About the Institute

The Research Centre for Contemporary History in Hamburg (FZH) conducts research into the twentieth century with a particular focus on the history of Hamburg and Northern Germany. Through books, essays, lectures and conferences, the FZH makes available the results of its research projects to the academic community and the general public. Operating since 1997 as a foundation under private law supported by the Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg, it has additionally been a research facility at the University of Hamburg since 2000. The director of the FZH holds a professorship at the History Department of the University.

The Committees of the FZH
The FZH is led by a management committee (Director: Prof. Dr. Thomas Großbölting; Deputy Director: Prof. Dr. Kirsten Heinsohn). Oversight is exercised by a board of trustees, chaired by the head of the city’s Department of Science, Research and Gender Equality or a deputy thereof (currently Dr. Eva Gümbel). An advisory panel of international scholars (Chair: Prof. Dr. Christoph Cornelißen, Goethe University Frankfurt am Main) provides guidance to the FZH on all matters of research.

Historical Memory of the City
The FZH continues a long tradition of historical research into National Socialism in Hamburg. Early attempts to analyse local manifestations of the “Third Reich” had already begun shortly after the end of the war. In 1960 the “Research Centre for the History of National Socialism in Hamburg” was founded. From modest beginnings, it grew into a historical institute earning renown across the Federal Republic of Germany and beyond. In 1966, it incorporated the “Hamburg Library for Social History and the Labour Movement”, whose holdings include valuable books and brochures rescued from the National Socialist era.
The initial research focus of the FZH was on the development of anti-Semitism since the time of Imperial Germany, the Weimar Republic, and the rise of the NSDAP in Hamburg until the nationwide takeover in 1933.

In the 1980s, attention turned to the National Socialist regime itself and the fate of Hamburg residents who had been persecuted and expelled during the “Third Reich”. In 1989 the interview project “Hamburg Biographies – Workshop of Memory” was initiated, which today with more than 2,000 archived and digitalized interviews is one of the largest oral history collections in Germany. Since the 1990s, research efforts have increasingly included developments in Hamburg and Germany in the period after 1945. This expanded research focus was reflected by a structural reorganization and the adoption of a new name in 1997: “Research Centre for Contemporary History in Hamburg” (FZH).

Current lines of research

are generally designed to transcend the historiographical boundaries represented by the years 1933, 1945, and 1949. This broader view on social developments allows for the contextualization of National Socialism within the overall history of the twentieth century. General trends of the modern age thus become visible in the metropolis of Hamburg. This strategy of focussing on local and regional history puts the experiences and perceptions of individuals and social groups at the centre of interest. Research results of larger projects are made available through three academic book series published by the FZH: “Hamburger Beiträge zur Sozial- und Zeitgeschichte ” with Wallstein Verlag of Göttingen; “Forum Zeitgeschichte” and “Hamburger Zeitspuren”, both with Dölling und Galitz Verlag of Munich and Hamburg.


The FZH reference library is open to researchers, students, and members of the public. It currently holds around 92,000 books and subscribes to some 60 current periodicals. The entire collection can be browsed online via  the Campus Catalogue of the University of Hamburg. The primary thematic focus of the FZH library is on contemporary history, especially the history of National Socialism and the labour movement in the context of Hamburg and Northern Germany.

The following subject areas are especially prominent:
- groups and organizations dedicated to nationalism and the “völkisch” movement
- anti-Semitism and racial theories
- racial policy and the Holocaust
- resistance in the time of National Socialism
- churches in the “Third Reich”
- social and local histories of the twentieth century
- history of the Weimar Republic
- early history of the Federal Republic of Germany
- history of the labour movement, labour parties, and labour unions, especially in Hamburg and Northern Germany
- urban history.

Furthermore, the library’s periodicals include some 650 discontinued journals, 200 business reports, 130 annuals, and 100 serial publications.


The FZH’s archive contains original materials, press clippings, and pamphlets. It primarily focuses on Hamburg-related sources of everyday life from individuals such as diaries, picture books, collections of personal letters etc., but for research purposes also available are large collections of the following organizations:
- DGB - German Confederation of Trade Unions (Hamburg branch),
- SPD - Social Democratic Party of Germany (Hamburg branch),
- ZdK - Central Association of German Consumer Cooperatives
- Emergency Association of People Affected by the Nuremberg Laws
- Society for Christian-Jewish Cooperation
- Working Group of Formerly Persecuted Social Democrats of Hamburg
- Communist Party of Germany (Opposition) / International Union of the Communist Opposition
- International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (German branch)
- German Youth Hostel Association (Northern German branch).
An additional focus of our archive is represented by sources on the history of sexuality, with the most important collection here being the archive of the Beate Uhse company.

The oldest collection in our archive, the Hans Schwarz Archive on the Dachau and Neuengamme concentration camps, with documentation from Gertrud Meyer on persecution and resistance in Hamburg, has been supplemented by an additional contribution from the personal estates of Hans Schwarz and Gertrud Meyer. The part of this archive relating to Neuengamme Concentration Camp has been transferred to the KZ Gedenkstätte and memorial centre, available for viewing since autumn 2007.