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In a dramatic discovery at the end of the Cold War, Ludwig von Mises's papers from his life and work in Vienna, Austria, were found in a formerly secret Soviet archive in Moscow. The papers are Mises's personal and professional archives from 1900 to the mid-1930s, a time of explosive intellectual and political development, when he battled national and international socialism on all fronts, and laid the groundwork for his great defense of the free economy and society.
What's more, the very same Moscow archive contains the papers of Mises's associates, both friends and opponents from politics and academic life. All these papers are essential in helping to piece together the story of Mises's years as one of Europe's intellectual giants.
In 1938, when the Nazis made their move into Austria, Mises had already been teaching in Geneva at the Institute for International Studies for four years. The German police entered Mises's Vienna apartment (where he had stopped for a short visit only weeks earlier), examined his papers, packed them into 38 boxes, and took them away.
Margit Sereny (and her daughter, Gitta, now a famed author) fled to join Mises in Zurich. They were married there and lived in Switzerland for two years before emigrating to the United States in 1940. After his arrival, Mises wrote his affecting book Notes and Recollections to provide a brief chronicle of his life to that point. He died in 1973, assuming his precious papers were gone forever.
In fact, they ended up in Soviet hands after the war, along with other important papers from Austria, Germany, France, and other countries, all of which were shipped to a secret archive in Moscow for the duration of the Cold War. How they were discovered, indexed, and revealed to the world makes for fascinating history.
Even during Mikhail Gorbachev's "glasnost" and "perestroika," the Soviet archives remained among the best-kept Soviet secrets. But by 1989, when the Soviet State began to unravel with the loss of Eastern Europe, the Soviet archival holdings began to be made available, partly because of a desperate scramble for hard currency.
Scholars, who had heard about the possible contents in 1989, began to gain access to this Moscow archive in the early 1990s. The first published notice of the contents of the archive, including a mention of Ludwig von Mises's personal papers, came with the work of Gtz Aly and Susanne Hein, two German researchers associated with a German labor union foundation. Their 1993 book is entitled Das zentrale Staatsarchiv in Moskau (Dusseldorf, Germany: Hans-Bluckler-Stiftung), and it reveals that the Austrian collection (or "fund") in this archive consists of a massive assembly of 34,000 crates more than five football fields long. The Mises papers were contained in 196 large files.
The Austrian academic community took particular notice of this revelation because an entire generation of its intellectuals had their papers stored there. When the archive became public, researchers traveled to Moscow?s Center for the Preservation of Historical Documentary Collections on 3 Vyborgskaja Street to have a look. Economist Stefan Karner of the University of Graz, and historian Gerhard Jagschitz of the University of Vienna, spent two years producing Beuteakten aus sterreich: Der sterreichbestand im russischen "Sonderarchiv" Moskau (Graz-Wein: Selbstvelag des Ludwig Boltzmann-Instituts fur Kriegsfolgen-Forschung, Graz-Wien, 1996). Their book, translated as Confiscated Austrian Documents: The Austrian Fund in the Russian Special Archive, highlights the Mises papers and summarizes their content.
The Mises papers were first brought to American attention by Richard Ebeling, who teaches at Hillsdale College, Michigan. In the summer of 1996, Ebeling traveled to Moscow to see the lost papers and sent a report later that year.d
Mises Institute senior scholar Hans-Hermann Hoppe knew Stefan Karner by reputation and contacted the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute while doing research in Austria. The news of the Moscow collection reached the widest possible audience on January 30, 1997, when the Wall Street Journal headline read: "The Mises Archive: A Treasure Uncovered," an article by Hoppe.
Economist and Mises Institute senior fellow Jorg Guido Hulsmann traveled to Moscow in the summer of 1998 to go through the Austrian archives as part of his research for a biography of Ludwig von Mises. He brought back photocopies of all relevant items in Mises's stolen papers. Just as crucially, Hulsmann produced the first scholarly index to what precisely is in the archive.
Given Mises's growing stature, it is essential that we understand everything we can about the man, his ideas and their formation, and his proper place in the history of our century. We already have his American papers at Grove City College (Pennsylvania) and his American library at Hillsdale. His European papers, whose discovery was made possible only by the crumbling of the Soviet state that he had foreseen, are now publicly available at the Mises Institute in Auburn. As Hoppe wrote in the Wall Street Journal, "it is another gift the collapse of socialism has given to lovers of freedom the world over."
Go to the Index of the Lost Papers, compiled by Jorg Guido Hulsmann.