Hilferuf von Dr. Dirk Alt

Dieser Hilferuf von Dr. Dirk Alt erging jetzt an ausländische Filmerbe-Institutionen und Archive. Vielleicht kann auf diese Weise die Aufmerksamkeit der internationalen Fachöffentlichkeit auf die deutsche Archivpraxis gelenkt und so der Debatte um die Vernichtung historischer Filmmaterialien wichtige Impulse gegeben werden:

Please help to stop the German Federal Archives from destroying their nitrate film holdings

To whom it may concern

Saving the original film artifact is and should always be a primary objective of film preservation – a principle that is nowadays also applied to nitrate film. Most film archives have long since abandoned the previously wide-spread copy-and-destroy-practice (“nitrate won’t wait”), and an international consensus has emerged to preserve nitrocellulose holdings for the long term.

Unfortunately, this reversal in archival practice has not been implemented in Germany. The German Bundesarchiv (Federal Archives) which holds by far the biggest and most important part of German film heritage, conducts a rigid destruction policy, systematically discarding original film artifacts after (selective) copying. Since the German Reunification and the merging of both German state film archives in 1990, more than half of the nitrate holdings have been destroyed. Out of 140.000 reels, less than 70.000 still remain.

Beginning in 2016, instead of preserving film as physical film copies, the Bundesarchiv will only digitize nitrate film artifacts before disposing them. With the authentic film elements gone, this exclusively digital archival strategy poses a new, and as yet incalculable risk for passing the cinematographic heritage on to future generations.

In light of this dire situation, this message is a call for your support. Please help to spread the word as widely as possible and use your influence in order to stop the Bundesarchiv’s film destruction policy before the remaining artifacts are gone as well.

For further information, visit my website:


Kind regards,
Dirk Alt