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A Week in the Archives – Berlin Edition
From the 16th to the 20th of April, I was in Berlin in the Bundesarchiv and the Politische Archiv of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. It was my first trip to the latter which was rather exciting for me.
The first three days I visited the Bundesarchiv in Berlin-Lichterfelde. I went through almost 40 files but – unfortunately – I did not find much related directly to the Union. Things changed when I looked into the files of the Politische Archiv: There was one whole record just for the union tracing the communication before the establishing of the union within the ministry of foreign affairs and between the later and the Postal Ministry of the Reich. Furthermore, I found additional little snippets of information that will help us figure out the puzzle that is EPTU at the moment. The findings will be all the more important as they show an ambivalent German-Italian relationship where the Germans had to push the Italian government towards moving forward with the Union.
Thus, after five days of intense reasearch, I took the train home with a few new findings. Next stops will be the archives in other member states of the union.
My Week in the Rigsarkivet in Copenhagen (10th – 13th of July)
The next stop on my tour through archives in Europe was the Rigsarkivet in Copenhagen. Here, the archives are unlike in other cities right in the heart of the city – next to the Christiansborg. That way, it feels like History is part of the present rather than something separate. I went to the Danish archives on the one hand because I am able to understand Danish (even though about 50% of the documents are in German). On the other hand, it seems quite interesting to retrace how the PTT administration of an occupied country reacted to the creation of the union in which it is formally independent and what kind of strategy it used.
It has been quite a successful week. The documents I found in the archive will be able to fill some of the gaps that existed due to the destruction of German material and add a new layer of information. For example, I could find previous contracts between Germany and Denmark for the area of telecommunications, something that up until now had only been found for postal services.
What is however interesting is the fact that also in the Danish archives one can find a significant rupture in the documentation during the years of the Second World War. Since this project also talks about whether the Second World War was as much of a break in international cooperation as it has often been described so far, this seems to be an important piece in the puzzle. From the point of the existing documents, it appears as if there really is a caesura. On the other hand, in many cases, the cooperation seems to have stopped before the World War had even started – namely in the years 1935-1938. Thus, the questions arise: Which time frames do we mean when we compare cooperation before and after the war? Did the relations really stop or is it simply the documents that are missing?
Visions of Europe and the post: Stamps as messengers of Europe?
Mid-January, I had the chance to participate in an interdisciplinary conference of our faculty in Düsseldorf. The general topic was European Utopias and I applied with a reflection on the choice of graphics on the “Europe”-stamps.
I came up with the topic when realizing that the stamp of the series “Europe” of the Deutsche Post showcased the Rheinkniebrücke in Düsseldorf. Bridges had been the overall topic.
From 1956 until 1973, so called “Europe”-stamps issued together by some European postal administrations (CEPT). From 1956-1960, this initiative came mainly from the six member of the European Coal and Steel Community; from 1960 onwards the member administrations of the newly founded European Conference of Postal and Telecommunications Administrations decided together upon the graphic of the stamp. It is noticeable that the stamps become less and less political as time goes on. Especially in the years of 1956 until 1960, the stamps showed an idea of a Europe that connects and is under construction as well as fosters growth and peace. When the responsibility for choosing a graphic was handed over to the CEPT, the stamps quickly stopped demonstrating a bigger idea of Europe but rather focused on the cooperation within the CEPT. The CEPT sees itself as a political independent organization that remains outside of the European integration process as shaped by the European Union. After 1973, the CEPT decided upon a theme that was then implemented nationally. This way, there was no common graphic anymore, and the only way to recognize the fact that this was a “Europe”-stamp was and is by reading the word “Europe” on the stamps. Consequently, the idea of community seems to have been abandoned by underlining the national aspects.
As such, these later stamps have much in common with the stamps that were given out by the Deutsche Reichspost on the occasion of the European postal congress of 1942: The post and a postal Europe without borders is in the focus, thus simply representing a postal idea of Europe. Thereby, the Deutsche Reichspost puts the cooperation between PTT administration at the forefront of the efforts but not any possible other vision of a united Europe. A similar approach can be seen from 1960 onwards.