EHRI Seminar in Berlin: Red, Blue, Green - What Colour Is Used by the Minister?

EHRI Seminar at the Bundesarchiv
Monday, 3 October, 2016

The Federal Archives’ EHRI seminar "Modern Diplomatics of the Holocaust" gave an introduction into the handling of German records.

The Federal Archives’ site in Berlin-Lichterfelde was the venue of the meeting of twelve participants from ten different countries who assembled to deepen their knowledge of sources related to the Holocaust, on 21-31 August 2016. In the framework of the EHRI project, the Federal Archives offered a diverse schedule. Lectures and exercises for example on the history of Prussian-German administration tradition, the course of business in ministries and other authorities and the different types of sources from the period of National Socialism were complemented by visits to Berlin museums and memorial sites dealing with the holocaust.

Creation of networks

The group of participants was composed by historians, archivists and employees of memorial sites, mainly from Eastern Central and Eastern European states. The seminar aimed at providing knowledge and methods enabling them to undertake more profound studies of German sources and to act as disseminators back home. In this way, the seminar intended to stimulate Holocaust studies also beyond the established centers of research and to support the creation of networks – this according to the guiding principles of the EHRI project.

Significance of colours

One focus of the seminar was the interpretation of German written documents of the Federal Archives, dating from the period between 1933 and 1945. By means of presentations and practical sessions the motivated participants learnt to decode not only the documents‘ content, but also the circumstances of their origin, their impact and the respective responsibilities of the creators. The significance of colours (for example of signatures or side notes) was revealed to many participants for the first time: The fact that a Minister or Director of an authority always uses a green pen is not taught in the average curriculum of history courses. One colleague expressed precisely what many thought: "I have read so many German files, but I never knew that colours have a specific meaning – that’s why, up to now, I have only just analysed the content."

Online course

The positive feedback proves that all who participated in the seminar were really enriched by the days of common work. The guests from abroad learned a lot about the characteristics of German documents, but also shared their experience of their own specific fields of work and interest. The most important topics of the seminar will be prepared for an EHRI online course, which is likely to be published by the beginning of 2017.

Read more about the seminar on the websites of EHRI partners the Federal Archives and ITS.

Images by Olga Goleta and Giles Bennett (group photo).