As of December 2016, the systematic nitrate destruction policy of the German Bundesarchiv / Federal Archives has been officially suspended – see here for further details.
This website will soon be updated in accordance with the new situation.
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Historical films and footage are important documents of 20th century history – perhaps even the most important due to the medium’s universal language. Regarding the historical significance of pre-1945 Germany in terms of geopolitical power and global conflicts, it should be a central concern in terms of commemoration policy to preserve the film heritage of this era as authentic documents for the future.
In reality, however, the German Bundesarchiv / Federal Archives that hold the majority of all historical films in question including newsreels and documentary footage, systematically discard original film artifacts, especially nitrate films, after (selective) copying – a practice often referred to as Kassationspraxis in German. Beginning in 2016, instead of preserving film as physical film copies, the Bundesarchiv will only digitize nitrate film artifacts before disposing them. The result will be a digital surrogate of German film heritage which has uncertain chances of survival as the Bundesarchiv cannot rely on a proven digital archiving strategy.
Due to the systematic disposal of nitrate film, more than half of the physical substance of German film heritage has been lost since 1990, the year of German reunification. This copy-and-destroy-policy must now be stopped before the remaining relics are gone as well.
The author of this website takes the view that, if the German state claims the rights to most pre-1945 film documents, it should bear the responsibility of sustaining these artifacts as long as they remain viable.
See here for my view on what action is required to stop the destruction policy.
See here for detailed information on the relevance of film in historical research and a situation report on the threatened status of film documents at Bundesarchiv.
See here for a quick overview of facts and fiction related to the Bundesarchiv’s destruction policy.
See here for selected comments from the German and international expert community.
Visit the German sister site Filmdokumente-retten.org.