Jewish Museum in Vienna (07/03/2007)
The Archive of the Jewish Community of Vienna
In year 2000, employees of the Jewish Community of Vienna (IKG) made a startling discovery. In a vacant apartment in one of the community's tenement buildings in Vienna's 15th district they came upon dozens of wooden cabinets containing index cards, a pile of large-sized books reaching from the floor to the ceiling and 800 cardboard boxes filled with files and documents from IKG holdings. On closer inspection, some 500,000 pages were identified as dating from the National Socialist era in Austria. They were mixed with younger material but also with older material from the 19th and early 20th century. A long-forgotten part of the IKG archival holdings had been found again.
In cooperation with the Holocaust Victims' Information and Support Center of and with the support of the Central Archives for the History of the Jewish People in Jerusalem, the Jewish Museum Vienna will be staging an exhibition for the first time on the IKG archive in summer 2007.
The archive was officially founded in 1816, but the oldest documents date back to the 17th century. The archive was professionally organized and classified during the 19th century.
The IKG holdings, which are unique in terms of scope and completeness, span 300 years from the beginning of the Viennese Jewish community to the post-Holocaust period, documenting the community's organization, its religious, educational, scientific, cultural and philanthropic facilities and providing information about its officials and members. Unlike other disbanded Jewish communities in Germany and Austria, the IKG continued to exist during the Nazi era until the end of October 1942 when it was finally replaced by a "Judenrat" (Council of Jews). From May 1938 it took care of tens of thousands of Jews and organized their emigration; from February 1941 it was forced to participate in the deportation of the remaining Jewish population. The reports, letters, emigration and financial documents, deportation lists, card indexes, books, photographs, maps, and charts from that era detail the final years of the once-largest German-speaking Jewish community in Europe before and during the Holocaust. After 1945, and once more since the rediscovery of the archival holdings, the card indexes and files kept during the Nazi era provided the basis for investigating the fate of Jews who had been expelled or killed and also helped survivors and the descendants of victims to assert claims for compensation and restitution of property.
In the 1950s it came to a short halt when most of the archive was lent to the Central Archives for the History of the Jewish People in Jerusalem. By microfilming the documents in Jerusalem, by preserving, organizing, categorizing and microfilming the documentation that remains in Vienna, and by combining the holdings and making them accessible in the Vienna Wiesenthal Institute for Holocaust Studies (VWI) planned for the future, the IKG is attempting 50 years later to reconstruct its institutional memory and restore to Austria a piece of its history.
The exhibition not only shows important aspects of the history of the Jewish Community of Vienna on the basis of historical documents, but also examines the notion of the archive as a place of remembrance and the problem of organizing and classifying historical information.
The exhibit runs from July 4 – October 21, 2007 in the Palais Eskeles, Vienna.