In 1937 the director of the anthropology department of the Natural History Museum in Vienna
" All peoples are represented here; even the obscure Papuans of New Guinea are not missing.
Unfortunately, however, the entirety of our Jewry, which is otherwise so obtrusive is completely
missing here." And he is answered by the education minister who excuses the lack of materials,
(ie:skulls), saying that, "...due to their burial customs and the particular sacredness with which
their cemeteries are held, it is not possible to acquire anatomical material. " p.10
SCIENCE / FICTION
But the director argued that, "An appropriately equipped ethnological section should have an
educational purpose for the Viennese, so that they can protect themselves from the Jews." p.11
His proposal for an educational exhibition came just in time. In 1938, immediately after the
annexation of Austria to Germany, the Viennese Jewish Museum, founded in 1896 and the first
of its kind, supported by the Society for Collecting and Conserving Art and Historical Monuments
of Judaism, was closed down and its contents confiscated. Shortly after, in 1939 forty-one objects
were taken from the museum and from synagogues to create an exhibtion in the Museum of Natural
History in Vienna, entitled, The Physical and Inner Appearance of the Jews.
However, the exhibition was criticized by the section head for the commissioning of exhibtions who
said that the exhibition was "too scientific", maintaining that it may " not be compared with a
propaganda exhibition." The response however was great. "The exhibition has been very well
attended. Reporters, photographers, civilians, political leaders and the military crowd the
exhibition. People stand by the walls with paper in their hands writing, others drawing - interest is
The anthropological department of the Natural History Museum was still endeavouring to enlarge
its Jewish skull collection. It was not until the summer of 1942 when part of the cemetery in Wien-
Währing was destroyed that the anthropologists were able to acquire their desired "research
material", at least 220 of the exhumed corpses were brought to the museum to be measured and
examined. In the same year, the anthropological department of the Anatomy Institute of the
University of Posen acquires "anatomical specimens" for the price of 1,120 Reichsmark. The
corresponding entries in the inventory book of the museum hint at the background of the term: the
"skulls and plaster casts of Jews" came from concentration camp victims. p.15
From: "Beschlagnahmt (Confiscated), The Collection of the Viennese Jewish Museum after
1938", Exhibition Catalogue, Ed. Bernhard Purin, Vienna 1995
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