A commitment to Austrian-Jewish history has been central to the Institute’s mission since its foundation in 1955. Approximately 30 percent of the archival and library holdings relate to Austrian history. In recent years, however, we have seen an increasing interest in the history of Austrian Jews. In response to this trend, the Leo Baeck Institute has begun a new collection devoted to this history.
The Austrian Heritage Collection, a program whose specific goal is to document the history of Austrian-Jewish émigrés who fled to the USA during the Nazi years, has been centered at the Leo Baeck Institute since 1996.
With the cooperation of the Austrian Cultural Institute, New York and the services of two young Gedenkdiener (interns sponsored by the Austrian government) this ambitious project has contacted hundreds of survivors to make sure that their stories become part of the permanent record.
The aim of the AHC is to preserve this part of Austrian-Jewish history by distributing questionnaires, compiling a project database, collecting contemporary documents and conducting oral history interviews. Presently, there are almost 500 oral history interviews in the LBI’s Austrian Heritage Collection, and the number is growing fast. Patrons can listen to the bulk of the interviews by requesting copies of the audiotapes in the Reading Room; several interviews are available in MP3 format from our website.
The collected material in the Austrian Heritage Collection will serve as the foundation for research and analysis for future generations eager to learn about Austrian-Jewish life before, during, and after the Holocaust.
An additional and essential part of the project is the human contact it affords between young Austrians and émigrés, a connection that will hopefully help foster a reconciliation of the survivor generation with the land of its birth.
For more information, please contact one of the current Gedenkdiener: