Wiener Wiesenthal Institut für Holocaust-Studien

  • Vienna Wiesenthal Institute for Holocaust Studies
  • VWI

History

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.

AJR Oral History Video Archive at the Vienna Wiesenthal Institute: As of December 2011, the Vienna Wiesenthal Institute for Holocaust Studies (VWI) has been entrusted with a digital copy of the London oral history video project Refugee Voices. The project was initiated in 2003 by the Association of Jewish Refugees (AJR) in Great Britain, a charity established by Jewish refugees in 1941 which is dedicated to providing social and financial support to Jewish victims of the Nazi regime living in Great Britain. The project team, led by Anthony Greenville and Bea Lewkowicz, conducted altogether 150 video interviews with Jewish emigrants, former slave labourers and Holocaust survivors now living in Britain. The English language interviews, comprising 450 hours of filmed material, were professionally prepared by the AJR in order to make them accessible to researchers and interested parties from different disciplines as sources for their research projects. All interviews have been transcribed and issued with time codes. An extensive databank is part of the material; it contains an index of the interviews including important informations on the interviewee's life stories. Furthermore, the conversations, which can be searched by key words, are complemented by materials on the interviewees' life stories, such as documents and photographs. Interested parties will be able to use the interviews from Spring 2013 onwards, as soon as we have been able to make them fully accessible.

Sources

  • website institution