Traces of significant figures of contemporary history

Many famous people have left behind traces that are held by the Swiss Federal Archives. The private fonds of federal councillors, for instance, often yield abundant research results. There are also private archives and person-related files with information on many academics, artists and well-known foreigners.

Federal councillors, national councillors and generals

The Swiss Federal Archives often deliver abundant results for research on former federal councillors – for instance, Jakob Stämpfli (1814-1862), Jonas Furrer (1848-1860) or Willi Ritschard (1941-1984) – and former members of the General Staff of the Swiss Army such as Emil Sonderegger (1888-1975). High-ranking federal officials such as top diplomat Walter Stucki (1888-1966) and nationally well-known pressure group politicians such as the farmers' leader Ernst Laur (1895-1964) or labour leader Robert Grimm (1893-2000) have handed over their private archives to the Swiss Federal Archives. The Swiss Federal Archives also endeavour to acquire the private archives of the members of the national parliament. Lilian Uchtenhagen (1961-2008), Verena Grendelmeier (1939-2001), William Rappard (1868-1972), Otto Schoch (1963-1991), Thomas Onken (1964-2000) and Oskar Wettstein (1833-1919), for instance, have all donated their documents to the Swiss Federal Archives.

Famous foreigners

The Swiss Federal Archives safeguards documents on famous foreigners who have spent time in Switzerland. Among them are "Sissi", the Austrian empress Elisabeth of Austria (1881-1996) who was murdered in Geneva in 1898, and Italian revolutionary Giuseppe Mazzini (1836-1855). The Federal Police often maintained person-related files on political refugees such as Mazzini, whom they kept under observation. Others left traces as federal employees – for instance, physicist and Nobel Prize winner Albert Einstein in the documents of the patents office.

Academics and artists

Only a few academics have donated their personal archives to the Swiss Federal Archives. There are a few exceptions among historians: Erich Gruner (1915-2001), Walther Hofer (1920-2013) and Ulrich Im Hof (1917-2001), for instance, bequeathed their private archives to the Swiss Federal Archives.

Person-related files on foreign artists can be found in the Name Register of the Police Department (1855-2003), especially in series "N" and "P". This is mainly because many artists fled from Germany and other countries to Switzerland during the Second World War and were registered by the federal police or immigration police. Articles on a number of famous figures can be found in the Swiss weekly news programme Schweizer Filmwochenschau (1940-1976), backups of which are maintained by the Swiss Federal Archives.

Tips for further research

Publications of the Federal Archives

Knoch-Mund, Gaby, Privatnachlässe in schweizerischen Archiven und Bibliotheken, in: Studien und Quellen, Band 18, hg. vom Schweizerischen Bundesarchiv, Bern 1992, S. 9-63.

Schweizerisches Bundesarchiv, Markus Feldmann – Bundesrat, Journalist, Tagebuchschreiber, 1897-1958 (PDF, 131 MB, 26.06.2012), Bundesarchiv Dossier 13, Bern 2001.

Schweizerisches Bundesarchiv, Max Daetwyler – Friedensapostel, 1886-1976 (PDF, 102 MB, 26.06.2012), Bundesarchiv Dossier 2, Bern 1996.

Schweizerisches Bundesarchiv, Walter Otto Stucki (1888-1963): eine aussergewöhnliche Gestalt der Schweizer Geschichte, Geschichte aktuell, 27.5.2013.

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Last modification 04.11.2019

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