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How to research an Soldier

I have many times got the question about a Officers, NCO or Privates of the Waffen-SS, sometimes its easy but sometimes it´s hard. As an example if you search a NCO or Private I can from the begining say that it will be very hard to find some info, of course there are exceptions such a with those who got a high award, sich as the Knights Cross, German Cross or close combat in Gold. But if you are searching for “Ernst Baum” the only thing I can say is to got through award lists for the unit he served in. maybe he got an EK II or EK I, there you maybe will find his name, rank, birthday, unit and when he got the award. There is also list for those who go the “Kriegsverdienst Kreuz mit Schwerten II or I class.

If the one you are searching was an officer of the Heer or Waffen-SS there are better chanses for you to get more info. If he got married even better, but that´s for the Officers in the SS/ Waffen-SS. I forgot to mention if you are searching for an NCO or Private of the SS/Waffen-SS there is a good source with the former SS-RuSHA files. All soldiers of the SS who wanted to get married or engaged had to send an application to the SS-RuSHA headquarter.

But how to get the files? Heer files are stored at the Bundesarchive in Freiburg, SS/Waffen-SS files are stored at the Bundesarchive in Berlin Lichterfelde AND the National Archive in the USA. The NARA also have all Heer files as well. As After the war, they got all docs and placed it under US goverment. It wasn´t until the mid 90´s the documents was handed over to the German Goverment. But during the 60´s NARA took photograps of everything and stored them om Microfilm. You can order such microfilm roll from NARA, but you get it over electronical transfer. They are pretty slow and expencive. You really need to know exactly which roll you want when you order it.

Bundesarchive are slitghtly easier to use, you still need name, birthdate and hopefully you know in which town he was born, that´s a good advice when you are looking for people named with Schmidt or Schneider. There is a lot of them.
But before you can order from Bundesarchive you have to fill a form called “benutzerantrag” there you fill all the info about yourself and also what you main subject is. With that “benutzerantrag” you can then order some of the files from Bundesarchive. When I write “some” I mean ordinary SSO files and files from the Bundesarchive in Freiburg.

If you want to order a file from the former SS-RuSHA archive, you also need to fill in a form were you promise and declere that you won´t use the medical info you get from the files. You also promise that you won´t make it public, if you not use similiar such as “A SS officers wife´s father was diagnosed with this or that” that´s OK but you can´t write “SS-Ostuf MAnfred Schmidts wife´s family had a story of mental illness in the family” (this is totally taken out of the blue and it´s not anything I know). If you do it, you can be prosecuted and I am pretty sure you will never get anything from the Bundesarchive again.
You can when everything is OK with the forms order the file over Bundesarchive´s partner “Selke GmBH” they take about 2 months before they can send the file. They won´t send it until they see the money on their account. Beware Selke is pretty expencive and if you want a lot of files count that it will cost you approximately 8-900 Euro. You will get the files on a USB stick.

One other option is to go to Bundesarchive yourself, you need to appoint a time when you will be there, give them two weeks notice so they can arrange that all what you asked for are at the desk. This is actually the best option, and the cheapest. I have been there twice now, and I am planing to go there again in october. a good advice , don´t spend time reading the files there! Copy or print as much as you can and read it when you return back at home. The last time I was there I gad three days at the Barch Lichtefelde in those three days I managed to go through 62 rolls most of the RuSHA files, which you are not allowed to copy digitally, only to print on their printer or order through Selke.

Other docs such as SSO and Heer files you can download to your own account on the computer, and you can then email them to you. And download them when you get back home, they are aviable for 1 month.

Some docs you get the files in original, I got a ton of files from different SS-Junkerschulen in original. Those are you allowed to take photos of with your mobilephone or if you bring a camera.

How to find the files! NARA have indexes of most of the material they have, you can search the internet and you will find the PDF´s with wished material. The SSO ´s are under the Index A3343 SSO RuSHA files are under A3343 RS, no index made of those rolls yet. Enlisted and NCO´s go under the Archive name A3343 EM, those are a pure dispointment don´t bother to orded such rolls. in most cases you get the name and when they enlisted, and maybe the first unit such as SS-Pz.Gr.AuE.Btl 4. Nothing more.
Bundesarchive have a MUCH better search engine. Their Invenio is a true master piece of serch engine. Sign up (it´s free) and then push the “search button” (Suche in german) you will see three options , see picture

In the first option you can write whatever you want, I can´t guarantee you will find anything. I myself uses the “Namensuche” which is the best. See picture

There you write the name of the person you want to find, a birthyear and push “suche” I did for this article a search for Michael Wittmann born 1914. And I got three hits.


  • Wittmann, Michael
  • Bestandsbezeichnung Sammlung Berlin Document Center (BDC): Personenbezogene Unterlagen der SS und SAGeburtsdatum 22.4.1914Unterlagenart 
    Alte Signatur VBS 283 / 6065009670
    Benutzungsort Berlin-Lichterfelde

Which is his SS-RuSHA file. In this file you will find anything about his family, parents, sieblings and future wife. It probaly hold three photos of him, portrait, from the side, and a photo in full figure. The same with his bride to be. Very useful information about his early years in the SS. What points out that´s his RuSHA file is the “Sachakte”

Second hit is

  • Wittmann, Michael
  • Bestandsbezeichnung Sammlung Berlin Document Center (BDC): Personenbezogene Unterlagen der SS und SAGeburtsdatum 22.4.1914Unterlagenart 
    Alte Signatur VBS 286 / 6400050346
    Benutzungsort Berlin-Lichterfelde

Here is his SSO file, which indicated with “personalakte” this is what you find in his SSO, promotions, awards, SS-Nr. NSDAP number, if he was married and much more. Most about his Militaryservive. The first page of the SSO file of Wittmann looks like this. (From my archive)

Third hit and the last

Wittmann, Michael

Bestandsbezeichnung Sammlung Berlin Document Center (BDC): Personenbezogene Unterlagen der NSDAP
Geburtsdatum 22.4.1914
Unterlagenart Sachakte
Benutzungsort Berlin-Lichterfelde

Those papers are about him and his membership in the NSDAP. I have tried to look at those files, but there is a mess and very hard to find info on, there is millions of names and the number of rolls are counted in 1000´s

Beside this original document which are a true source of info, I strongly recomend you to buy books, especially if you are looking for more info about Wittmann I strongly advice you to search for books about his unit.
With them and the original docs you can get a really good picture about him as a person and a commander of an Waffen-SS unit.

I also strongly advice you to look at rolls from the serie T354 (Waffen-SS and Allgemeine-SS) which contains info about units. The serie T175 is docs from RFSS and other main offices such as the SS.Führungshauptamt etc. As you can see the most info I can give is about SS officers, that´s why I am researching them. But you will find Heer officers with the simliar serch engine. There are many rolls out there for those who are interested in Heer units or other more obscure units or why not a Army located in Narwa 1944.

One more thing and that´s a true jem , learn to know other people with same interest that you also have. Ask them if they can help you. Offer them what you have. I would have come as long as I have done without the assistance of fellow researcher. We are actually going to have a conferens here in Stockhom next year with die hard researchers of the SS/Waffen-SS, those who will participate are from every country of scandinavia. Its going to be a blast!

Prepare yourself that you till have a ton of docs in the near future. I have been doing this for a few years now, it have costed me thousands of Euros and Dollars, but today I have about 17 Terrabytes of docs, and it grow from one day to the next day
If you have questions and more thoughts why don´t you send me an email on georg68schwab(a)gmail.com

Happy hunting!