So how does one go about visiting BA-MA?
Well, I'm glad you asked.
Here's an idiot's guide (so called because it's written by one...)
Firstly it's in Freiburg. Not an especially easy place to get to. Personally, I fly to Basel Euroairport then get the hourly bus to the ZOB (central bus station next to the railway station).
No shortage of hotels in the city - if you want cheap, you have to go to the edge of the city to the Etap, Blu, or B&B Hotel, all for about 40€ a night; those in the city centre are around 60€+ per night. And no shortage of eateries around the city centre.
There's a good bus and tram network - 2.10€ for one trip, 15€ for 8 trips and about 45€ for a month's unlimited travel.
If you have time to visit the city centre, all shops open until 7pm (some until 8pm). Kaiser Joseph Strasse is the main street with the usual department stores (Karstadt, Kaufhof, Saturn) and plenty of banks. Bookshops wise, there's Thalia in Kaiser-Joseph Strasse and the excellent Rombach in Bertoldstrasse. A bit further along the latter there’s the Walthari University bookshop which holds more academic tomes. Also the Stadtbibliothek
, opposite the stunning Münster, has an ok history section.
Right, to BA-MA. To get there, take either the No.3 tram to Vauban or the No.11 bus to Lörracher Strasse from the central station; it’s about a 15-minute journey.
BA-MA itself is in an industrial park on the south side of town, next to the main rail line to Basel. There’s a huge white tower block and next to it is a small white/silver two-storey office building. This is the reading room – not that you’d know it, there’s nothing marked on the door or the wall. There’s a small car park outside for visitors.
Opening times are 8am-6pm Monday-Thursday, 8am-4pm on Friday. Closed on Saturdays.
Inside, the cloakroom is now on the right just as you walk in with lockers (you’ll need a 2€ coin to use them), plus drinks/vending machines. The Lesesaal/Benutzersaal
(reading room) itself is upstairs.
As you walk up you’ll find the microfiche readers and map tables facing you. On your left is the admin office where the staff are; one window for handing out material, one for making inquiries. Report in at the latter. Early in the morning it’ll probably be either Frau Maier (30s ish, speaks good English), or a chap in his 30s with a quite high-pitched voice who doesn’t speak much English; later in the day they’re joined by a middle-aged Frau
, who’s quite scary but knows her stuff.
Opposite the reporting point are the Findbücher
, the bound volumes/lever arch file guides to the files. Alternatively, you can use the three or four PCs which have the online Findbücher
(you’ll also find these online).
There are a couple of ways of searching the files electronically
http://startext.net-build.de:8080/barch ... s=selected
which isn't bad, but be aware that a lot of documents aren't listed on line (particularly anything below Corps level; you'll only get a general overview of what a division's papers contains - for the full details and reference numbers, you'll have to go to the archive in person and search through the bound volumes).
http://startext.net-build.de:8080/barch ... 5DB357A359
Click on "Bestände", then "Abteilung Militärarchiv" and browse away. Be warned. It's a very
Personally, I much prefer going to the reading room and flicking through the bound volumes; it's quicker and you'll generally find much more detail.
As a simple intro, a few useful series
RH19 – Army Group files
RH20 – Army (AOK) files
RH21 – Panzerarmee (PzAOK) files
RH24 – Corps files
RH26 – Infantry division files
RH27 – Panzer division files
RH28 – Gebirgs division files
N – Nachlass (personal papers)
Be aware, not all the bound volume Findbücher
are there; some are being worked on by the staff (bits of RH37 and the MSg guidebooks were both missing on my recent visit).
Ordering documents is made on a PC – the staff will show you how, it involves logging in with a reader number which they’ll give you. You can order up to 15 documents at a time. When they arrive, they’ll be put in a pigeon hole with your name on it. You have to go to the window to ask for them – staff won’t tell you if something’s arrived from the archive. It’s a case of wandering past and seeing if anything new has turned up.
There are 24 seats in the room – it’s quite small and there’s always a dozen or so people in there. Booking in advance is imperative
for that reason; I’d also advise booking documents in advance too, not least because delivery times can be anywhere from one hour to three or four!
All seats have sockets to plug in your laptop (take an adapter if you’re not from the continent, of course). There’s plenty of space to work, it’s nice and quite and they’ll shut the blinds if the sun’s blinding you. There’s no air conditioning though, and in July and August the heat in Freiburg is oppressive, so it can be a bit sticky…
Once your done with a file, take it back to the window where you got it; tell them you’ve finished with it, otherwise they’ll put it back in your pigeonhole.
I’ve never ordered photocopies, but I have used the microfiche copier – they’ll give you a counter to plug in to the machine which keeps a tally; you pay when finished. It’s only 15c per copy – which is far cheaper than any UK archive.
There’s a complete set of the KTB Seekriegsleitung
, the German official history, SD Meldungen
and Tessin on the shelves for instant access. I’ve never ordered books from the library, but people were leafing through volumes while I was there.
And that’s about it. BA-MA’s one of the most relaxed archives I’ve used. It can be slow at times and a bit frustrating (documents you order have a habit of never materialising, particularly if you order in advance!). But there aren’t too many archives where you can get ten hours’ solid work done in a day. And Freiburg is a really nice place to visit.