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Film-related collections

History, content and meaning of transfers 

The nature of the collection of film-related records is essentially determined by the work and duties of the former State Film Archives of the GDR, which was transferred to the Federal Archives in the wake of reunification. It contains rental catalogues, programmes, photographs, posters, scripts, newspaper cuttings and other documents relating mainly to German films and filmmakers until 1945, to film production by DEFA and to foreign films from socialist states. The collections are predominantly related to feature films with occasional documentary films.

German Reich

The two German film archives were separate during the period up to 1945, but records on individual films or filmmakers were only collected in the Federal Archives if required as a means of making transferred films accessible.

As a result, it first took custody of transfers from the Reich film archives or UFA if they still remained on East German soil and had not been seized by the Allies. They were supplemented by purchases, exchanges or other acquisitions. Further accrual took place under the aegis of the Federal Archives: When the GDR's ADN news agency closed down, its holdings were transferred to the Federal Archives. These are kept in the picture archive in Koblenz but the film-related photographs, which mainly originate from the Scherl archives, were transferred to the film archives.

In western Germany private collectors like Wilhelm Lavies and Gerhard Lamprecht initially realigned the boundaries of the same terrain. Their collections subsequently constituted the basis for the collections amassed by the German Cinematheque in Berlin and the German Film Institute in Frankfurt. Following reunification the scripts for films up to 1945, previously located in the State Film Archives, were also transferred to the German Cinematheque. Both institutions must therefore be additionally incorporated into cinema research studies.

Practically all the documents from the collections on films of the German Reich in the Federal Archives were published several times over at the time of origin, but they often only survived as individual items in the GDR "collectors' territory", to which institutions in the Federal Republic had no access. In many cases, therefore, they contain records, quite often even treasures of film history, which have not been transferred elsewhere.

[You will find microfiches of certification records from German film inspection authorities 1908-1945 in the library.]

German Democratic Republic

Alongside its role as a central film archive, the State Film Archives was primarily a specialised archive for DEFA Studios and distribution, which was overseen by the Ministry of Culture, and whose film and non-film materials were subject to statutory regulations.
As a result, the basis for the collection of film-related records were the advertising materials of the state film distributor Progress, supplemented by documents from DEFA Studios itself.
There was no legal responsibility to transfer films that did not fall within the area of responsibility of the Ministry of Culture and, therefore, only limited opportunity for a systematic collection. This included film productions commissioned by other GDR ministries or agencies and film productions made by industrial concerns - even if DEFA Studios were contracted to make them.
However, not only does the collection include records relating to DEFA films, it also has extensive documented evidence of foreign films, insofar as they were shown in GDR cinemas. A large proportion of these in turn include advertising materials relating to dubbed versions of films from socialist countries, but also for West German and western films in general.

The collection was systematically enhanced by the State Film Archives, with film-related cuttings from all the East German newspapers for example.

As a result, the collection of films that were shown in GDR cinemas is unique and of central importance to film-related research. In addition to this, reference may be made to the collections of the Potsdam Film Museum and the Potsdam Academy of Film and Television in particular.

Administrative records from the Ministry of Culture and production files from DEFA Studios and other official GDR agencies can be found in the GDR department of the Federal Archives today.

[Microfiches of the certification records of the film headquarters of the GDR Ministry of Culture are located in the library.]


As well as materials on foreign films that were shown in GDR cinemas, foreign films in general were also documented in the State Film Archives of the GDR, given that its overall role was more that of a cinematheque; the emphasis is on films from socialist states.

It is precisely the latter that are not often documented in other institutions of the Federal Republic.

Arrangement, classification and access 

With no proof of their individual origin and provenance, the collections were brought together in the State Film Archives in three categories of pertinence, which are classed according to film titles, persons and subject content.

"Filmwerke" collection

The film-related holdings are divided into so-called film folders, DEFA photo albums, scripts and film posters, which are displayed in a combined card index arranged in alphabetical order of film titles. All documents up to DIN A4 size are stored in film folders, with special and large formats kept separately.

Film folders (FILMSG 1)

Folders contain loose and, depending on size, limited information on over 36,000 films from home and abroad, each combined in one or two folders: current records, printed records, manuscripts, small posters and over 500,000 photographs. Expect to find widely varying amounts of advertising materials, scenes, set photos, newspaper articles, critiques, film industry publications, credits, information on contents and so on.

Photo albums (DR 117 BILD)

Approx. 950 albums on 830 films from DEFA Film Studios are stored separately from the film folders. The folio-sized albums contain scene and set photos that were taken during the production of films by DEFA photographers. There is additional information on the photographers. Black and white or colour prints of the pictures in different formats are stuck in the albums; the original negatives are also available in various formats from small to large format.
One album contains between 100 and 400 photos; there can be up to three albums per film.

The photo albums are inventoried in a text file.

Film posters (PLAK 105)

The collection contains over 30,000 film posters for German and foreign films, 20,000 of which can be seen as small slide reproductions. The oldest film posters constitute rarities in the history of film and art from the era around 1885.

The film posters are inventorised in an access database; for the period up to 1945 documented evidence held jointly with the German Cinematheque can also be viewed on PC in the reading room, which also contains copies of the posters.

"Personen" collection

The personal collection comprises approx. 16,000 pieces relating to people in film (and television occasionally) and is classified according to portraits, autographs and so-called personalia each arranged into separate record groups.


The portrait record group contains pictures of approx. 8,000 actors, directors and other filmmakers. Many of the photographs also record events such as award ceremonies and scenes from unknown films. Everything can be found, from the smallest hand-coloured cigarette pictures and postcards to large-format black and white or colour shots. The photographs are kept in folders in alphabetical order of name. The focus is on the era roughly between 1895 and 1960.

The holdings can be accessed via a text file.


The autograph collection consists mainly of autographed pictures and portraits of approx. 1,000 people, which were especially produced for this purpose. They are stored by name in alphabetical order in folders in filing cabinets. The autographs mostly date back to the years between 1900 and 1960.

The holdings can be accessed via a text file.

Personalia (FILMSG 3)

The collection of personalia exclusively contains documents and printed records of the most diverse kind, such as biographies, filmographies, interviews, autobiographical material, reviews, film critiques and information on retrospectives. Most of the magazine cuttings are collections from the GDR clip service from 1945 to 1993. East and West German journals were used for research.
Handwritten records and copies come from personal papers or were gathered during research work.
The personalia records are stored in alphabetical order by name in around 8,200 Juris folders.

The holdings can be accessed via a text file.

Holdings by subject (FILMSG 2)

The "Kinos & Studios, Anderes" [Cinemas & studios, other] subject archive contains documents, newspaper clippings, brochures and photographs in approx. 330 Juris folders relating to subject areas such as cinemas, studios, filmmaking techniques and film sets.