The History of the Austrian State Archives

Early attempts are centralising the Austrian archival institutions

During the age of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and during the days of the First Republic, attempts to bring together the independent archives of the central services in Vienna remained unsuccessful. The "k. k. Archivrat" (founded in 1894) was basically just an advisory body of the Imperial and Royal Ministry of the Interior (k. k. Ministerium des Inneren) with broader responsibilities concerning the protection of archival records in “Cisleithania”. The “common” (k. & k.) archives – Haus-, Hof- und Staatsarchiv, Kriegsarchiv and "Reichsfinanzarchiv" (Hofkammerarchiv) were not part of its purview.

After World War I plans were made to create a General Directorate of State Archives based on the Prussian model, but these were rejected the 1920’s.

It took a detour via the protection of archival records (the first and second archival agencies and the supreme directorate of archives) as well as a conference of experts in archival matters (the Archival Advisory Council – Archivbeirat) to ensure some cohesion among the fragmented archives of the inter-war years. The Haus-, Hof- und Staatsarchiv played a central role in this context.

The Reichsarchiv Vienna 1940 to 1945

It was only after the "Anschluss", when Austria became a part of the German Reich in 1938, that the efforts to centralise archival institutions were stepped up again. Under sec. 9 (1) of the 6th Regulation governing the delegation of tasks and powers of the Reich’s governor in Austria dated 11 January 1940 (Law Gazette of the Reich 1940/I, p. 54) a "Reichsarchiv Wien" reporting directly to the Reich Minister of the Interior was founded. It brought together the following archives:

  • Haus-, Hof- und Staatsarchiv,
  • Hofkammerarchiv,
  • Finanzarchiv,
  • Unterrichtsarchiv,
  • Archiv des Innern und der Justiz.

Ludwig Bittner (1877 to 1945), the director of the Haus-, Hof- und Staatsarchiv, was appointed director of the Reichsarchiv Wien. The re-militarised Kriegsarchiv (Heeresarchiv Wien), which was integrated into the organisation of the German military archives, and the Verkehrsarchiv, which was allocated to the administration of the Reich railways, remained outside the new organisational structure.

The Austrian State Archives since 1945

The Behördenüberleitungsgesetz (Act on the Transformation of Authorities of 28 July 1945, Law Gazette no. 94/1945) formed the legal basis for maintaining the organisational structure which had existed since 1940 after the liberation of Austria in 1945. Sec.10 provided for the foundation of Austrian State Archives as subordinate agency of the Federal Chancellery.

Initially, the Austrian State Archives comprised the following departments:

  • Haus-, Hof- und Staatsarchiv (State Archives I)
  • Allgemeines Verwaltungsarchiv (created by merging the Staatsarchiv des Innern und der Justiz as well as the Unterrichtsarchiv)
  • Finanz- und Hofkammerarchiv
  • Kriegsarchiv (State Archives II)

The "Archiv für Verkehrswesen", which was originally subordinate to the Federal Ministry of Transport as from 1946, was integrated into the State Archives in 1947 and became part of the Allgemeines Verwaltungsarchiv but was then turned into a department in its own right in 1954.

Protection of archival records

The Archival Office for the Protection of Archival Records (Archivamt zur Wahrnehmung des Archivalienschutzes) was first re-established within the organisational framework of the Austrian State Archives in 1947 and then transformed into an agency in its own right subordinate to the Federal Chancellery in 1954. Since then, the General Directors of the Austrian State Archives have also served as directors of the Archivamt and archivists of the State Archives also work as officials of the Archivamt.

The structural changes of 1983

In 1983 the federal archival system underwent a decisive change when the department "Archiv der Republik (und Zwischenarchiv)"was founded. The other departments of the State Archives had to cede the official records of the First Republic, the National-Socialist era and the Second Republic to it. The Verkehrsarchiv was disbanded and its archival records were allocated to the Archiv der Republik and the Allgemeines Verwaltungsarchiv.

The departments Allgemeines Verwaltungsarchiv, Haus-, Hof- und Staatsarchive, Kriegsarchiv and Finanz- und Hofkammerarchiv became "historical archives" upon formation of the Archiv der Republik.

With a few characteristic exceptions, the archival records kept by these departments only cover the period of the Habsburg monarchy to the end of World War I. Records ready to be transferred from the federal services obliged to transfer are now only taken on by the Archiv der Republik.

A multiplicity of locations

At first, the departments, which were spread all over Vienna, were not brought together in one location after the organisational mergers of 1940 and 1945.

In the 1950’s plans for a new central archives building started to materialise but eventually come to nothing, so that up until the late 1980’s the following locations continued to exist in Vienna: Vienna I, Minoritenplatz 1 (General Directorate and Haus-, Hof- und Staatsarchiv), Vienna I, Johannesgasse 6 (Hofkammerarchiv), Vienna I, Wallnerstrasse 6 (Allgemeines Verwaltungsarchiv), Vienna I, Himmelpfortgasse 6 (Finanzarchiv), Vienna VII, Stiftgasse 2-2a (Kriegsarchiv), Vienna III, Aspangstrasse 33 (Verkehrsarchiv) and Vienna VII, Andreasgasse 7 (Archiv der Republik).

Between 1981 and 1986 a new building was erected in Vienna-Erdberg (Nottendorfer Gasse 2-4, 1030 Vienna); it was inaugurated in 1988 and today houses the General Directorate, the restoration workshop, the central library of the State Archives and the following archival departments: Allgemeines Verwaltungsarchiv, Archiv der Republik, Kriegsarchiv and Finanz- und Hofkammerarchiv.

The functional archives buildings located at Johannesgasse and Minoritenplatz, which are protected historical buildings dating from the 19th century, continue to be in use.

The Directors-General of the Austrian State Archives

  • 1945 to 1955: Leo Santifaller (1890 to 1974)
  • 1955: Oskar Regele (1890 to 1969), interim director
  • 1956 to 1967: Gebhard Rath (1902 to 1979)
  • 1968 to 1972: Hanns Leo Mikoletzky (1907 to 1978)
  • 1973 to 1975: Walter Goldinger (1910 to 1990)
  • 1976 to 1978: Richard Blaas (1913 to 2004)
  • 1979 to 1986: Rudolf Neck (1921 to 1999)
  • 1987 to 1993: Kurt Peball (1928 to 2009)
  • 1994 to 2012: Lorenz Mikoletzky (born 1945)
  • 2012 to 2019: Wolfgang Maderthaner (born 1954)
  • 2019 to today: Helmut Wohnout (born 1964)


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