Historical Institute of Deutsche Bank
Preservation – Research – Publication
The Historical Institute of Deutsche Bank performs the closely allied functions of researching the history of the bank and looking after its historically important collections of source material. It takes a critical look at Deutsche Bank's history, through its own research as well as research undertaken by independent scholars. It also houses Deutsche Bank's archive, which has been in existence since 1961.
On August 29, 1961, the Management Board of Deutsche Bank decided to set up a historical archive at its Frankfurt headquarters, making it the oldest professional company archive in the German financial industry. Today, the archive contains more than 6 kilometers of business and personnel files, documents, photos, films, advertising material and securities of Deutsche Bank and its predecessor institutions.
The founding of the archives was a result of the Cold War. Two weeks after the building of the Berlin Wall in 1961, it was clear Deutsche Bank would not regain access to documents at its former Berlin headquarters in East Berlin. As the Bank’s 100th anniversary in 1970 was approaching, it was essential to collect the materials that remained in West Germany. After the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, 12,600 files from Deutsche Bank's former headquarters were returned to the company.
The archive today is not only responsible for collecting and preserving material, but also has the important task of communicating the Bank’s historical identity. Because of this, in 1996 the Historical Archive was renamed “Historical Institute of Deutsche Bank”.
Areas of Research
Since 1988, one of the focal points of the Historical Institute's research has been on the National Socialist period. A general summary of the history of the bank during the years 1933-1945, written by Harold James, was published in 1995 as a chapter of "The Deutsche Bank 1870-1995". In 2003, the author published a fully revised edition of this chapter in a new book with the title "The Nazi Dictatorship and the Deutsche Bank". This general presentation of the history of Deutsche Bank during the Nazi period was preceded by detailed studies, such as the examination of "Aryanization and the Nazi Economic War Against the Jews" (2001), also written by Harold James, and the report by Jonathan Steinberg, "The Deutsche Bank and its Gold Transactions during the Second World War" (1999).
In 2004, an extensive biography of Hermann Josef Abs (1901-1994), who was the bank's Spokesman of the management board for many years, was published in German by Lothar Gall. With discerning judgment, Gall dedicates special attention in this book to the years of the "Third Reich". A further biography about Deutsche Bank’s Spokesman Oscar Wassermann (1869-1934) was written by Avraham Barkai, and came out in German in 2005.
Deutsche Bank's business in the USA – against the background of German-American financial and trade relations since 1870 – has been researched by the American business historian Christopher Kobrak from the European School of Management, Paris. The results of this extensive study were published in 2008: "Banking on Global Markets. Deutsche Bank and the United States 1870 to the Present".
The comprehensive edition "Georg Solmssen – a German banker. Letters from half a century" (in German) provides insights into half a century of German financial, economic and social history and made important sources, which had been scattered so far, accessible to a broad public for the first time.
The historian Friederike Sattler is working on the study "Alfred Herrhausen: Manager and symbolic figure of Rhenish capitalism", for which she has analyzed a large volume of files at the Historical Institute. The biography is expected to appear at the end of 2019.
Preparations for Deutsche Bank's 150th anniversary in 2020 already started several years ago. In 2015, the Bank commissioned a team of internationally renowned economic historians to present a new general presentation. The Historical Institute coordinates this large-scale publication project.
Records of Deutsche Bank's history
The Historical Institute has some 6,000 shelf-meters of documents in its archive, the earliest of which are from precursors of Deutsche Bank and date from the mid-nineteenth century. All source material from 1850 up to and including 1945 is available to the public for research purposes. Gradually files from the post-war period are also released, such as the extensive business related records of Hermann Josef Abs.
Use of the archive is possible only by prior request and appointment.
The reading library on banking history contains approx. 8,000 volumes.
Archive collections available
Deutsche Bank Berlin, Secretariat
Deutsche Bank Berlin, America Office
Deutsche Bank Berlin, Oriental Office
Deutsche Bank Berlin, Head Office
Hermann Josef Abs Office
Deutsche Centralbodencredit AG
Deutsche Ueberseeische Bank
A. Schaaffhausen'scher Bankverein
Norddeutsche Bank in Hamburg
Bergisch Märkische Bank