German Army Map of Spain 1:50,000 (1940-1944)

Beginning in 1936, a newly-formed German military mapping agency produced a large number of topographic map series covering all parts of Europe at various scales, as well as much of northern Africa and the Middle East.

This organization started out as a back room department of the German Army General Staff, focused on military contingency mapping. But, given the murderous goals of the Nazi regime, it quickly morphed into something else, a military mapping agency which provided planning tools for the Nazi leadership to wage a war of conquest, marked by atrocities and unspeakable crimes.

Berkeley’s Earth Sciences and Map Library owns 20,000 German topographic sheet maps produced by the German Army General Staff’s mapping agency, the Directorate for War Maps and Surveying [= Abteilung für Kriegskarten- und Vermessungswesen]. The Berkeley Library obtained this historically significant collection by participating in the World War II Captured Maps depository program of the U.S. Army Map Service.

A presentation by Wolfgang Scharfe, a geography professor at the Free University of Berlin, at the International Cartographic Conference in Durban in 2003, sheds light on the history of these military map series published by the Directorate for War Maps and Surveying. Scharfe looked at one particular topographic map series covering Spain, published in 2 editions between 1940 and 1944, Spanien 1:50 000.

German military cartographers mapped Spain at different scales. The Nazis saw Spanish dictator Francisco Franco’s fascist regime as an ally, but Franco wisely remained neutral during World War II. Initially, the German military mapping  of Spain can be seen as part of an effort to bring the Franco dictatorship into the Second World War as a German ally. One goal was the capture of the important British base at Gibraltar, at the entrance to the Mediterranean Sea.

Bay of Algeciras

The Bay of Gibraltar, also known as Gibraltar Bay and Bay of Algeciras, identified on the German sheet La Linea-Gibraltar as Bucht von Algeciras. It is located at the southern end of the Iberian Peninsula, near where the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea meet. The sheet is overprinted with the Spanish Lambert Grid, obtained by German military cartographers in an undercover intelligence operation.

The Berkeley Library set of the German Army Map of Spain 1:50,000 consists of 901 sheet maps, accompanied by 3 index maps. It includes two editions of many topographic sheets which cover specific areas of Spain. First Special edition [= Sonderausgabe] sheets were issued between 1940 and 1944, while the second Sonderausgabe sheets were chiefly issued in 1941.

The source map data for the German military maps came from a Spanish map series, the Mapa topográfico de España en escala de 1:50,000 issued by the Direccion general del Instituto Geográfico Catastral y de Estadı́stica.

Scharfe explains that map specialists of the Army Planning Chamber [= Heeresplankammer], the Berlin-based production platform of the Directorate for War Maps and Surveying, copied the Spanish map data. The first edition of this map series (895 published sheets) only contained the Spanish map data. The maps show drainage, roads and trails, railways, vegetation, and other physical and cultural features.

Sheets of the second edition (612 sheets), however, were overprinted with the Spanish Lambert Grid, a geodetic grid which would allow German troops to use the maps to accurately rain down middle and long-range artillery fire on precise locations.

Madrid sheet

Detail from the Madrid sheet of the German military topographic map series Spanien 1:50 000, published by the Directorate for War Maps and Surveying, a military mapping agency administratively subordinated to the German Army General Staff.

The German military cartographers were able to acquire this secret Spanish military grid data for their own sheets, before that data even appeared on Spanish military maps. This was the result of a German undercover intelligence operation. German agents were able to draw on contacts established when the Nazis aided the fascist Franco dictatorship during the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) by sending German troops to Spain, the so-called Legion Condor.

But the story does not end there: Scharfe relates that in 1943, irregular Spanish soldiers raided a German Army depot in Nazi-occupied southern France. They removed sheets of the German Army Map of Spain 1:50,000 with the secret Spanish military grid data. Spanish officials started an official inquiry which undoubtedly further undermined trust between the fascist Franco regime and the Nazis. Spanish diplomatic demands for explanations registered in Berlin proved unsuccessful.

Lines of Latitude: Martha Krug-Genthe, pioneering woman geographer and author of Valley Towns of Connecticut (1907)

In December 1904, American geographers gathered in Philadelphia to launch a new professional society, the Association of American Geographers (AAG).  Geography was a new discipline in the United States. The first geography department had just been established one year earlier, at the University of Chicago. Up to this point, no forum existed for the regular exchange of ideas among professional geographers. The only publication devoted to the dissemination of scholarly geographical research was the Bulletin of the American Geographical Society.

The Association of American Geographers did not serve women geographers well: For much of its early history, the AAG organized male college and university geographers. Standard program features of AAG meetings, for example the prominent “smoker” social, made clear that the presence of women was not always welcome. At the 1915 annual meeting of the AAG, discussions of geographic education were cancelled altogether, to avoid both the topic and having “prim schoolmarms” at the smoker.

Only two women were among the 48 AAG charter members, Ellen Churchill Semple and Martha Krug-Genthe. Semple’s story is well documented, she has become a reference point in the pantheon of American geography, the representative pioneer woman geographer. In contrast, Krug-Genthe’s life has remained largely unexamined, in part because she was an immigrant woman and a sojourner who only spent a decade in the United States. Her professional endeavors are nevertheless illuminating:

Martha Krug-Genthe was the only one of the AAG founders in attendance in Philadelphia with a doctoral degree in geography. A recent transplant from Germany, Krug-Genthe had earned her doctorate at the University of Heidelberg in 1901 under the supervision of Alfred Hettner, a rising star in the profession. Martha’s dissertation examined how hydrographic charts had been used to map ocean currents. She analyzed the Gulf Stream and its northeastward extension, the North American Current, to map the expanding knowledge in the field of oceanography.

Martha Krug-Genthe and her spouse Karl Wilhelm Genthe represented something new, two young married research scientists who both insisted on pursuing professional careers. Karl had first arrived in the U.S. in 1897, after earning his Ph.D. in zoology at the University of Leipzig. In 1901, he transferred to Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut, and ultimately was appointed assistant professor of Natural History. With his professional future somewhat assured, Karl returned to Germany to marry Martha.

Initially, Martha was able to leverage her German credentials. In 1901, just after her arrival in the United States, National Geographic Magazine published her 14-page article surveying the German geography scene. She was able to gain a teaching position at Beacon School in Hartford, a secondary school for young women.

Connecticut’s geography emerged as a particular focus of Krug-Genthe’s research, the natural outgrowth of her work as a secondary school geography teacher. In 1907 the Bulletin of the American Geographical Society published her well-received Valley Towns of Connecticut, the work for which she is most remembered today.


Topography of Newington region, Connecticut River Valley, from Krug-Genthe’s Valley Towns of Connecticut.

This was regional geography, a study of the economic factors driving the evolution of an urban system.  Martha used historical sources but also location analysis to explain the rise of Hartford as the pre-eminent center of the Connecticut River Valley.

Location analysis

Location analysis diagram from Valley Towns of Connecticut, illustrating Krug-Genthe’s argument how its central location in the Connecticut River Valley favored Hartford (H).

In October 1903 Martha authored an article about geography textbooks for the Geography Teacher. This was the first of a long series of articles written by Krug-Genthe which discussed aspects of geography education in the United States and appeared in German and U.S. geography and science education journals.

The 1904 meeting of the International Geographical Congress Washington, D.C. was the high point of Martha Krug-Genthe’s professional career. Martha was selected to deliver the “Hommage,” an address commemorating Friedrich Ratzel, the pre-eminent cultural geographer of this time. She also presented a paper on “School geography in the United States” in the section on geography and education.

Issues of geographical education had historically been the one gateway open to women geographers who presented at International Geographical Congresses, beginning with a report by Clémence Royer at the Paris Congress in 1875. This was still true for the Washington Congress of 1904: Four of the five women listed in the congress program presented on pedagogical topics.

Martha Krug-Genthe was ultimately appointed associate editor of the Bulletin of the American Geographical Society. That affiliation bolstered her professional credentials, it was her one remaining secure foothold in the world of academic geography. Not surprisingly, the position appears in the author directory of the Encyclopedia Americana next to her name. It legitimized her role as expert.

But excluded from teaching positions at colleges and universities, Martha Krug-Genthe, just like other professional women geographers, increasingly relied on alternate professional networks which consisted of women geographers teaching at normal schools and secondary schools.

A large number of geography teachers in American secondary schools in the early 20th century were women. Professional women geographers were also well-represented among the geography instructors at the normal schools who trained these teachers. By the 1910s, normal schools hired more specialists in geography education, a process that gained momentum as the number and range of geography course offerings increased.

In 1917, shortly after the founding of the National Council of Geography Teachers, its membership roster boasted the names of 645 women, more than two-thirds of the organization’s members. The American Society of Professional Geographers likewise was able to recruit a larger number of women members.

So why did the AAG fail Martha Krug-Genthe and American women geographers? In her 2004 presidential address to the Association of American Geographers Janice Monk provides the answer: “For academic men, including geographers, aspirations for professional standing, research credentials, and disciplinary prestige meant building masculine preserves, the practice and sometimes articulation of values that placed women and men in different places and in places of unequal power.”  The male AAG leadership had consciously constructed an exclusionary business model which relegated women geographers to the sidelines.

Lines of Latitude: The Long Shadow of Vienna’s Militärgeographisches Institut (1818-1918)

Beginning in the 1840s, the Kaiserliches und Königliches Militärgeographisches Institut [= Imperial and Royal Military Geographical Institute] of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy published many thousands of quality topographic sheets covering much of Central and Eastern Europe, areas where the Habsburg empire had strategic interests.  These sheets did not just survey the territory of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy, they also provided solid coverage for neighboring parts of the Ottoman and Tsarist empires.

Building of the Militärgeographisches Institut, parade grounds, Josefstädter Glacis, Vienna, Austria, 1860.

The quality of the Habsburg mapping operation was greatly aided by its adaption of the Bessel ellipsoid which fits especially well to the geoid curvature of Europe. The ellipsoid data published by Friedrich Wilhelm Bessel, a professor of astronomy at the University of Königsberg, in 1841 were then the best and most modern data mapping the figure of the Earth.  Because of the recognized high quality of their work, Austrian triangulation parties were admitted into neighboring countries. That work was reflected on Austrian topographic maps covering these areas.

Globe on the roof of the building which housed the Militärgeographisches Institut until 1918.

The Militärgeographisches Institut issued a number of iconic map series, including the Spezialkarte der Österreichisch-Ungarischen Monarchie im Masse 1:75 000. Eventually, 752 quadrangles of this legendary map series were produced, starting in 1873. After the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire at the end of World War I Austria’s Kartographisches Institut, and Hungarian, Czechoslovak, and German mapping agencies continued to issue updated sheets.

Spezialkarte 1:75 000, sheet # 5456 Pettau shows parts of the Drava river valley, with the borders of Nazi Germany, Hungary, and Croatia, last updated 1943 by a regional survey office of Germany’s civilian mapping agency Reichsamt für Landesaufnahme.

In March 1938 Nazi Germany annexed Austria. This was an important stepping stone in Adolf Hitler’s plans for waging a war of aggression. In Vienna the Nazi regime gained access to important resources and capabilities. German civilian and military mapping agencies moved quickly to incorporate Austrian government institutions active in the fields of surveying and cartography. The new Vienna office of Germany’s civilian Reichsamt für Landesaufnahme absorbed Austria’s well-regarded Kartographisches Institut.  The German military incorporated the Austrian Army’s survey office.

Rather than reinvent the wheel German World War II military planners pragmatically worked within an established Austrian framework when they mapped parts of central and southeastern Europe. They continued to issue a number of Austrian map series with a long publishing history which reached far back into the 19th century.  The Militärgeographisches Institut, defunct since 1918, cast a very long shadow.

A German military map series with more limited geographical coverage, the Spezialkarte von Österreich, von Ungarn, und der Tschechoslowakei 1:75 000, was published between 1935 and 1944. It was based on 1:75,000 source maps issued 1924-1939 by various Central European mapping agencies. During World War II, Spezialkarte sheets also provided the source map data for various other German military map series which covered large parts of central and southeastern Europe at a scale of 1:50,000.

The UC Berkeley Library acquired 420 sheets of this German military map series through the depository program of the U.S. Army Map Service (AMS) in the 1950s. U.S. Army military intelligence had collected these maps in Germany between October 1944 and September 1945, in the final months of World War II.  Today these maps are part of UC Berkeley’s German World War II Captured Maps collection.

Lines of Latitude: German military map series Norwegen/Finnland 1:50 000 (1943-1944)

In 1961 University of California map librarian Sheila T. Dowd took stock: In an article published in the Special Library Association’s Geography and Map Division Bulletin she analyzed the growth of Berkeley’s map collection. Since 1917 its size had quadrupled. Growth came especially in the years following World War II.

Dowd found that the primary driver of that increase in size was Berkeley’s participation in the depository programs of the U.S. Army Map Service (AMS). And she highlighted the impact of the AMS World War II Captured Maps depository program. Ultimately 22,000 German and Japanese World War II maps found their way into Berkeley’s map collection. Most were topographic quadrangles published as part of military map series issued by Axis military mapping agencies.

Sometimes local German military bodies played important roles: Armee-Kartenstelle (mot.) 464 [= Army Maps Post (motorized) 464], served as mapping unit of the 20th German Mountain Army in Lapland during World War II. This area, northernmost Norway and Finland and adjacent areas of the Soviet Union, consisted of forbidding terrain, largely permafrost tundra.

A.K.St. (mot.) 464 produced the German military map series Norwegen/Finnland 1:50 000 to support German mountain troops fighting on the Eastern Front against the Soviet Red Army. One important challenge for the German military mapmakers was the need to document Arctic tundra freeze-thaw cycles. Winters north of the Arctic Circle are long and summers are short. The active layer of permafrost, the topmost layer of soil, thaws in the summer and freezes in the winter. This, of course, greatly affects military operations.

Norwegen Finnland 50 000 sheet Kolosjoki NickelwerkKolosjoki quadrangle with 2 German military grids, Deutsches Heeresgitter [= German Army Grid], and Heeresmeldenetz [= Army Messaging Web] overprinted in orange. Shows “Nickelwerk,” a mine where nickel, a rare metal used as steel hardener, was extracted. The nickel deposits of northern Finland were important to the German war effort in World War II. This sheet was produced in October 1943.

In 1942, Armee-Kartenstelle (mot.) 464 had a staff of 53. The unit compiled maps utilizing Finnish, Norwegian and Soviet source map data, aerial photographs of the Luftwaffe, and by performing field checks. It was motorized and equipped with trucks and half a trailer with the mapping and map printing equipment installed. Maps were chiefly printed in color.

A.K.St. (mot.) 464 established a base at Lager Neuer Kolonnenhof, a military camp of about 60-70 barracks, in Rovaniemi, Finland, in January 1942. The unit occupied a headquarters building, two garages for trucks, a workshop, a gas station and other barracks. As the frontlines approached in October 1944 German troops burned down the camp, and also much of the city of Rovaniemi, a war crime, and retreated to northernmost Norway.

Lines of Latitude: Plano del puerto de Sn. Francisco (1776)

The most wonderful nautical chart of San Francisco Bay is the very first one that was ever made, in 1776.

A manuscript map, pen-and-ink and watercolor. Attributed to José de Cañizares, a Spanish naval officer. Cañizares was an ensign on Juan Manuel de Ayala’s ship, the packet boat San Carlos, i.e. a transport.

Nautical chart

Plano del puerto de Sn. Francisco : situado por los 37. grs. 53 mins. de latitud septentrional, y por 17. grs. 10. mins. de longitud occidental del puerto de Sn. Blas: registrado por el paquebot de S.M. el Sn. Carlos al mando de Dn. Juan Manuel de Ayala, Teniente de Fragata de la Real (Real) Armada.In 1768, the Spanish government drew up plans to built a naval base at San Blas, on the Pacific Coast of what is now Mexico, a bit north of Puerto Vallarta.

Three ships were sent north in 1775, for a Spanish expedition to explore the Pacific Northwest.

One of the ships was the transport San Carlos commanded by Juan Manuel de Ayala, the only Spanish ship to enter San Francisco Bay in 1775.

High resolution PDF:

Image in the University of California’s digital collection:

Various other nautical charts document the work of José de Cañizares in San Francisco Bay in 1775, including this one:

Plano del Puerto de San Francisco, registrado por el Paquebot de S.M. San Carlos, al mando del theniente de Fragata de la Real Armada Don Juan Manuel de Ayala, en esta año de 1775.



Lines of Latitude: Sebastian Münster and his Cosmographia (1544)

Sebastian Münster, Hebrew scholar and theologian, was a curious man, a seeker and a risk taker. First a professor of Old Testament Studies, Münster reinvented himself. In 1536, he accepted a teaching position in mathematics at the University of Basel, in Switzerland.

Sebastian Munster
Portrait of Sebastian Münster by Christoph Amberger, ca. 1552

And Münster developed a sideline that came to define how we remember him today–he worked as a cartographer and cosmographer. Already in 1536, he released a Mappa Europae, later followed by a Latin edition of Ptolemy’s Geographia. But Sebastian Münster’s legacy is wrapped up in his Cosmographia of 1544, a book that managed the rare feat of being both scientific and popular. It was a runaway bestseller which described and explained the cosmos. In fact, it revolutionized how 16th century readers thought about the physical world.

From 1544 to 1628 the work passed through 40 editions in German, Latin, Czech, Italian, French and English and somehow persuaded educated Europeans to get interested in geography. Münster was assisted by more than one hundred and twenty collaborators. Famous woodcut artists contributed illustrations and that surely must have helped. The richly illustrated Latin version published in 1550 is the most prized edition today, in part because of its amazing city views.

But there was something else in the Cosmographia that rightfully fascinated readers: Four maps which struck a mortal blow at the medieval world view that ordered the physical world based on religious ideas. For centuries, medieval mappae mundi [= world maps] had depicted the known world, Asia, Africa and Europe, arranged in a Jerusalem-centered T-O design. Separate maps of individual continents were extremely rare in the European Middle Ages.

Münster made a radical choice. He insisted that this divinely ordered world, God’s creation, could be disassembled and depicted in parts, on different maps, which together would make up the known world. For his Cosmographia Sebastian Münster created four separate maps to depict the four known continents– the Americas, Africa, Asia and Europe. That includes his now famous depiction of the Western Hemisphere.

Nova Insulae
Novae Insulae Nova Tabula (= New Map of the New World) by Sebastian Münster, 1544

Lines of Latitude: Telling the Story of Maps

Why do maps speak to us?

Maps have explanatory power. They are visualization tools which help us to comprehend the social and physical world around us. They orient us. They impose order on chaos. But maps are also based on subjective choices made by cartographers who employ visualization techniques to reduce complexity. Cartographers create meaning by simplifying the social and physical world.

Cartography is a varied visual tradition which reaches back thousands of years. It emerged in different places and created the diverse mappy universe which we will explore through this map blog. Maps offer insights, a greater understanding of the world around us – and also of the past. And they are a window into the incredible biological and cultural diversity on this planet we call home.

The University of California Library at Berkeley just started the soft launch of our German World War II Captured Maps spatial humanities project which involves digitizing rich collections with about 20,000 maps, chiefly issued by German mapping agencies between the 1880s and 1945. That project will last into 2022 and our initial posts will focus on telling stories related to this important project.

But the Earth Sciences and Map Library at UC Berkeley is also located in a particular place, the East Bay, at the edge of the vast San Francisco Estuary, in northern California. Our small Bay Area world is connected to the larger world through Oakland’s vast commercial port. Transportation networks sustain our lives at the edge of the Pacific Ocean. Commuter ferries whiz across San Francisco Bay. We are close to some incredible physical spaces, the Marin Headlands, Muir Woods, Point Reyes National Seashore, several ranges of the Coastal Mountains.

The Ohlone are the predominant Indigenous group of the Bay Area. Spanish colonizers and the European diseases they brought to northern California undermined Ohlone existence and culture. In the wake of the Gold Rush the California state government sanctioned the murder of Indigenous populations by local militia. By the 1880s, the Bay Area Ohlone population was dramatically reduced.

Historically this area has been part of larger geographical frames, for example the Southwest, the borderlands of New Spain, Alta California, and the Western United States. We will look at how historical change has affected northern California.

And we are planning to explore many other worthwhile places and topics–the larger mappy universe. That is a world filled with surveyors, cosmographers, explorers, topographic engineers, mapping agencies, globes, atlases, aerial photography, satellite images, geological maps and rhumb lines, in short many worthwhile things.

Right now we are still working from our home offices, separated from the physical collections at the Earth Science and Map Library, in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic. This also will be a place to publicize what is happening at the Earth Sciences and Map Library.

We hope you will find something enjoyable here and come along for the ride!

Bonita Dyess

Erica Newcome

Heiko Mühr

Susan Powell

Samantha Teplitzky