Wiener Wiesenthal Institut für Holocaust-Studien

  • Vienna Wiesenthal Institute for Holocaust Studies
  • VWI


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During the last years of his life, Simon Wiesenthal was particularly concerned to open up his personal archive, which had grown out of his many years of research, accessible to research. He wanted the documents to create the basis for further research with new questions in the context of an academic institute; he wanted the spirit of his work to be maintained at a time when both the perpetrators and the victims of the Nazi era will have died. In the year 2000, at a time when Simon Wiesenthal was still alive, several renowned Viennese academic institutions and the Jewish Community Vienna (IKG) initiated the establishment of an international centre for research on the Holocaust. Simon Wiesenthal still had the opportunity to personally contribute to the design of the resulting "Vienna Wiesenthal Institute for Holocaust Studies" before his death in September 2005. It was the aim that the institute should, in accordance with the spirit of his life's work, be dedicated to the research, documentation and education on all issues related to antisemitism, racism and the Holocaust, remaining, most of all, open to new and innovative trends in the relevant research areas. The decision that the Republic of Austria and the City of Vienna would finance the three year foundation phase of the institue on the basis of a detailled plan of working stages together with the Jewish Community (IKG), resp. the supporting organization of the Simon Wiesenthal archive, the "Bund jüdischer Verfolgter des Naziregimes" ["Association of Jews Persecuted by the Nazi Regime"], was eventually reached in 2008.The Vienna Wiesenthal Institute for Holocaust Studies (VWI) is active in three central fields: documentation, research (fellowship programme), and education.

Archival and Other Holdings

Documentation centres around its centrepieces, the Holocaust-related parts of the IKG archive, which are on loan to the institute, and the estate of Simon Wiesenthal with its extensive holdings on Nazi perpetrators, as well as the VWI library. On the basis of this collection, which are either owned by or accessible via the institute, the VWI will conduct its research activities in the form of projects and the initiation of publications.

Simon Wiesenthal Archive: In the early 1960s, when the Documentation Centre of the Association of Jews Persecuted by the Nazi Regime (Dokumentationszentrums des Bundes Jüdischer Verfolgter des Naziregimes) was established in Vienna, Simon Wiesenthal opened a Vienna office where he worked intensively on research related to the Nazi era. Here, he collected many documents on Nazi perpetrators and Nazi crimes (around 8000 files) over the course of many years. However, his life and work was particularly marked by his concern with society's attitudes towards the past and his resultant engagement against forgetting. The archive also contains the extensive correspondence that emerged from his work. Before he died, Simon Wiesenthal expressed his wish that the entire collection of materials would be integrated in the Vienna Wiesenthal Institute for Holocaust Studies (VWI), which was then still in its initial planning stages. In order to realize this intention, the archive holdings are successively being entered into a database and made accessible to the public for research purposes.

The archive of the Jewish Community Vienna (Israelitische Kultusgemeinde Wien, IKG): The archive was officially established in 1816, when the representatives of the Jewish community decided to collect and keep safely all patents, decrees and ordinances of the Jews of Vienna. The documents were organized by name and keyword until into the 1920s. The IKG Vienna was forced to dissolve the archive immediately upon the„annexation“of Austria by Hitler Germany in March 1938. In addition, the SS confiscated large parts of the archive, including documents of Jewish associations and organizations, and brought them to Berlin in 1938/1939. These documents were later transported to Silesia, where they were discovered by the Red Army at the end of the war and transported to Moscow as“Beutedokumente”. The archive was at first not reestablished after the liberation in 1945. The newly constituted IKG Vienna, which was not comparable with the pre-1938 community either in number or membership, had grave doubts that there would ever be such a flowering Jewish community as there had been before the "annexation". This is why the IKG Vienna gave a large part of its archives on loan to the "Central Archives" in Jerusalem in the beginning of the 1950s as well as in the 1960s and 1970s. In the year 2000, the "presumably lost archive", which had already been discovered once before in 1986 in the synagogue basement, was found again. It makes up the basis for the reconstruction of the overall Vienna archive. Until the end of 2008, the archive was part of the former Contact Point for Jewish Victims of National-Socialist Persecution in and from Austria (Anlaufstelle der IKG Wien für jüdische NS-Verfolgte in und ausÖsterreich). In January 2009, the IKG Vienna archive was reestablished as a department, thus consciously underlining the archive's unique nature. Today, the archive is the largest preserved archive of any Jewish community. It comprises numerous sources on Shoah research and on the history and development of the Jewish community in Vienna and its members reaching as far back as the 17th century. Parts of the archive are still located in Jerusalem, Moscow and other places. However, the complete collection is to be reunited in its original location of Vienna. Further information on the collection can be found on the website of the Archive of the Jewish Community Vienna and in the respective entry in the EHRI Portal.

Austrian Heritage Archive (AHA): Austrian Heritage Archive is a project led by the Verein GEDENKDIENST and the Vienna Wiensenthal Institute for Holocaust Studies (VWI) in cooperation with the Leo Baeck Institute New York, the Leo Baeck Institute Jerusalem and the Centre for Jewish Cultural History (ZJK) at the University of Salzburg. The Austrian Heritage Archive collects video and audio interviews with Jewish Austrian emigrés who fled to the USA or Palestine/Israel during the National Socialist period or immediately afterwards. The interviews are presented in their edited form and are accompanied by biographical documents and materials. In this way, the Austrian Heritage Archive is able to offer a resource to academics and anybody else with an interest in history to look in more depth at the life stories of the people featured. The interviews were conducted by young Austrians over the past 25 years and collected and archived in the Leo Baeck Institute New York and the Leo Baeck Institute Jerusalem as part of the Austrian Heritage Collection. Further information is available on the website of the Austrian Heritage Archive.

The Fortunoff Video Archive for Holocaust Testimonies: The Fortunoff Video Archive comprises more than 12,000 hours of video interviews with Holocaust survivors. For a long time, these recordings could only be viewed on site at Yale University. In the framework of an agreement concluded between Yale University and the Vienna Wiesenthal Institute for Holocaust Studies (VWI) in January 2017 the interviews can now – following registration and ordering of materials – also be viewed at the VWI. The archive emerged from the collection of 183 interviews created in 1979 as part of the Holocaust Survivors Film Project and today comprises more than 4,400 interviews in 22 languages that were either recorded at Yale University or in the framework of partner projects. The individual recordings can be browsed via the online catalogue. Further information regarding access to the collection can found on the dedicated webpage on the website of VWI.

Refugee Voices: The Vienna Wiesenthal Institute for Holocaust Studies (VWI) is the first institution in Austria to offer on site in Vienna a usable digital copy of the London-based oral history project Refugee Voices. This project was initiated in 2003 by the British Association of Jewish Refugees (AJR), a welfare association founded by Jewish refugees in 1941 with the aim of securing social and financial support for Jewish refugees fleeing from Nazism. The videos can already be browsed by name and keyword online via a database prior to visiting the VWI. Two digital maps additionally allow for interviews to be selected by place of birth or emigration.

Private collections. The VWI Archive acquires collections of scholars, private individuals, journalists and artists who are related to the Holocaust, to National Socialist persecution and to its consequences. The collections range from small deliveries (a few files or boxes) to several linear metres. The archive collects testimonies of contemporary witnesses including survivors and perpetrators. The collected documents are focused on National Socialism and the Holocaust, including the preceding and successive events, related ideologies, and academic research. The aim of the collection is to enable the potential use of the documents for research purposes.

Finding Aids, Guides, and Publication

In addition, VWI is the owner and administrator of the following online research platforms: The online platform is dedicated to the confiscation of Jewish property between 1938 and 1945 and the topic of restitution and compensation in Austria after 1945. It outlines in which Austrian archives documents on expropriation, revocation of citizenship and aryanisation of specific properties or rentals can be found. It also offers an overview of the legal foundations of the anti-Jewish legislation. All the laws relevant to this context are collected and directly accessible in the original version. Links to parliamentary materials, bibliographic references and explanations of individual terms are included. The platform and most of the documents are in German language. The platform is understood as a registry. The website went online in 2011 and has been continually maintained and updated since. Last update: May 19, 2021.

Ungarische Zwangsarbeit in Wien. The online platform and database were created as part of the international project Jüdische Sklaven in einer ‚judenreinen’ Stadt. Die Topographie der ungarisch-jüdischen Zwangsarbeit in Wien 1944/45 which took place at the VWI between 2015 and 2018. The project shed light on the widely overlooked fate of about 16,000 Hungarian Jews that were deported to Vienna as slave labourers. The main focus of the project was on their arrival, their living conditions, their suffering and their death or (more often) their liberation. The resulting website has the form of an interactive geographical map, which serves as an intuitive exploration tool across archival documents, interview excerpts and textual resources by the curators. The outcomes presented on the platform are based upon 5350 archival documents from more than 12 archival institutions or private collections. Over 278 oral testimonies have been consulted and partially included in the portal. The underlying MySQL database and the scanned documents can be accessed on request. The website is available both in German and Hungarian language.


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