Deutsche Dienststelle (WASt)
The Deutsche Dienststelle (WASt) is a German agency based in Berlin which maintains records of members of the former German Wehrmacht who were killed in action. Formerly called the Wehrmachtsauskunftstelle (WASt), this agency also provides information about the fate of foreign and German soldiers as well as prisoners of war in Germany. This kind of information is used for civil proceedings as well as an official register of war graves.
It started its work on August 26, 1939 under the name of Wehrmachtsauskunftstelle für Kriegerverluste und Kriegsgefangene (WASt), as part of the Wehrmacht, under the auspices of Article No. 77 of the Third Geneva Convention (which related to the treatment of prisoners of war from July 27, 1929).
The text of Article 77 is as follows:
The Detaining Powers shall provide all facilities for the transmission, through the Protecting Power or the Central Prisoners of War Agency provided for in Article 123, of instruments, papers or documents intended for prisoners of war or despatched by them, especially powers of attorney and wills.
In all cases they shall facilitate the preparation and execution of such documents on behalf of prisoners of war; in particular, they shall allow them to consult a lawyer and shall take what measures are necessary for the authentication of their signatures.
Headquarters moved several times
In August 1943, the archives were divided in two parts. One part of the WASt was transferred to Saalfeld/Saale in Thuringia, the other part moved to Meiningen, also in Thuringia. It was put under the American Military Authority on April 12, 1945, after their occupation of Thuringia. The American forces moved WASt on July 1, 1945 to Fürstenhagen near Kassel, shortly before the Soviet Army moved in.
In January 1946, the archive was relocated to Berlin and renamed the Deutsche Dienststelle. On June 14, 1946, the Allied Control Council devolved some of its role to the French Military Commission.
The Federal Government of Germany and Land Berlin agreed on January 9, 1951, to rename WASt the Deutsche Dienststelle (WASt) für die Benachrichtigung der nächsten Angehörigen von Gefallenen der ehemaligen deutschen Wehrmacht and made it part of the administration of Land Berlin. WASt is now located in Berlin in the Wittenau quarter in the district of Reinickendorf. Its address is Eichborndamm 179.
Data from further archives
WASt integrated in the post-war period documents from other military and paramilitary archives. In December 1990, it received documents originating from the Potsdam military archive and from the GDR state archive in Dornburg near Zerbst/Anhalt.
WASt's archives were swelled by further documents from various former army, navy/marine and other archives about casualties, prisoners of war and so on. WASt has now also become an important source for scientific research.
The French author Laurent Guillet, a native resident of Brittany, has conducted research into his main interest area of Franco-German history during World War II. He has listed some important documents which are part of the archives of WASt. This information is recorded below to further assist potential users of WASt.
- WASt maintain a registry in alphabetical order of more than 18 million military and paramilitary participants of World War II.
Land and Air Forces
- It has 100 million personal data records about transfers of World War II soldiers and airmen and their identity discs.
- It has five million personal documents, e. g. service record books, from soldiers of land and air forces of World War II.
- The archive has two million personal files for naval personnel and minesweeping personnel in the period 1871 - 1947.
- There are about 150 million statements concerning casualties from the "Wehrmacht" and other military groups during World War II.
- A central war graves file for 900,000 casualties of World War I and more than three million casualties of World War II.
Prisoners of war
- 15 million personal data files concerning German, Austrian and their allied soldiers, who were captured in the course of World War II by French, American or British troops. There are also discharge documents of prisoners of war coming back from post-war captivity in the Soviet Union.
- Another 1.5 million files still existing from foreign soldiers who were captured by German forces.
Role of the Deutsche Dienststelle (WASt)
Requests directed to WASt will pass through, according to the wishes of the individual,the following stages: 1) Alphabetical central data file 2) Prisoners of war 3) Marines/Naval forces 4) War cemeteries 5) Identification tags 6) Further external inquiries 7) Written notices
Formerly, WASt was tasked with searching for proper documents in order to evaluate old age pensions for German soldiers or their family members who had been left behind. On the other hand, persons who committed war crimes in the German Armed Forces (Wehrmacht), could be identified by this agency.
Today, the Agency is called the Deutsche Dienststelle (WASt) and is part of the administration of Bundesland Berlin. Nowadays, enquiries are often still fruitful; for example, the German War Graves Commission relies in its search for unknown German war graves, among others, on information obtained from them. It can also provide proof of German descent for would-be immigrants looking to resettle from abroad (e.g. from Poland), as establishing a link to an ancestor who served in the German Armed Forces can provide this.
War children whose fathers were German soldiers or German Prisoners of War can also contact the Agency to research the history of their German fathers who were killed, are listed as missing, or are no longer traceable. Such enquiries to WASt derive mainly from France, Norway, Denmark, The Netherlands, and from Finland. In terms of numbers, there are about 500 enquiries per year from war children born in, or slightly after, World War II, with around 110 per year alone from France. This research is often undertaken as part of a genealogical search for their origins, their unknown procreator and relates to those soldiers who were declared missing, killed in action or are untraceable. WASt can also conduct inquiries for the German families of former German soldiers, for example, to find out if a French war child is searching for their father.
- (fr) Laurent Guillet: La WASt. In: Amicale Nationale des Enfants de la Guerre (Editor): Des fleurs sur les cailloux. Editions Laurent Guillet 2010, p. 233.
- (French) Laurent Guillet: La WASt. In: Amicale Nationale des Enfants de la Guerre (Editor): Des fleurs sur les cailloux. Editions Laurent Guillet 2010, p. 233.
- Christian Taske: "Ich habe gedacht, die spinnen doch." Er bewahrte die persönliche Geschichte Hunderttausender Deutscher: 1946 verwaltete Henry Sternweiler das Archiv der Wehrmacht. Als die Amerikaner den Befehl gaben, alles zu verbrennen, weigerte sich der US-Soldat - und rettete tonnenweise Dokumente. Nun erhält er dafür das Bundesverdienstkreuz. (translated to English: American soldier saved documents Article in einestages.spiegel.de from December 4, 2009
- (French) Laurent Guillet: La WASt. In: Amicale Nationale des Enfants de la Guerre (Editor): Des fleurs sur les cailloux. Editions Laurent Guillet 2010, p. 234.
- (fr) Laurent Guillet: La WASt. In: Amicale Nationale des Enfants de la Guerre (Hrsg.): Des fleurs sur les cailloux. Editions Laurent Guillet 2010, S. 234 - 235.
- (fr) Entretien avec Marie-Cécile Zipperling. Berlin, le vendredi 26 février 2010 à la WASt. In: Amicale Nationale des Enfants de la Guerre (Hrsg.): Des fleurs sur les cailloux. Editions Laurent Guillet 2010, p. 239 - 240.
- (fr) Amitié Nationale des Enfants de la Guerre, Lettre ouverte no 4, Janvier 2009, p. 6
- (fr) Entretien avec Marie-Cécile Zipperling. Berlin, le vendredi 26 février 2010 à la WASt. In: Amicale Nationale des Enfants de la Guerre (Hrsg.): Des fleurs sur les cailloux. Editions Laurent Guillet 2010, p. 238.
- Deutsche Dienststelle (WASt) - German Agency (WASt) - registering members of the German Wehrmacht who were killed in action
- (fr) Laurent Guillet: La WASt. In: Amicale Nationale des Enfants de la Guerre (Hrsg.): Des fleurs sur les cailloux. Editions Laurent Guillet 2010, p. 233 - 235.