The foundation’s photo archive
As the result of thirty years of collecting, the archive of the Buchenwald and Mittelbau-Dora Memorials Foundation has approximately 10,000 historical photographs in its holdings. That makes it the oldest major collection in any German concentration camp memorial.
The holdings encompass photos dating from the period of the construction and operation of the Buchenwald and Mittelbau-Dora concentration camps (1937–1945), photographic images of various provenances documenting the phase immediately following the camps’ liberation, pictures taken immediately after the dissolution of the Soviet Special Camp No. 2 (1945–1950), portraits (primarily of inmates of the concentration camp), photographic documentation of the various designs and the use of the “National Memorial” of the German Democratic Republic (1945–1990) and of its redesign from 1990 onwards, as well as sub-archives of individual photographers and photographic estates of survivors.
The Digitization of the Photographic Holdings
Until 2004, these photographic holdings had only been catalogued in part and were largely unclassified. A research project got underway in August 2004 to index the photographs historiographically, catalogue them according to the provenance principle, and digitally inventory them.
Funded in its entirety by the German Research Foundation, the project possesses model character for other memorials and archives whose photographic holdings are in need of thorough revision. Institutions engaged in collecting photographic testimonies to the National Socialist crimes and making use of them for exhibitions and/or educational purposes bear a special responsibility.
The research project created the conditions for making the entire photo collection relating to the Buchenwald concentration camp available online in the long term as a dynamically expandable digital database for experts, disseminators, and interested laypersons, insofar as copyright and licensing requirements permit.
If you have any questions or additional information about individual photos, we would be very glad to hear from you! Please get in touch with our contact person.
Historical Photos as an Educational Offer
The online catalogue of the photo archive is also an offer to schools and universities to make use of the images in the framework of lessons and study. However, the project's educational aim is not limited to the enhancement of teaching material with easily reproducible images.
The image database is intended as an invitation to engage consciously with historical photos as a source: in the broadest sense, the concern is with raising awareness for a media-critical approach to historical images.