Letter from Linz
An Archive Story
Keywords:Simon Wiesenthal, archives, Polish Jewish survivors, Vienna Wiesenthal Institute for Holocaust Studies
In 2015, I discovered a previously unknown letter from Simon Wiesenthal, sent to his wife Cyla upon learning she was alive in 1945, in the Wiesenthal archive in Vienna. This essay is an ‘archive story’ about this serendipitous discovery and my time spent in Wiesenthal’s former office in Vienna’s Salztorgasse, just before it was dissolved and the collection was moved to its new home at the Vienna Wiesenthal Institute. Focusing on the materiality of the archive and its traces of a ‘Polish’ Wiesenthal, embedded in a network of Polish Jewish survivor-documentarians, it asks which biographical narratives were made visible or invisible by the old archive. Grappling with the nostalgia many historians feel for the materiality of traditional archives, moreover, it considers how the move to digitally based research might enable some forms of serendipity yet foreclose others.
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