Skip to main content

Archives introduce themselves - The Fürst Donnersmarck Foundation Archive in Berlin

By Archivportal-D

The Fürst Donnersmarck Foundation (FDST), founded in Berlin in 1916, designs services for people with disabilities and is committed to supporting them in leading as self-determined a life as possible. The FDST archive is a comparatively young institution. Its beginnings date back to the Foundation's 75th anniversary, which was celebrated in 1991. Since then, the archive has been collecting and managing the FDST's written material dating back to the recent past. It keeps files on the history of the Foundation and at the same time offers insights into the history of people with disabilities as well as socio-political changes in Germany since the beginning of the 1950s.

The files that have survived from the founding phase of the FDST reflect the original orientation of the foundation as a military rehabilitation and research institution. In addition to the nursing support and rehabilitation of war-disabled persons, the foundation wanted to collect and scientifically evaluate the medical experience gained during the First World War.

Telegramm Wilhelm II. an Guido Graf Henckel Fürst von Donnersmarck mit dem Dank für die Übertragung der Stiftung (Abschrift)

Telegram from Wilhelm II to Guido Graf Henckel Fürst von Donnersmarck thanking him for the transfer of the foundation (copy), FDST Zen-1 (Copyright: FDST)

However, due to the loss of its endowment funds in the hyperinflation after the First World War, the FDST was unable to carry out these intentions. It was only after the end of the Second World war that it took up its actual operational activities. Therefore, the focus of its holdings lies in the second half of the 20th century. From the 1950s onwards, the foundation was involved in the field of leisure activities and counselling for people with disabilities. To this end, it acquired a villa in Berlin-Zehlendorf and converted it into a barrier-free meeting place. The personal records of visitors to the 'Villa Donnersmarck' that have survived from this time, their reports and the photos of group activities provide insights into the lives of people with disabilities in the early post-war period. This is also true of photo albums of the so-called 'Journeys of Good Will', which the FDST organised from mid-1955.

Fotoalbum der ersten „Fahrt des Guten Willens“ nach Orelinghausen

Photo album of the first Journey of Good Will to Orelinghausen (Copyright: FDST)

The recreational trips that took place under this motto were often the only way for people with disabilities living in West Berlin to leave the city and travel. From the 1960s onwards, the Foundation also continuously expanded its involvement in the areas of rehabilitation and housing as well as barrier-free tourism. Today, these areas of work are its largest fields of activity.

Einige TeilnehmerInnen der „Fahrten des Guten Willens“ mussten als ‚Republikflüchtlinge‘ nach Westdeutschland ausgeflogen werden

Some participants of the Journeys of Good Will had to be flown out to West Germany as "refugees from the Republic" (as those who fled the GDR were known) (Copyright: FDST)

The issues of the magazine WIR, which has been published continuously since 1954, are among the sources documenting the early phase of the FDST. In the beginning, the magazine was written by the group participants themselves and distributed in stapled copies. Over time, the magazine evolved into a professionally produced but inclusive publication that appeared several times a year and dealt with current issues of interest to people with disabilities.

Titelblatt der Stiftungszeitschrift WIR von Juli 1977

Cover page of the foundation magazine WIR from July 1977, FDST Pub-9 (Copyright: FDST)

The minutes of the FDST Board of Trustees' meetings, which have been preserved almost in their entirety since 1918, are another important fonds documenting the Foundation's history. The archive also holds documents from the administration, some hand files of members of the Board of Trustees, a photo, audio and film archive as well as files that provide information about the activities of the Foundation in the areas of neurological rehabilitation, assisted living and assistance.

The holdings of the Fürst Donnersmarck Foundation in Berlin in Archivportal-D.


Archiv der Fürst Donnersmarck-Stiftung zu Berlin
Mainzer Straße 19
10715 Berlin