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Guide to Sources: Germany, 1918-1950

Archive collections at the Modern Records Centre include many documents relating to German society, politics and economics, particularly during the period of Nazi rule between 1933-45, and the period of division and occupation immediately after the Second World War. This guide provides short summaries of some of the main sources and contains links to our archive catalogue, where you can find more detailed information.

A selection of primary sources on Germany between 1918-1946 have been digitised in full and are available through our online resources for the modules 'History of Germany' and 'Amity, Antagonism and Appeasement: Anglo-German Relations, 1871-1945'. Additional sources can be identified through 'ready-made searches' of our catalogues (see the section on Germany).

Trade Unions:

International Transport Workers' Federation (MSS.159)

The International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF) was founded in 1896. The organisation had its roots in various special conferences and federations of European seamen and railwaymen in the early 1890s, and in the international co-operation of European transport unionists during the 1896-7 dock strikes in Rotterdam and Hamburg.

The collection includes an extensive series of correspondence, reports and other papers regarding the ITF's anti-fascist campaigns during the 1920s-1940s. These are in various European languages, including English and German, and include reports on the underground movement and trade union organisation in Germany during the 1930s, and examples of anti-Nazi propaganda distributed in Germany. The ITF also produced the anti-fascist periodicals 'Germany under the Swastika', 1933-34 (MSS.159/4/330) and 'Fascism', 1934-1945 (MSS.159/4/335-383).

Trades Union Congress (MSS.292)

The Trades Union Congress (TUC) is a voluntary association of trade unions which was formed in Manchester in 1868. It forms the largest pressure group in the United Kingdom and works to improve the rights and conditions of working people.

The TUC collection contains numerous files regarding different aspects of German politics, work and society. These include a series of files relating specifically to Germany between 1918-1960, including correspondence, reports, memoranda and publications regarding the German trade union movement, social policy, education, the Social Democratic Party, the Free German Movement, denazification, the "political situation, 1933", the outbreak of war in 1939, and the occupation of the Rhineland (included in MSS.292 and MSS.292/C). There are also files regarding the so-called "Jewish problem", 1936-1945 (MSS.292/805/1a-b), refugees, reparations (MSS.292/940/4), the international situation following the Munich agreement (MSS.292/943.7/11-12), and sport, 1935-36, including the Berlin Olympics (MSS.292/808.91/1-3).

There is a separate series of reports of TUC deputations to government departments (some of which also appear in the relevant subject files). This includes reports relating to: reported mistreatment of German trade unionists, 4 Apr 1933 (MSS.292/712.5/1/72-74); establishment of German firms in Great Britain, 29 May 1934 (MSS.292/712.5/1/114-115)

Employers' Organisations:

Federation of British Industries (MSS.200/F)

The FBI was founded in 1916 as a representative organisation for industry. By 1964 it had a membership of over 9,000 individual firms and 272 trade associations, and was the largest of the three organisations which merged to form the Confederation of British Industry in 1965.

Includes correspondence, minutes, etc., regarding Anglo-German trade and German reparations after both world wars.


Richard Crossman MP (1907-1974), Labour politician (MSS.154)

Crossman worked in the Psychological Warfare Division, Supreme Headquarters, Allied Expeditionary Force, and was in Germany during the latter stages of the Second World War.

Crossman's archive includes a file of SHAEF intelligence papers (MSS.154/3/PW/1/1-211), which include reports of visits to concentration camps, May 1945; extracts from intercepted German correspondence and publications, 1943-1945; interviews with German civilians and prisoners (including a former guard at Hitler's bunker), 1944-1945; Crossman's diary of a visit to Germany, November 1944; and extracts from reports on conditions in Germany (for example on evacuation of civilians from the war zone). The archive also includes an account of the operations of the Psychological Warfare Division, Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force, in the 1944-45 Western European Campaign, published in 1945 (MSS.154/3/PW/2).

Sir Victor Gollancz (1893-1967), publisher and humanitarian campaigner (MSS.157)

Victor Gollancz was a prominent British exponent of re-conciliation with Germany in the immediate aftermath of the Second World War. In 1953 Gollancz was awarded the Grand Cross of the German Order of Merit in recognition of his help for, and sympathy with, the German people after the war. He continued to speak out against anti-German intolerance, most notably with regard to the Eichmann trial in 1961.

Gollancz's archives include files of correspondence on post-war reconciliation and conditions, with some memoranda, reports, etc., relating to the condition of the German people and the administration of the British zone immediately after the Second World War (correspondents include German national figures, politicians, officials, writers and ordinary citizens); files relating to Save Europe Now, a pressure group formed to campaign for British Government action to oppose further expulsions of Germans from Eastern Europe and measures to prevent starvation; diaries of Gollancz's visit to the British Zone of Germany between 2 October and 15 November 1946; photographs for 'In Darkest Germany', an account of his 1946 visit to Germany published in 1947; publications and press cuttings.

Arthur Primrose Young (1885-1977), works manager, British Thomson-Houston (MSS.242)

The archive of A.P. Young includes a series of papers regarding Young's involvement with Dr Carl Goerdeler, former Mayor of Leipzig and a conservative opponent of Hitler, who was executed in February 1945. Young used information from his discussions with Dr Goerdeler to call for determined and decisive action by Britain against Germany, but did not make headway at the highest political levels in 1938-9.

The so-called 'X' documents include typescript reports of discussions with Goerdeler, correspondence with people of influence in Britain, a note by Young on Dahlerus' missions to Goering in August 1939, detailed notes on Buchenwald and Sachsenhausen concentration camps in 1939, press cuttings on the Hitler bomb plot, and post-war correspondence regarding the legacy of Goerdeler's resistance.

Marjory Allen, Lady Allen of Hurtwood (MSS.121)

Lady Allen's husband (Reginald) Clifford Allen (1889-1939) held strong pacifist beliefs and was imprisoned as a conscientious objector during the First World War. Despite condemning Nazi brutality and anti-semitism, these beliefs led him to champion appeasement with Germany during the 1930s.

Includes press cuttings on Lord Allen's political activities, his attendence at the 1936 Nuremburg rally and British involvement with Germany; and press photos of Germany in 1936.

Brigadier John Barraclough, Military Governor, North Rhine Province, Control Commission for Germany (British Element), 1945-1950

Photocopy of diary covering the period between June 1945 - May 1947 (MSS.21/3533).

Walter Fliess, German Socialist (MSS.173)

Walter Fliess (1901-1985) was a member of the Militant Socialist International (ISK) in Germany and Socialist Union, the successor of the Socialist Vanguard Group, the British section of the ISK.

Publications by and collected by Fliess, many in German.

Ernest Bevin, general secretary of the Transport and General Workers' Union

Letter to Sir Walter Citrine, 5 Jan 1940: enclosing copy of letter from Edo Fimmen, International Transportworkers' Federation, summarising various reports on conditions in Germany (attached) (MSS.126/EB/X/17/464-465 in file MSS.126/EB/X/17).