Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)


Here you can find answers to frenquently asked questions about using the Political Archive as well as selected information.


An overview of all holdings of the Political Archive is available online at the Archives Portal Europe. A research in the record groups is possible in our online archival database invenio where you can search in all finding aids for files that are accessible according to the Federal Archives Act. We advise to create an account to use all functions that Invenio offers.

The Federal Archives Act (Bundesarchivgesetz, BArchG) determines terms of protection for archival material in $ 11. The general term of protection for federal archive material is 30 years after its creation. However, conformable to $ 12 it is possible to apply for a shortening of the terms of protection. Thereupon, the 30-year period may be shortened, unless there are grounds for refusal (see BArchG § 13).

You can find the text of the BArchG here. An English version of the law for information purposes can be found at the webpage of the National Archives (Bundesarchiv)..

You can submit the request by yourself informally by e-mail. The application must contain a list of the files for which you wish to reduce the term of protection. In addition to the reference code of the files (Bestellsignaturen), you should list each file’s alphanumeric code (Aktenzeichen), title and time range (Laufzeit). Your will receive a sample table for the file list from the archivist responsible for you. Furthermore, you will need to justify separately as to why the inspection of these files is necessary for your research. The justification should be concise (not an exposé of your work), but compelling and related to the specific files.

You can’t research for files within the retention period online in the Invenio database. For a corresponding search, upon request, the archivist in charge will unlock the relevant holdings. Then the database available on the computers in the reading room will also show you the files that are still protected. Alternatively, you can view the analogue finding aids (inventories of the responsible department) upon request in the reading room. In this way, you can determine the files for which you want to apply for a reduction of protection.

The content-related examination of your application is not the responsibility of the Political Archive but always of the department in the Federal Foreign Office responsible for the subject matter and may take some time.

In any case, only documents originating from the Federal Foreign Office and its missions abroad can be made accessible. The length of the processing time also depends on the number of files that the responsible department has to check.

The missions abroad were and are subject to instructions from headquarters of the Federal Foreign Office in Bonn or Berlin. All decisions are taken at headquarters and are documented in their according record groups. Files from the missions abroad usually only complement this information.

Decisions by the highest levels of the Ministry are generally documented in the files of the divisions which were responsible for the issue and prepared the decision. The files from the Minister's Office and the State Secretaries’ Office are not definitive.

Usually yes, though there are exceptions to this. Further information is available under the heading “Reproductions”.

Unfortunately, the Political Archive of the Federal Foreign Office cannot help you attribute notes or photos even if the deadline for your Master’s or PhD dissertation is looming.

There are seats and tables outside the reading room, as well as a vending machine for hot and cold drinks. There are plenty of restaurants, cafés and bakeries within a few hundred metres of the Federal Foreign Office.

No. All users will be given initial information for free about relevant holdings. You can then do the research yourself in the reading room, also free of charge. The Political Archive of the Federal Foreign Office does not take on research commissions.

However, it is possible to employ a private researcher to do the research for you.

List of researchers

You can find information about this on the website of the Federal Foreign Office.

Top of page