Today’s post comes from Sonia Kahn in the National Archives History Office. It is part six of a series on the history behind some of the seized foreign records housed at the National Archives.
Document signed by the head of Paul Schmidt, Interpreter to the German Foreign Ministry, May 13, 1942. (Top Secret Files of the Reich Foreign Minister’s Secretariat, Records of the German Foreign Office Received by the Department of State, National Archives Collection of Foreign Records Seized)
During and immediately following World War II, Allied governments aggressively sought Nazi diplomatic papers. The Allies would use these documents not only to better understand and explain German war aims but also as proof of German infiltration into foreign countries, which was later prosecuted as a war crime.
When British and American troops captured nearly the entire German Foreign Ministry Archives in April 1945, they had reason to celebrate.
The good news was tempered with the discovery that the documents mostly covered the years 1867-1940. There were few post-1940 records, which was a disappointment, particularly for intelligence reasons. In time, though, the Allies found some of the more contemporary documents.
In mid-1943 German Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop had made copies of some of the most essential records of the Reich Foreign Minister’s Secretariat. The duplicates included correspondence between Hitler and Mussolini as well as notes that had been taken during meetings between Hitler, Ribbentrop, and foreign diplomats.
While the duplicated records were being moved, an aide to the Nazi in charge of microfilming secretly buried several boxes of microfilmed records against orders. In May of 1945, the aide disclosed the location of the documents to a British team.