One of the most interesting ways of seeing World War II military operations from the point of view of the Axis powers is by looking in the National Archives’ materials held in Record Group 242: National Archives Collection of Foreign Records Seized. This record group includes documents, films, photographs and maps that were seized from the Axis powers during or after the war, among other seized records. In the Cartographic branch, we have some of the original maps that were captured from Germany, including two new recently opened series.
One of the newly opened series is German Situation Maps of the Western Front, 1944-1945 (NAID 40432392). This series contains German maps that display the locations of the Allied armies at different times in 1944 and 1945. The maps include information on various Allied unit locations and the situations the Axis armies were facing at that time. They also give insight into how the Germans organized and displayed their military operational information. It is interesting to see, for example, that the Germans sometimes used the label of “Gen. Eisenhower” on their maps to denote the location of the Allies. Many of the maps also include a breakdown of the army units in the field.
The other recently processed series is Various German World War II Maps, 1939-1945 (NAID 40480105). This series consists of a wide range of maps used by the German army throughout the war. Some of the maps have handwritten notes, army locations and situations while others are general maps of certain areas. A few of the maps offer a window into situations during specific times while others provide a broad overview of the war.
The maps in the series cover a number of places, including the Finnish Front, Russia, Africa and broad areas of Europe. Like with the Western Front situation maps, these show us how the Germans used maps to display their information and strategize for the war.
Also included with the maps is an outline detailing the structure of German army groups, seen below.
While maps from the Allied armies might depict similar operational and situational information, it is interesting to see the perspective and strategy of the other side. This viewpoint is not one you always get to see, which makes these maps a key part in viewing the whole picture of the war.