Simon Wiesenthal takes part in an ORT (Organisation for Rehabilitation through Training) student exam, 1950 (VWI-SWA, V.III.50.E.1)

Jewish Historical Documentation (Jüdische Historische Dokumentation) - JHD (1947-1954)

The JHD was officially founded in 1947 in Linz under the leadership of Simon Wiesenthal. Its origins, however, go back to the beginning of 1946, when Mejlech Bakalczuk, a Jewish survivor from Poland, founded the Jewish Historical Commission (Jüdische HistorischeKommission”, JHC) in the Bindermichl DP camp near Linz. Wiesenthal, who had been working for the U.S. authorities as an interrogator of suspected war criminals, joined the JHC at that time.

Simon Wiesenthal takes part in an ORT (Organisation for Rehabilitation through Training) student exam, 1950 (VWI-SWA, V.III.50.E.1)

In January 1947, Wiesenthal, who was already serving as director of the JHC renamed it to Jewish Historical Documentation (Jüdische Historische Dokumentation, JHD). According to the statutes of the organization, the primary mission of the JHD was to collect “documents on Jewish history in Austria, especially from the time of the Nazi occupation, and testimonies of the extermination of the Jews in other occupied countries.

The JHD was therefore a typical early post-war Jewish survivor organisation, of which there were many active in the DP camps in the international zones of Austria, Germany and Italy. In addition to these similarities with other historical commissions, however, the JHD also had a distinct character of its own, mainly due to the personality of its founder, Simon Wiesenthal, and his fate during the Holocaust. The scope of the JHD's activities can be divided into three main areas: assisting Jews in DP camps (in particular the search for possible surviving family members), tracking down and prosecuting Nazi perpetrators and collaborators (both non-Jews and Jews), and various forms of commemoration (including the design of memorials and the exhumation of mass graves).

The JHD operated until 1954. The gradual closure of the DP camps and the emigration of most surviving Jews made the work of the organisation partly redundant and partly impossible. Many of the Jews who had left the DP camps re-established families and, for a while, began new lives outside Europe. Many did not have the time to focus on the Holocaust or war criminals who were hiding or evading justice. At the same time, the mass emigration of Jewish survivors and the beginning of the Cold War fundamentally changed the attitudesof local Austrian authorities and the former Allies towards the Nazi past and war criminals. The search for the perpetrators, but above all their prosecution, was increasingly hampered. In Austria, after 1948, the number of trials against war criminals decreased annually. In the first half of the 1950s, Wiesenthal believed that Austrian courts were deliberately delaying trials, in order to wait for potential witnesses in the DP camps to emigrate.

After the closure of the JHD, Wiesenthal sold thousands of pages of documentation he had collected to the nascent Israeli documentation centre, Yad Vashem. This collection of documents was catalogued by Yad Vashem (YVA, M.9 - Simon Wiesenthal Collection, Archive of the Jüdische Historische Dokumentation, Linz, 1938-1951) and in recent years most of it has been made available digitally online.

While the majority of JHD's material is stored at Yad Vashem, six boxes of documents remained with Wiesenthal. This collection of documents can now be searched as part of VWI’s Simon Wiesenthal Archives (VWI-SWA, III.1 - Linz Collection).

Wiesenthal in Linz after the closure of the Jewish Historical Documentation (1954-1960)

After the closure of the JHD, Wiesenthal stayed with his family in Linz, where he worked for various Jewish organizations. He became vice-president of the Jewish Community of Linz, while also working for the AJDC (Joint) and ORT (Organisation for Rehabilitation through Training) in the refugee camps around Linz. These DP camps had reopened in the 1950s for refugees from Eastern Europe, including Jewish refugees. For example, in 1956, most of the Jewish refugees from Hungary and Poland were settled in the Asten camp on the outskirts of Linz. In that camp, Wiesenthal served as head of the ORT training project. The Linz Collection at the VWI contains documents from this period.

Wiesenthal moved to Vienna in 1961, where he took advantage of the worldwide fame he had gained for his role in the capture of Adolf Eichmann to focus his efforts on finding war criminals and bringing them to justice. He then opened a new documentation centre in Vienna, the Dokumentationszentrum des Bundes Jüdischer Verfolgter des Naziregimes” / “Documentation Centre of the Association of Jewish Victims of the Nazi Regime”, JDC, which he ran until his death.


Simon Wiesenthal's various functions in Linz in chronological order


Time period



War Crimes Office

May 1945 - June 1945

Staff member – arrest of war criminals

Former concentration camp Mauthausen

Office of Strategic Services (OSS)

June 1945 until dissolution at the end of 1945 (then continuing as Counter Intelligence Corps,CIC)

Staff member – tracing and arrest of war criminals


Landstraße 36, Linz


Jewish Central Committee in the U.S. Occupation Zone (Upper Austria)

June 1945-1955

First head of the political and retraining departments, then vice-chairman, lastly chairman.

Goethestraße 63, from 1964 on relocation to Landstraße 15, Linz



Presumably from the summer of 1945, end of activity unknown (it seems that the majority of the Bricha's activities ended in 1948)

Supported the escape organization with information and contacts necessary for illegal transport (probably not officially part of the organization)



Counter IntelligenceCorps (CIC)

End 1945-1946

Staff member – tracing and arrest of war criminals


Jüdischer KZ-Verband in Österreich / Jewish Concentration Camp Association in Austria

Presumably active from the period 1945-1947, end of involvement unknown


Simon Wiesenthal's private apartment in the Bindermichl DP camp (Uhlandgasse22, Linz)


International Mauthausen Committee /ComitéInternational des Mauthausen

(Possibly the same organization as the International Association of Former Political Prisoners of the Concentration Camps in the American Zone in Austria)

Probably active since early post-war period, end of activity unknown

Chairman / President

Goethestraße 63, Linz


Jüdische Historische Dokumentation / Jewish Historical Documentation

January 1947 - spring 1954



Goethestraße 63, Linz (possibly also offices in the Bindermichl DP camp and at Landstraße 36, Linz)

American Joint Distribution Committee


1948 - 1960


Representative of the AJDC in Upper Austria


Landstraße 15, in 1956 relocation to Herrenstraße 7/2, Linz

Organization for Rehabilitation through Training (ORT)


Spring 1953 - 1960


Staff member – training for Jewish DPs


Landstraße 15, in 1956 relocation to Herrenstraße 7/2, Linz

Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society


1954 - 1960


Staff member – migration of Jewish DPs


Landstraße 15, in 1956 relocation to Herrenstraße 7/2, Linz

Jüdisches Komitee / Jewish Committee


Autumn 1955 (but not officially constituted) until presumably winter 1956 (after which no more records exist)




Landstraße 15, in 1956 relocation to Herrenstraße 7/2, Linz

Based on: Julian Schöffl, Simon Wiesenthal in Linz. Engagement für jüdische Displaced Persons und der Beginn der NS-Täterforschung (MA Thesis, Johannes Kepler University, Linz, 2022), 62-63.