Christian Heppner, an archivist from the City of Hannover, gave us a fascinating insight into how the Hannover’s precious historical documents were preserved during the Second World War. Christian told us that proper cataloguing of Hannover’s history started with the first full-time archivist in 1889, when the archives were kept in the Kestner Museum. In 1940 when the first bombs fell near the museum, the archives were moved to Marienburg Castle, where they were kept for 2 years in a wine cellar and the kitchen, where they suffered from mould and mice! They were then moved to Soeder Castle, about 25 miles away, near the post-war East-West German border, where they were stored in a salt mine 40-50 metres below ground. There was some looting and soot damage from a fire in the mine, but by 1945 most of the documents stored there were saved. Christian told us much more about problems later with floods, hard winters and the loss of the 12th century Ebbsdorfer Weltkarte, 20% of the Staatsarchiv, and part of the library also. All of which makes us very keen to see what remains when we go to Hannover in August!
Christian’s visit was the first of an exchange to take place in this 70th anniversary year. In November Bristol archivist Graham Tratt will spend a month in Hannover, researching the documents there, especially those relating to the link with Bristol.