Catalogue description Copies of captured records of the German, Italian and Japanese Governments.

Details of GFM
Reference: GFM
Title: Copies of captured records of the German, Italian and Japanese Governments.

Microfilms of records of the German Foreign Ministry, as well as the records of the Italian and Japanese governments, captured by the allies in 1945 and filmed as part of the German War Documents Project.

The majority of the copied records are of the German Foreign Ministry and its predecessors from 1867 to 1945.

Supplementary finding aids to German Foreign Ministry files are in GFM 1, photocopies of German Foreign Ministry documents are in GFM 33 and copies of miscellaneous German Foreign Ministry files are in GFM 19. Copies of Italian documents are in GFM 36. GFM 34 contains microfilm copies of the records in GFM 33 and GFM 36

The remaining series consist of microfilms of files selected by particular projects as follows:

  • GWDP, Project K, GFM 3
  • GWDP, Project L, GFM 4
  • GWDP, Project M, GFM 5
  • GWDP, Project C, GFM 30
  • GWDP, GFM 35
  • St Anthony's College, GFM 6
  • London School of Economics, GFM 7
  • South African Government, GFM 8
  • University of Columbia, GFM 9
  • University of California, GFM 10, GFM 11 and GFM 12
  • Florida State University, GFM 13
  • University of Michigan, GFM 14
  • Centre National de Recherche Scientifique, GFM 15
  • Ministère des Affaires Etrangères, GFM 16
  • Professor Chabod's, GFM 17
  • Professor Medlicott's, GFM 18
  • Fonds National de la Recherche Scientifique Belge, GFM 20
  • American Committee for Study of War Documents, GFM 21
  • University of London, GFM 22
  • Commonwealth National Library, Canberra, and Mitchell Library, Sydney, GFM 23
  • American Historical Association, GFM 24 and GFM 25

Date: 1839-1945
Related material:

For files containing both captured documents and records of the JCC see CAB 146

For other captured documents from the war see Subseries within FO 1031

Separated material:

GFM 2 was transferred to the Foreign Office in 1967; and GFM 26, GFM 29, GFM 31 and GFM 32 were transferred to the Ministry of Defence, Navy Department in 1966.

Held by: Admiralty Library
The National Archives, Kew
Originals held at:

Political Archive, Foreign Office, Bonn, Germany holds originals of German records

Legal status: Public Record(s)
Language: English, German, Italian and Japanese

German War Documents Project, 1946-1958

Physical description: 36 series
Access conditions: Available in microform only unless otherwise stated
Immediate source of acquisition:

from 1958 Foreign Office

Publication note:

For a history of the administration and microfilming of the captured archives, including papers on the use of these documents in official military histories, at the Nuremberg War Crimes trials, and by the United States Air Force see Captured German and related records: a national archives conference, ed Robert Wolfe (Ohio, 1974). For a catalogue including an alphabetical listing of file titles by registry series with an index of subjects see Catalogue of files and microfilms of the German Foreign Ministry archives 1867-1920, ed George Kent (Oxford, 1959). For a catalogue including an introduction explaining the arrangement of the documents (by departmental responsibility and subject) see Catalogue of files and microfilms of the German Foreign Ministry archives 1920-1945, 4 volumes (Hoover Institution, 1962-1972). For additional and vital information concerning methods of accessing the records on microfilm see Captured enemy documents: films of German Foreign Ministry archive (GFM) (Public Record Office Information Leaflet 64). A useful source for those records taken to the United States is the Guide to German records microfilmed in the USA, 75 volumes (Washington, 1958-1977).

Unpublished finding aids:

For means of reference and keys to German Foreign Ministry documents see supplementary finding aid available at TNA, Kew. The supplementary finding aid includes a numerical index of file lists, and item numbers, and an index of lists of documents of the former German Foreign Ministry.

Administrative / biographical background:

In April and May 1945, a mission, headed by Dr E Ralph Perkins of the State Department in Washington, editor of the Foreign Relations Series and member of the Combined Intelligence Objectives Subcommittee, went to Europe. The mission members had been briefed to track down German political and economic archives which were concerned primarily with the war with Japan, the influence and effects of Nazism, and the penetration and invasion of foreign countries. Regular communication was maintained with the Foreign Office, Britain's and the United States' shared objectives being to gain an understanding of the origins of the war and to learn about Germany's operations and war aims.

Allied to the work of the mission to acquire captured archives was that of the British Ministry of Economic Warfare to obtain printed books, periodicals and maps relating to the Axis powers for intelligence purposes, which proceeded during the war, and to obtain printed scientific works from occupied Europe during and after the war.

Although the Russians had managed to seize a significant amount of documents (which were later deposited in the Potsdam archive) following the surrender of Berlin on 2 May, 1945, the mission succeeded in capturing around 400 tons of the archives of the German Foreign Ministry, dating from 1867 to 1940, almost immediately. More followed, including microfilms of the records of the German foreign minister's secretariat, made in the summer of 1943, and the bulk of the post-1918 Reich Chancellery files.

At the beginning of 1946 it was agreed by both the British and the American governments that the captured archives would be published jointly, once intelligence needs had been met. The captured archive was held by the Allied military government in Berlin until the 1948 Berlin crisis led to the archive being sent to Britain and the United States. The German Foreign Ministry archive was sent to Britain where it was held at the Captured German Documents Unit, Whaddon Hall, Buckinghamshire.

The records were appraised for microfilming by the German War Documents Project set up by the British and United States governments in 1946 and later joined by the French. Until 1952 only official representatives of these governments had access to the records. After 1952 universities and scholars were permitted to sponsor microfilming programmes, but mainly only of pre 1920 records. Studying and selection for microfilming were free of other official constraints, providing the resulting microfilms were made freely available to researchers for copying. Only those records judged worthy of historical interest were filmed. Some files were filmed more than once, some only in part, others not at all.

In London all aspects of the copying and research processes were considered by an interdepartmental Joint Consultative Committee on Captured Enemy Documents (JCC) which was set up under Foreign Office auspices in 1947. The JCC became a Cabinet Committee in 1959; it was dissolved in 1978.

The original German records were returned to the Federal Republic of Germany in sections in 1950, 1956 and 1958. Italian Government records were also captured by allied forces at the end of the Second World War along with records of German agencies operating in Italy and records from the Japanese Embassy in Rome. The original Italian records were returned to Italy in 1947.

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