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Summer 1945 – 1954, 63 Goethestraße

With the authorisation of the American occupying forces Simon Wiesenthal, Mauthausen concentration camp survivor, tracks down Nazi war criminals for the Jewish Historical Commission. His position: “justice, not revenge”.

A few weeks after the end of the war the Jewish Historical Commission was formed at 63 Goethestraße. It was a point of contact for Jewish displaced persons. There were four full-time employees who collected materials about the persecution and murder of Jews under Nazi rule. Under the leadership of Simon Wiesenthal, who had been liberated from the Mauthausen concentration camp, the organisation developed into the Jewish Historical Documentation Centre that aimed to track down Nazi war criminals.

Wiesenthal had been arrested in Lemberg in 1941 and his family murdered. He was in a number of prisons and concentration camps, the last one being Mauthausen. On the 5th of May 1945 he was liberated from the so-called “death block”. His attitude to tracking down Nazi war criminals was “justice, not revenge”. It was in this vein that he worked towards bringing Nazi criminals before the courts. As early as the 20th of May 1945 he was able to provide the Americans with a list of 91 Nazi criminals and he took a significant role in the search for Adolf Eichmann.

In his autobiography Wiesenthal described his work in Linz thus: “If it was a rainy Sunday and people stayed at home, do you know what they did? They reported their neighbours in anonymous letters to us. On Mondays there were laundry baskets full! Only if it was a rainy Sunday. That’s how it was. There were hundreds of informers who came by”.