With about 180,000 boxes of files and 60,000 account books on 50 kilometres of shelves, the Vienna Kriegsarchiv may indeed legitimately claim that it is by far Central Europe’s biggest military archive.
Its collection of maps and plans comprising more than 600,000 items is the largest in Austria. Moreover, it boasts a collection of about 400,000 pictures.
The former library of the Kriegsarchiv is one of the most extensive collections of older specialist literature on military history.The Kriegsarchiv department of the Austrian State Archives originates from two institutitons: the “Hofkriegskanzleiarchiv” (founded in 1711), the archive of the relevant authority, and “Kriegsarchiv” established by Archduke Karl in 1801 as a research institution of the army.
The holdings of the Kriegsarchiv, which consist of 22 record groups, the structure of which still reflects these two fundamentally different archival traditions. They can roughly be broken down into the following five major units:
1. Personnel files of officers, petty officers, soldiers and public servants of the armed forces from around 1740 to 1918; files pertaining to military decorations (1789–1958), including the archives of the Military Maria Theresia Order.
2. Feldakten, i.e. files containing materials on military operations of the imperial / Imperial and Royal field armies from the 16th century to 1882 (old field files and army files) as well as on operations during World War I between 1914 and 1918 (High Command of the Army, new field files).
3. Allerhöchster Oberbefehl, Zentral-, Mittel- und Territorialbehörden (supreme command, central, interim and territorial authorities). This group of holdings brings together the records of institutions around the Emperor (especially the military chancellery, the Adjutant General’s office and the general staff), the central military services (Hofkriegsrat 1557–1848, Ministry of War 1848–1918, Ministry of Defence 1868–1918) and a number of other authorities, institutions and territorial commands such as the Office for Invalids, the Apostolic Military Vicariat, the supreme engineering and artillery authorities, the institutions of military education and training, the homes for military invalids as well as of individual general and military commands in the lands.
4. Navy and air force (19th and 20th centuries)
5. Collections, in particular the collection of maps and plans, the picture collection, the collection of manuscripts and very significant legacies of military writings.The Kriegsarchiv is a “historical” archive. The official records kept here essentially end with the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian empire at the end of World War I (1918). The collections of the Kriegsarchiv continue to grow on an ongoing basis.