We will continue to ask all visitors to wear a face covering and to observe social distancing whilst in the building.
We are closely monitoring the situation with respect to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and, as such, our regulations are under constant review and might change at short notice. The safety and wellbeing of all our staff and visitors are of paramount importance and we thank you for your patience and understanding as we continue to navigate this uncertain time.
The Wiener Holocaust Library condemns both Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the Holocaust distortion used to justify it. As the world’s oldest institution devoted to the study of the Holocaust and genocide, created and supported by refugees from Nazism and their descendants, we call upon international and national organisations to support those fleeing Vladimir Putin’s violence. The history and memory of the Holocaust should never be abused to justify militarism and oppression.
Putin has spuriously declared his aim to be to save Eastern Ukrainians from genocide and “denazify” the country. Both claims are gross distortions of reality. Ukraine is a sovereign nation with a vibrant, pluralistic society. The evidence is clear that most Russian-speaking Ukrainians, even those sceptical of an orientation toward the EU, would not welcome a Russian puppet government, which could only be imposed upon the country with massive repression.
Putin’s bogus justifications for his war of aggression are underpinned by misrepresentations of history inherited from the Soviet era. These distortions downplay the suffering of Jews in the Holocaust, presenting Russians as the primary victims of Nazism, and indeed sometimes resort to antisemitic tropes. Putin’s depiction of Ukraine as a “Nazi state” is not a response to the activity of the far-right in Ukraine; it is a falsehood emanating from his incapability of acknowledging the right of Ukrainians, regardless of language or ethnicity, to define themselves as Ukrainians. The fact that Volodymyr Zelensky, Ukraine’s president, is Jewish, and that his grandfather fought the Nazis in the ranks of the Red Army, is an indication of how absurd and offensive these claims are.
The Wiener Holocaust Library, as Britain’s library of record of the Holocaust and genocide, will always actively refute the abuse of history, especially when used as a weapon of war.
As antisemitic rhetoric and actions continue to pose a threat to Jews in Britain and around the world, the Library’s timely new exhibition explores the individuals, organisations and campaigns that have fought back against antisemitism in France, Britain and Germany over the hundred years and more since the time of the Dreyfus Affair in France in the late nineteenth century.
The arrest, trial and imprisonment of Jewish French army officer Alfred Dreyfus on false charges of espionage became a sensation in France and across Europe and galvanised both antisemites and their opponents. This exhibition reflects upon the activities, challenges and strategies taken by those fighting back against antisemitism in France, Germany and Britain since this critical moment, and also examines current efforts to challenge antisemitism today.
Launching on Wednesday 23 March, the exhibition will display many unique items connected with the struggle against antisemitism in the twentieth century, including a rare copy of a 1930 manual providing advice and information for those challenging antisemitism in Germany, Anti- Anti: Tatsachen zur Judenfrage (Anti- Anti: Facts About the Jewish Question); collections of unique contemporary photographs recording evidence of antisemitic activity in Nazi Germany; documents from the Defence Committee of the Board of Deputies of British Jews and Community Security Trust archives, and original material produced by the 43 Group in Britain, who after the war organised to take on fascist groups through direct action and infiltration.
A new travelling exhibition
Dr Wiener's Library
This new exhibition traces the history of the Library and its collections in the context of the dramatic and devastating historical events that shaped them.
It was wonderful to see so many faces at the in-person event and to mark the Library’s history with the creation of this travelling exhibition. Our launch event took place in the evocative surroundings of the Attlee Room, which gave the occasion a sense of a link to the period of British history when Alfred Wiener was first establishing the Jewish Central Information Office in Britain.
It was fitting that our special guest speakers were both closely connected to the Library in different ways. First to speak was Lord Dubs, a Kindertransport refugee, who shared reflections on the Library’s work with and support of refugees. He urged us all not to forget the experiences of his generation, who suffered the human cost of the Holocaust firsthand. Lord Finkelstein, the grandson of Dr Alfred Wiener, journalist and politician, afterward spoke movingly of his family and his recent family research based on the Library’s archive materials.
Dr Wiener’s Library traces the history of the first collection of evidence of the Holocaust and shows how it came into existence in the context of dramatic and devastating historical events. Our Director, Dr Toby Simpson, said: “We are really looking forward to working with local organisations across England to bring this travelling exhibition to local communities. We know there are many people who are still unaware of the Library’s story and its work. We hope they will be inspired, as we are, by Dr Alfred Wiener’s vision of the power of truth to do good in the world.”
The Jewish News reported from the event and you can read the article here.
2022 Spring/Summer Term
Educational Programme at the Library
Jewish refugees take a class at the Schlachtensee Displaced Persons camp, c. 1946-1948. Wiener Holocaust Library Collections.
We are delighted to announce that the Library’s new free educational series for the 2022 Spring/Summer Term is now open for booking.
Run by the Library’s experienced education team and guided by the British curriculum, the programme of talks and workshops are aimed at teachers and students of the Holocaust wishing to deepen their understanding of the Holocaust through engagement with the Library’s unique and historic archive.
The series will help participants to critically consider each topic and explore the variety of ways in which it can be approached in an educational setting.
Wednesday 2 March, 4-5pm
Virtual Teacher Workshop: Using The Wiener Holocaust Library Resources to Support Teaching About the Holocaust
This virtual workshop will explore the history of the Library, the collections we hold, the resources we have on offer and how these can be utilised so that students can understand and analyse contemporary material.
Virtual Student Workshop: Source Analysis for Coursework
This virtual workshop will show participants how to access archival material, and use original archival materials from the Library’s collections to investigate key historical questions such as who was responsible for the Holocaust.
In this virtual talk, Senior Curator Dr Barbara Warnock will explore the development of antisemitism in Western Europe from the late nineteenth century to today, and the means by which Jewish organisations and other groups have fought back against antisemitism.
Virtual Student Revision: Democracy and Nazism: The Nazi Dictatorship
This virtual revision session, aimed at GCSE and A-Level students, will utilise sources from the Library’s unique archive to examine the Nazi Dictatorship. It will explore the idea of ‘the Terror State’; the role of the SS and Gestapo; opposition to the Nazis; Nazi propaganda and the extent of totalitarianism in Germany.
Virtual Student Revision: Democracy and Nazism: The Racial State
This virtual revision session, aimed at GCSE and A-Level students, will utilise sources from the Library’s unique archive to examine the Nazi’s creation of a ‘Racial State’. It will explore the radicalisation of the state; Nazi racial ideology; increasing antisemitic policies and actions as well as the treatment of Jews in the early years of war by looking at the development of ghettos and deportations.
The Central British Fund and The Children Rescue Scheme
We are pleased to announce the publication of a new article on the Central British Fund's 1945 child rescue scheme on the Library's online educational resource The Holocaust Explained.
Drawing on the Library's unique archival collections, this new article explores the origins of the scheme, how it was carried out, and the experiences of the children involved.
This photograph (below) shows some of the children who were rescued disembarking from a plane after landing in Britain in August 1945. The teenager holding the young child is Sidney Finkel who survived the Piotrkow Ghetto, Buchenwald and a death march to Theresienstadt. The man Sidney is handing the baby to is his older brother, Isaac Finkel, who survived experiences in ghettos, forced labour camps and Buchenwald. The boy right next to Sidney (with a suitcase in his hand) has been identified as Moniek Shannon who also survived Buchenwald and a death march to Theresienstadt.
The Leave to Land travelling exhibition was authored by Clare Weissenberg and was based on materials collected through The Kitchener Camp Project, a unique online resource that brings together archival records and family treasures to build a moving and compelling picture of this unlikely sanctuary.
The Library is proud to support and display this touring exhibition, which will be displayed alongside original documents about the Kitchener Camp from the Library’s own unique collections.
The launch for this exhibition took place on Thursday 17 February with an in-person event at the Library with reflections from Clare Weissenberg and a lecture delivered by Antony Lishak. Watch here.
Wednesday 2 March 6.30-7.30pm
Exhibition Talk: The Kitchener Camp Rescue
In the next event in the Leave to Landexhibition series, Professor Clare Ungerson will discuss how it came about that 4,000 German Jewish refugee men moved from Greater Germany to live in an old army camp in Kent in 1939.
An Escape from Nazi Vienna: Heinrich Schrefel and Queer Holocaust history
This article, by Svenja Kalmar and Dr Anna Hájková, explores the life of Heinrich Schrefel and offers a queer counterpoint to the majority of Holocaust and Austrian Jewish histories.
A History of Fascist’s Past and a Warning for the Future
Reflecting on the Library’s This Fascist Life exhibition, Alex Sessa demonstrates how we should all be mindful of the fragile nature of democracy and the insidious natures of far-right movements, now more than ever.
Thursday 3 March, 6.30-8pm
Hybrid Book Talk: Menachem Kaiser: Plunder
For the next event in the Library's Family Histories of the Holocaust event series, Dr Christine Schmidt will be talking to Menachem Kaiser about his new book which explores his family's journey to recover property stolen from them by the Nazis during the Second World War.
Virtual PhD and a Cup of Tea: Holocaust Refugees in British India: Perspectives from Two “Others”
In this virtual PhD and a Cup of Tea talk, Pragya Kaul will explore photographs and writings of Jewish refugees in British India to interrogate the place of European Jews in the racial hierarchy of colonial society.
In this event, Simon Parkin will speak about his new book which uses exclusive new archival material, letters and diaries to reveal the untold story of history's most extraordinary prison camp, where Britain interned thousands of refugees during the Second World War.
Hybrid Event: The Future of Holocaust History: An Event for the IHR’s Centenary, In Partnership with Yale University
This hybrid event is a collaboration between the Library, Yale University and The Institute of Historical Research and is being held to mark the IHR's centenary year. The event will feature three Yale University Press authors who will talk about the writing of their books to reflect on how the historiography of the Holocaust has changed and why the topic is more important now than ever.
Virtual Book Talk: The Third Reich’s Elite Schools with Helen Roche
Drawing on material from eighty archives in six different countries worldwide, as well as eyewitness testimonies from over 100 former pupils, Helen Roche presents the first comprehensive history of the Third Reich’s most prominent elite schools, the National Political Education Institutes (Napolas / NPEA).
Virtual Book Launch: Living in Two Worlds: The Else Behrend and Siegfried Rosenfeld Diaries
In this virtual event, translator Deborah Langton talked about her experience of working on 'Living in Two Worlds: The Else Behrend and Siegfried Rosenfeld Diaries', discussed key themes, people and places, as well as reading extracts from Else’s diaries while Steve Cooper, Else’s grandson, read from Siegfried’s diaries.
Join Christopher Hale and Monica Lowenberg as they discuss the 16th March marches in Riga, Latvia which glorify the Holocaust.
Since 1998 on the 16th of March and every year, in the very centre of Riga, Latvia, marches have been regularly held to praise the ‘heroism’ of the former Latvian Legion, Waffen SS veterans, in their combat against the allies during the Second World War. Each year these events have received tacit (and sometimes very explicit and public) support from state authorities (in 2012 from the president himself) and have been attended by deputies of the Latvian Parliament, members of the Riga City Council and officials of the Ministry of Defence.
In March 2014, for the first time ever, the Latvian government commendably banned any minister from attending the march and sacked Einars Cilinskis for insisting on participating. Nevertheless, in Riga, on March 16, 2015, a European capital, in the heart of NATO and Latvia; a country that at the time held the presidency of the rotating council of the European Union, two politicians and the minister for justice still attended the SS march (despite the ban) along with over 2,000 people including ultra-nationalists from the UK.
In 2016, under the new government, the ban was lifted and as in 2013, in 2018 and in 2019 respectively, the National Alliance subsequently requested of the Latvian government that the law on Holidays and Remembrance Days be amended and Legionnaire Day be made a national remembrance day. To date Legionnaire Day is not a national day but the march is allowed to go ahead in the interest of 'free speech'.
Demands upon the Library continue to increase as we face rising antisemitism, racism, distortion and denial of the Holocaust and genocide. We need to continue our important work to ensure our Collections are put to the best possible use and to the service of the future.
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