Date Visited: July 14, 2014
The Wiener Library is the world’s oldest holocaust collection. The collection was started in the 1920’s. That was when Alfred Wiener began collecting documents and information on the National Socialist Party. Wiener was a German citizen. After serving in the First World War he returned to Germany and was disturbed by the growth of antisemitism throughout the nation. He joined the Central Association of Germans of Jewish Faith and the association began collecting artifacts and publications from the growing National Socialist Party. Wiener left Germany for Amsterdam in 1933, taking his collection with him. There he set up a Jewish Central Information Office which became the main source of information to the outside world about what was happening to Jews in Germany during World War Two.
The library was officially started in 1933. Wiener left Amsterdam in 1939 and shipped a large portion of his collection to London. He fled to America during the war and provided information to the US State Department. After the war he provided information for Nuremberg Trails. The library is still actively adding materials to their collection. Their priority is to collect first-hand accounts and materials from individuals who survived World War II, before they pass on. The library has also begun collecting materials from other genocides.
One of the more striking things about the library is that they get an endowment from the German Foreign Office as a part of their funding. It is impressive what they have done with the library building, because it is such a small space. The library is located in a group of town houses. There are reading areas and a browsable modern collection. In the basement there are temperature controlled rooms to store the collections’ more delicate materials. The collection contains over 17,000 photos and audio visual items. The collection also includes one of the largest collections of Nazi propaganda. Our tour guide showed us a children’s book that was given to Hitler’s youth during the 1930’s. it is fascinating and disturbing to see that type of material.
It is so vitally important to have a library like the Wiener Library today. I found it so intriguing that Wiener began collecting materials in 1920. I have to wonder if he predicted what was coming? It makes me wonder if there are any materials I could be collecting today that will prove to be vitally important in the future?