In the 1970s the permanent exhibition, at the time located in today's entrance hall of the archives in the Old Town Hall, proved to be too small. With the financial support of the Federal Ministries for Social Affairs, Education and Science as well as of the City of Vienna, and in cooperation with renowned historians, it became possible to open the exhibition in the so-called Bürgerstube of the Old Town Hall on 1 June 1978. From its title »The Austrian Freedom Fight« it was already apparent that the emphasis of its content was on the presentation of Austrian resistance against the NS-regime. Much space was devoted to the years leading up to the »Anschluss« in 1938 and its economic foundations. A panel presented at length the racist NS-ideology. Artists and scientists expelled from Austria were presented in photo portraits. An equal space was made available to the participation of Austrians in the Spanish Civil War 1936–1939 as was to the murder of the Austrian Jews by the NS-regime. The exhibition also briefly touched on right-wing tendencies after 1945. In a large showcase, arranged around the pillar in the main room, as well as in desk showcases beneath the exhibition panels, original exhibits could be displayed. Some of these objects, such as, for instance, the concentration camp uniforms, can be seen again in the new exhibition as well.
The previous exhibition reflected – as does the new one, opened in 2005 – the state of research in contemporary history, but also the emphasis of the studies of the DÖW at the time. In its design it suited the taste of the times and the didactic notions of those years. In part it was set up more as a memorial to the achievements of the Austrian resistance and was clearly less interested than the new exhibition in providing an overview of the crimes of the NS-regime.