Only 30 percent of the documents contained in an archive building that collapsed in early March in the western German city of Cologne will be saved, a Czech expert who helped salvage the archive told local media Saturday.
The size of the stock of the Historical Archive of Cologne, whose building collapsed in early March, is comparable with the State Regional Archive in Prague (SOAP), said Jiri Smitka from SOAP, who has returned from one of six expeditions of Czech to Cologne.
The archive collapsed on March 3 due to tunneling work for a new underground train line. Two people were killed in the accident, in which a total of three buildings fell into a hole that opened up in the ground.
Cologne's archives, one of the only collections in Germany to have survived World War II completely intact, were described as the richest municipal record collection in northern continental Europe, including decrees by emperors, lists of medieval residents and centuries of merchants' records.
The Czech archivists estimated that only 30 percent of the overall stock will be saved.
A total of six expeditions of Czech archivists and restorers, who come from various archives across the country, have been sent to Cologne for the recovering work.
"The oldest document we found was from the mid-12th century, which is really unique. Who does not work in the National Archive will not come across such material in the Czech environment," Smitka said.
Karel Koutsky, from the Czech National Archive, said the oldest of collections came from 922 AD while the oldest known document in the Czech Republic comes from the late-10th century.
The collections, including hundreds of thousands of photographs, maps and documents, contained manuscripts by music composer Jacques Offenbach, Nobel Literature Prize laureate Heinrich Boell, former Cologne mayor and later German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer, as well as Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels.
"The archival stock was not affected by past disasters, such as the Thirty Years' War, the two world wars, the bombing of Cologne. Only now by this disaster," Koutsky said.