The Wiener Holocaust Library is the world’s oldest, and Britain’s largest, collection of original archival material on the Nazi era and the Holocaust. Located in central London, it has about 2,000 collections as well as important print and pamphlet collections stemming from the efforts of Dr. Alfred Wiener (1885-1964) to document the Nazi regime and its antisemitic propaganda during the 1930s.
Alfred Wiener was born in Potsdam and fought in the German army in World War I. From 1919 to 1933, he worked at the Centralverein deutschen Staatsbürger jüdischen Glaubens (Central Organization of German Citizens of the Jewish Faith), rising to become its executive secretary. In this capacity, he identified early on the Nazi party’s antisemitic program as a threat to Jews and campaigned against them and gathered evidence about antisemitism and the persecution of Jews in Germany. In 1933, Wiener fled to Amsterdam, where he established the Jewish Central Information Office (JCIO) at the request of the Board of Deputies of British Jews and the Anglo-Jewish Association.
The JCIO collected information, documentation, and reports about the Nazis, often smuggled out of Germany, in order to provide a full picture of the ongoing persecution of German Jews and the Nazis’ antisemitic propaganda. His aim was to provide the basis for campaigns to undermine Nazi activities and bring to light the true nature of the Nazi regime. In the summer of 1939, Wiener brought his collection to the UK. During the war, the library was utilized by British and American intelligence and was not publicly accessible. Increasingly known as “Dr. Wiener’s Library,” it officially took its current name after the war’s end. Following Wiener’s death in 1964, Walter Lacquer became the library’s director.
The Wiener Library hold some of the earliest accounts produced by Holocaust survivors, as well as collections of Nazi documents and photographs, and hundreds of unique collections relating to the experiences of Jewish refugee families who came to Britain in the 1930s and 1940s.
In the 1970s, the Wiener Library in London and its Tel Aviv branch parted ways. Today, the Wiener Library in London and at Tel Aviv University are separate institutions. They share some of the same materials, which were microfilmed, but the collections have diverged since then.
- Jewish Central Information Office, The Wiener Library, Its History and Activities, 1934–1945 (1946)
- Ben Barkow. Alfred Wiener and the Making of the Holocaust Library. Vallentine Mitchell, 1997.
- Ben Barkow. “The Wiener Library: Founding Vision and Early History.” In: ‘I Didn’t Want to Float; I Wanted to Belong to Something.’ Brill, 2008.
- Christine Schmidt. “‘We Are All Witnesses’: Eva Reichmann and the Wiener Library’s Eyewitness Accounts Collection.” In Agency and the Holocaust: Essays in Honor of Debórah Dwork, edited by Thomas Kühne and Mary Jane Rein, 123–40. Cham, Switzerland: Palgrave Macmillan, 2020.