published by the Institute of Contemporary History (IfZ) on behalf of the Federal Foreign Office. 75 volumes to date, Munich 1993 ff.
Reference code: AAPD
Each volume of the “Akten zur Auswärtigen Politik der Bundesrepublik Deutschland” [“Files on the Foreign Policy of the Federal Republic of Germany”] contains between 300 and 400 key documents from the holdings of the Political Archive that cover the most important aspects of the foreign policy of the Federal Republic of Germany for the year in question. Independent historians select and annotate the documents. The volumes are published annually following the expiration of the statutory 30-year rule of the Bundesarchivgesetz. Each volume comprises two or three parts. To date (2022), volumes have been published for each year between 1949 and 1953 and between 1961 and 1990. The Institute of Contemporary History (IfZ) is working on volumes for the missing years between 1954 and 1960. To date, the unabridged annual volumes for 1949/50 to 1953 and 1962 to 1987 are available online for free.