Wiesenthal Institute Faces Possible End

Der Standard (10/01/09) 

By Peter Mayr, Nina Weißensteiner 

General meeting to decide whether to continue 

Vienna - The fronts have hardened since the seven-member board of the Wiesenthal Institute resigned out of protest against the Jewish Community Vienna (IKG). Two general meetings in September had to be postponed when they yielded no result. Today, Thursday, another attempt will be made when the assembly meets again.

On the agenda for the third time is the decision whether to vote for a new board to head the Institute for Holocaust studies or whether the young research institution will have to disband before it is fully operational.

Allegations of Censorship

As reported, the Jewish Community refuses to open its archive although, according to the Vienna Wiesenthal Institute board, it has previously made assurances to that effect. The use [of the archive] is for the Wiesenthal Institute a prerequisite for the practical implementation of the projects that were financed long ago, such as the digitization of the archive.

Background: The IKG Archive consists of the world's largest surviving holdings of any Jewish community, containing birth registers, marriage data, meeting protocols, and information about the social services extended to its members.

Oddly enough, a large part of the information has already been made available for some time to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, while in Austria the Jewish Community Vienna (IKG) now insists that the information first needs to be scrupulously vetted by the community itself. In addition, the Wiesenthal Institute should no longer receive the complete holdings for its research work but only selected parts of the archival holdings since 1919, to be decided unilaterally by the IKG.

On Thursday the quarreling parties will try to achieve a judicial solution. Before the meeting, no official from the Community or from the Wiesenthal Institute was willing to go on record. An inside source offered the following: "The conditions amount to censorship and the Wiesenthal Institute would lose its credibility."