The DEFA Foundation is an incorporated non-profit foundation with its seat in Berlin. It was established by the Federal Government of Germany on December 15, 1998. DEFA film stocks, considered an important part of Germany's cultural heritage, were assigned to the DEFA Foundation as capital for Foundation operations. It is the mission of the DEFA Foundation to preserve the films made at the East German DEFA studios, to use them for the public good and in general to support and sponsor German film culture and art.

DEFA Film Stock

The DEFA film stock includes the entire cinematic production of the GDR film studios from almost five decades. This includes about:

  • 700 feature films and 450 short fiction films
  • 950 animated films
  • 2,000 documentary films and 2,500 serial films (Wochenschauen, etc.)
  • 6,700 Germanlanguage synchronized foreign films
  • 200 coproduced feature, documentary, and animation films that were made after 1990 and usually with another company or television station
  • unpublished and remaining materials from DEFA productions
  • photographs, posters, scripts and the literary originals, advertising materials, musical scores, and authorization documents

With around 13,500 films, the DEFA Foundation sees itself as an institution wanting to convey cultural knowledge. Its films are not only part of cultural memory, but also serve current engagements with socially relevant topics in order to discuss life and ethics questions.

All films are registered in a database on our homepage with the relevant filmographic information.

For more information, see Stock.

Video Archive

In addition to the DEFA productions, the rights of the DEFA Foundation include extensive archives of audiovisual eyewitness accounts. These include the Thomas Grimm Contemporary Witness archive, the Cintec Archive, and interviews with DEFA artists that were commissioned by the foundation. The archive includes around 9,000 broadcastable cassettes of contemporary witness reports and documentation of recent German history, politics, science, culture, and everyday life. The foundation keeps these collections as part of cultural memory and makes them accessible to the public.

For more information, see  Video Archive.


In the age of digital film copies, the DEFA Foundation faces the challenge of transferring its classic analogue films to the new digital format for cinema audiences. Since 2012, the foundation has digitized more than 380 regular- and short-length films that were then available for distribution as DCPs. New films are added every year.

The DEFA Foundation digitizes the film heritage it received according to curatorial, conservational, and commercial bases. The basic principles are a long-term strategic plan and corresponding annual plans.

The basis for our digitization is generous financial support from the Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and Media (BKM) as part of a digitization campaign, the German Federal Film Board (FFA), and the federal states.

For more information, see  Digitization.

Public Relations

With its publication series, the DEFA Foundation established an informative series that provides information about the history, treatment, and reception of East German cinematography. The series presents texts by directors and other filmmakers about politics and culture. The series is published by Bertz + Fischer Publishers in Berlin.

The DEFA Foundation homepage supplements the printed publications. It provides an insight into the work of the foundation, answers questions about current events, history, funding, the film stock, and publications. In addition to a database into which all the films whose rights the DEFA foundation owns are recorded, the homepage provides further data, e.g., a chronicle and bibliography for DEFA.

The foundation has Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and a YouTube channel that circulates information about events, television dates, and news related to the foundation’s work. The electronically sent newsletter documents the DEFA Foundation’s work and promotional activities. It ensures the necessary transparency and publicity of the foundation.


Since its inception, the DEFA Foundation has given around 9 million Euro for the promotion of cinematic art and culture.

To promote German cinematic art and culture, the DEFA Foundation offers the following annual awards:

  • Lifetime Achievement Award in Film: 10,000 Euro
  • Award for Outstanding Achievements in German Cinema: 10,000 Euro
  • Funding Award for New Talents in Cinema: 5,000 Euro
  • Three Programming Awards: 5,000 Euro each

A jury will be formed that will decide on the award recipients. In recent years, awards have been given at an event in November. Furthermore, prizes amounting to 3,000 – 5,000 € are awarded at international and national festivals in Germany:

  • Filmfest Dresden – International Animation and Short Film Festival
  • Filmkunstfest MV in Schwerin
  • International Film Festival for Children and Young Audiences in Chemnitz
  • DOK Leipzig – International Leipzig Festival for Documentary and Animated Film

The DEFA Foundation awards the Heiner-Carow-Prize at the Berlin International Film Festival (Berlinale).

For more information, see Funding.


The DEFA Foundation’s governing bodies are the Board of Trustees and the Executive Board. The Board of Trustees consists of nine members who are appointed for 3-year terms. The members come from the Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and Media (BKM), the Federal Archives, the Friedrich-Wilhelm-Murnau Foundation, and the federal states Berlin/Brandenburg and Saxony. In addition, Berlin, Brandenburg, and Saxony designate a representative in the area of art and culture.

The board manages the foundation on its own responsibility in accordance with the statutes, and it is obligated to make conscientious and economical use of the foundation’s assets and other resources.

For more information, see  Board of Trustees.

The Foundation Assets

The foundation’s assets consist of the inalienable performance rights and usage rights of the DEFA film stock and the sales proceeds of immovable property in Berlin. The proceeds from the exploitation of the rights holder and the interest income from the foundation’s assets are used to fulfill the foundation’s mission. In order to maintain that the foundation’s capital remain undiminished, the foundation builds reserves according to the statutes.


The Stiftung Deutsche Kinemathek issues public performance licenses for DEFA films screened. PROGRESS is the commercial exploiter of the complete DEFA film stock for film clip services. Our other partners are Filmjuwelen, Edition Filmmuseum, and absolut MEDIEN. The Federal Archives store the original source materials and are committed to the permanent preservation of the DEFA film stock. A close partner is the Friedrich-Wilhelm-Murnau Foundation.

The DEFA Foundation is a member of the Association of German Foundations.

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