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The Institute of Contemporary History (Institut für Zeitgeschichte) in Munich was conceived in 1947 under the name Deutsches Institut für Geschichte der nationalsozialistischen Zeit ("German Institute of the History of the National Socialist Era"). Founded by the German government and the State of Bavaria at the suggestion of the Allied Forces, it was established in 1949 and renamed in 1952. Its purpose is the analysis of contemporary German history.
The Institute is funded by the German government, and the German states of Bavaria, Baden-Württemberg, Brandenburg, Hesse, Lower Saxony, North Rhine-Westphalia and Saxony. The first director of the Institute was Hans Rothfels, the second director was Martin Broszat. Representatives of the supporting states are also members of the Institute's board.
In 1994, the Institute founded a branch in Potsdam, which has been based near the German Federal Archives since 1996. The focus of research at the Berlin branch of the Institute is the history of the German Democratic Republic (GDR). The branch Abteilung des IfZ im Auswärtigen Amt ("IfZ Department in the Foreign Office"), founded in 1990 (first situated in Bonn; in Berlin, since 2000), publishes documents from the German Foreign Office.
In 1999, the Institute conceived the Dokumentationszentrum Obersalzberg museum on the Obersalzberg near Berchtesgaden at the request of the Bavarian government. This exhibition documents the construction of the Obersalzberg into a showy residence for Adolf Hitler and the National Socialist leadership circles.