Wiener Library moved into its new premises on Russell Square in 2011 and is one
of the world’s leading and most extensive archives on the Holocaust and Nazi
era. Formed in 1933, the Library’s unique collection of over one million items
includes published and unpublished works, press cuttings, photographs and
of its mission is ‘to be a living memorial to the evils of the past by ensuring
that our wealth of materials is put at the service of the future’
The Wiener Library is the world's oldest Holocaust
memorial institution, tracing its history back to 1933. Alfred Wiener, a German
Jew who worked in the Central Association of German Citizens of Jewish Faith,
fled Germany in 1933 for Amsterdam. Together with Prof. David Cohen, he set up
the Jewish Central Information Office, collecting and disseminating information
about events happening in Nazi Germany.
The collection was transferred to Manchester Square, London in 1939 with Wiener
making the resources available to British government intelligence departments.
The Library soon became known as 'Dr Wiener's Library' and the name was
adopted. After the war the Library's academic reputation increased and the
collecting policies were broadened.
Funds were raised, a new board was formed and the Library was
re-launched. Work continued in providing material to the United Nations War
Crimes Commission and bringing war criminals to justice. The Library's most
successful publishing venture was the production of a bi-monthly bulletin
commencing in November 1946 (and which continued until 1983). The Wiener
Library Bulletin covered a range of topics and was a forum for scholarly
debate, unusual for this early time. Another important task during the 1950s and
1960s was the gathering of eyewitness accounts, a resource that was to become a
unique and important part of the Library's collection. The accounts were
collected systematically by a team of interviewers.
Wiener planned for the Library to be incorporated into the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He had little support from Anglo-Jewry and wanted to secure the future of the Library after his death. Negotiations were long and complex - difficulties concerning the identity and autonomy of the Library were involved. In the end Wiener applied for funds from the Claims Conference.
In 1956 the Library was forced to move from Manchester Square and temporary accommodation had to be found, with some material being put into storage. A new premises was found in Devonshire Street and the future became a bit more calm. In 1961 Wiener announced his retirement as director and the appointment for this vacant post was not successful. Temporarily C.C. Aronsfeld took over as acting director and the library suffered under financial difficulties.
Dr. Alfred Wiener died in February 1964 and the search for director continued until Professor Walter Laqueur was appointed. Laqueur's priority was to gain the funding necessary to support the work of the Library. He also set up the Journal of Contemporary History and organised many events, conferences and seminars. The Institute of Contemporary History was established in 1964 and took up the neglected field of modern European history.
In 1974 a funding crisis again broke out and it was decided to move the collection to Tel Aviv. However, funding came to support a microfilming project and after two years, much of the material being sent away had been preserved in London with the book stock being sent to Israel in 1980.
Once again the Library struggled successfully to re-establish itself through funding applications and the establishment of a Friend's scheme and an Endowment Appeal.
Today the Library continues from strength to strength, acquiring major collections, holding regular lectures and events, providing a focal point for researchers, the media, the public and students both young and old.