Historian: The Return of German Archives after WWII

Nov. 13, 2012

Astrid EckertAstrid M. Eckert, associate professor of history, was recently the featured guest on the radio show, New Books in History, where she discussed her about her recent work, “The Struggle for the Files: The Western Allies and the Return of German Archives after the Second World War,” (Cambridge University Press, 2012). The book describes why the Western Allies seized nearly every official German document they could find and moved it out of Germany and why they eventually returned them. Here are a few excerpts from the interview:

“I had read about the project of the American war department, they had wanted to send a group of people over to the continent in 1945 to interview leading Nazis before these thugs were slated for trial—an oral history project of sorts. So off I went to Charlottesville to look at the personal papers of someone involved in that interview project, and that person later became a professor at UVA after the war. . . . 

"It’s professional archivists who are among the first to flag the issue. They’re painfully aware that their records are gone or in Allied custody. So they are the first to lobby the newly constituted federal government to do something about this issue. The fact that the allies were now publishing German records abroad was really treated as a major offense among, how shall I say, nationally thinking people.  It was really considered to be offensive, especially since German historians were not involved in this endeavor. The expectation was that this documentation would very tendentious and would be doctored to reflect as badly as possible on the Germans. From our perspective of course it doesn’t need much doctoring to make things look pretty bad in that time period, so it tells you something about their own sense of what Germany had just been through.”

To listen to the entire interview, click here.

—Steve Frandzel

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