National Postal Museum Launches Online Exhibit, “Hunting for Wiesenthals”


By MJ Meredith, Museum Specialist

Two Wiesenthal stamps

Smithsonian’s National Postal Museum has launched a new online exhibit, Hunting for Wiesenthals: Postmarks from the Simon Wiesenthal Collection.

Simon Wiesenthal was a Holocaust survivor, who tracked down Nazi war criminals for more than half a century and located about 1,100 fugitives during his career, but he spent his evenings on a different quest – searching for vintage postage stamps. This unique online exhibit explores postmarks from towns in Austria-Hungary, Czechoslovakia and Germany. The postmarks are a part of Wiesenthal’s larger stamp collection, which he started in the late 1940s to occupy himself at night when he couldn’t sleep. The exhibit also features Wiesenthal’s own collecting tools, which were donated to the Postal Museum by his family.

“The museum’s collection is greatly enhanced through the donation of philatelic objects from Simon Wiesenthal's family. We are especially grateful to Dieter Michelson of Heinrich Koehler auctions for facilitating this donation. It has been an honor for our staff and volunteers to work on this story” said Cheryl Ganz, chief curator of philately.

The memory of Wiesenthal’s lasting enthusiasm for stamp collecting is also a legacy for philatelists, as his interest in stamp collecting was well known during his lifetime and was a peaceful pursuit to contrast the violence he documented during the day.

On June 14, 2010, Israel and Austria jointly issued a stamp issue honoring Simon Wiesenthal (shown here). Wiesenthal is portrayed in a frame in the form of the Star of David with text in both German and Hebrew.