All posts by katharina hering

Editorial Note

The GHI Washington established the blog Href in 2018 in conjunction with the start of the DFG-funded relaunch of German History in Documents and Images under the leadership of the  founding editors Kelly McCullough, GHDI’s project manager, and Atiba Pertilla, research fellow and digital editor at the GHI. Katharina Hering, digital project librarian, joined the blog’s editorial team later that year. The goal of Href has been to showcase the use of digitized primary source materials, broadly conceived, for studying, teaching, and researching German and global history. Href proved to be particularly timely during the pandemic, when it offered a forum for authors, many of whom were remote or on-site interns at the GHI, to reflect about the opportunities and challenges of researching German history in a global context remotely.

Articles have covered a wide range of topics, ranging from descriptions and analyses of new online portals and resources, such as Linda Rath’s Historical Newspapers. The Zeit.Punkt NRW-Portal (September 22, 2022), Götz Lachwitz’s Online access to historical German TV programs: Reflections on the research potential of unique audiovisual sources (October 22, 2022), Href has also shared essays on the process and ethical consequences of researching digitized collections and archives, such as Lara Raabe’s Reflections on Reflections on Researching Digitized Personal Files of Sinti and Roma Created by Berlin’s Criminal Police in Nazi Germany (July 12, 2022) or Janna Katharina Müller’s article on her research focusing on the very first monthly astronomical journal in Germany: The Celestial Police and their structures of communication (September 7, 2021). It has also published methodological pieces on tools and digital methods, such as Maximilien Gudenberg’s article Navigating the Challenges of OCR-based Research in the Arabic Script and Language (July 12, 2023) and Simon Krahé’s Reflections on the Process of Network Analysis Dataset Creation Using Line Content Classification with Python (December 15, 2023). Notable href posts have also include several original interviews, including Tim Feind’s interview with Beth Lander, who has served as the Managing Director of the Philadelphia Area Consortium of Special Collections Libraries (PACSCL) since 2020.

With the participation of the GHI Washington in the NFDI 4Memory Consortium, an initiative dedicated to the creation of a long-term and sustainable research data infrastructure in Germany,  we’ve decided to re-conceptualize Href as a forum where some of the discussions sparked by the 4Memory community, particularly its emphases on “Data Literacy” and “Data Culture,” can be continued and broadened. In line with the traditional role of the GHI as a transatlantic and trans-national bridge, Href continues to be directed at a US and Canada-based audience that is not yet familiar with NFDI4Memory.

The new edition of Href will be organized into three series:

1) One new series, developed in collaboration with Christiane Weber from the VDH (Association of Historians in Germany), will be titled “Hätte ich das mal eher gewusst … Was Historiker:innen und historisch Arbeitende mit digitalen Ansätzen ihrem jüngeren Ich raten würden.” This series will feature short interviews with emerging scholars discussing their experiences with digital tools and methods and will be predominantly in German. The first post in the series, an interview will Holle Meding, Freie Universität Berlin, Institute for Latin American Studies, will be published on March 1. We hope to share new interviews at least once a month.

2) The other new series will be a forum reflecting on Critical Data Literacy in the Humanities and Social Sciences. This series will include short articles and interviews related to a group bibliography on Critical Data Literacy that is currently being organized in collaboration with students in information science from the TU Darmstadt. The bibliography is being put together using the Zotero platform and can be found here:

This series will also provide a forum for occasional conference reports, and as a platform to support the preparation of the textbook Historical Data Criticism and Sustainable RDM which will be produced as part of the 4Memory’s “Data Literacy” project.

3) The third series continues in our established Href tradition and will offer a forum for reflections about digitized primary source materials in studying, teaching, and researching German and global history. The Href team welcomes inquiries for potential submissions.

Contact: Katharina Hering:

Thanks to Atiba Pertilla, Christiane Weber, Kelly McCullough, and Daniel Burckhardt for their helpful feedback and revisions of an earlier draft of this editorial note.

The World Wide Web of Internationalism: Evaluating Total Digital Access for the League of Nations Archive (LONTAD) and Its Potential for Historical Research

By Valentin Loos

Editorial Note: Having gained his bachelors degree in 2020, Valentin Loos is now a masters student of history and English and American studies at Osnabrück University. His interests include 19th to 21st century migration literature as a form of knowledge production, the history of I(N)GOS as well as the history of transnational migrant regimes. He completed his internship at the GHI Washington, DC, in the fall and winter of 2022.

On 10 January 1920, the League of Nations, one of the first worldwide intergovernmental organisations, was established. Promoting international cooperation while achieving international peace and security was a key part of its mission.

In light of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, this goal remains as important as ever. Politicians like the Chancellor of Germany, Olaf Scholz, US President Joe Biden, or NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg have been eager to stress their support for Ukraine. At the same time, they have sought diplomatic solutions to end the war. [1] For the international community, the question of how to respond to and deal with Russia’s war of aggression persists.

This year, the League of Nations archive has been completely digitized and made available online. What significance does the archive have in today’s world and context? What can we learn from it about peacekeeping? Can it help inform international responses to Russia’s war against Ukraine? What opportunities does the digital access provide for scholars in transnational history?

The Total Digital Access to the League of Nations Archive (LONTAD) project was completed on 31 October 2022. More than 14.2 million document pages have been digitised. These digital surrogates now provide direct access to the League of Nations’ activities throughout its 26 years of existence between 1920 and 1946.[2] Archivists and librarians of the United Nations Offices in Geneva, which itself is the League of Nations’ successor institution, began establishing operation teams starting in 2017. The objectives of these teams were to improve long-term preservation of the physical documents and to provide and maintain online access to this international archive.[3]

Figure 1: United Nations Archives Geneva: “Project Timeline.” In: LONTAD: Total Digital Access to the League of Nations Archives. Detailed Info, (last accessed 8 Dec. 2022).

The digital archive covers assembly papers and commission reports as well as bi- and multilateral correspondence between League officials and member state authorities. Navigating LONTAD is quite simple: The archive categorises all source materials according to the responsible committees. This way, finding relevant documents is easy if the body of authority is known. At the same time, LONTAD allows searching for individual terms and phrases. However, there is also room for improvement. For example, LONTAD would benefit immensely from a more dynamic navigation by facilitating full-text search of digitised texts. Similarly, a preview option of digitised material would make the archive more intuitive to use than the current design where users need to download files before they can review them.

The variety and richness of these sources make LONTAD a perfect research venue for historians interested in transnational history, diplomacy, and peace-making processes. Among other examples, the League of Nations’ efforts to avert the occupation of Manchuria by Japan and the assault on Ethiopia by Italian forces ultimately failed. This was mainly because of the reluctance of the most powerful nations – especially Britain and France – to fully engage in the conflict.[4] Archival material from that period can be used to critically evaluate mechanisms of international peacekeeping.

Apart from close-up insights into peacekeeping negotiations, the new digital archive comprises many documents referring to other matters the League of Nations held itself responsible for in its covenant. These sources provide crucial insight into the treatment of minority groups, the trafficking of drugs, free transit and communications policies (e.g. telecommunication, air navigation, and road traffic), trade supervision, and migration.[5] As such, the material digitised in the LONTAD project is relevant for historians from different subject areas.

The study of transnational (refugee) migration regimes, for example, benefits immensely from both the reports of Neill Malcolm, High Commissioner for German refugees between 1936 and 1938, and the Nansen Fonds. The latter holds documents related to the work of Fridtjof Nansen, High Commissioner for Refugees in the early 1920s, who was responsible for the repatriation of thousands of POWs and refugees in the years following World War I.  An in-depth analysis of the corresponding files might help to better illuminate modern transnational cooperation under United Nations governance, such as the World Health Organisation or the UNESCO, as the roots of many UN agencies lie in the League’s commissions. [6]

Figure 2: Screenshot taken from United Nations Archives Geneva: League of Nations Archives, (last accessed 8 Dec. 2022).

However, such analyses also offer insight into very local dynamics of transnational cooperation. The LONTAD files show that international organisations are a “laboratory of the accords and tensions at work between the international, national, and local scenes and frames of reference.” [7]. Scholars have begun to investigate the intersection of League politics and national developments only recently.[8] Member states like Haiti and Liberia have thus far not received the same attention as their European counterparts.

Similarly, the LONTAD files are rich sources for scholars of women’s history. The archive includes documents related to the Department of Opium Traffic and Social Issues Section, which is the only branch that was spearheaded by a woman, Rachel Crowdy. Crowdy’s activities for the League have only briefly been examined to this date.[9]

Employing a postcolonial perspective, one could also ask questions such as: In which ways did the League of Nations (re-)enforce colonial rule? What role did the League play in the development of anti-colonial movements? How did the League of Nations interact with other transnational organisations which opposed colonialism, like the League against Imperialism?

While the “‘democratization’ of international public records” and “‘ready’ and ‘equal’ access” still seemed to be “a distant hope”[10] in the early 2000s, the digitisation of the League of Nations archive facilitates researchers with an easily accessible, free collection of documents that lends itself to thorough investigation. Similar digitisation projects of other institutions exist but most archives remain offline.[11] If additional transnational organisations – among others the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and the Organization of American States – follow LONTAD’s example of providing web-based access to their archives, a more nuanced picture of worldwide transnationalism emerges that might help lend greater context to the challenges of today’s globalised world.

I warmly thank Dr. Carolin Liebisch-Gümüş and Jana Keck for their very kind help during the research process for this article.

Further Reading

Fleury, Antoine: The League of Nations. Toward a New Appreciation of Its History. In: Boemke, Manfred F./Feldmann, Gerald D./Glaser, Elisabeth: The Treaty of Versailles. A Reassessment after 75 Years, Cambridge 1998.

Jackson, Simon/O’Malley, Alanna: The Institution of International Order. From the League of Nations to the United Nations (Routledge Studies in Modern History Series), Milton 2018.

Pedersen, Susan: The Guardians. The League of Nations and the Crisis of Empire. Oxford 2015.

Sluga, Glenda/Clavin, Patricia (Ed.): Internationalisms. A Twentieth-Century History, Cambridge 2017.


[1] Gilchrist, Karen: ‘Stop This War Immediately,’ NATO Chief Tells Putin, Says Military Alliance Has Been Strengthened. Accessed through:, 16 Mar. 2022 (last accessed: 8 Dec. 2022); Cohen, Roger/Kanno-Youngs, Zolan: Biden Says He Is Willing to Talk to Putin about Ukraine, with Conditions. Accessed through:, 1 Dec. 2022 (last accessed: 8 Dec. 2022); and Solomon, Erika: Germany’s Leader, in a Call with Putin, Vows Continued Support for Ukraine. Accessed through:, 2 Dec. 2022 (last accessed: 8 Dec. 2022).

[2] UN Library and Archives Geneva: “Today, the “Total Digital Access to the #LeagueofNations Archives” (#LONTAD) ends its operation. 14,200,000+ pages! Discover the work of the staff who are behind this major digitzation project: Consult the archives:”,, 31 Oct. 2022 (last accessed 8 Dec. 2022).

[3] United Nations Archives Geneva: LONTAD: Total Digital Access tot he League of Nations Archives. Detailed Info, (last accessed 8 Dec. 2022).

[4] Pedersen, Susan: “Back to the League of Nations.” In: The American Historical Review 112: 4 (2007): 1091-1117; 1093.

[5] League of Nations: The Covenant of the League of Nations. Versailles 1920. Accessed through: (last accessed 30 Nov. 2022)

[6] Pedersen 2007, 1112.

[7] Kott, Sandrine: “International Organizations. A Field of Research for a Global History.” In: Zeithistorische Forschungen. Studies in Contemporary History 3 (2011), S. 445-453: 449.

[8] See for example Hell, Stefan: Siam and the League of Nations. Modernisation, Sovereignity and Multilateral Diplomacy, 1920-1940. Bangkok 2010 and Liebisch-Gümüş, Carolin: Verflochtene Nationenbildung. Die Neue Türkei und der Völkerbund 1918-38 (Studien zur internationalen Geschichte 48), Berlin/Boston 2020.

[9] For one of the few studies on Rachel Crowdy, see Gorman, Daniel: Servants of the World. Rachel Crowdy at the League of Nations. In: Ders.: The Emergence of International Society in the 1920s. Cambridge 2012, S. 52-81.

[10] Rothschild, Emma: The Archives of Universal History. In: Journal of World History 19, 3 (2008), S. 375-401: 391.

[11] See for example African Union: Common Repository. Accessed through: (last accessed: 8 Dec. 2022).




Aufbau (Reconstruction) Nachrichtenblatt des German-Jewish Club Inc., New York – Ein digitaler Zugang zu Wissen und Exil

By Charlotte Lenger

Editorial note:

Charlotte Lenger completed her bachelor´s degree at the Technische Universität Dortmund where she studies German, Educational and Rehabilitation Science. Currently, she is in the final phase of her master´s program, also at TU Dortmund. Her main interests are in narratology of fictional and non-fictional texts, theories of diversity, intersectionality and gender, as well as cultural history since the 18th century. Her special interests include studying experiences of war and exile. She completed an internship at the GHI in Washington, DC from July to September 2022.

Das Leben im Exil gehört zu der Lebenswirklichkeit von Menschen, die aus religiösen, politischen, rassistischen oder anderen Gründen gezwungen sind, ihr Herkunftsland zu verlassen. Die Übersetzung des aus dem Lateinischen stammenden Begriffs exilium „in der Fremde weilen“[1] impliziert den Verlust einer Form von Zugehörigkeit. Hannah Arendt beschreibt diesen Umstand in ihrem Essay We Refugees wie folgt:

„We lost our home, which means the familiarity of daily life. We lost our occupation, which means the confidence that we are of some use in this world. We lost our language, which means the naturalness of reactions, the simplicity of gestures, the unaffected expression of feelings.”[2]

Nach dem 30. Januar 1933, der sogenannten „Machtergreifung“ oder Machtübernahme durch Adolf Hitler, wurde eine steigende Zahl von Menschen, die aufgrund der antisemitischen Ideologie der nationalsozialistischen Partei und Bewegung systematisch diskriminiert, ausgegrenzt und verfolgt wurden, in das Exil gezungen. Im Rahmen der zunehmenden Entrechtung, im Öffentlichen wie im Privaten, bis hin zu der Inhaftierung in Konzentrationslagern, erreichte die Auswanderungswelle ihren Höhepunkt während und nach den Novemberpogromen 1938, auch als sogenannte „Reichskristallnacht“ bezeichnet.[3] Schätzungsweise 300.000 Juden und Jüdinnen und somit ca. 60% der jüdischen Bevölkerung sahen sich in den darauffolgenden Jahren gezwungen, Deutschland zu verlassen, um das ihrige und das Leben ihrer Familien vor der Vernichtungspolitik der Nationalsozialisten zu retten. Ca. 140.000 jüdische Geflüchtete aus dem Deutschen Reich fanden Zuflucht in den Vereinigten Staaten von Amerika.[4]

Angekommen in den USA waren es unter anderem Zeitschriften wie Aufbau (Reconstruction), die den Menschen im Exil sowohl als Informationsquelle dienten als auch einen ersten Zugang zu einem bereits etablierten kulturellen Netzwerk im Aufnahmeland schafften. Der erste Jahrgang der Zeitschrift wurde 1934 von dem German-Jewish Club in New York publiziert. Zunächst monatlich, erschien sie zwischenzeitlich vierzehntägig und ab 1939 wöchentlich. Sie galt als eines der wesentlichen Informationsmedien und als Organ jüdischer Emigration während und nach des Zweiten Weltkrieges. Über die Jahre zählten namhafte Schriftsteller*innen und Philosph*innen wie Theodor W. Adorno, Hannah Arendt, Bruno Frank und Thomas Mann zu Mitarbeitenden und Unterstützenden der Zeitschrift.[5]

Beobachtet werden kann vor allem in den ersten Jahren der Herausgeberschaft die Reaktion der Zeitschrift auf die Bedürfnisse der Geflohenen, die, wie Hannah Arendt, mit ihrer Heimat auch den Bezugspunkt ihrer Sprache, ihrer Kultur und ihres Alltags verloren. So wurden Angebote für Englischunterricht, soziale und medizinische Fürsorge oder Stellenvermittlung veröffentlicht wie auch Anzeigen zu Restaurants, Theaterveranstaltungen und zur neuesten Mode inseriert.[6] Mit den Worten Hans Steinitz, ab 1966 Nachfolger des Chefredakteurs Manfred Georg:

„Es gab keinen einzigen unter diesen Einwanderern, der nicht dem »Aufbau« irgendwann einmal, in irgendeiner Weise – meist sogar kontinuierlich – Rat, Hilfe, Beistand, nützliche Belehrung, rettende Ideen und unentbehrlichen Schutz verdankt hätte.“[7]

Im weiteren Verlauf der Jahre lag der Fokus oftmals auf Fragen der Amerikanisierung und Anpassung bzw. Integration der Emigrierten in das Leben in Nordamerika[8] sowie zunehmend auf Schreckensnachrichten aus dem ehemaligen Heimatland Deutschland.[9] Ein Einblick in eine solche Quelle kann unter anderem darüber Aufschluss bieten, wie Prozesse des Wissens- und Kulturtransfers durch die Emigration in die USA in Gang gesetzt wurden. Das „Winterprogramm des „German-Jewish Club““[10] führt diesbezüglich Programmpunkte zur Einführung in die amerikanische Literatur, zur „Einführung in das amerikanische Musikleben“ oder zu „Hausfrauensorgen in Amerika“ auf. Beispielhaft ist hier außerdem ein Auszug aus dem Artikel „Immigrants‘ Conference 1939“ zu nennen:[11]

„Eine erhebliche Anzahl dieser Auswanderer haben ihren Weg nach den Vereinigten Staaten gefunden, wo eine Reihe amerikanischer Hilfsorganisationen seit Jahren mit Erfolg um ihre Eingliederung in das amerikanische Leben bemüht sind. Die Einwanderer selbst, die zu einem erheblichen Teil aus den geistig und wirtschaftlich führenden Schichten ihrer Herkunftsländer stammen, haben von Anfang an versucht, ihre eigenen Fähigkeiten und Kenntnisse ihren Landsleuten zur Verfügung zu stellen und durch Selbstorganisation der Emigranten deren Lage zu verbessern und sie schneller und besser an den Gesamtinteressen des amerikanischen Volkes teilnehmen zu lassen.“[12]

Bereitgestellt werden die Digitalisate der Jahrgänge 1934-1950 der Exilzeitschrift Aufbau von dem Deutschen Exilarchiv 1933-1945 der Deutschen Nationalbibliothek. Die digitale und kostenlose Verfügbarkeit einer solchen Quelle ermöglicht allen Menschen mit Internetzugriff einen Zugang zu einem historischen Zeitzeug*innendokument, das bis heute seine Aktualität nicht verloren hat. Besonders die Bereiche Forschung und Lehre können von diesem Zugang profitieren, wenn finanzielle Aspekte beispielsweise im Rahmen von Archivreisen oder Bestellungen von Reproduktionsmaterial wegfallen. Weiterhin machen es große Mengen von Datenmaterial möglich, mit der Hilfe von OCR-Software nicht mehr länger nur qualitativ mit dem Medium Zeitschrift umzugehen, sondern auch quantitative Forschungsmethoden anzuwenden, die zu neuen Erkenntnissen der Geschichtswissenschaften führen  kann. Das Exilarchiv der Deutschen Nationalbibliothek bietet außerdem nicht nur Digitalisate der Exilpresse an, sondern ermöglicht bis 2023 im Verbund mit ZDF Kultur Interessierten auch eine virtuelle Ausstellungsbegehung zum Thema „Leben im Exil“.[13] Wie wichtig und aktuell das Thema Exil auch heute, über 77 Jahre nach der Befreiung Deutschlands, ist, darauf verweist auch das publikationsorientierte Veranstaltungs- und Begegnungsprogramm „Tage des Exils“ der Körber Stiftung, das sowohl vergangenen als auch gegenwärtigen Menschen im Exil eine Stimme verleiht.[14]


Arendt, Hannah: „We refugees“. In: Robinson, Mark: Altogether Elsewhere. Writers on Exile.Boston/London: Faber and Faber 2008, S.110-119.

Benz, Wolfgang: Die jüdische Emigration. In: Claus-Dieter Krohn/Patrik von zur Mühlen/Gerhard Paul/Lutz Winckler (Hg.): Handbuch der deutschsprachigen Emigration 1933-1945. Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft 1998, S.5-15.

Deutsche Nationalbibliothek: Aufbau (Reconstruction). Online abrufbar unter: (letzter Aufruf am 21.09.2022)

Duden: Exil. In: Online Wörterbuch Duden. Online abrufbar unter: (letzter Aufruf am 21.09.2022).

Huß-Michel, Angela: Literarische und politische Zeitschriften des Exils 1933-1945. Stuttgart: Metzler 1987.

Körber-Stiftung: Tage des Exils. Online abrufbar unter: (letzter Aufruf am 21.09.2022).

Steinitz, Hans: Aufbau, Neubau, Brückenbau. In: Will Schaber/Hans Steinitz (Hg.): Aufbau (Reconstruction): Dokumente einer Kultur im Exil. New York: Overlook Press 1972, S.11-20.

Wünschmann, Kim: Exilländer jüdischer Flüchtlinge aus dem Deutschen Reich. In: Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung 2014. Online abrufbar unter: (letzter Aufruf am 12.09.2022).

ZDF Kultur: virtuelle Ausstellung „Leben im Exil“. Online abrufbar unter: (letzter Aufruf am 21.09.2022).


[1] Duden, Exil

[2] Arendt, 110

[3] Benz, 5

[4] Wünschmann, Exilländer

[5] Huß-Michel 73-77

[6] Aufbau Bd.1, Nr.2

[7] Steinitz, 12

[8] Aufbau Bd.3, Nr.1

[9] Aufbau Bd.4, Nr.5

[10] Aufbau Bd. 5, Nr.20

[11] Aufbau Bd.5, Nr.20

[12] Aufbau Bd.5, Nr.20



Visiting PACSCL – Part 2: How to Organize a Consortium

By Tim Feind

In part one of my series on PACSCL I visited the Joseph P. Horner Memorial Library in Philadelphia and talked to Bettina Hess from the German Society of Pennsylvania about challenges and chances, trying to fathom the perspective of a small member of the Philadelphia Area Consortium of Special Collections Libraries (PACSCL). To complete the picture, I also wanted to capture  an overarching  perspective that can provide insights in the overall structure of the PACSCL network. I met Beth Lander, who has served as PACSCL’s Managing Director since 2020, for a virtual interview.

Good morning Beth, thank you for taking the time. What is your position at PACSCL and what is PACSCL? 

I am the Managing Director of the Philadelphia Area Consortium of Special Collections Libraries, otherwise known as PACSCL. PACSCL began in 1985 with a few librarians in Philadelphia going up to New York City to the Grolier Club and seeing an exhibition of rare books.  They came back to Philadelphia and said: ‘You know, we’ve got all these incredible collections, we can do even better.’ And they did. They created Legacies of Genius: A Celebration of Philadelphia Libraries, an exhibition which was the first project that provided the foundation for this consortium. PACSCL incorporated in 1993; next year, in 2023, we will be celebrating our 30th anniversary!

At its founding, PACSCL had 16 institutional members, and we are now up to 35. Our members are mostly in the greater Philadelphia area, with Lehigh University and the University of Delaware defining our northern and southern boundaries, and the State Library of Pennsylvania and Princeton University defining our western and eastern boundaries.  

When I took this job two years ago, I did some research to see what other special collection consortiums there were in the world. To my knowledge, there are only two in the United States: PACSCL and Chicago Collections, which started ten years ago, inspired, so I’ve been told, by PACSCL. I am the first fulltime Managing Director PACSCL has had in its history. In 2019, PACSCL changed its due structure in order to support a full-time employee as well as to increase its capacity. We now have two standing committees, three ad-hoc committees, and five working groups. Our board is comprised of fifteen members who work at member institutions, with an executive committee consisting of a chair, vice-chair, secretary, and treasurer. 

Maybe you could elaborate a little bit more on your function. What are your tasks as a Managing Director?

I am trained as both a librarian and an archivist, although most of my working life I have been an administrator. What I do for PACSCL is everything from organizing a board meeting and assuring that there is coffee and pastry on the table, all the way up to running strategic planning, crafting annual plans, and drafting budgets. It’s like being the pilot of a jet plane. I am there in the cockpit, and I help ensure that everything is going into the right direction.

I also couldn’t find any similar organizations, which kind of surprises me, but maybe we can come back to that later. But besides its mere uniqueness as an organization, what would you say makes PACSCL special? 

The fact that PACSCL has not only survived, but thrived over the past 30 years, through economic ups and downs, speaks to the value that it provides to its members.  There are other consortia that focus on libraries by size, or by the type of collection or genre, or by the audience they serve.  PACSCL’s focus is on special collections, regardless of the type of institution, the audiences served, or what topics are covered by a collection. We are unique – our membership runs the gamut from the tiny German Society of Pennsylvania up to Princeton University. Our members represent an enormous diversity of collections, audiences, and type of material collected. I’ve discovered over the past two years that these institutions, and the staff who work in them, are very thoughtful about what they want to do.  PACSCL has grown from – I hate to use the expression – an old boys club to a consortium focused on democratization, not only in the types of institutions represented, but also in who gets to represent those institutions.  Board representation has expanded.  Committee formation has grown since 2019 and  working groups allow people who don’t work at PACSCL member institutions to contribute to the life of the consortium. PACSCL has moved from being an insular organization to one that is really considerate of what it means for a group of people to work together to make these collections known or to challenge the concept of what these collections do, and that is pretty unique.

You already mentioned that there are big and small institutions part of the organization. When I talked to Bettina Hess from the German Society of Pennsylvania and asked her about challenges and opportunities in conjunction with being a member of PACSCL, she said that there are actually just pros and no cons. She also talked about the development you mentioned as well, and that the situation is getting better and better for the small as well as the big institutions. What is your perspective on this balance of power? Would you agree that there is a mutual profiting despite the size of the member institutions? 

I don’t see a “balance of power” as much as I see growing pains.  There is enormous respect between our institutional members, and a recognition that each member brings strengths, skills, and expertise to the table.

Here’s one example of “growing pains.”  There has been tension between some folks within PACSCL who wish to see dues income used to sustain initiatives that would benefit groups outside of PACSCL, groups that are similar in size and scope to some of PACSCL’s smallest institutional members.  Those small institutions often forego other budget lines to pay dues to PACSCL because they see the value in membership.  This type of “growing pains” is indicative of PACSCL’s recognition that it should serve a larger community, something we are hoping to achieve as we build funding outside of dues payments. 

PACSCL will begin a new round of strategic planning in 2024 that, after a year long futures thinking exercise that the Board is now completing, will focus on the concept of “balanced growth.”  This perspective will allow the consortium to negotiate those growing pains against the needs of smaller member institutions as it looks to extend its service to new communities.

I would like to point that aspect by a more concrete question. Why would a larger institution, for example the Princeton University, be interested in a smaller collection to join the consortium?

My response here is based on conversations I’ve had with folks at larger institutions like Princeton or the University of Pennsylvania.  PACSCL revised its dues structure in 2019 to support a full-time Managing Director, and our largest member institutions saw their dues doubled, an increase that they were willing to support. All our members feel compelled to give back to the community. They feel compelled to encourage their staff to participate in PACSCL committees and working groups, which allows staff to develop skills outside of the scope of their jobs.  PACSCL also offers professional development and networking opportunities at no cost.

And I think at the heart of it there is a sense of altruism, and there is the sense that community matters more than size.

How would you describe the opportunities for the smaller institutions regarding a membership at the consortium? 

I can share with you my own perspective from the vantage point of a small member institution that I worked at before I became the Managing Director of PACSCL. There, I developed a grant application for a major digitization project that was partnered through PACSCL.  My co-author was at another small member institution.  This project documented the history of medical education in Philadelphia, which brought us into partnership with the University of Pennsylvania, Drexel University, Thomas Jefferson University, and Pennsylvania Hospital.  Not only did my co-author and I get the experience of developing this type of grant application, but once we were funded, the staff at all the partner institutions had the opportunity to develop project management, time management, and collection management skills.

I’ve also worked hard over the past two years to provide other direct benefits of membership, such as vendor discounts, increased professional development opportunities, and direct services for our members, such as a disaster response framework.  

But the burden of participation and benefit derivation is on the shoulders of the member institutions and their staff.  Folks can participation as much as they are able, and many do; other folks are so stretched for time and resources in their jobs that just maintaining a tie to the larger community is sufficient.  It’s my job to communicate with every member, to ensure that their needs are being met to the best of PACSCL’s ability.

How do you evaluate the future development of PACSCL? Which opportunities and challenges do you see? Do you have any dreams or wishes?

I would like $1,000,000. Seriously. The investment income off a $1,000,000 endowment would go a long way in achieving PACSCL’s mission.  Our ability to do things is capped by our income, which now is limited to dues and grant funding, which is project specific. The challenge that comes from those “growing pains” I mentioned earlier.  Everyone in the consortium is passionate, everyone has great ideas for what PACSCL can achieve – but we need more resources to do that.

PACSCL has done a lot of structural building over the past two years.  We’ve established guideposts and parameters that will reassure potential funders of our capacity to steward funds effectively.  We’re having conversations about what it means to have this kind of money. What does it mean to the consortium to have the freedom to do what we want to do? What would our community look like at that time?

When most of the people and groups of the archival landscape agree that networks like PACSCL are the way to get organized and that they are such a good thing, how is it possible that they are so rare? 

That’s a very good question.  The other special collections groups I know of are focused on a particular specialty, such as the Medical Heritage Library, which focuses only on history of medicine collections. The fact that PACSCL is entering its fourth decade, having gone through significant financial upturns and downturns, the response to Covid-19, and changing practices in the field, is pretty significant. I think it’s due to two things. One is Philadelphia and the rich history of this area, and that no one institution has a hard lock on any one topic, something we discovered when we were doing that grant on the history of medical education. Documentation is scattered across diverse organizations in Philadelphia. If you want to know about something, you are going to talk to a lot of collections and those collections are going to be talking to each other about how to meet your needs. It’s the interconnectedness of history in this area.

The other thing that speaks to PACSCL’s success is good management. All the people who have been involved in PACSCL, from Board members to committee workers, understand that, for the consortium to continue, it had to become something more than a small group of big institutional administrators telling other folks what to do. That model could have stagnated very quickly.  But PACSCL has always been fluid, not only in the growth of its membership, but also in the diversity of voices represented.

PACSCL formed at the perfect time, when special collections were just beginning to shift from being only physical, hard copy based collections to collections that are represented both physically and virtually.  PACSCL started on almost a dare, that Philly could produce something better than New York (and it did!), and that passion took root.  PACSCL has surfed the waves of digitization, social media, and born-digital content without taking its eye off one critical thing:  we’re a community.  We are storytellers.  And no matter how we tell it, we have one heck of a story to tell.

Please also review Tim Feind’s first article about PACSCL: Visiting PACSCL — Part 1: Facing Digital Transformations Together. 

Online access to historical German TV programs: Reflections on the research potential of unique audiovisual sources

By Christoph Eisele

Editorial note: Christoph Eisele is in the final phase of completing his master’s degree in history (focusing on modern history) at the Ludwig-Maximilians-University of Munich, where he also received his bachelor’s degree in history in 2020. His master’s thesis focuses on transnational and global connections between the film industry in Hollywood and Munich since the 1960s. From August to November 2022, he held an internship at the GHI in Washington, DC. He wrote this article to mark World Audiovisual Heritage Day on October 27, 2022.

On October 27, 2020, ARD, the German public television network, and the German Broadcasting Archive (Deutsches Rundfunkarchiv) marked World Audiovisual Heritage by launching an online portal for their holdings. Under the keyword ‘Retro,’ now approximately 40,000 digitized TV programs dating from the 1950s until the mid 1960s can be freely accessed by the public as streaming files.[1] Reflecting the federal structure of the German broadcasting landscape, there exist different content collections, for example “BR Retro,” for Bavaria, “NDR Retro” for the North German broadcasting station, and also “rbb Retro” for Berlin and Brandenburg.

Cover image of the online resource “BR Retro.” Image: Paul Sessner.

The programs cover a broad variety of non-fictional topics. The ZDF series “Zur Person” was produced and broadcast in the 1960s and included interviews with well-known personalities, such as the political theorist Hannah Arendt [2] and Bavaria’s former prime minister Franz Josef Strauß. [3] But users can also find more “entertaining” contributions, including cooking shows and reports from folk festivals. What makes the “Retro” platform distinct is not the digitization of the historical footage, but rather the almost barrier-free access to the digital content, made available as streaming files. People who perhaps lived through the era themselves can browse the media libraries from home, as can those interested in TV history. In addition, the service also offers scholars the opportunity to quickly access audiovisual materials for research and teaching without major hurdles.[4] The materials offer great potential for research and can be analyzed from multiple angles. In the following paragraphs, I will share some reflections about possible research topics and questions that could guide the analysis of these unique materials.

Scholars interested in cultural and social history could pursue the following questions: What knowledge can be gained about the culture and what “spirit of the times” can be discerned? What was the role of women in the 1950s and 1960s, and what stereotypical gender representations were popularized by these TV programs? Audiovisual media can offer new and valuable perspectives on these questions, even if these topics have already been researched.

Background images and information that can be gleaned from the TV programs can also provide valuable insights into the living conditions at the time. What was reconstruction in Germany like after the Second World War? Which buildings had already been rebuilt in the 1950s and 1960s, and which were still destroyed or in a makeshift state? To what extent did these circumstances influence the lives of the citizens? What was the contemporary discourse and how did they talk about the reconstruction and living conditions, if at all?

From the perspective of media history, it might be interesting to examine the production techniques and standards of these shows. How have TV production and journalistic work changed over time? What kinds of stereotypes/prejudices shaped reporting and interviewing at the time?

Furthermore, it might be useful to look at language usage. Public broadcasters in Germany are strongly influenced by their federal states. For example, Bayerischer Rundfunk (BR) predominantly covers topics related to Bavaria, while Norddeutscher Rundfunk (NDR) covers topics related to northern Germany, and so on. Accordingly, scholars might investigate if and how frequently journalists, reporters, and featured experts and interviewees spoke regional dialects and to what extent the use of dialects has changed over the decades. If it has changed, what were the reasons for the change? Was the neutral “High German” considered to be the appropriate language in journalism after a certain point in time? If so, why?

Another – and more obvious – angle could be the content of the articles. There are countless historical research questions that could be asked here. Here is an example of one framework: in the federal system, it is certainly true that public broadcasters are local broadcasters. However, they found themselves in an era of ever-increasing globalization. To what extent was this globalization reflected in their reporting? What was the proportion of contributions with local, national and international references? How did this ratio change over the years? How was increasing globalization perceived by the audience? To what extent were their daily lives and circumstances influenced by it?

Screenshot, „From the Archives,” Public Broadcasting Service (PBS).

Finally, scholars could consider international comparisons. Archival television programs are increasingly made available in other countries as well. For example, the U.S. Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) offers archival contributions in its “From the Archives” initiative. Such offerings, also provided by broadcasters in other countries, could be used to do comparative research and the questions suggested here can be equally applied to international audiovisual archival materials.

It should be noted, however, that the available programs vary greatly in some cases and the collection is still incomplete. BR’s offering has so far been limited to the 1950s/1960s.[5] ZDF, the second German public TV broadcaster, states that it has already digitized its entire archive and is gradually making the material available online.[6] In the U.S., on the other hand, a project called the American Archive of Public Broadcasting, established in 2013, is coordinated by the Library of Congress and public radio station WGBH. In its initial phase approximately 40,000 hours of programming from public radio and television stations have been digitized and made available online. The project is ongoing, and the goal is to “provide access to the cultural and historical treasures of the public media system.”[7] Again, there are still some gaps to fill, but the trend is definitely moving in the right direction.

So, in conclusion, it can be said that the almost hurdle-free access to historical TV reports by the respective TV stations of the Federal Republic of Germany are a good way to stimulate productive and efficient research.

Acknowledgement: Thanks to Atiba Pertilla for his editorial assistance in preparing the English translation of this article.

Further reading:

Behmer, Markus/ Bernard, Birgit/ Hasselbring, Bettina (Eds.). Das Gedächtnis des Rundfunks. Die Archive der öffentlich-rechtlichen Sender und ihre Bedeutung für die Forschung. Wiesbaden: Springer, 2014.

Bösch, Frank. Medien und Gesellschaftswandel. Zeithistorische Perspektiven auf die Erforschung des Bayerischen Rundfunks. ZBLG 80/3 (2017): 579-591.

Gaab, Jochen. Der Rundfunk als Forschungsgegenstand des Landesgeschichte. Zugänge zum Programm zwischen Medienproduktion und Medienrezeption. ZBLG 80/3 (2017): 605-613.

Kramer, Ferdinand. Ton und Film als Quellen zur bayerischen Geschichte. ZBLG 80/3 (2017): 575-577.

Lachwitz, Götz: Research Access to the German Broadcasting Heritage. A Short Introduction to the Archival Landscape of the German Broadcasters ARD and Deutschlandradio, href, November 22, 2021,

Schemmer, Claudia. Fernsehen. Quellen für die bayerische Landesgeschichte. ZBLG, Beiheft Reihe B-45. Munich, 2022.


[1] NDR Retro: Rein ins Fernseh-Archiv – und unsere Geschichte, (last accessed October 26, 2022)

[2] Hannah Arendt – die politische Denkerin, Einführung in das Interview von Hannah Arendt von Günter Gaus am 28. October 1964, Zur Person-aus dem ZDF Archiv am 28. October 1964, Zur Person-aus dem ZDF Archiv, (last accessed October 26, 2022)

[3] Franz-Josef Strauß – umstrittener Machtmensch,  Einführung in das Interview mit Franz-Josef Strauß von Günter Gaus am 29. April 1964, Zur Person-aus dem ZDF Archiv, (last accessed October 26, 2022)

[4] YouTube videos are already frequently used for teaching.

[5] This is primarily due to legal reasons. Michael Eberle, BR Retro zeigt das Bayern der 1950er und 60er Jahre, Der BR-Wer wir sind (Blog), 27.10.2020, (last accessed October 26, 2022)

[6] TV-Klassiker jetzt digitalisiert, Beitrag von Claudio Armbruster, Heute Joyrnal vom 30.06.2022, (last accessed October 26, 2022)

[7] About the American Archive of Public Broadcasting, (last accessed October 26, 2022)


Online-Zugang zu historischen TV-Beiträgen: Reflektionen zum Forschungspotential

Von Christoph Eisele

Editorische Notiz: Christoph Eisele steht kurz vor dem Abschluss seines Masterstudiums in Geschichte (Schwerpunkt Moderne Geschichte) an der Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München, wo er 2020 bereits seinen Bachelor in Geschichte absolviert hat. In seiner bereits abgeschlossenen Masterarbeit beschäftigt er sich mit den transnationalen und globalen Verbindungen zwischen der Filmindustrie in Hollywood und München seit den 1960er Jahren. Von August bis November 2022 absolviert er ein Praktikum am GHI in Washington, DC. Diesen Beitrag hat er zum Anlass des World Audiovisual Heritage Days am 27. Oktober 2022 geschrieben.

Der 27. Oktober 2020 – und damit der Welttag des audiovisuellen Erbes – war für die ARD und dem Deutschen Rundfunkarchiv der Startschuss für die schrittweise Veröffentlichung von ca. 40.000 digitalisierten Videos im Netz. Unter dem Stichwort „Retro“ werden seitdem TV-Beiträge aus der Zeit vor 1966 für alle interessierten Personen frei zum Streamen zur Verfügung gestellt.[1] So gibt es beispielsweise „BR Retro“, „NDR Retro“ oder auch „rbb Retro“.

Titelbild des Online-Angebots „BR Retro.“ Bild: Paul Sessner.

Dabei ist die Themenvielfalt enorm groß. Die ZDF-Sendereihe „Zur Person“ wurde in den 1960er Jahren produziert und ausgestrahlt und beinhaltete Interviews bekannter Persönlichkeiten wie der politischen Theoretikerin Hannah Arendt[2] oder Bayerns ehemaligem Ministerpräsidenten Franz Josef Strauß.[3] Es sind aber auch vermeintlich „unterhaltsamere“ Beiträge abrufbar wie Koch-Shows oder Berichte von Volksfesten. Nun ist das Besondere dieses Angebots nicht die Digitalisierung an sich, sondern der fast hürdenlose Zugriff auf die digitalen Inhalte. Personen, die vielleicht selbst die Zeit miterlebten, können von Zuhause aus in den Mediatheken stöbern ebenso wie Interessierte an TV-Geschichte. Darüber hinaus bietet das Angebot auch Wissenschaftler:innen die Möglichkeit, ohne große Hürden und sehr zeitsparend solches audio-visuelles Material in ihre Forschung und Lehre miteinzubeziehen.[4] Dabei können die Beiträge von verschiedenen Blickwinkeln betrachtet werden. Im Folgenden möchte ich einen Teil dieses Potentials aufzeigen und einige Fragestellungen aufwerfen, die an solche Fernsehproduktionen gestellt werden sollten.

Aus kultur- und sozialgeschichtlicher Perspektive könnten folgende Fragen interessant sein: Welche Kenntnisse lassen sich bezüglich der damaligen Kultur gewinnen? Welcher „Zeitgeist“ lässt sich erkennen? Wie war die Rolle der Frau in den 1950er und 1960er Jahren und welche Idealbilder wurden gezeichnet? Auch wenn diese Themen schon erforscht wurden, so können audio-visuelle Medien hier eine wertvolle Ergänzung darstellen, die beispielhaften Charakter hat.

Es sind aber auch die vermeintlich unwichtigen Dinge im Hintergrund, die wertvolle Erkenntnisse zu den Lebensumständen der damaligen Zeit hervorbringen können. Wie gestaltete sich der Wiederaufbau nach dem Zweiten Weltkrieg? Welche Gebäude waren in den 1950er/60er Jahren bereits wiederaufgebaut, welche waren noch immer zerstört beziehungsweise behelfsmäßig aufgebaut? Inwiefern beeinflussten diese Umstände das Leben der Bürger:innen? Werden diese thematisiert?

Aus mediengeschichtlicher Perspektive könnte es interessant sein zu untersuchen, auf welche Art und Weise Beiträge produziert wurden. Inwiefern unterscheiden sich Beiträge zu heutigen? Inwiefern wandelte hat sich die journalistische Arbeit gewandelt? Welche Stereotypen/ Vorurteile prägten die Berichterstattung und Interviewführung?

Des Weiteren könnte es sinnvoll sein, sich die Sprache anzusehen. Öffentlich-rechtliche Rundfunkanstalten in Deutschland sind stark von ihrem Bundesland geprägt. So werden beim Bayerischen Rundfunk (BR) überwiegend Themen mit Bayern-Bezug behandelt, beim Norddeutschen Rundfunk (NDR) wiederum Themen, die Norddeutschland betreffen, etc. Dementsprechend könnte untersucht werden, wie häufig Journalist:innen und Reporter:innen, aber auch die Akteur:innen der jeweiligen Beiträge Dialekt sprachen und inwiefern sich dies über die Jahrzehnte änderte. In einem zweiten Schritt könnte nach den Gründen dafür gesucht werden. Wurde Hochdeutsch ab einem bestimmten Zeitpunkt als „Ideal“ im Journalismus betrachtet? Falls ja, welche Gründe lassen sich dafür identifizieren?

Ein anderer – und offensichtlicher – Blickwinkel könnte der Inhalt der Beiträge sein. Es gibt unzählige Forschungsfragen aus den Geschichtswissenschaften, die hier gestellt werden könnten. Ich möchte eine kleine Auswahl geben. Zwar handelt es sich bei öffentlich-rechtlichen Sendern um lokale Rundfunkanstalten. Sie fanden sich jedoch in einer Zeit der stetig steigenden Globalisierung wieder. Inwiefern spiegelte sich dies in der Berichterstattung wieder? Wie war das Verhältnis von Beiträgen mit lokalem, nationalem und internationalem Bezug? Wie änderte sich dieses Verhältnis seit den 1950er Jahren? Wie wurde steigende Globalisierung und Internationalität in der Bevölkerung wahrgenommen? Inwiefern wurde die Lebenswelt dadurch beeinflusst?

Screenshot, „From the Archives,” Public Broadcasting Service (PBS).

Zuletzt könnte der Blick auf eine internationale Ebene gehoben werden. Nicht nur in Deutschland, sondern auch in anderen Ländern werden vermehrt Archiv-Fernsehbeiträge zur Verfügung gestellt. So bietet beispielsweise der US-amerikanische Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) Archivbeiträge im Programm „From the Archives“ an. Solche Angebote, die ebenfalls in anderen Ländern zu verzeichnen sind, könnten genutzt werden, um vergleichende Forschungsarbeit zu betreiben. Zudem lassen sich die Fragen, die in diesem Beitrag gestellt wurden, ebenso auf dortige audio-visuelle Archivmaterialien anwenden.

Zu beachten ist jedoch, dass das Angebot teilweise stark schwankt und noch recht lückenhaft ist. Das Angebot des BR beschränkt sich bisher auf die 1950/60er Jahre.[5] Das ZDF gibt an, sein komplettes Archiv bereits digitalisiert zu haben und das Material nach und nach online zur Verfügung zu stellen.[6] In den USA wiederum gibt es seit 2013 ein Projekt mit dem Namen „American Archive of Public Broadcasting“, das von der Library of Congress und dem öffentlichen Radiosender WGBH koordiniert wird. In einer ersten drei-jährigen Phase wurden ca. 40.000 Stunden an Programmen aus öffentlichen Radio- und Fernsehsendern digitalisiert und zur Verfügung gestellt. Das Projekt läuft noch und das Ziel ist es, „Zugang zu den kulturhistorischen Schätzen des öffentlichen Mediensystems zu ermöglichen.“[7] Auch hier gibt es noch einige Lücken zu füllen, aber es bewegt sich definitiv in die richtige Richtung.

So kann abschließend festgehalten werden, dass der fast hürdenlose Zugang zu historischen TV-Beiträgen durch die jeweiligen Fernsehanstalten der Bundesrepublik Deutschland eine gute Möglichkeit darstellt, Forschung gewinnbringend anzuregen und arbeitsökonomisch sinnvoll zu unterstützen.

Weiterführende Literatur:

Behmer, Markus/ Bernard, Birgit/ Hasselbring, Bettina (Hrsg.): Das Gedächtnis des Rundfunks. Die Archive der öffentlich-rechtlichen Sender und ihre Bedeutung für die Forschung, Wiesbaden 2014.

Bösch, Frank: Medien und Gesellschaftswandel. Zeithistorische Perspektiven auf die Erforschung des Bayerischen Rundfunks, in: ZBLG 80/3 (2017), S. 579-591.

Gaab, Jochen: Der Rundfunk als Forschungsgegenstand des Landesgeschichte. Zugänge zum Programm zwischen Medienproduktion und Medienrezeption, in: ZBLG 80/3 (2017), S. 605-613.

Kramer, Ferdinand: Ton und Film als Quellen zur bayerischen Geschichte, in: ZBLG 80/3 (2017), S. 575-577.

Lachwitz, Götz: Research Access to the German Broadcasting Heritage. A Short Introduction to the Archival Landscape of the German Broadcasters ARD and Deutschlandradio, href, November 22, 2021,

Schemmer, Claudia: Fernsehen. Quellen für die bayerische Landesgeschichte, München 2022.

[1] NDR Retro: Rein ins Fernseh-Archiv – und unsere Geschichte, (letzter Zugriff am 26. Oktober 2022)

[2]  Hannah Arendt – die politische Denkerin, Einführung in das Interview von Hannah Arendt von Günter Gaus am 28. October 1964, Zur Person-aus dem ZDF Archiv am 28. October 1964, Zur Person-aus dem ZDF Archiv, (letzter Zugriff am 26. Oktober 2022)

[3]  Franz-Josef Strauß – umstrittener Machtmensch,  Einführung in das Interview mit Franz-Josef Strauß von Günter Gaus am 29. April 1964, Zur Person-aus dem ZDF Archiv, (letzter Zugriff am 26. Oktober 2022)

[4] So wie es z.B. bei der Verwendung von YouTube-Videos in der Lehre bereits geschieht.

[5] Das hat vor allem rechtliche Gründe. Michael Eberle, BR Retro zeigt das Bayern der 1950er und 60er Jahre, Der BR-Wer wir sind (Blog), 27.10.2020, (letzter Zugriff am 26. Oktober 2022)

[6]  TV-Klassiker jetzt digitalisiert, Beitrag von Claudio Armbruster, Heute Joyrnal vom 30.06.2022, (letzter Zugriff am 26. Oktober 2022)

[7] About the American Archive of Public Broadcasting, (letzter Zugriff am 26. Oktober 2022)





Historical Newspapers. The Zeit.Punkt NRW-Portal

By Linda Rath

Editorial note: Linda Rath graduated with a bachelor’s degree in history from the Heinrich-Heine-University Düsseldorf in 2022. Her interests include the history of medicine and epidemics in the early 20th century and the socio-political aspects of power and power structures in the European Middle Ages. She completed her internship at the GHI Washington, DC, in the fall of 2022.

Working with historical source materials is the bread and butter of any historian. When I started studying history at the university, however, working with primary sources seemed intimidating. Questions like: “Where is the newspaper I’m looking for even located?” or:“Is it even relevant for my topic?” along with the concern that I would have to visit every archive in the greater region I was researching were on my mind. Consequently, I ended up refraining from using historical newspapers for most of my studies. Only when I started my bachelor’s thesis about the high infant mortality in Germany the summer of 1911 did I venture into this unknown territory.

The state- and university library Bonn (ULB Bonn), along with the university library Münster (ULB Münster)- initiated the newspaper portal. While the ULB Bonn already had some digitized historical newspapers, patrons didn’t use them as they had expected. Both libraries therefore saw the need to establish a shared space to make a collection of local and regional historical newspapers publicly available online.[1] Supported by the Ministry of Culture and Science North Rhine-Westphalia, the Zeit.PunktNRW-Project digitizes historical newspapers in the geographic area of what is today known as North Rhine-Westphalia, in western Germany.[2] Currently in progress is the digitization of newspapers published between 1801 and 1945.[3] Many of the newspapers that are now available online had previously neither been indexed nor digitized beyond the region. An example for a now digitized newspaper is the Aachener Anzeiger.[4]

One of the goals, according to Dr. Ammendola who oversees the Münsteranian part of the project, is to make as many newspapers available as possible within a short period of time. Therefore, the current focus is on the digitization of microfilmed newspapers, but digitized physical copies will be part of the endeavor in the future.[5] Since the project started in 2017, approximately 12 million pages have been digitized and made accessible to the public. Of those, around 8 million pages have gone through the OCR (Optical Character Recognition) which makes a full-text search possible.[6] Around 50 000 pages a day run through the OCR. Due to the large volume of content, the project is currently the largest of its kind in Germany. Over 70 archives from North Rhine-Westphalia participate in the project. Search filters offer either search via title of a newspaper, location, timeframe or full-text search or a combination of either option.  The portal also provides information about name-changes of newspapers and an overview of all the volumes currently available with a precise index of the publication dates of every newspaper.

One of the key features of portal is that it is open access, and it will remain so. Everyone who is interested in historical newspapers, from students to professional historians to the general public, now have access to a vast amount of primary source materials. Source materials that had been previously hard to obtain can now be easily found, downloaded as a PDF or read on the page instantly. Especially fragile or last-of-its kind physical copies can once more be distributed to a wide audience. By making valuable primary source materials available and by preserving it for future generations, this project plays an important role in the digitization of key sources that enable historical scholarship in Germany.

The Zeit.PunktNRW-Project provides students with a valuable and easily accessible tool for historical research. Historians and other scholars rely on the availability and accessibility of primary sources. Yet, sometimes the lack of accessibility sometimes poses very real limitations to the work of seasoned historians and students alike. For those students who are just beginning to work with primary sources, a joint database or portal focusing on newspapers from a specific geographical region, such as the Zeit.Punkt.NRW, offers guidance and serves as a solid starting point for historical research. Depending on one’s topic, the portal may even provide the main source for the materials a student or professional scholar needs.

During the research for my Bachelor-thesis I’ve worked often with Zeit.PunktNRW. As someone who was new to the use of historical newspapers, the portal provided me with a quick overview of the available sources and made it possible for me to evaluate whether I had sufficient materials for my thesis. The portal saved me time during my research, and sometimes even helped me translating texts through the full-text search when my ability to read older typefaces was lacking. In my opinion the project offers many opportunities for research, whether you pursue it as a hobby or as part of your historical studies at a university. The portal provides an introduction to the changing landscape of historical sources in a digitized world, and offers a solution to some of the challenges present and future historians face when dealing with historical newspapers.

I’d like to thank the University of Münster and especially Dr. Andrea Ammendola for their very kind help during the research process for this article.


[1] Interview with Andrea Ammendola, University of Münster. 09.07.2022.

[2], (last viewed 09.21.2022).

[3] „Die Digitalisierung historischer Zeitungen in NRW und das Portal zeitpunkt.NRW“, von Michael Herkenhoff in: Pro Libris 24/4 (2019), S. 156f.

[4] (last viewed 09.27.2022.

[5] Interview with Andrea Ammendola, University of Münster. 09.07.2022.

[6] (last viewed 09.21.2022).



„Die Digitalisierung historischer Zeitungen in NRW und das Portal zeitpunkt.NRW,“ by Michael Herkenhoff. Pro Libris 24/4 (2019), p. 156-57. 

Interview with Andrea Ammendola, University of Münster. 09.07.2022.

Zeitpunkt NRW Wiki, (last viewed 09.21.2022).

Visiting PACSCL – Part 1: Facing Digital Transformations Together

By Tim Feind

Editorial note: Tim Feind completed his bachelor studies in Leipzig and is in the final phase of his master’s degree studies in History at the University of Vienna in Austria. His main interests are in social and economic history, the history of women and gender since the 18th century, and theories and structures of punishment in historical perspective. Active in student government, he is also interested in political questions related to working conditions in the academic field. He completed an internship at the GHI in Washington, DC from May to August 2022.

Digitization, frequently used as a buzzword and symbol for progress, often poses significant challenges for smaller institutions. Archives and libraries have had to find collaborative ways to face the challenges of the present. This post reports on a visit to an inconspicuous library in Philadelphia and its role in a larger regional collaboration, the Philadelphia Area Consortium of Special Collections Libraries (PACSCL).

©Tim Feind

Bettina Hess of the German Society of Pennsylvania (GSP) makes the value of participating in the Consortium evident. I met the head librarian of the GSP at her office at the Spring Garden Street townhouse in Philadelphia. The German-American Collection, the core of the society’s Joseph P. Horner Memorial Library, was begun in 1867 by Oswald Seidensticker, who was not only a professor of German and American Studies at the University of Pennsylvania but also the librarian of the German Society back then. the oldest records of the archive date back to 1764, starting with the society’s own minute books. At that time, the German Society of Pennsylvania was an important point of contact for many German immigrants arriving in the US after an uncertain and dangerous voyage. The society also aimed to provide access to literature in the German language and room for cultural exchange among the settlers. Even though the old mansion at Spring Garden Street in Philadelphia may have seen better days, one can easily imagine the vibe of its exalted times.

©Tim Feind

Today, the preservation and sharing of German-American history and culture remain the GSP’s main objectives. Digitization provides one of the main avenues for fulfilling these aims, but Bettina Hess, as the GSP’s head librarian, knows about the challenges this presents. It’s a Herculean task for smaller archives even today because they usually don’t have the funds to employ additional staff needed for digitizing. One way to compensate for this deficit is to make a virtue of necessity. The GSP decided to establish a group of citizen scholars to participate in a transcription group. “We started a transcription group which came out at the same time that we started collaborating with the GHI on the letters project, working on the letters of the Eugen and Emma Klee Collection and [with] another group working on transcribing our first minute book, because it has been used in the past by researchers, but we didn’t have anybody’s transcriptions. People did bits and pieces of it and then took them.” Although these are long-term projects that benefit from volunteers, the achievements are evident. “We actually have completed the first (minute) book, which is now available on our website. Now we are in the middle of volume two.” The ability of working in a hybrid manner, catalyzed by the pandemic, is an additional benefit. “Now we have also people in Germany who join us.” GSP membership is not necessary to participate, and establishing a network (of volunteer transcribers?) is essential. Here, organizational structures like PACSCL can help to be particularly effective in breaking down barriers between institutions that share the same interests. “One person joined us recently who is working at another PACSCL Institution in Philadelphia who needs it for her work,” Bettina Hess says. “They send me their transcriptions when they are done, I compile them, and when they are done I make them available on the website.”

The Philadelphia Area Consortium of Special Collections Libraries (PACSCL) is a non-profit corporation established in 1985 as an informal group of sixteen local institutions, all of which believe that the extraordinary collections of the Philadelphia area deserve to have broader support and more visibility so that they can share their precious sources with a worldwide audience. Therefore, one of its aspirations is to initiate cataloging and digitization programs of its the members holdings. Another priority is “to capitalize on members’ individual professional development activities to build cooperative programs that anticipate and serve the needs of the community that we are working to build among the staffs of member institutions […] helping its members enhance their reach and value to diverse research constituencies and educators, as well as supporters.”[2] In other words, the Consortium helps institutional staff learn new skills and get certifications for their continuing education, all while adding to the value of the collections by making them more accessible.

“It’s great to work in such a group because everyone sees something different”      – Bettina Hess, German Society of Pennsylvania

“Almost everything that has been digitized has been done through cooperation with other universities in the area and mostly through PACSCL. For example, we have a collection of the papers of John Ballier who was a general in the Civil War. He was a German American, and he had a hotel at 4th and Fairmount Street in the neighborhood of Northern Liberties. He was a member of the German Society of Pennsylvania and also founding member of the Canstatter Volksfest-Verein, which was another social German organization in the 19th century. He has a scrapbook as part of his collection that has a lot of Civil War Memorabilia – mainly letters and various pieces of ephemera. It’s very fragile and falling apart because it’s a lot of news clippings and thing that were glued on to the paper. So, we had Villanova University digitize that for us, and that’s now available on their library website.”

PACSCL, as a highly functional association, has had great impact and continues to have potential to support libraries and archives in the Greater Philadelphia area. As a consortium supporting large and small institutions in a greater metropolitan area in the US, it remains relatively unique among consortia in the US. Yet PACSCL highlights the need and effectiveness of smaller regional consortia in the LAM (Libraries, Archives, and Museums) sector, which remains chronically underfunded. The example of the German Society of Pennsylvania and its collection illustrate sharing historical records and digital infrastructure is a win-win situation. “There are a lot of historical societies and libraries in Philadelphia, and the fact that we have this consortium is unusual, but it’s great for everybody – small and large. Especially the small ones, because there are many things we could never have done without being part of PACSCL.” But also, time and practical experience seem to have changed the policy towards more solidarity in recent years. Bettina Hess admits: “We were sort of an exception when we were allowed to join PACSCL ten years ago. They changed the membership policy to allow institutions with part-time staff to join, and there is a tiered membership dues fee structure, so smaller institutions pay less. We definitely benefit from the expertise and resources of the larger institutions.”

It’s a matter of fact that archives, small as well as large ones, are indispensable for research in the humanities. PACSCL, which is based on a model rooted in archival solidarity, puts small and large institutions alike in a position to digitize some or all parts of their collections to increase online access. Because accessibility inevitably dictates the research approach, there is a direct connection between the way we organize archives and their collections and the way we generate knowledge.

[1] German Heritage in Letters is a project to find, collect, and share online a digital collection of German-language correspondence shedding light on the history of migration that is currently held in private hands or by archival institutions.



Acknowledgement: Thanks to Bettina Hess and to Atiba Pertilla for their assistance in preparing this article. 



Interview about the Relaunch of the Hannah Arendt Papers

By Tobias Schweitzer

Editorial note: Tobias Schweitzer recently finished his Bachelor/undergraduate studies in philosophy and political science at the University of Münster in Germany. His interests include the history of political thought, intellectual history of the 20th century, theories of history and historiography, as well as questions related to the work of Hannah Arendt. He completed an internship at the GHI Washington from April to July 2022.

Barbara Bair is a curator and historian in the Manuscripts Division of the Library of Congress, where she works with eight other historians and subject specialists. Her main field of expertise are literature, culture, and arts. She has worked as collection curator and framework author on the team that produced the digital relaunch of the Hannah Arendt Papers at the LOC in 2021. I’ve had the opportunity to meet her virtually while in Washington and speak with her about the digitized version of the Arendt Papers.

To start with, I would like to begin with some personal aspects. What are your tasks at the LOC and what relation do you have to the Hannah Arendt Papers?

I’m working as a historian in the Manuscript Division of the Library of Congress. In my own area, which is literature, culture, and arts, I curate different collections in physical and digital form and give advice to scholars, journalists or independent researchers who are interested in our collections.

Now let us turn to the papers. Was it Arendt’s own decision to gift her unpublished works to the LOC? If yes, have there been connections between Arendt and the LOC during her lifetime? If not, how did it happen that the papers were subsequently collected at the LOC?

Yes, it was Arendt’s own decision to give her personal papers, including notes, writings, correspondence and other documents to the LOC and yes there were contacts between her and the library during her lifetime. I believe that it was important to her that the papers be preserved, and that accessibility was public and international. In the case of the LOC, access to collections is free to anyone living in the United States or from another country. There are additional Arendt materials archived at places like the New School for Social Research in New York, where she taught, and the Arendt Center at the University of Oldenburg, and her library of books is at Bard College, where her husband was a professor, but the LOC is the principal repository of the bulk of her personal papers. Her wishes in this respect, stated in her lifetime and through her will and an instrument of gift with LOC, continued to be carried forward by her estate after her death.

Hannah Arendt’s US certificate of naturalization, issued on December 10, 1951, Hannah Arendt Papers,

When and for which reasons did the LOC decide to digitize the Hannah Arendt Papers?

I wasn’t involved when the papers were originally digitized, but it was done between 1998 and 2000 with the support of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. At that time, there was a big push to digitize collections at LOC and to find a quick way of making many special collections electronically accessible.  This meant that select collections that were available in microfilm as a preservation and research format were scanned and upgraded to availability via online access through what was in that era known as the LOC’s American Memory projects.  In the case of the Arendt Papers, as opposed to say, collections stemming from the nineteenth century, there were intellectual rights issues of work by others represented in her papers which needed to be considered.

What led to the relaunch of the papers in the last year?

Over the past several years, the LOC has revamped and upgraded its platform for digitized collections. In the case of the Arendt Papers, this  involved the standardization of the framework design and template to match the updated platform now being used for digital collections, and also increasing the availability of the papers to users anywhere in the world. Before 2021 only some of the papers were widely available, and others could be accessed by researchers through three dedicated workstations located at the LOC, the New School, and the Arendt Center in Oldenburg. After addressing remaining right issues, and with the agreement of the institutions involved and the Arendt Trust, LOC relaunched the digitized papers in a new updated manner in summer 2021 that guarantees broader access from anywhere in the world.

The LOC recently started a campaign to help transcribe LOC documents, among which one can also find the Arendt Papers. Under the title “Woman of the World: Political Thinker Hannah Arendt” you ask virtual volunteers to engage in the transcription process of the Arendt Papers. What feedback did you already get?

Since the launch in May 2022, there are about 400 participants actively registered in the transcribing campaign, but more individuals can also help transcribe without registering to do so. Some are scholars or students, but many of the volunteers are nonacademic people who are willing to engage in her papers. Some of them are just eager to transcribe and are interested in all kinds of collections. Others are particularly interested in Arendt, or understand themselves as lifelong learners. The Goethe Institute of Washington, D.C., the German Historical Association, and the Arendt Center at Bard College have all helped get the word out about the campaign to individuals who might want to help transcribe, especially the German language content. The By the People crowdsourcing project started off just a few years ago with papers of Walt Whitman as its first campaign. Since then it has launched a variety of campaigns, including ones associated with important historical anniversaries, such as woman suffrage, or areas of high research interest, like the Civil War. Each campaign has unique qualities and they differ from one other. Doing Hannah Arendt meant launching a transcription project of a philosopher or political thinker for the first time.  The campaign has gotten high interest because of the questions of thought and public intellectualism we continue to ask in our own times.

Reading List for a course on the “The Federalist”, taught in fall 1967 at the University of Chicago; Hannah Arendt Papers, Subject File, -1975; Courses; University of Chicago, Chicago, Ill.;

How would you explain the ongoing fascination towards the work and person of Hannah Arendt and what fascinates you personally about her?

I think, it’s about the continuing relevancy and ongoing difficulty and complexity of the questions she posed and that we still ask of ourselves as human beings. We are still grappling with and debating so much with versions of these issues today. Think of the problems of refugees, the question of genocide, and all the questions concerning Zionism. I personally have a very deep appreciation of her and her work, and I am again and again astonished by the variety of what is available in these papers as well as how profound the content really is. Whether or not you agree with Arendt, the questions she asks, and the debates she inspires, continue to be very important today. As well as the things she asks us to remember. The papers are also a way to discover her private side and more of her character and personality, and through her many drafts and her letters, the creative process of her mind, as well as her rich associations with other people.

You can register as a transcriber of the Hannah Arendt Papers at the Library of Congress By the People Campaign:

Reflections on Researching Digitized Personal Files of Sinti and Roma Created by Berlin’s Criminal Police in Nazi Germany

By Lara Raabe

Editorial note: Lara Raabe is a graduate history student at the Humboldt University Berlin. She is currently writing her master’s thesis on the role of Sinti and Roma in the Einsatzgruppen Trial in Nuremberg, 1947-1948. She works in the field of Holocaust and Memory Studies as well as the History of Sinti and Roma in Europe. She completed her internship at the GHI in Washington, DC, in the spring and summer of 2022.

The Sinti and Roma minority in Europe suffered a long history of persecution and discrimination. In Nazi Germany, the violence against Sinti and Roma escalated, and hundreds of thousands of Sinti and Roma men, women, and children became victims of racist discrimination, persecution, and genocide.

In July of 1936, the Berlin police forces launched a persecution and arrest campaign against the Sinti and Roma minority living in Berlin. Many families were deported to the Marzahn internment camp, which had recently been established.[1] Based on a decree issued by the Reichssicherheitshauptamt (Reich Security Main Office) on December 16, 1942, Sinti and Roma were deported in the spring of 1943 to the so-called “Zigeunerlager” (a pejorative term translated as “Gypsy Camp”) at the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration and death camp.[2]

Beginning in 1939, employees of the so-called “Dienststelle für Zigeunerfragen” (Office for Gypsy Affairs) created personal files for individuals and families who were registered by the Berlin criminal police as so-called “Zigeuner.”[3] The office was located at the Criminal Police Headquarters and played an important role in the persecution of the minority on a local level.[4] The files are key sources for researching National Socialist persecution of Sinti and Roma in Berlin and the Brandenburg region. The preservation of the files is due to a single archives employee who was able to save a small part of the collection from being destroyed.[5] They are now kept at the Landesarchiv Berlin (Central State Archives Berlin). The files have been digitized and can be accessed via the Arolsen Archives, the former International Tracing Service (ITS), which is one of the most important archives for victims of Nazi persecution today. One can search for individual files by name.[6]

The digital sources are always of great significance for historians researching the history of Sinti and Roma persecution, but they are especially so in light of the ongoing pandemic. Therefore, it is particularly important and worthwhile to review the personal files from the perspective of source criticism.

The source material consists of 179 uniform personal files, most of which include so-called “Rassegutachten”—reports assessing the “race” based on racist categories (see below)[7]—birth certificates, employment certificates, and often fingerprints, images, and correspondences. In addition, they contain notes that provide information on life circumstances or deportation dates. The individual files differ in size. At least eight of them were initially created as criminal files by the so-called “Kriminalinspektion Vorbeugung” (Criminal Investigation Prevention).[8] These documents contain personal cards from prisons, investigations, penal orders, indictments, and judgments, as well as from interrogations of individuals, which can provide detailed insights into labor conditions, living circumstances, and acts of self-assertion or resistance.

Nevertheless, we must consider that the information in these files reflects the racist Nazi ideology and terminology and can’t be taken at face value. First and foremost, the term “Zigeuner” is an attribution with which Sinti and Roma people did not identify. Instead, it is a racist category that the perpetrators imposed on them. Furthermore, the content of these sources has been transmitted in a filtered form. This is evident in the written summary of an interrogation of the nineteen-year-old Korseda M., who jumped off the train during her deportation to the concentration camp Ravensbrück, fled, and was arrested again a few weeks later. In her criminal file, her interrogation was summarized. Based on the language and the deletions as well as the handwritten additions to the original excerpt of the transcript, it is apparent that her statement was altered.[9] Evidently, an official already preselected the information that seemed relevant to him – as well as the information that did not. This decision too was based on racist logic. However, despite the changes of the original statement, the transcript of the interrogation reveals her resistance.

Konrad W.’s escape is yet another example of Sinti and Roma resistance documented in the personal files. The twenty-year-old Konrad was imprisoned for allegedly breaching his employment contract. He broke out of a court prison, and the district court councilor, who wrote the letter, even urged caution in case of arrest, warning that Konrad and fellow fugitives could resist with violence.[10] Whether Konrad was indeed violent or if the assertion was only a projection of the district court councilor remains unclear. Nevertheless, the case shows that Konrad resisted the discriminatory labor conditions imposed on him. Furthermore, the file concluded with a report that Konrad W. was still on the run. Konrad’s further fate cannot be determined.

Clearly, there are some limitations to the validity of the personal files. The collection is fragmentary, and the files reflect the perspectives of bureaucratic perpetrators. Therefore, a source-critical approach to the files is essential. It is crucial for researchers to consciously retain a critical distance from the language of the perpetrators while making the origins and context of the information gathered by the perpetrators transparent. As long as one maintains such a source-critical perspective, the files can certainly provide valuable clues to resistant behavior and human agency.

Furthermore, personal testimonies from victims are a necessary corrective when working with perpetrator sources like the personal files.[11] The personal testimonies can illuminate gray areas and ultimately transcend the perpetrators’ perspective.

Finally, the source value of the files depends on the research question. They are doubtless of great value for researching the lives of persecuted Sinti and Roma. If one approaches them with sensitivity, the persecuted persons also become visible as subjects who represented their own interests and resisted in a variety of ways.  

In this light, the history of the persecution of Sinti and Roma, reflected in these files, also comes across as a history of self-assertion.


[1] Cf. Pientka, Patricia: Das Zwangslager für Sinti und Roma in Berlin-Marzahn. Alltag, Verfolgung und Deportation. Berlin 2013. 39f.

[2]  Cf. Gilsenbach, Reimar: Marzahn – Hitlers erstes Lager für Fremdrassige. Ein vergessenes Kapitel der Naziverbrechen, in: Pogrom – Zeitschrift für bedrohte Völker 17 (1986) 122, 15-17. 17.

[3] Cf. Pientka: Zwangslager. 19f.

[4] Cf. Fings, Karola: Gutachten zum Schnellbrief des Reichssicherheitshauptamtes – Tgb. Nr. RKPA. 149/1939 -g- vom 17.10.1939 betr. „Zigeunererfassung“ („Festsetzungserlass“). Köln 2018. 3f.

[5] Cf. Pientka: Zwangslager. 19f.


[7] This involved the racist assignment of individuals into the categories of “Zigeuner” (Gypsy), “non-Gypsy,” “Gypsy-mixed,” and many degrees in between.

[8] The “vorbeugende Verbrechensbekämpfung” (preventive crime control) allowed the Nazis to surveil and arrest alleged potential criminals and unwanted persons. The measures it included affected, for example, Sinti and Roma, homeless people, homosexuals, and sex workers.

[9] Cf. Interrogation Korseda M., 1939, 1.2.2 / 12102693 / ITS Digital Archive, Arolsen Archives. See Korseda’s file:

[10] Cf. Letter district court councilor Atlandsberg to “Zigeunerdienststelle“, 1942, 1.2.2 / 12102907/ ITS Digital Archive, Arolsen Archives. See Konrad’s file:

[11] A collection of digitized self-testimonies can be found in the curated archive section “Voices of the Victims” of RomArchive, the digital archive of the Roma.

Jewish Transit to China: “Die Gelbe Post”: A German Newspaper in Shanghai, 1939 – 1940

By Lea Katharina Neikes

The German Historical Institute (GHI) Washington DC, in collaboration with external partners, has organized an ongoing conference and workshop series about Jewish refugees in global transit between the 1930s and 1960s. The workshop was held 2018 in Kolkata, 2019 at the GHI Pacific Regional Office in Berkeley, and 2020 and 2021 as an online workshop due to the pandemic. As former interns, Paul Diekmann and I were invited to participate as guests at the Oct. 25-26 online workshop. Especially the discussion about the destination Shanghai, a rich and multifaceted topic, turned out to be fascinating.

After the November pogrom in 1938, while almost all other countries had closed their borders to German Jews, only Shanghai remained as one of the last places of refuge from the German Reich. Until 1941, it was still possible to enter the French and international parts of the city without a visa. Around 18,000 to 20,000 German-speaking refugees came to Shanghai. First by sea via Italian ports, later via the Soviet Union with the Trans-Siberian Railway or via intermediate stops in Africa and Asia. In addition, around 1,500 Jewish refugees from Japan were deported to Shanghai in 1941. The community grew to about 20,000 members during this time.

Cartoon, Die abgewiesenen Flüchtlinge, in: Die Gelbe Post, vol. 1, no. 2 (May 16, 1939), 28, original: Ken Magazine Chicago, cartoonist and copyrights unknown. Please contact href if you have any information about the rights holder.

The refugees had to adjust to the poor living conditions on site. Their experience offers a perspective on the war that is markedly different from the experiences of emigres to other countries. The history of Jewish refugees in Shanghai highlights that World War II was a complex combination of events, reflecting a variety of entanglements and disentanglements. After the beginning of WWII in the Pacific in December 1941, Shanghai came under full control of an Axis power: Japan. While Japan itself committed egregious war crimes, it shared neither the priorities nor the methods of the of the Germans who committed and supported the genocide.

The situation for the refugees worsened when the Japanese military authorities set up a ghetto for Jewish refugees in the Hongkou district in February 1943. Despite the adverse conditions, the emigrants developed a diverse cultural and social life with theater and music programs, newspapers, and the establishment of synagogues and schools. Still, the majority of Jews knew only German. There were no German-language newspapers and magazines in Shanghai at that time. Therefore, it was not easy to get information about what was going on in the world.

Josef Storfer, a disciple of Sigmund Freud, went into exile in Shanghai in 1938. In July 1938, he founded the magazine die  Gelbe Post (the Yellow Post), which appeared twice a month and dealt primarily with the daily struggle for survival of Jewish émigrés in Shanghai. In November 1938, the  Gelbe Post was transformed into a newspaper. It appeared daily until it was sold in September 1940. The newspaper quickly established international recognition.

Gelbe Post, vol. 7, no. 78 (May 5, 1940), LBI periodical collection online,

This did not go unnoticed in Nazi Germany.  Just two months after it was published, a well-informed, extensive article about Storfer and his magazine appeared in the vulgar anti-Semitic hate newspaper “Der Stürmer”. The name of the German author, who apparently had to live in Shanghai, is deliberately not mentioned: “From our collaborator in Shanghai,” is all it says. For them, Storfer who even in exile tried not to give up his Viennese cultural heritage, was also subject to racist persecution and demonization in Shanghai. The Stürmer wrote: “The Jew A. J. Storfer has now settled in Shanghai. He is working to inject his Jewish poison into wide circles of the Chinese people. Through his poison the Chinese people, who are already very decomposed by communism, shall perish completely.”[1] This example shows that the Nazi persecution did not end during the transit of the refugees. It had to be expected that Nazi supporters would remain in their environment.

The Jews in Shanghai, who had successfully escaped from the Nazi regime, continued to care and worry about the war in Europe, especially about the policies of Nazi Germany. Even though Shanghai was and felt far away from Europe, the emigrees were very worried that the war would extend further and come closer to Shanghai. Die Gelbe Post reported in almost every issue on political events, assessments of the war’s development and possible new immigration opportunities.

In Storfer’s obituary, a friend wrote: ” (…) He was always preoccupied with getting to the bottom of things (…) as deeply as possible.”[2] And in fact, there were entire articles in his newspaper devoted to the beauty and distinctiveness of Chinese and Japanese culture and language. Why were Jewish journalists and intellectuals in the changed political situation in Shanghai still focusing their attention “on the content and value of the superior Chinese culture”?

A few years after his arrival in Shanghai, the Jewish jurist and journalist Dr. Victor Sternberg stated in this regard:  “Above all, we have come to know the people of China, in that section which lives in Shanghai, to some extent, during the years of our stay here, and we have made a great discovery: the Chinese are people just like us. […]”[3] This discovery was partly owed to those exile journalists, like Storfer, who helped the Jewish emigrants in Shanghai to overcome the linguistic difficulties, especially the problems of understanding the Chinese mentality and Chinese culture.

The Jewish refugees living in Shanghai were considerate of their fellow residents and of their surroundings. For example, they reported on initial mistakes made by newcomers or advised on the proper, polite, way to treat rickshaw drivers. The report “Gangsterversicherung gegen Gangster in Hongkew”, published on the 5th of March 1940, speaks of thugs on Huoshan Street, who often came into the stores and collected the protection fees. Those who paid the protection fees had a note with “under protection” taped to the door of the store. Reports like this informed the Jewish businessmen about the various gangs in Shanghai and urged them to be careful. The Jewish refugees cared very much for their countrymen and wished that more refugees would be taken in by Shanghai.

Shanghai’s unique perspective and newspapers like the Yellow Post are a good reflection of the experiences and observations of the Jewish refugees stranded there. However, in order to evaluate these experiences in depth, one must evaluate biographical aspects to reconstruct time and feelings. There are always certain types of religious and cultural knowledge that have been passed down through generations, which may not be documented by documents and other sources While transit is frequently associated with trauma, it can also be associated with other aspects of the experience, such as humor, love or sexuality. Die Gelbe Post and Josef Storfer’s work demonstrate just that. A wide range of Exilpresse publications like the Gelbe Post and other journals (not only from Shanghai) can be accessed via the online catalog of the German national library, which also includes various exhibitions, publications and events.;jsessionid=58CB1B342758D91C72DBA2346543D980.internet532

See also:  Gelbe Post: ostasiatische Halbmonatsschrift. (Shanghai, China: 1939-1940), Leo Baeck Institute Periodical Collection, NYC, online at the Internet Archive: (last accessed January 17, 2022).

[1] Kaufhold,Roland: Ein Wiener in Asien. (Stand: 12.12.2021).

[2] Goddemeier, Christof: Adolf Josef Storfer: „Geist von der Eindringlichkeit eines Drillbohrers“. (Stand: 12.12.2021).

[3] Lukoschik, Rita Unfer: Deutsch-chinesische Literaturbeziehungen. In: Hans-Gert Roloff (Hg.): Jahrbuch für Internationale Germanistik. Jahrgang XLVII – Heft 1, 2015.


  • Eber, Irene. Wartime Shanghai and the Jewish Refugees from Central Europe: Survival, Co-existence, and Identity in a Multi-ethnic City. 2012.
  • Kaufhold, Roland. Ein Wiener in Asien. Jüdische Allgemeine, Aug. 7, 2017 (Accessed 12.12.2021).
  • Lämmert, Eberhard, Mencke, Eva, Maas, Lieselotte. Handbuch der deutschen Exilpresse 1933-1945. Bd. 3 1976.
  • Lukoschik, Rita Unfer. Deutsch-chinesische Literaturbeziehungen. In: Hans-Gert Roloff (Hg.): Jahrbuch für Internationale Germanistik. Jahrgang XLVII – Heft 1, 2015.
  • Lukoschik, Rita Unfer. Deutsch-chinesische Literaturbeziehungen. In: Hans-Gert Roloff (Hg.): Jahrbuch für Internationale Germanistik. Jahrgang XLVII – Heft 1, 2015.
  • Mars, Alvin. A Note on the Jewish Refugees in Shanghai. In: Jewish Social Studies, Vol. 31, Nr. 4, 1969.
  • Rosdy, Paul. Adolf Josef Storfer, Shanghai und die Gelbe Post. Dokumentation von Paul Rosdy zum Reprint der Gelben Post. 1999.
  • Rosdy, Paul. Adolf Josef Storfer, Shanghai und die Gelbe Post. Dokumentation von Paul Rosdy zum Reprint der Gelben Post. 1999.
  • Stiftung Jüdisches Museum Berlin (Hg.). Heimat und Exil: Emigration der deutschen Juden nach 1933. 2006.
  • Yutong, Wang/Yongting, Pan. Was stand in der Gelben Post? SISU, Sept. 25, 2016, (Accessed 12.2021).

Research Access to the German Broadcasting Heritage. A Short Introduction to the Archival Landscape of the German Broadcasters ARD and Deutschlandradio

By Götz Lachwitz

Editorial note: Götz Lachwitz has been a research specialist at the German Broadcasting Archive (DRA) at Potsdam-Babelsberg since August 2020. His responsibilities include coordination and advice on ARD-wide and general research inquiries serving academics and other scholars. Previously, he was a research assistant in the DFG project “History of Documentary Film in Germany” and a doctoral student at the University of Hamburg, where he was part of the research training group „Vergegenwärtigungen. Repräsentationen der Shoah in komparatistischer Perspektive“ [Recollections:Representations of the Shoah in Comparative Perspective]

Are you a researcher and are looking for an overview of German radio and television coverage on your research topic? Are you interested in radio and television reports by specific journalists, cinematographers, or other media professionals from the last 100 years? Are you working on a comparative study of broadcasting in East and West Germany during the Cold War and are still looking for relevant sources? Then you need access to the German broadcasting heritage, and to the archives of public broadcasting.

© DRA. Photograph: Waltraud Denger, ARD-Design
Videos relevant to contemporary history are freely accessible under the label “ARD Retro” in the ARD Mediathek on the Internet**

In Germany, there are private broadcasters, mostly financed by advertising, as well as public broadcasters, financed by fees. This system, which is also called the “dual principle,” dates to the early eighties, when an increasing number of private broadcasting companies were established.[1] The prominence of public broadcasting distinguishes the German media landscape from the U.S., where radio and television programs are often produced by commercial providers.  

One of the key features of the public broadcasting system in Germany is its federal structure. Each federal state has its own state broadcasting institution, each with its own competencies. In some cases, two or more federal states jointly operate a broadcasting institution, such as Rundfunk Berlin Brandenburg. A total of nine broadcasters broadcast radio and television programs for their respective regions.[2] In addition, a joint supra-regional television program operates within the framework of ARD, the Association of German Broadcasting Corporations: Das Erste or Das Erste Deutsche Fernsehen.

Part of ARD is the international broadcaster Deutsche Welle, which produces a multilingual radio and television program for various target groups in other countries. Independent from ARD, but also organized under public law, are the nationwide broadcasters Deutschlandradio, with a total of three national radio programs, and Zweites Deutsches Fernsehen (ZDF). Today, all broadcasters provide digital programs and services complementing their regular radio or television programs.

The diversity of broadcasters is also reflected by the archives of the individual stations. Each of the public broadcasting companies maintains its own archive. These archives contain not only the surviving radio and television broadcasts from the program, but also sources that provide additional contextual information, such as written material, photographs, and material objects. In addition to documentation of the broadcasting company’s institutional history, the archives also include collections about specific program, including, for example, letters to the editor. As sources of contemporary history, such letters provide insight into the impact of radio and television on its viewers. Donated manuscript collections from important personalities in broadcasting history, and other special collections, such as sheet music for live music broadcasts from broadcasting concert halls, also have their place in these archives. [3]

A special feature in the network of public broadcasting archives is the German Broadcasting Archive (DRA), a foundation jointly supported by ARD and Deutschlandradio, with two locations – in Frankfurt am Main and in Potsdam-Babelsberg. The DRA’s main focus is on the broadcasting collections from the Weimar Republic (1923-1933), National Socialism (1933-1945) and the radio and television of the German Democratic Republic (1945-1990). The DRA’s collections therefore represent an important addition to the holdings of the archives of the public broadcasters, documenting the historical development of broadcasting in Germany as a whole. German broadcasting history now spans over more than 100 years, and was shaped by political transformations and two forms of dictatorship, Nazi Germany and the GDR.  [4]

© DRA, Fotografie: Michael Risse
View into the television magazine of the German Broadcasting Archive, where the analog film holdings from the GDR’s television era are stored.

The fact that public broadcasting exists at all in the Federal Republic of Germany today is primarily due to National Socialism and the Allied occupation following World War II: During the Nazi era, centralized broadcasting was an important propaganda tool, a development that the allied powers strove to rule out after the end of the war. Based on the model of the British BBC, the Western occupying powers introduced a public broadcasting service: a service that operates independently from the state, is publicly financed (by all citizens), has a federal rather than a centralized structure, and that has an educational mandate in line with democratic principles. This is a model that was continued and expanded after the founding of the Federal Republic of Germany in 1949 and has essentially survived until today.  [5]

In the Soviet occupation zone, broadcasting was initially under the control of the Soviet Military Administration following the end of World War II. After the establishment of the GDR in 1949, state-controlled broadcasting was introduced, which lasted for several decades, until the fall of the Berlin Wall. In this respect, the unification of East and West Germany also led to groundbreaking changes in broadcasting policy. The GDR’s broadcasting system was dissolved. In the new federal states in the territory of the former GDR, new broadcasting stations were established, or the regions were included in the broadcasting areas of existing West German broadcasting stations. [6]

The establishment of Deutschlandradio, the only nationwide public radio station, was also a result of Germany’s unification in 1989/1990. Both Rundfunk im amerikanischen Sektor (RIAS Berlin), which was founded during the American occupation, and Deutschlandfunk, which was founded in the 1960s as a German response to propaganda radio measures by the GDR, and finally Deutschlandsender Kultur (DS Kultur), which emerged from the GDR’s radio station during the fall of communism, were transferred to a new national radio station in 1994: Deutschlandradio. Therefore, today’s Deutschlandradio archive includes not only its own programming assets, but also the records of the three predecessor stations.

Scholars who are interested in the history of German broadcasting today, or who are hoping to access the German broadcasting heritage for a variety of research projects, will therefore not only encounter the parallel structure of private and public broadcasters, but also a network of different broadcasting archives distributed throughout Germany.

Since 2014, however, this distributed archival landscape has become more accessible through a uniform access regulation for the archives of ARD, Deutschlandradio and ZDF. Since then, the public broadcasters have voluntarily committed themselves to opening their archives for academic research. Since 2021, the DRA has also taken on a coordinating and advisory role to simplify access to the holdings of ARD and Deutschlandradio. The DRA is available to assist with general and specific research inquiries, including advice on how to access the different collections, or with sharing contact information for specialists in the ARD and Deutschlandradio archives. The DRA is also the first point of contact if a you are interested in researching in the holdings of several institutions. However, if you are specifically interested in researching in the holdings of one of the public broadcasters, you are welcome to contact these archives directly. Just as at the DRA, an academic research liaison in each archive of the broadcasting corporations will assist you with your inquiry.

* To mark UNESCO’s World Audiovisual Heritage Day on October 27, 2020, the archives of the ARD stations and the German Broadcasting Archive have started making videos relevant to contemporary history freely accessible online. The focus is on regional and current television productions from before 1966, which will in the future be available under the label “ARD Retro” in the ARD Mediathek. Insights into the news and magazine features of GDR television are provided by the “Retro Spezial DDR,” which is made available by the DRA.

[1] See: Schwarzkopf, Dietrich, „Die “Medienwende” 1983,“ in: Schwarzkopf (ed.), Rundfunkpolitik in Deutschland. Wettbewerb und Öffentlichkeit, vol.1 (Munich: dtv, 1999): 29-49.

[2] This includes the Bayerische Rundfunk (BR), Hessische Rundfunk (HR), Mitteldeutsche Rundfunk (MDR), Norddeutsche Rundfunk (NDR), Radio Bremen, Rundfunk Berlin-Brandenburg (RBB), Saarländische Rundfunk (SR), Südwestdeutsche Rundfunk (SWR) and the Westdeutsche Rundfunk (WDR).

[3] See: Behmer, Markus/Bernard, Birgit/Hasselbring, Bettina (eds.), Das Gedächtnis des Rundfunks. Die Archive der öffentlich-rechtlichen Sender und ihre Bedeutung für die Forschung (Wiesbaden: Springer VS, 2013).

[4] See: Dethlefs, Friedrich. „Ein Archiv für Tonaufnahmen. Geschichte und Bestände des Deutschen Rundfunkarchivs – Ein Überblick,“ in: Archivnachrichten aus Hessen 20:1 (2020): 36-41.

[5] See: Glässgen, Heinz, „Im öffentlichen Interesse. Einführung,“ in: Glässgen (ed.),Im öffentlichen Interesse. Auftrag und Legitimation des öffentlich-rechtlichen Rundfunks (Leipzig: Vistas, 2015): 11-19.

[6] For an overview of the German (East-and West) broadcasting history, see: Dussel, Konrad, Deutsche Rundfunkgeschichte, third rev. edition (Konstanz: UVK, 2010).


Overview of the scholarship and research liaisons at the archives of ARD, Deutschlandradio and ZDF: [Nov. 21, 2020]

Regulations on research and academic access for  to the archives of the public broadcasting corporations in the Federal Republic of Germany and the German Broadcasting Archives: [Nov. 21, 2020]

Web presentation of the German Broadcasting Archive with information about holdings and access options: [Nov. 21, 2020]

Website of the Historical Commission of the ARD with information on the history of public service broadcasting in Germany: [Nov. 21, 2020]

ARD Retro, [Nov. 11, 2012]

Retro Spezial DDR, [Nov. 11, 2012]

Further reading

Behmer, Markus/Bernard, Birgit/Hasselbring, Bettina (eds). Das Gedächtnis des Rundfunks. Die Archive der öffentlich-rechtlichen Sender und ihre Bedeutung für die Forschung. Wiesbaden: Springer VS, 2013.

Dussel, Konrad. Deutsche Rundfunkgeschichte. 3rd, rev. Edition. Konstanz: UVK, 2010.

Glässgen, Heinz (ed.). Im öffentlichen Interesse. Auftrag und Legitimation des öffentlich-rechtlichen Rundfunks. Leipzig: Vistas, 2015.

Schwarzkopf, Dietrich (ed.). Rundfunkpolitik in Deutschland. Wettbewerb und Öffentlichkeit. 2 vols. Munich: Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag, 1999.

Zugang für Wissenschaftler*innen zum deutschen Rundfunkerbe. Ein kurzer Einstieg in die Archivlandschaft von ARD und Deutschlandradio

Von Götz Lachwitz

Editorische Notiz: Götz Lachwitz ist seit August 2020 wissenschaftlicher Fachreferent beim Deutschen Rundfunkarchiv am Standort Potsdam-Babelsberg. Zu seinen Aufgaben gehört unter anderem die Koordination und Beratung bei ARD-weiten und allgemeinen Anfragen aus Wissenschaft und Forschung. Zuvor war er wissenschaftlicher Mitarbeiter im DFG-Projekt „Geschichte des dokumentarischen Films in Deutschland“ und Doktorand an der Universität Hamburg, wo er im Rahmen des Graduiertenkollegs „Vergegenwärtigungen. Repräsentationen der Shoah in komparatistischer Perspektive“ promoviert hat.

Sie sind Wissenschaftler*in und brauchen einen Überblick über die deutsche Radio- und Fernsehberichterstattung zu ihrem Forschungsthema? Sie interessieren sich für Radio- und Fernsehbeiträge von bestimmten Journalist*innen, Kameraleuten oder anderen Medienschaffenden aus den letzten 100 Jahren? Sie arbeiten an einer vergleichenden Studie über den Rundfunk in Ost- und Westdeutschland während des Kalten Krieges und suchen noch nach relevanten Quellen? Dann brauchen Sie Zugang zum deutschen Rundfunkerbe und zu den Archiven des öffentlich-rechtlichen Rundfunks.

© DRA, Fotografie: Waltraud Denger, ARD-Design
Zeitgeschichtlich relevante Videos sind frei zugänglich unter dem Label “ARD Retro” in der ARD Mediathek im Netz zu finden*

In Deutschland gibt es sowohl private, überwiegend werbefinanzierte Rundfunkanbieter, als auch öffentlich-rechtliche Rundfunkanstalten, denn der Rundfunk in Deutschland ist seit Anfang der 1980er Jahre nach dem dualen Prinzip organisiert.[1] Dadurch unterscheidet sich die deutsche von der amerikanischen Medienlandschaft, wo Radio- und Fernsehprogramme in der Regel von kommerziellen Anbietern produziert werden.[2]

Eine der wesentlichen Besonderheiten des öffentlich-rechtlichen Rundfunksystems in Deutschland ist seine föderale Struktur. Das heißt jedes Bundesland (in einigen Fällen auch zwei oder mehr Bundesländer zusammen) verfügt über eine eigene Landesrundfunkanstalt mit jeweils eigenen Kompetenzen. Insgesamt neun Landesrundfunkanstalten senden Hörfunk- und Fernsehprogramme für die jeweilige Region.[3] Zusätzlich wird ein gemeinsames überregionales Fernsehprogramm im Rahmen der ARD, der Arbeitsgemeinschaft der deutschen Rundfunkanstalten, umgesetzt: Das Erste oder auch Das Erste Deutsche Fernsehen.

Ebenfalls zur ARD gehört der Auslandsrundfunk Deutsche Welle, der ein mehrsprachiges Hörfunk- und Fernsehprogramm für verschiedene Zielgruppen aus anderen Ländern produziert. Unabhängig von der ARD, aber ebenfalls öffentlich-rechtlich organisiert, agieren außerdem die bundesweit aufgestellten Rundfunkanstalten Deutschlandradio, mit insgesamt drei national ausgerichteten Radioprogrammen, und das Zweite Deutsche Fernsehen (ZDF). Alle diese Rundfunkanstalten publizieren heute neben verschiedenen Hörfunk- oder Fernsehprogrammen auch digitale Angebote.

Die Vielfalt an Rundfunkanstalten spiegelt sich auch in den Archiven der einzelnen Sender wider. Jede der öffentlich-rechtlichen Rundfunkanstalten unterhält ein eigenes Archiv. In diesen Archiven finden sich nicht nur die überlieferten Hörfunk- und Fernsehsendungen aus dem Programm, sondern auch zahlreiche kontextualisierende Quellen, wie Schriftgut, Fotografien und Sachzeugen. Darunter fallen natürlich Unterlagen, die die jeweilige Unternehmensgeschichte dokumentieren. Dazu können aber beispielsweise auch Leserbriefe zu Sendungen gehören, die als Quellen der Zeitgeschichte einen Einblick in die Wirkung von Radio und Fernsehen auf seine Zuschauer*innen ermöglichen. Auch Nachlässe bedeutender Persönlichkeiten der Rundfunkgeschichte und spezielle Sammlungen, wie die von Noten als Grundlage von live aus dem Sendesaal übertragener Musik, haben in diesen Archiven ihren Platz.[4]

Eine Besonderheit im Netzwerk der öffentlich-rechtlichen Rundfunkarchive ist das Deutsche Rundfunkarchiv (DRA), eine gemeinsam von der ARD und Deutschlandradio getragene Stiftung mit zwei Standorten – in Frankfurt am Main und Potsdam-Babelsberg. Zu den Überlieferungsschwerpunkten des DRA gehören die Bestände des Rundfunks aus der Zeit der Weimarer Republik (1923-1933), des Nationalsozialismus (1933-1945) und vom Hörfunk- und Fernsehen der Deutschen Demokratischen Republik (1945-1990). Die Sammlungen des DRA stellen daher eine wichtige Ergänzung zu den Beständen der Archive der öffentlich-rechtlichen Sendeanstalten dar, um die gesamtdeutsche Geschichte des Rundfunks in den Blick nehmen zu können – eine Geschichte, die mittlerweile gut 100 Jahre umfasst und von verschiedenen Staatsformen nachhaltig geprägt wurde, darunter zwei Diktaturen.[5]

© DRA, Fotografie: Michael Risse
Blick ins Fernsehmagazin des Deutschen Rundfunkarchivs, wo die analogen Filmbestände aus der Zeit des Fernsehens der DDR aufbewahrt werden.

Dass es in der Bundesrepublik Deutschland heute überhaupt einen öffentlich-rechtlich organisierten Rundfunk gibt, hat seine Begründung vor allem in der Zeit des Zweiten Weltkriegs und der Zeit unter alliierter Besatzung: Zur Zeit des Nationalsozialismus war der zentralstaatlich organisierte Rundfunk ein wichtiges Propagandainstrument. Eine ähnliche Entwicklung sollte nach Kriegsende ausgeschlossen werden. Angelehnt an das Vorbild der britischen BBC wurde daher von den westlichen Besatzungsmächten ein öffentlich-rechtlicher Rundfunk eingeführt: ein vom Staat unabhängig agierender, öffentlich (das heißt von allen Bürger*innen) finanzierter, föderal statt zentralistisch aufgestellter Rundfunk mit einem Bildungsauftrag im Sinne demokratischer Prinzipien. Es handelt sich dabei um ein Modell, dass nach Gründung der Bundesrepublik fortgesetzt und ausgebaut wurde und im Wesentlichen bis heute Bestand hat.[6]

In der sowjetischen Besatzungszone stand der Rundfunk nach Kriegsende zunächst unter Kontrolle der Sowjetischen Militäradministration, bevor in der DDR ein staatlich kontrollierter Rundfunk eingeführt wurde, der mehrere Jahrzehnte lang Bestand hatte. Die Wiedervereinigung von Ost- und Westdeutschland führte insofern auch rundfunkpolitisch zu wegweisenden Veränderungen. Der Rundfunk der DDR wurde aufgelöst. In den neuen Bundesländern auf dem Gebiet der ehemaligen DDR wurden entweder neue Rundfunkanstalten gegründet oder die Sendegebiete bereits bestehender westdeutscher Rundfunkanstalten wurden erweitert.[7]

Auch die Gründung von Deutschlandradio, dem einzigen bundesweit aufgestellten öffentlich-rechtlichen Radiosender, ist eine Folge der Wiedervereinigung im Jahr 1989/1990. Sowohl der noch zur Zeit amerikanischer Besatzung gegründete Rundfunk im amerikanischen Sektor (kurz: RIAS Berlin), als auch der in den 1960er Jahren als bundesdeutsche Antwort auf propagandistische Radio-Maßnahmen von Seiten der DDR gegründete Sender Deutschlandfunk und schließlich der in der Wendezeit aus dem Rundfunk der DDR hervorgegangene Deutschlandsender Kultur (kurz: DS Kultur) wurden 1994 in einen neuen nationalen Hörfunk überführt: Deutschlandradio.[8] Das Archiv von Deutschlandradio umfasst daher heute nicht nur das eigene Programmvermögen, sondern auch die Überlieferung der drei Vorläuferanstalten.

Wer sich heute wissenschaftlich mit der deutschen Rundfunkgeschichte beschäftigt, oder auch mit Blick auf andere Fragestellungen Zugang zum deutschen Rundfunkerbe sucht, trifft also nicht nur auf ein Nebeneinander von privaten und öffentlich-rechtlich organisierten Rundfunkanstalten. Wissenschaftler*innen treffen auch auf ein Geflecht unterschiedlicher Archive, die in ganz Deutschland verteilt sind.

Dieser verteilten Archivsituation steht aber seit 2014 eine einheitliche Zugangsregelung für Wissenschaftler*innen zu den Archiven von ARD, Deutschlandradio und ZDF gegenüber. Seit diesem Zeitpunkt besteht eine freiwillige Selbstverpflichtung der öffentlich-rechtlichen Rundfunkanstalten ihre Archive für Wissenschaft und Forschung zu öffnen. Seit 2021 übernimmt außerdem das DRA eine koordinierende und beratende Funktion, die den Zugang zu den Beständen von ARD und Deutschlandradio vereinfachen soll. Bei allgemeinen wissenschaftlichen Anfragen, einer Beratung zu den Zugangsmöglichkeiten zu den Archivbeständen der Rundfunkanstalten oder bei der Suche nach der oder dem richtigen Ansprechpartner*in in den Archiven von ARD und Deutschlandradio, steht ihnen das DRA zur Seite. Auch ist das DRA der erste Ansprechpartner, wenn Sie sich für die Bestände mehrerer Häuser interessieren. Wenn Sie sich dagegen ganz konkret für die Bestände einer der öffentlich-rechtlichen Rundfunkanstalten interessieren, nehmen Sie gerne den direkten Kontakt auf. Genauso wie im DRA gibt es in jedem Archiv der Rundfunkanstalten eine/n Wissenschaftsansprechpartner*in, der oder die sie bei ihrem Anliegen unterstützen kann.

* Zum UNESCO Welttag des Audiovisuellen Erbes am 27. Oktober 2020 haben die Archive der ARD-Sender und das Deutsche Rundfunkarchiv begonnen, zeitgeschichtlich relevante Videos frei zugänglich ins Netz zu stellen. Im Fokus stehen regionale und aktuelle Fernsehproduktionen aus der Zeit vor 1966. Sie sind künftig unter dem Label „ARD Retro“ in der ARD Mediathek zu finden. Einblicke in die Nachrichten- und Magazin-Beiträge des DDR-Fernsehens gibt das „Retro Spezial DDR“, das vom DRA bereitgestellt wird.

[1] Vgl. dazu Schwarzkopf, Dietrich (1999): Die “Medienwende” 1983. In: Ders. (Hrsg.), Rundfunkpolitik in Deutschland. Wettbewerb und Öffentlichkeit. Band 1. München: dtv, S. 29-49.

[2] Zu den nicht-kommerziellen Rundfunkanbietern in den USA gehören der Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) und das National Public Radio (NPR).

[3] Dazu gehören heute der Bayerische Rundfunk (BR), der Hessische Rundfunk (HR), der Mitteldeutsche Rundfunk (MDR), der Norddeutsche Rundfunk (NDR), Radio Bremen, der Rundfunk Berlin-Brandenburg (RBB), der Saarländische Rundfunk (SR), der Südwestdeutsche Rundfunk (SWR) und der Westdeutsche Rundfunk (WDR).

[4] Vgl. Behmer, Markus/Bernard, Birgit/Hasselbring, Bettina (Hrsg.) (2013): Das Gedächtnis des Rundfunks. Die Archive der öffentlich-rechtlichen Sender und ihre Bedeutung für die Forschung. Wiesbaden: Springer VS.

[5] Vgl. Dethlefs, Friedrich (2020): Ein Archiv für Tonaufnahmen. Geschichte und Bestände des Deutschen Rundfunkarchivs – Ein Überblick. In: Archivnachrichten aus Hessen, 20, 1, S. 36-41.

[6] Vgl. Glässgen, Heinz (2015): Im öffentlichen Interesse. Einführung. In: Ders. (Hrsg.), Im öffentlichen Interesse. Auftrag und Legitimation des öffentlich-rechtlichen Rundfunks. Leipzig: Vistas, S. 11-19.

[7] Für einen Überblick über die gesamtdeutsche Rundfunkgeschichte vgl. Dussel, Konrad (2010): Deutsche Rundfunkgeschichte. 3., überarbeitete Auflage, Konstanz: UVK.

[8] Vgl. Diller, Ansgar (1999): Der nationale Hörfunk. In: Schwarzkopf, Dietrich (Hrsg.), Rundfunkpolitik in Deutschland. Wettbewerb und Öffentlichkeit. Band 2. München: dtv, S. 978-1007.


Übersicht über die Wissenschaftsansprechpartner*innen der Archive von ARD, Deutschlandradio und ZDF:

Regelungen über den Zugang für Wissenschaft und Forschung zum Archivgut der öffentlich-rechtlichen Rundfunkanstalten in der Bundesrepublik Deutschland und des Deutschen Rundfunkarchivs:

Webauftritt des Deutschen Rundfunkarchivs mit Informationen über Bestände und Zugangsmöglichkeiten:

Webauftritt der Historischen Kommission der ARD mit Informationen zur Geschichte des öffentlich-rechtlichen Rundfunks in Deutschland:

ARD Retro,

Retro Spezial DDR,

Weiterführende Literatur

Behmer, Markus/Bernard, Birgit/Hasselbring, Bettina (Hrsg.) (2013): Das Gedächtnis des Rundfunks. Die Archive der öffentlich-rechtlichen Sender und ihre Bedeutung für die Forschung. Wiesbaden: Springer VS.

Dussel, Konrad (2010): Deutsche Rundfunkgeschichte. 3., überarbeitete Auflage, Konstanz: UVK.

Glässgen, Heinz (Hrsg.) (2015): Im öffentlichen Interesse. Auftrag und Legitimation des öffentlich-rechtlichen Rundfunks. Leipzig: Vistas.

Schwarzkopf, Dietrich (Hrsg.) (1999): Rundfunkpolitik in Deutschland. Wettbewerb und Öffentlichkeit. 2 Bände. München: Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag.

Between Progress and Sublime Reverie: Revisiting 19th-Century America through Digital Art Exhibitions

By Chiara Fralick

Chiara A. Fralick is a graduate student of North American Studies at the University of Cologne. She has focused on art and literatures of the 19th century as well as Indigenous oral histories. Currently she is researching interactions of poetry and land ethics in the environmental humanities. The working title of her Master’s thesis is “Nature Spirited Away: Exploring Ecological Empathy and Native Nations Poetics.” In the fall of 2021, she completed her remote internship at the GHI Washington, DC.

The other day I found myself wondering when I had been to a museum last. I love a good exhibition, so it’s an odd thing for me not to remember. But since the beginning of 2020, like so many of us, I have neither travelled much, nor sought out public places. So something that has made lockdown a little sweeter for me are digital exhibitions. One of my favourite museums to explore online, at the moment, is the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. It has an enormous online collection that not only features various paintings and artefacts, but also provides audio tours, interactive floor plans of the museum’s galleries, educational resources, and a world map to explore the museum’s art by location.

Asher B. Durand, Progress (The Advance of Civilization), VMFA,

Under the “Recently Acquired” section for American Art, I found Asher B. Durand’s painting Progress (The Advance of Civilization). Arguably one of his most famous works, it dates back to 1853 and depicts an evening scene speckled with industrial themes. As viewers, we are overlooking a bay engulfed by rolling hills of old-growth forest, distant mountains and a soft cloudscape bathed in golden light from the setting sun. There is a wagon trail that enters from the right, on which cattle are being brought in and goods are carried. A person ploughs their field, smaller boats frequent a stream and houses spring up here and there. Further along the shoreline a coal train passes over a viaduct and even further still, just slightly off centre, we can make out a busy industrial port with steamboats and the smoking chimneys of a larger town and factory. The painting’s composition allows the trail of industrialisation to progress from right to left – east to west – ending with the last ship almost in line with the setting sun. It is a typical and popular visualisation of 19th-century westward movement, predominantly used by a group of landscape painters called the Hudson River School, of which Durand was a leading figure. With this in mind, and considering the title of the painting, it is not surprising that for the longest time, Asher Durand’s Progress had been linked to American expansionism.

When I first spotted the miniature version of Progress, I mistook it at a glance for another one of Durand’s paintings: The Indian’s Vespers. The VMFA’s website works with visual cues, i.e. it gives you a small preview of an artefact or painting and only reveals the title once you move your curser over it. The digital collection thereby cleverly mimics the nature of an actual museum. Yet, The Indian’s Vespers has been in the White House Collection for half a century now, so it is doubtful we will see it in a museum any time soon. Instead, we can view it in the digital library provided by the White House Historical Association, albeit not in the highest resolution. The association was founded by First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy in 1961, with the “mission to protect, preserve, and provide public access to the rich history of America’s Executive Mansion.” It is definitely another form of online exhibit I would recommend. Their platform includes everything from newspaper clippings and photographs to a vast collection of the White House’s art and decor with detailed descriptions. The Indian’s Vespers is displayed in the Red Room.

Asher B. Durand, The Indian’s Vespers, 1847, The White House, Wikimedia Commons

The resemblance to Progress is indeed remarkable – and at the same time they couldn’t be more different. While Progress is renowned for seemingly capturing the expansionist zeitgeist of 19th-century America to a fault, The Indian’s Vespers is entirely void of any signs of industrialisation. Instead, it highlights the liveliness of nature, creating a dynamic current that runs in concentric lines around the sun. Durand saw it as the artist’s duty to portray “the spiritual beauty with which nature is animate,”[i] which is interesting, because it does not at all seem to sit well with the expansionist theme that so ardently advocates human power over nature. This is where the other movement that influenced the American art scene comes in: German Romanticism. The Hudson River School was closely affiliated with the Düsseldorf school of painting, with some American painters having even studied at the German academy themselves. For the Romantic movement in Germany, then, the revolution of imagination and animation of nature were key ingredients. It seems American painters tried to reconcile the expansionist and romantic side of their country by preserving a version of nature in their paintings that would remain untouched by industrialisation. This inner conflict between advocating the advance of American civilisation and the heartfelt sadness at the destruction of nature has been called the Romantic dilemma of the nineteenth century.

Detail from Asher Durand, Progress,

This dilemma is perceivable even in an expansionist masterpiece such as Progress. The clue lies in the painting’s details and might easily be missed if we were looking at Progress in a museum. The painting’s composition is clever indeed – it guides our attention by means of perspective and lighting to the painting’s industrial centre, leaving the front quite literally in the shadows. The VFMA’ website, however, provides close-ups that invite us to reconsider the foreground. In the left detail of the painting we recognise a small group of Indigenous people overlooking the scene, which counterbalances the prominent entry from the right. Once noticed, they are impossible to miss and present the viewer with an alternative perspective and approach to the scene – an alternative lifestyle, even. If we then look at the detailed fragment of the bottom right of the painting, we notice another figure, with walking stick and a large bundle on his back, hiking out of the picture. In the highly-recommendable Panorama article Asher Durand’s Progress Reconsidered, art historian Rebecca Bedell interprets him as “a stand-in for the artist, turning his back on the path of progress.” Who knows, she writes, he might even “climb up to join the Native Americans on their perch.”

Did Durand indeed manage to hide the devil in the detail, so that more than one and a half centuries later, we are starting to see Progress in a different context and read it as anti-expansionist instead of glorifying industrialisation? In fact, ever since the painting was gifted to the VMFA by an anonymous donor, people have started to look at it with fresh perspective and more thorough contextualisation. In an interview with VPM (Virginia’s home for Public Media), the chief curator at the VMFA, Michael Taylor, explains that “this opportunity to provide new context happens when a classic work of art moves from private hands to a space where it can be publicly viewed, analyzed and questioned.” It is a privilege of our digital age that this space does not only exist in museums, but by now also online. I have found the wealth of digital source material for art history invaluable for my own research, especially in these past twenty months or so in which my home suddenly became office, lecture hall, museum and archive at the same time.

The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts is of course only one example of many, many more museums that went online over the past years – and, sadly at least for a while, could be explored exclusively online due to COVID-19. But online exhibits are a fantastic way to continue to integrate art into our education, zoom-classrooms, term papers, presentations or leisure time activities. At the beginning of the first lockdown, PBS even published an article about “19 immersive museum exhibits you can visit from your couch” and as diverse as these online collections may seem, they all have one thing in common: they take us on a journey, entertain us and sometimes – as is the case with Durand’s Progress – challenge us to question long-established convictions.

Literature and Links

Durand, John, The Life and Times of A. B. Durand, (1894), Charles Scribner’s Sons: New York, 2006.

Miller, Angela, “The Empire of the Eye: Landscape Representation and American Cultural Politics, 1825-1875,” Cornell University Press: Ithaca and London, 1993

Miller, Perry, “The Romantic Dilemma in American Nationalism and the Concept of Nature,” The Har- vard Theological Review 48,4 (1955).

Solomon, Peter, “Framing Progress: VMFA To Place $40 Million Asher Durand Painting In Context With Native American Art” WCVE News, Virginia Current, npr news, January 31, 2019. https://vp- with.

Asher B. Durand, The Indian’s Vespers by, 1847, The White House, Wikimedia Commons,’s_Vespers_by_Asher_Brown_Durand,_1847.jpg

Asher B. Durand, Progress (The Advance of Civilization), VMFA,

[i] Bedell, Rebecca, “Asher Durand’s Progress Reconsidered,” Panorama: Journal of the Association of Historians of American Art 5,1 (2019), p.4.

What Makes a Witch a Witch? A Brief History of the 17th Century Trials of Lemgo

By Lea Katharina Neikes

Editorial note: Lea Katharina Neikes is studying history and art history (Geschichtswissenschaften/Bild- und Kunstgeschichte) at the University of Bielefeld, Germany. Through her remote internship in the summer/autumn 2021 at the GHI, she has found new impulses for her upcoming bachelor thesis. Currently she is researching the comparison of different burial sites during the Dia de los muertos/All Saints and the construction/ effect of American and German/European cemeteries. Suitable for the Halloween month, she explored a (spooky) piece of her regional history for the href blog.

Two postcards featuring Lemgo’s history as a witch’s nest, 1920s (left) and 1970s (right). Source: Museum Hexenbürgermeisterhaus Lemgo

Have you ever heard of the city of Lemgo? No? Well, this small German town is rather well known among the citizen of North Rhine-Westphalia for its history as a “Witch’s nest” and its gruesome history of witchcraft trials. When I started my studies at the University of Bielefeld, I quickly realized that almost everyone there knew about it, everyone except for me. In fact, with about 200 trial records preserved in the city archives, the city is one of the most substantial memorials of witchcraft trials in Germany. After the 30 Years War (1618-1648), poverty and superstition had precipitated witchcraft hunts in numerous locations. It is estimated that 250 people, about 80 percent of them women, fell victim to the trials in Lemgo. There were at least two waves of persecution. The last one from 1665 to 1681 gained tragic prominence through the so-called “Hexenbürgermeister” (witch mayor) Hermann Cothmann.

Cothmann used the delusion of witchcraft to carry out his personal interests in power and to eliminate his opponents. The last witchcraft trial against Maria Rampendahl, who escaped with her life, also took place during his term of office. In 1681 the confident 36-year-old woman was interrogated for the first time, but was not intimidated by the threat of torture. Even two days later, under torture, she made no confession. Her final sentence was eternal banishment from the city and the country, a sentence that did certainly not sit well with her. Instead of accepting banishment, Maria Rampendahl sued those responsible before the Imperial Chamber Court. The proceedings ended in 1682 with her losing. Still her statements before the main court represent one of the most impressive ego documents in the collection. The trials finally ended in 1715, when the “Black Book”, in which all witchcraft accusations had been collected, was publicly burned on the market square.

Maria-Rampendal-Ehefrau-des-Barbiers-Hermann-Hermensen-1681-1682, Stadtverweisung, Stadtarchiv Lemgo, 01.02.02 A, A 3672


But who were the victims and how did they become victims? Of fundamental importance in this context is the question of the relevance of the category “gender” for early modern witchcraft hunts. The condemned and accused were almost exclusively female, predominantly old and often widowed. The categories of gender, age, and marital status were decisive for the labeling of a woman as a witch. One assumption is that calling a woman a witch was related to conflict. In fact, persons who were in a conflicted relationship with the accused were given preference by the council to take the stand.

Against the stereotypical persecution of women speaks the drastically increasing number of “atypical” witches. These include children as well as younger and “honorable” women, but especially Men. Andreas Koch, a priest, spoke out against the witchcraft trials and was therefore executed for being a “witch”.

Another peculiarity of the accusations in Lemgo is the symbolism used exclusively for men. For example, the brewer Olieschleger, who abused his wife, sexually assaulted his maids and offended the moral sensibilities of his neighbors, was not on trial as a witch but as a werewolf!

Schmähbrief gegen David Welman als Werwolf, 1642 (Stadtarchiv Lemgo A 4694)

This examples can only be deciphered by asking in what ways gender discourse and witchcraft discourse intertwine. From the perspective of the townspeople his wife, otherwise see as vulnerable to Satan’s wiles and dependent on male leadership, appeared as an example of Christian virtue while her husband was out of control. Besides the witch trials, there also existed so-called werewolf trials. In general, the accused persons were exclusively men.

“Witches” were said to use, primarily, harmful spells. These were based on the stereotypical image of insidious and devious femininity. “Werewolves”, on the other hand, were said to have done animal like damage. And thus embodied a strongly masculine conception. The fact that a man could still be accused of being a witch was based on behavior, not interpreted as emphatically masculine, but as witchy-feminine.

Mitschriften von zwei Geständnissen oder Besagungen? (Stadtarchiv Lemgo A 10879)

Nevertheless, the files are questionable as they are part, product and medium of one or more discourses on witchcraft. As a result, it is primarily what “made sense” in this context that has been handed down. Another problem is that the respective men „in power“ determined the socioeconomic status of women. During the witchcraft hunts, social structures could put women at a disadvantage when it came to building a “lobby” to help fend off the attack on their reputation. Women were also more likely to become outsiders.

The above shows how strongly the meaning and interpretation of “gender” influenced the witchcraft trials in Lemgo. In addition to the personal enrichment of individuals, the effect, status and perception of the accused in the society also played a major role. Above all, it shows that research must depart from typical assumptions in order to understand the people behind it. In addition to the aspects mentioned, the source situation still offers many other research possibilities. For example, the interconnectedness of the witchcraft hunts with the surrounding towns is largely unexplored. Letters and court records that are preserved at the city archives Lemgo, some of which have been digitized and made available online, offer the possibility to explore these and other research questions, on the basis of these original records.

Thanks to Casey Sutcliffe and the participants of the GHI writing workshops for their helpful suggestions and edits of the draft for this blog post.

Literature and links:

Link to the Lemgo city archives finding aid, council and magistrate court-witch trials:

Museum Hexenbürgermeisterhaus Lemgo,

Gisela Wilbert; Gerd Schwerhoff; Jürgen Scheffler (Hg.): Hexenverfolgung und Regionalgeschichte. Die Grafschaft Lippe im Vergleich, Bielefeld 1994.

Gisela Wilbertz, Jürgen Scheffler (Hrsg.): Biographieforschung und Stadtgeschichte. Lemgo in der Spätphase der Hexenverfolgung. Bielefeld 2000.

Brief einer im Hexenprozess Angeklagten? (StaL A 10879), Archivblog Lippe,

Maria-Rampendal-Ehefrau-des-Barbiers-Hermann-Hermensen-1681-1682, Stadtverweisung, Stadtarchiv Lemgo, 01.02.02 A, A 3672

Schmähbrief gegen David Welman als Werwolf, 1642, Stadtarchiv Lemgo A 4694