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Coat of Arms of the MGFA

The Military History Research Office (German language: Militärgeschichtliches Forschungsamt, MGFA) is an office of the Bundeswehr located at Potsdam, the capital of Brandenburg, Germany.


The Military History Research Institute is the central federal institution in Germany for all questions about German military history. The basis for coping with future challenges is empirical, archive-based research in accordance with the accepted rules and standards of general historiography. The MGFA sees itself as a part of the research community of historians. It is a member of the network of historical research institutions of the Federal Republic of Germany outside universities. The institute fosters the cooperation with a large number of research institutes in Germany and abroad and contributes to topical debates among experts in military history. It is firmly anchored in original research, which is of decisive importance to the successful performance of its new tasks.

As an organisation, the entire Bundeswehr is undergoing a process of transformation through which the armed forces will be adapted to changed geopolitical circumstances and new missions. In this situation, the tasks of the Military History Research Institute (Militärgeschichtliches Forschungsamt, MGFA) are becoming ever more important. On the basis of a wide spectrum of empirical research in military history, our activities, as presented on this site, make an important contribution to historical education within the Bundeswehr. In addition, we make available our expertise to the political and military leadership as well as to the scientific community and to the general public in Germany and abroad. The MGFA which is a part of the Joint Support Service (Streitkräftebasis) is thus helping to grant the Bundeswehr its place in state and society and will continue to be strongly committed to the education of the soldiers.

The Library

The library holds extensive collections on national and international military history and other related research areas, social, legal and economic history, as well as political and military science. Research literature is one of its focal areas. Secondary literature on the military history of modern times, in particular the 20th Century, has continuously been acquired in the past decades. The new publications in this research area continue to be our main focus in acquisition today.

Although the library is comparatively young (40 years), it nevertheless comprises a considerable number of more ancient books. In the past years, antiquarian purchases, donations and bequests could be added to the current specialized literature. In many cases our libraries at Freiburg and Potsdam received books from the dissolved stocks of older libraries, as has been the case with the Officers Library of the Royal Bavarian 1st Heavy Cavalry Regiment, the War Historical Department of the University of Heidelberg, the Kiel Naval Academy, the Society for Reading and Relaxation in Bonn, the Austrian State's Archive in Vienna and the Stockholm Royal Military Service School. These collections date mainly from the 18th and 19th centuries. A great number of works from the 16th and 17th centuries have been compiled in a separate rare books section.

The private libraries bequested from the estate of the uniformologist Herbert Knötel Jr. (1893 to 1963) and of the expert in science and history of the ground forces Hans Bleckwenn (1912 to 1990) are special valuables of the library. The latter is probably the most complete private library on the history of the Prussian Army of the 18th Century. Its main focus lies on army organization, development of uniforms and the science and history of weapons of the time of Frederick the Great. The collection also contains very rare uniform manuscripts as well as an extensive image collection on European military affairs. The library also holds approximately 1600 unit histories of the ancient army up to 1918 and older ranking lists of the German and the Austrian armed forces from 1788 on. It further possesses an extensive collection of military regulations from the German Imperial Army up to the National People's Army. In the past years the library has succeeded in further enlarging its biographical collection. Thus, the users of the library have more than 8000 memoirs and literary portraits of persons of importance in military history from the 18th to 20th centuries at their disposal.

Finally, the library subscribes to numerous international magazines and can further make available a large number of historical periodicals of the 18th and 19th centuries, some of which are available as a complete series only in our library.


Three military history museums are under the administrative and technical command of the MGFA. These are the Militärhistorische Museum der Bundeswehr in Dresden which is in command of the Luftwaffenmuseum der Bundeswehr at the former RAF Gatow in Berlin, and the Königstein Fortress.

Historical Overview

1956 Directive to establish the Military History Research Agency on 1 January 1957.

1957 The Military History Research Agency is established in Langenau near Ulm. Colonel Dr. Hans Meier-Welcker, the head of the Military Research Branch in the Federal Ministry of Defense, is also appointed Director of the Research Agency.

1958 The History Research Agency is renamed 'Military History Research Institute' (MGFA). Colonel Dr. Hans Meier-Welcker is appointed Director of the MGFA. The institute is relocated to Freiburg im Breisgau

1964 Colonel Dr. Wolfgang von Groote is appointed Director of the MGFA.

1976 The first issues of the periodical Militärgeschichtliche Mitteilungen (MGM) are published.

1968 Professor Andreas Hillgruber is appointed the first Chief Historian of the MGFA.

1969 The Historic Museum in Rastatt is renamed 'Wehrgeschichtliches Museum der Bundeswehr' and comes under the control of the MGFA. Colonel Dr. Herbert Schottelius is appointed Director of the MGFA.

1970 Dr. Rainer Wohlfeil is appointed Chief Historian of the MGFA. In the same year he is succeeded by Dr. Manfred Messerschmidt.

1972 Navy Captain Dr. Friedrich Forstmeier is appointed Director of the MGFA.

1975 Militärgeschichtliche Mitteilungen is for the first time supplemented by the international bibliography War and Society Newsletter.

1976 Colonel Dr. Othmar Hackl is appointed Director of the MGFA.

1978 Establishment of the new division "Training, Information, Specialized Studies" (AIF Division)

1979 The first volume of the series Germany and the Second World War is published in German under the heading Reasons and Preconditions of German War Politics. This is the 150th publication of the Institute.

1984 Opening of the traveling exhibition 'Rebellion of Conscience' in the Federal Diet.

1985 Colonel Dr. Günter Roth is appointed Director of the MGFA.

1989 Dr. Wilhelm Deist is appointed Chief Historian of the MGFA.

1990 Visit of the director of the Soviet Military History Institute, Senior General Professor Dimitrij Wolkogonov. Visit of the former Commander-in-Chief of the Warsaw Pact Forces, Marshal of the Soviet Union, Victor Kulikov. The former Military History Institute (MGI) and the former Army Museum of the German Democratic Republic (GDR) are integrated into the technical chain of command of the MGFA, and the latter becomes the Military History Museum of the Bundeswehr.

1991 The periodical Militärgeschichtliche Beihefte is for the first time published under the new name Militärgeschichte (Military History). First official visit of an MGFA delegation to the Military History Institute of the Polish Armed Forces in Warsaw.

1992 The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the Bundeswehr, General Klaus Naumann, visits the MGFA and announces the relocation of the institute to Potsdam.

1994 Prof. Hans-Erich Volkmann succeeds Dr Deist and is appointed Director of Research. The Federal Minister of Defense, Dr Volker Rühe, introduces and presents the MGFA in ´Potsdam. The official residence of the MGFA is the 'Villa Ingenheim' in Zeppelinstrasse.

1995 The MGFA library is opened to the public. Navy Captain Dr. Werner Rahn is appointed Director of the MGFA.

1996 The Federal Minister of Defense, Dr. Volker Rühe, and the Vice-President of the Potsdam University, Professor Bärbel Kirsch, establish a chair for military history. Appointed to this chair is Professor Bernhard R. Kroener. Professor Daniel Proektor presents the Russian edition of the book World War II. Analyses, Characteristic Features, Research Results in the embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany in Moscow.

Start of a comprehensive restoration project of all MGFA buildings the completion of which takes several years.

1997 Visit of the MGFA director, Navy Captain Dr. Werner Rahn, and of Dr. Bruno Thoss in Beijing. Colonel Friedhelm Klein is appointed Director of the MGFA.

1998 Opening of the exhibition 'Rebellion of Conscience' in St. Paul's Cathedral in Frankfurt am Main. Handover of the keys of the restored Villa Ingenheim. Working visit of the MGFA director, Colonel Friedhelm Klein, in Beijing, China.

1999 Dr. Klaus von Dohnanyi presents the conference paper compilation under the heading 'The Wehrmacht. Myth and Reality'. Working visit of the head of the Research Division, Professor Hans-Erich Volkmann, in the German Historic Institute (DHI) in Warsaw, Poland.

2001 Navy Captain Dr. Jörg Duppler, is appointed Director of the MGFA.

2003 Prof. Beatrice Heuser, formerly Professor of International and Strategic Studies at the Department of War Studies, King's College London, is appointed Director of Research.

2004 Oberst Hans Ehlert is appointed Director of the MGFA


German Army decides that effective 1/1/13, MGFA is reorganized and consolidated with the German Army Social Sciences Studies Center (Sozialwissenschaftliches Institut der Bundeswehr) to become the Center for Military History and Social Sciences of the German Army (Zentrum für Militärgeschichte und Sozialwissenschaften der Bundeswehr -- ZMSBw) in Potsdam. As of 26 November 2013, there is no new official web site other than, which reflects this reorganization in German.

External links

Official website in German: Militärgeschichtliches Forschungsamt

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