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, Gender Equality, and Districts or a deputy thereof (currently Dr. Eva Gümbel). An advisory panel of international scholars (Chair: Prof. Dr. Malte Thießen, LWL-Institute, Muenster) 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”.

Current lines of research

At the Research Centre for Contemporary History in Hamburg (Forschungsstelle für Zeitgeschichte in Hamburg, or FZH), our research efforts are informed by a broad understanding of what contemporary history is, and stretch from the twentieth into the twenty-first century. The work of the FZH is shaped by a social and cultural history approach towards documenting societal changes, particularly as seen in urban contexts, and understanding them as ramifications of modernity. As a globally connected port city, Hamburg is an ideal site and subject for a contemporary history research perspective that considers not only local factors, but also national and international ones. FZH research projects can be largely grouped into the following lines of research: Nazism and its ‘second history’, Hamburg since the 1950s, recent and current history, and the theory, methodology, and practice of oral history.


The FZH reference library is open to researchers, students, and members of the public. It currently holds around 100,000 books and subscribes to some sixty current periodicals. The entire collection can be browsed online via the Campus Catalogue and KatalogPlus of the University of Hamburg. The primary thematic focus of the FZH library is on contemporary history, especially the history of Nazism 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 Nazism
  • churches in the ‘Third Reich’
  • social and local histories of the twentieth century
  • history of the Weimar Republic
  • 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


The FZH maintains a public archive that corresponds to the research focus of the institute. It includes holdings on the social and cultural history as well as the history of mentality of the 20th century in the region of Hamburg and northern Germany, in particular the history of National Socialism, its pre- and post-history, the labour movement, political resistance as well as coming to terms with and redressing National Socialist injustice after the Second World War. More recently, sources on everyday political culture and documents on sexuality and gender studies have also been included.

The Workshop of Memory - Werkstatt der Erinnerung (WdE)

The Workshop of Memory (Werkstatt der Erinnerung) is an oral history archive based at the Forschungsstelle für Zeitgeschichte in Hamburg. The archive mainly holds interviews with members of social, religious or ethnic groups in Hamburg that were persecuted by the Nazi regime.

The WdE also has interviews related to the Weimar Republic and, increasingly, on more recent themes in the history of Hamburg, concerning migration, political and social movements, gender and labour history etc. The collection currently contains more than 2200 interviews and continues to grow. The WdE archives personal documents such as letters, diaries, photographs or official documents related to the interviewees.


Forschungsstelle für Zeitgeschichte in Hamburg
Beim Schlump 83
D-20144 Hamburg

Phone +49 40 431397 20
E-mail  fzh@zeitgeschichte-hamburg.de

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