Arago: Exhibits

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Introduction - Simon Wiesenthal

The world knows Simon Wiesenthal as a Holocaust survivor who tracked down Nazi war criminals for more than half a century. What many do not know is that he spent his evenings on a very different quest: searching for vintage postage stamps. Most of his stamp collection was a classic holding of stamps from various countries. But it also included a more personal section, a collection of postmarks and postcards from different towns named Wiesenthal. This online exhibit focuses on his holding of these Wiesenthals.

Simon Wiesenthal once wrote that he became interested in stamp collecting in 1948, when he visited a doctor for severe insomnia. "He suggested that I do something at night to take my mind off my troubles, and that's how I began collecting postage stamps," Wiesenthal explained. "My hobby has since given me many pleasant hours and helped me to meet people in many countries."

By most accounts, Wiesenthal located almost 1100 Nazi fugitives during his career, although critics later disputed his role in locating the most famous one, former senior SS officer Adolf Eichmann.

This online exhibit explores Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal's unique holding of Wiesenthal postmarks from towns of that name in Austria-Hungary, Czechoslovakia, and Germany. The postmarks were part of Wiesenthal's larger stamp collection, which he began in the late 1940s to occupy himself at night when he could not sleep. The rest of his collection was a more traditional assortment of international stamps.

This exhibit also features Wiesenthal's own collecting tools, donated to the National Postal Museum by the Wiesenthal family through Dieter Michelson, as well as the Simon Wiesenthal Award for Holocaust philately.

I especially want to thank Esther Ferington, research and script; M.T. Sheahan, layout; and Alisa Douer for use of her photograph. Special thanks are extended to the Wiesenthal family; Caitlin Badowski; Bob Grafton; Al Kugel; Tom Lera; Christine Mereand; Margit Naden; Daniel Piazza; Herbert Trenchard; Dieter Michelson of the Heinrich Koehler Auction House; Gini Horn of the American Philatelic Research Library; the Czech National Tourist Office and Czech Republic Cultural Center; and the Geography and Map Reading Room of the Library of Congress.