This online exhibition presents the set of documents that form the basis of JDC's archival collection, the so-called "Linz documents". The documents set itself, like other Holocaust-related Jewish collections after WWII, are highly dispersed. The majority of the DP camp files are held by the Yad Vashem Archives in Jerusalem, while the six folders Wiesenthal brought to Vienna are held in the archives of the Vienna Wiesenthal Institute for Holocaust Studies. At the time of his death in 2005, the Jewish Documentation Centre (JDC) in Vienna had hundreds of thousands of pages of documents on some 5,000 former Nazis and collaborators. Today, the JDC archives can be researched in the repository of the VWI, which opened in 2009. Other relevant documents can be found in the archives of the Jewish communities in Linz and Vienna, in the DP camp collection of the YIVO Institute in New York, and in the archives of the Joint.
In the early 1950s, the DP camps in Austria, Germany and Italy were gradually closed, with most Jewish survivors emigrating overseas and to Israel. The JHD was also closed, and Wiesenthal gave most of the tens of thousands of pages of documentation he had collected to Yad Vashem, Israel's then-forming Holocaust research and memorial centre. Wiesenthal, who had long considered emigrating, stayed in Linz with his wife and newborn daughter, where he continued to help Jewish refugees from Eastern Europe, who were arriving almost constantly. He worked for the Jewish community in Linz, the Joint and the ORT (Organisation – Reconstruction – Training). In 1960 he and his family finally moved to Vienna, where in 1961 he reopened a documentation centre to track down former Nazis and collaborators.
Funded by the Claims Conference, the three-year project (2019-2022) of the VWI and the online exhibition itself are the first step towards reconnecting, at least virtually, this closely related collection of documents from Simon Wiesenthal's time in Linz and providing researchers with a single place to find information on the history and characteristics of the material, which is scattered around the world, to support their further research. Firstly, we identified and localised the material scattered over many holdings. Secondly, we digitised and catalogued the “Linz documents” located in the VWI. Thus, the early years of Wiesenthal's work in Linz became accessible.
After completion, the special inventory was curated and a virtual exhibition was created in respect of the Austrian data protection regulations. The virtual exhibition offers prospective researchers and an interested public targeted, bundled and user-friendly access to “Wiesenthal in Linz” archival documents. The online version of the special inventory will be supplemented and accompanied by the successive online provision of individual findings from the Linz period. In the near future, the online exhibition will be used to develop a virtual tour through the archive.
The virtual exhibition has organised the archival documents into four major thematic groups: SURVIVAL, CRIME, COMMEMORATION and ORGANISATIONS, highlighting the fact that in the decade and a half following WWII, Simon Wiesenthal was simultaneously concerned with the survivors of the Shoah, the investigation of the perpetrators and the development of a dignified memory of the victims, and found a framework for this in the most diverse organisational forms. But the exhibition also allows us to learn about Wiesenthal's work chronologically or by focusing on a particular year. Finally, the linking of documents to places through a dynamic map allows a closer look at the documents of a particular geographical location. However, the exhibition is not just a collection of documents, it also aims to commemorate his personal involvement and determination. Therefore we chose to let Wiesenthal himself tell visitors about his years in Linz on the opening page of the website.