In the wake of its triumphal consolidation of power, the Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei (NSDAP) decided to establish an archive to preserve for posterity its own records and those of the Deutsche Arbeitsfront. On Jan 15, 1934, at the suggestion of Reichsschulungsleiter (Reich Education Director) Otto Gohdes, headquarters for an archive and library under the name 'NSDAP Hauptarchiv' were established in Berlin. There was a forerunner to the archive established Aug 1926. A press archive for the party in Munich was founded by Mathilde von Scheubner-Richter, widow of Max von Scheubner-Richter at the behest of Hitler with the following functions: to collect material on hostile personalities; to scan and make cuttings from the Communist press and the Nazi press. Around 1928 the organisation was taken over by the Reichspropagandaleitung of the NSDAP, which also collected posters, leaflets, pamphlets and other propaganda and election material for the use of various Nazi organisations.
The NSDAP Hauptarchiv's first director was Dr Erich Uetrecht from the Reichsschulungsamt. The archive moved in October 1934 from the Maerkisches Ufer in Berlin to its permanent location in Munich, 15 Barerstrasse. The already existing records of the Reichspropagandaleitung were incorporated with it. In mid 1935 the entire organisation was made directly responsible to Hitler's deputy, Rudolf Hess.
The purpose of the archive was no longer that of acting as a central clearing house of information for the various party organisations. In addition to collecting books, periodicals, newspapers and government publications, operating a reference service for party and government figures, and presenting occasional exhibits, the party archive was to be the main depository for documents relating to the party's history from its earliest days.
As a relatively new institution, the Hauptarchiv had great difficulties in finding original material. With the help of newspaper advertising, leaflets and questionnaires, the archivists appealed to old party members to donate their memorabilia of strife-torn days and to write down their personal reflections.
The old established state archives were unwilling to turn over their collections of party material. Only the Munich police and the Bavarian political police gave the Hauptarchiv their pre-1933 documentation on the NSDAP. In 1938, Dr Uetrect wrote an elaborate memorandum discussing the re-organisation of all German archives and assigning the Hauptarchiv a central place in the scheme. The eventual result of this memorandum was a circular signed by Rudolf Hess and sent in July 1939 to the various state agencies, directing them to collaborate fully with the Hauptarchiv. In response these agencies drew up lists which enabled the Hauptarchiv to ascertain the location of files pertinent to NSDAP history, although the documents themselves were not transferred.
In 1939 the Hauptarchiv was designated as depository for the Fuhrer's deputy, the Reich Chancery and the Reich Leadership of the NSDAP. It was also given jurisdiction over the various Gaue (districts) archives and of the NSDAP 'Gliederungen' (formations) (eg Stormtroopers, SS, Hitler Youth).
By 1943, it had become apparent that Munich was no longer safe from aerial attack and that the most precious holdings of the Hauptarchiv would have to be moved. Three Bavarian sites were chosen: Passau-Feste-Oberhaus, Neumarkt-St Veit, and Lenggries-Schloss Hohenburg. The material transferred consisted mainly of the archival section proper. The library under its new head, Dr Arnold Bruegmann, continued to operate in Munich until it was wiped out by bombing in January 1945. Records for material stored at Neumarkt-St go up to March 1945. At the end of the war the American army seized what archives it could find in Passau and Neumarkt-St Veit. (The fate of the Lenggries material is unknown). The confiscated documents were then reassembled at the Berlin Document Center in early 1946.