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Notes on the reference service

The Federal Archives Act (BArchG) §§ 10-13 governs access to archives. In principle, everyone has the right to see the Federal Archives on request. Use of the archives is nevertheless subject to restrictions, including as follows:

  • Archive material belonging to the Federation is accessible as long as it dates back to a period more than 30 years ago.
  • Archives relating to individual persons may not be used by third parties without the consent of the persons concerned until 10 years after the death of the persons concerned. If it is not possible to ascertain the year of death, or only to do so at unjustifiable expense, the term of protection shall end 100 years after the birth of the person concerned. If the date of birth can't be ascertained the protection term ends 60 years after the origination of the records.
  • A protection term of 60 years shall apply to files which are subject to Federal legislation on secrecy – in particular tax secrecy as per the Tax Code, the secrecy regulations of the Sozialgesetzbuch [code of social law], and banking and credit secrecy.
  • Certain terms may be shortened on request for academic use.

In the case of holdings in the GDR section, as a rule the term of protection as per § 11 (1) BArchG [Federal Archives Act] is reduced as far as possible in the interests of unrestricted research work.

The 30-year term of protection has been lifted for the holdings of the Archive Foundation for Parties and Mass Organisations of the GDR in the Federal Archives. The terms specified in § 11 (2) of the Federal Archives Act must be observed for archives relating to individual persons.

A conflict may arise between the conservation and use of archives. Replacements (in the form of microfiche, microroll film, scans) are provided in order to protect and conserve the records in the long term.

Federal Archives staff will provide you with information on accessibility and terms of use of the reference service on an individual basis.