Kriegsarchiv – History

The Hofkriegskanzleiarchiv

The history of well-structured military archives in the Habsburg monarchy starts in 1711, when Emperor Joseph I. ordered the recruitment of an archivist for the Hofkriegsrat, the supreme central authority of the Habsburgs for military matters, who was to "look for very important and noteworthy writings from other centuries which had been forgotten and in disarray due to the long time that had passed, and to have them organised well" ("die durch ein und anders saeculum her wegen Länge der Zeit ausser Ordnung und in Vergessenheit kombene, sonsten aber an sich selbsten sehr importirlich und denkhwürdtige Schrifften wiederumb hervorzusuechen und in guete Ordnung bringen zu lassen"). Basically, this archival unit within the Hofkriegskanzlei was an "registry of old files" for official purposes.

During the fist half of the 18th century, the archive of the Hofkriegsrat's administrative office also took on files that had not been produced by the Hofkriegsrat, including legacies of writings by deceased military persons which had been commandeered, so that it started turning into a kind of central military archive. In 1776 the collection of maps and plans of the Hofkriegsrat was merged with the engineering archive; as a consequence the archive also became a centre of cartographic material.

The beginnings of official war historiography

Moreover, it was important to draw conclusions from experiences made in the military campaigns of the (more recent) past: It was against this backdrop that, in 1779, Emperor Joseph II. ordered the military campaigns after 1740 to be analysed and processed in files – albeit for in-house use only.
Archduke Karl (1771 to 1847) had the same application-oriented approach to war history in mind when in 1801 he requested the foundation of a military institution to enhance the intellectual capacities of the officers and thus give the Imperial and Royal army more clout. These objectives were to be reached by means of historical retrospection and by collecting current facts and figures on countries and potential theatres of war as well as studies of war science and theory.

The foundation of the k. k. Kriegsarchiv

By supreme decree of 23 March 1801 the k. k. Kriegsarchiv was founded. It was subordinate to the general staff (the Quartermaster General) and its task was to collect files and maps, and to analyse them for scientific purposes and for publication. As from 1808 the Kriegsarchiv published the journal "Österreichische Militärische Zeitschrift". In the same year, the extensive collection of books of the Kriegsarchiv became a department in its own right, called "Kriegsbibliothek" (war library) as from 1811. The older Kanzleiarchiv of the Hofkriegsrat lost most of its holdings concerning military campaigns to the new Kriegsarchiv and was merged with the registry of the Hofkriegsrat in 1846.

Organisation and research

The k. k. (as from 1889: k. u. k.) Kriegsarchiv first consisted of a department of records (the actual archive), an archive of maps (for a long time the centre of Austrian cartography per se), the library and a department for war historiography which was an independent institution during the period 1818 to 1876 (Generalstabsbüro für Kriegsgeschichte/Office of the General Staff for War History). Starting from the middle of the 19th century, this unit produced scientifically successful writings ("Generalstabswerke" – publications of the General Staff) on recent Austrian war history. From 1876 to 1919 research in war history was again the task of a separate department within the Kriegsarchiv. Starting from 1876, publications of the General Staff on periods in the Habsburg monarchy's history of wars that lay further in the past were published in parallel with separate "Mitteilungen des k. (u.) k. Kriegsarchivs". In view of the tasks involved in war historiography which the Kriegsarchiv had been entrusted with, collection and commandeering activities were stepped up. Up to the end of the 19th century the Kriegsarchiv had obtained most of the military records and writings that had been kept elsewhere until then, including older records from the registry of the War Ministry.

World War I and inter-war years

During World War I new tasks emerged for the Kriegsarchiv as it had to deal with mass records from the frontline as well as extensive press relations and propaganda work. As a consequence, the staffing levels had to be raised considerably.
The year 1918 not only marks the collapse of the Habsburg monarchy and the old army. The Kriegsarchiv, too, underwent a fundamental change as it was transformed from a military into a civilian institution, charged with processing a wealth of new files from dissolved services and archives that had hitherto been independent (such as the Militärgerichtsarchiv and the Marinearchiv, the archive of the military tribunal and the navy archive). During the years 1930 to 1938 the Kriegsarchiv produced the last publication of the general staff in the old style: "Österreich-Ungarns letzter Krieg (1914 to 1918)" on the last war fought by the Austro-Hungarian monarchy.

Under the swastika banner

During the years 1938 to 1945 the Kriegsarchiv was part of the organisation of German military archives under the name "Heeresarchiv Wien"; it was subordinate to the High Command of the Army. The tendency towards centralising records of military relevance to the greatest possible extent continued, efforts were even stepped up. Due to the "Anschluss" of Austria, material about the history of the first federal army of Austria acquired archival quality and was transferred to the Heeresarchiv of Vienna. In 1945 the Kriegsarchiv was turned into a department of the Austrian State Archives.

The Kriegsarchiv as a department of the Austrian State Archives

The Kriegsarchiv, too, had suffered considerable losses, especially among holdings re-located to places outside of Vienna when the city was bombed. However, this was compensated for by a wealth of new person-related materials, including the military registers which only become part of the archive in 1984. Due to the fact that the personal files of Austrians who had served in the German Wehrmacht had been transferred to the archive, the archive was assigned the task of issuing certificates of service periods for social security purposes. The restructuring of the Austrian State Archives also came with drastic consequences for the Kriegsarchiv: During the period 1984 to 1987 the military records of the First and Second Republics and the National-Socialist era were transferred to the newly created Archiv der Republik. In 1984 the extensive and eminent holdings of the Kriegsarchiv library were incorporated in the newly established library of the Austrian State Archives. During the years 1991 to 1993 the Kriegsarchiv, which had been housed at the Stiftkaserne barracks in the 7th district of Vienna since 1905, eventually moved to the central archives building in the 3rd district.
For a brief description of the Kriegsarchiv and its holdings in English, please also refer to


  • Inventar des Kriegsarchivs Wien 2 Bde. in 1. Wien 1953 (Inventare österreichischer Archive 8)
  • Allmayer-Beck, Johann Christoph: Die Militärgeschichtsschreibung in Österreich von ihren Anfängen bis zum Jahre 1918. In: Militärgeschichte in Deutschland und Österreich vom 18. Jahrhundert bis in die Gegenwart. Herford/Bonn 1985 (Vorträge zur Militärgeschichte 6), S. 70 bis 86
  • Bancalari, Gustav: Quellen der oesterreichischen Kriegs- und Organisations-Geschichte. Wien 1872 (Beiträge zur Geschichte des österreichischen Heerwesens 2)
  • Benard, Anne-Gaëlle: Guide des Archives Nationales Autrichiennes à l’usage du lecteur francophone. Wien 1995 (Mitteilungen des Österreichischen Staatsarchivs/Inventare 1), S. 87 bis 115
  • Broucek, Peter: Militärgeschichte in Österreich von 1918 bis 1938/45. In: Militärgeschichte in Deutschland und Österreich vom 18. Jahrhundert bis in die Gegenwart. Herford/Bonn 1985 (Vorträge zur Militärgeschichte 6), S. 87 bis 107
  • Broucek, Peter: A bécsi Hadilevéltár és a magyar történelemmel kapcsolatos forrásai. In: Hadtörténelmi Közlemények 1990/1, S. 145 bis 171
  • Broucek, Peter/Peball, Kurt: Geschichte der österreichischen Militärhistoriographie. Köln/Weimar/Wien 2000
  • Das k. k. Kriegsarchiv. Geschichte und Monographie. Wien 1878 (2. Auflage Wien 1900)
  • Egger, Rainer: Das Kriegsarchiv und seine genealogischen Quellen. In: Scrinium 5 (1971), S. 1 bis 56
  • Egger, Rainer: Das Kriegsarchiv Wien. In: Militärgeschichtliche Mitteilungen 1970/1, S. 113 bis 120, 1970/2, S. 167 bis 175, 1971/1, S. 173 bis 181, 1972/1, S. 127 bis 135
  • Egger, Rainer: Das Kriegsarchiv. In: Schatzhäuser Österreichs. Das Österreichische Staatsarchiv. Wien 1996, S. 51 bis 57
  • Egger, Rainer: The Kriegsarchiv. In: Austrian History Yearbook 6/7 (1970/71), S. 39 bis 66
  • Hochedlinger, Michael: "Bella gerant alii ...?" On the State of Early Modern Military History in Austria. In: Austrian History Yearbook 30 (1999), S. 237 bis 277
  • Hochedlinger, Michael: Kriegsgeschichte-Heereskunde-Militärgeschichte? Zur Krise militärhistorischer Forschung in Österreich. In: Zeitschrift für Heereskunde 63 (1999), S. 41 bis 45
  • Hochedlinger, Michael: "Der schlafende Riese". Das Österreichische Staatsarchiv, Abteilung Kriegsarchiv. In: Militär und Gesellschaft in der Frühen Neuzeit 9 (2005), S. 165 bis 186
  • Hochedlinger, Michael: Quellen zum kaiserlichen bzw. k. k. Kriegswesen. In: Quellenkunde der Habsburgermonarchie (16.-18. Jahrhundert). Ein exemplarisches Handbuch, hrsg. von Josef Pauser, Martin Scheutz und Thomas Winkelbauer. Wien-München 2004 (Mitteilungen des Instituts für Österreichische Geschichtsforschung 44), S. 162 bis 181
  • Peball, Kurt: Literarische Publikationen des Kriegsarchivs im Weltkrieg 1914 bis 1918. In: Mitteilungen des Österreichischen Staatsarchivs 14 (1961), S. 240 bis 260
  • Quellen zur Militärgeschichte. 200 Jahre Kriegsarchiv. Innsbruck etc. 2001 (Mitteilungen des Österreichischen Staatsarchivs 49)
  • Rauchensteiner, Manfried: Die Militärgeschichtsschreibung in Österreich nach 1945. In: Militärgeschichte in Deutschland und Österreich vom 18. Jahrhundert bis in die Gegenwart. Herford/Bonn 1985 (Vorträge zur Militärgeschichte 6), S. 134 bis 161
  • Regele, Oskar: Die Geschichtsschreibung im Wiener Kriegsarchiv von 1779 bis zum Ende des ersten Weltkrieges. In: Festschrift zur Feier des zweihundertjährigen Bestandes des Haus-, Hof- und Staatsarchivs. Wien 1949, Bd. 1, S. 732 bis 743
  • Stahl, Friedrich Christian: Die Organisation des Heeresarchivwesens in Deutschland 1936 bis 1945. In: Aus der Arbeit des Bundesarchivs. Beiträge zum Archivwesen, zur Quellenkunde und Zeitgeschichte, hrsg. von Heinz Boberach/Hans Booms. Boppard/Rhein 1977 (Schriften des Bundesarchivs 25), S. 69 bis 101
  • Tepperberg, Christoph: The Austrian War Archives in Vienna (Kriegsarchiv Wien) and its Records Pertaining to Personnel. In: East European Genealogical Society 8 (2000), S. 9 bis 24
  • Unter Österreichs Fahnen. Militärhistorische Kostbarkeiten aus sechs Jahrhunderten. Katalog zur Ausstellung "200 Jahre Kriegsarchiv" vom 18. Oktober 2001 bis 28. Februar 2002. Wien 2001
  • Wagner, Walter: Quellen zur Geschichte der Militärgrenze im Kriegsarchiv Wien. In: Die Militärgrenze. Wien 1973 (Schriften des Heeresgeschichtlichen Museums 6), S. 261 bis 290 (trotz des einschränkenden Titels ein wichtiger Wegweiser für die praktische Benützung vieler Bestände des Kriegsarchivs)
  • Wolf, G.: Geschichte der k. k. Archive in Wien. Wien 1871, S. 160 bis 178
  • Zitterhofer, Karl: Die literarische Tätigkeit des Kriegsarchivs 1784 bis 1909. In: Österreichische Militärische Zeitschrift 1909/2, S. 1717 bis 1726