In 1935 collector Max Nettlau sold his anarchist papers to the IISH. In well-informed circles, Max Nettlau was known as the 'Herodotus of Anarchy', the first and greatest historian of the anarchist movement. The name of the International Institute of Social History (1935) very nearly was the 'Max Nettlau Institute'.
In February 1938 Nettlau travelled from Vienna to Amsterdam to work with his collection. He was pleased to see his papers exhibited in three old school rooms, and to find a chair and desk at which to work. The Anschluss (Germany's incorporation of Austria in the Third Reich) made it impossible for him to return to Austria. On 23 July 1944 Nettlau died in Amsterdam.