Recently Opened Series: German World War II Maps

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.

RG 242: German Situation Maps of the Western Front, 11/9/1944
RG 242: German Situation Maps of the Western Front, 12/7/1944

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.

RG 242: Various German World War II Maps, #5, Eastern Europe, 7/1941

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.

RG 242: Various German World War II Maps, #6, Western Europe, 9/14/1939
RG 242: Various German World War II Maps, #12, Finnish Front, 12/6/2941

Also included with the maps is an outline detailing the structure of German army groups, seen below.

RG 242: Various German World War II Maps, #29, Army Group Structure, 9/1/1939

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.

You can see a list of the Cartographic Branch’s Foreign Records Seized in our catalog here. You can also learn more about the National Archives’ Foreign Records Seized here.

8 thoughts on “Recently Opened Series: German World War II Maps

  1. These maps on display are truly fascinating as full of tremendous historical information. For example, the last map showing the entirety of the Eastern Front at what would be the high-water mark for the Wermacht in Russia, from Dec 6, 1941 shows just how close the Nazi’s were to Moscow and that they had already isolated Leningrad. When one realizes that tens of millions of lives were lost on the area of this map in less than 4 years is very powerful and shows the magnitude of the greatest struggle of the largest war in Earth’s history.

  2. These are remarkable sources, but are there plans to further digitize the collections of the captured documents beyond the few high-resolution images presented here? (I got all excited and visited the National Archives link only to discover that none of the materials are “Available Online.”)

  3. Can you clarify if the maps in the newly opened series are the originals or duplicates of the originals? Are there plans to place digitized versions online?

    Thank you.

    1. Hi Shawn,

      Sorry we missed your comment. These maps are not duplicates of other maps. We will certainly keep these series in mind for digitization in the near future.

  4. I think lack of a single reply re. making the collection available online (apart from a couple of those here), is self-explanatory :/

    1. We will be considering these maps for digitization in the near future. Thank you for letting us know that you’re interested!

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