|One of the record groups at the Central Archives for the History of the Jewish People in Jerusalem most heavily used by genealogists is record number G5, a collection of birth, marriage, and death registers from Germany in miniature photograph form, commonly known as the Gatermann Collection. Ironically, this collection, so useful to Jews of German origin, was created by the Nazis, whose efforts to exterminate the Jews were almost paralleled by their efforts to preserve their history and culture.|
Among the Nazis' accomplishments was the establishment of the Reichssippenamt, whose purpose was to conduct genealogical research, both on a theoretical as well as on a practical level. The Reichssippenamt confiscated birth, marriage, and death registers from Jewish communities throughout Germany to use for general research, as well as to examine whether given individuals were Jewish according to the provisions of the Nuremberg laws.
Altogether, the Reichssippenamt amassed some 3,400 birth, marriage, and death registers; cemetery registers; family books; and similar material, ranging from the 18th to the 20th centuries, from Jewish communities all over Germany. Early in 1945, it began to prepare security microfilms of the registers, apparently conscious of the fact that the Third Reich's days were numbered. At some time before the war's end, the registers were evacuated from Berlin to an ostensibly safer location, which apparently was bombed as well. In any case, the registers disappeared and have not been located since; they probably were destroyed.
The films that remained after the war's end were distributed by the Gatermann Company, which had photographed them (hence the name of the collection) among the various regional archives in West Germany, in accordance with the geographical proximity of the respective communities. The federal archives of West Germany, the Bundesarchiv, received films for the communities in East Germany and areas that became Polish after the war, including Beuthen, Breslau, Gleiwitz, Hindenburg, Pless, Ratibor,and Tost.
In 1954, the Jewish Historical General Archives (forerunner of the Central Archives for the History of the Jewish People) obtained miniature contact photocopies of the 3,400 registers microfilmed by the Reichssippenamt and placed them at the disposal of genealogists. The collection consists primarily of birth, marriage, and death registers, as well as some cemetery registers, from communities throughout Germany, each register from a specific community. The registers are arranged in chronological order in handwritten German; some of them have faded and are hard to read. Some have alphabetical indexes at the end. Family books exist for a number of communities. These are registers arranged alphabetically by family name, with each page listing all the members of a specific family, as well as the changes that occurred in that family, such as births, marriages, deaths, and emigration. Because the copies held at the Central Archives in Jerusalem are bound, miniature photocopies, they can be read only with the help of a magnifying glass and cannot be photocopied. They can, therefore, be used only on the Central Archives premises. Researchers must also be familiar with Gothic German script in order to decipher the entries in the registers. [Some, but not all, of these records have been microfilmed by the LDS (Mormon) Family History Library. Readers should consult the Family History Library catalogue under the heading "Germany" to determine specific availability-Ed.]
The Central Archives unfortunately does not have a staff large enough to conduct genealogical research for correspondents, but will gladly make the registers available to anyone visiting their premises. In order to obtain photocopies of given pages from these registers, it is necessary to locate the regional archives in Germany holding microfilms and/or enlargements of the specific registers and to request photocopies, citing specific registers and page numbers, if possible. These are generally the regional archives closest to the community in question. The registers usually bear the same numbers as at the Central Archives.
The Central Archives would be happy to hear from AVOTAYNU readers who have obtained information regarding registers from other parts of Germany so that this knowledge may be shared with other genealogists.
1. Write: The Central Archives for the History of the Jewish People, P.O. Box 1149, Jerusalem 91010, Israel.
Telephone : 972-2-563-5716; and fax: 972-2-5667686
Following is a list of places in Germany for which there are miniature photocopies of birth, marriage, or death registers at the Central Archives for the History of the Jewish People in Jerusalem. In cases when the registers for a particular community are other than birth, marriage, or death registers, that fact is noted.
The # column refers to the number of booklets that are on file.