Institute for Holocaust Studies

Die Presse Online (01/31/2006)
Taken from an article in APA

The political scientist, Anton Pelinka, explained: The Institute will provide a worthy framework for the archives and legacy of Simon Wiesenthal.*

An international center for Holocaust research is to be built in Vienna and named after Simon Wiesenthal who passed away last year in September 2005. Initiators of this project to create the Vienna Wiesenthal Institute for Holocaust Studies (VWI) gave a presentation at the University of Vienna last Monday evening. The political scientist, Anton Pelinka, director of the VWI explained: The institute will provide a worthy framework for the archives and the legacy of Simon Wiesenthal.

Simon Wiesenthal personally took part in the conception of the institute. He wanted the archive to stay in Vienna under certain conditions, said Pelinka. Fulfilling Wiesenthal’s wish, the VWI will devote itself to researching and documenting questions concerning anti-Semitism, racism and the Holocaust. The institute is an offer made to Vienna and Austria, commented Pelinka, emphasizing the importance of research. It would be an institute putting Austria on the map of international Holocaust research.

The main core of the institute will be Wiesenthal’s collection of some 8,000 documents, including written records spanning decades of his search for justice for the crimes committed by National Socialism. The Institute will also contain the archive of the Jewish Religious Community (IKG) in Vienna.

The IKG supported the applications for restitution submitted by about 14,000 NS victims. To this end it relied upon its historical archive, which is now fully reconstructed, but was partially scattered about during and after the war. Valuable documents, such as files containing names of Jews who were expelled from Vienna during Nazi rule, were discovered in Vienna.

During the 1950s and 60s, large segments of the archive were permanently loaned to the Central Archives for the History of the Jewish People in Jerusalem. The central office in Jerusalem had large segments some 1.3 million single documents put on microfilm, an undertaking which will be completed sometime this year. After that, the largest archive of a Jewish community in the world will be accessible for research in Vienna.

According to the estimates of historians, both collections are one-of-a-kind in terms of their international significance. What is lacking is an appropriate institution that would make public and professional use possible, and the VWI would bridge the gap. Belonging to the organizations supporting the project are, among others, the Archive on the Documentation of Austrian Resistance (DÖW), the Institute for Contemporary History at the University of Vienna and the International Research Center for Cultural Research.

Internationally renowned scientists such as Omer Bartov, Micha Brumlik, Dan Diner and Bertrand Perz are already involved in the project. The VWI will have a very strong outreach program hosting classes, lectures, exhibitions and readings. The IKG has offered to house the institute in a 3,000 sq. ft. area in the center of Vienna. Building costs amount to some 14.5 million euros, while costs for running the institute come to almost 2.5 million euros.

Currently talks are being conducted on state and national levels. The City of Vienna has already given the signal for financial support along with the federal government. Officials hope for initial results in February. We are assured of a breakthrough and that the necessary political decisions will be made, explained the director of the IKG central office, Ingo Zechner, to the Austrian Press Agency (AOA). Plans for completion are set for 2009/2010.