Wiener Library for the Study of the Holocaust and Genocide

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The Wiener Library for the Study of the Holocaust and Genocide
Wiener Library 02.JPG
CountryUnited Kingdom
Established1933 (86 years ago) (1933)
Location29 Russell Square
London, WC1B
Items collectedBooks, pamphlets, serials, photographs, family papers, films & documentaries
Size65,000 books and pamphlets[1]
2,000 document collections[1]
17,000 photographs[1]
3,000 titles of periodicals[1]
Access and use
Access requirementsOpen to anyone
Other information
DirectorBen Barkow (director)
Book shelves in the reading room
The Wall of Honour on the first floor

The Wiener Library for the Study of the Holocaust and Genocide (German pronunciation: [ˈviːnɐ ]) is the world's oldest institution devoted to the study of the Holocaust, its causes and legacies. Founded in 1933 as an information bureau that informed Jewish communities and governments worldwide about the persecution of the Jews under the Nazis, it was transformed into a research institute and public access library after the end of World War II and is now situated in Russell Square, London.[2]

In 2017, and following a campaign by Dan Plesch, (director of the Centre for International Studies and Diplomacy at SOAS University of London) and other researchers, directed at the UN,[3] the library published an online and searchable version of the catalogue of the archive of the UN War Crimes Commission.[4]


Alfred Wiener, a German Jew who worked for the Centralverein deutscher Staatsbürger jüdischen Glaubens (Central Association of German Citizens of Jewish Faith), a Jewish civil rights group, spent years documenting the rise of antisemitism. He collected books, photographs, letters, magazines and other materials, including school primers and children's games,[5] recording the spread of Nazi propaganda and its racist doctrines.[6]

In 1933, Wiener fled Germany for Amsterdam, where he operated the Jewish Central Information Office (JCIO). Dr. David Cohen [nl; de] became its president. Cohen was a prominent Dutch Jew who founded the Committee for Jewish Refugees at the same time; the Committee used the work of the JCIO for its publications, and provided some financial support to the JCIO.[7]

After Kristallnacht in November 1938, Wiener and the JCIO archives moved to Britain.[8] The collection opened in London on 1 September 1939, the day of the Nazi invasion of Poland.[6] In London, the Jewish Central Information Office functioned as a private intelligence service.[6] Wiener was paid by the British government to keep Britain informed of developments in Germany.[6]

After the end of World War II, the library used its extensive collections on National Socialism and the Third Reich to provide material to the United Nations War Crimes Commission and bringing war criminals to justice.

The Library published a bi-monthly bulletin commencing in November 1946 (and which continued until 1983). 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. In 1964, the Institute of Contemporary History was established and took up the neglected field of modern European history within The Wiener Library.

During a funding crisis in 1974 it was decided to move a part of the collection to Tel Aviv. In the course of the preparations for this move, a large part of the collections was microfilmed for conservation purposes. The plans to move the library were abandoned in 1980 after the transports had already begun, resulting in a separate Wiener Library within the library of the University of Tel Aviv that consisted of the majority of the book stock, while The Wiener Library in London retained the microfilmed copies.

Today The Wiener Library is a research library dedicated to studying the Holocaust, comparative genocide studies, Nazi Germany, and German Jewry, and documenting Antisemitism and Neonazism. It is a registered charity under English law.[9]

Fraenkel Prize[edit]

The Library also awards the Fraenkel Prize in Contemporary History. This prize, founded by the late Ernst Fraenkel OBE (former Chairman and Joint Library President), is awarded annually for "outstanding work of twentieth-century history in one of The Wiener Library's fields of interest." These areas of interest include the following: "The History of Europe, Jewish History, The Two World Wars, Antisemitism, Comparative Genocide, Political Extremism."[10]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d "Collections". The Wiener Library for the Study of the Holocaust and Genocide. Retrieved 19 January 2017.
  2. ^ Cacciottolo, Mario (1 December 2011). "Wiener Library relocates Nazi archive to new premises". BBC. Retrieved 21 April 2016.
  3. ^ "Library to release tranch of Holocaust documents for first time". The Independent. 21 April 2017. Retrieved 29 January 2018.
  4. ^ Bowcott, Owen (17 April 2017). "Opening of UN files on Holocaust will 'rewrite chapters of history'". the Guardian.
  5. ^ "Propaganda and Children During the Hitler Years".
  6. ^ a b c d Guttenplan, D. D. (26 February 2012). "World's Oldest Holocaust Museum, in London, Gets New Life". The New York Times. Retrieved 6 January 2017.
  7. ^ "The Wiener Library and JCIO". The Wiener Library. Retrieved 31 January 2017.
  8. ^ "Alfred Wiener, Kept Nazi Data". The New York Times. 6 February 1964. Retrieved 6 January 2017.
  9. ^ Charity Commission. The Wiener Library Institute of Contemporary History, registered charity no. 313015.
  10. ^ Fraenkel Prize in Contemporary History (Accessed July 2015)

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 51°31′21″N 0°08′42″W / 51.52250°N 0.14500°W / 51.52250; -0.14500