The Federal Archives have the legal mandate to secure the archives of the federal government in the long term and to make them available for use. These are documents (including files, maps, pictures, posters, films and sound recordings in analogue and digital form) that have been produced by central offices of the Holy Roman Empire (1495-1806), the German Confederation (1815-1866), of the German Reich (1867/71-1945), the Occupation Zones (1945-1949), the German Democratic Republic (1949-1990) and the Federal Republic of Germany (since 1949).
The Federal Archives decide whether these documents are worthy of archival preservation, that is, whether they have lasting value for the research and understanding of history and the present, for the protection of legitimate interests of citizens or for legislation, administration and jurisdiction.
The Federal Archives also collect written legacies from eminent persons, documents from parties, organisations and associations of national importance as well as journalistic sources.
The Federal Archives guarantee access to the archival material of the federal government while observing the protection of private or public interests. In principle, every person has the right to use federal archives upon request. The Federal Archives provide information about the archive material on several research platforms. A small but steadily growing part of the collections is also available in digital form for online use via these research platforms.
The edition of the Cabinet Minutes of the Federal Government, the edition of the series "Documents on Germany Policy" and - in cooperation with the Historical Commission at the Bavarian Academy of Sciences - the edition of the files of the Reichskanzlei also belong to the Federal Archives’ tasks.
By the end of 2016, the Federal Archives kept holdings of approximately the following amount at its nine sites:
- 339 linear metres of written records
- 12,6 million photographs
- 1,15 million film reels of 154.000 film titles
- 91.000 posters
- 1,96 million maps, plans and technical drawings
- 2,16 million books in the library