CPD25 visit to the Wiener Library

Luckily I got a last minute place on that visit because the history of that Library is just simply asthonishing. It's called the Wiener Library because of one of its main founders, Dr Alfred Wiener. He was a German jew who worked for a jewish community called the "Zentralverein". After reading Hitler's "Mein Kampf" he realized that this man could become dangerous and hence started to collect material on the Nazis in the late 20's. Their plan was to gather as much information as possible to then use it to fight the Nazis. In 1933 Alfred Wiener and the Zentralverein left Germany for Amsterdam where they continued their work - by now they were the Jewish Central Information Office. They were continuously trying to find out what was going on and in 1938, after the "Reichskristallnacht", they started gathering eye witness accounts which still provide invaluable information of what happened during those progroms. They kept writing regular reports to inform Jewish communities all over the world. In summer 1939 they felt that Amsterdam was too close to Germany so they moved the whole collection to London where it was financed by the British Governmenment after the war broke out - they had very important information on the Germans. After the war they lost government funding and therefore had to reinvent themselves as a library. But the money problems lasted and finally, in the 1980's, about 80% of the collection had to be given to Tel Aviv, where there still is a second Wiener Library. Luckily there was a complete list of what the library used to hold and a bookseller bought all the many books on the second hand bookmarket to then sell this collection to some university. But as nobody wanted it the Wiener Library was lucky enough to gather enough money to buy that collection and sort of return to full size once more. Since then money has always been an issue but they received several grants so they were able to microfilm/digitise quite a lot of their material.
The collection focuses on the Nazis and the Holocaust, its causes and effects. They've also got a lot of material on Exile studies, German Jewish History and Holocaust denial. They have a huge press archive, sorted by subject, which they are currently microfilming - not digitising, because of copyright: digitising press material means republishing. Having so much material on the Nazis is on one hand of great academic value, on the other they have to be careful not to attract "wrong" people. Nevertheless they are generally open to the public.
They are only 10 people of permanent staff. Luckily, they always have around 35 volounteers - either elderly people associated with the Jewish Community or German library students.

The Wiener Library is very well worth a visit, especially if you are introduced to their history and shown some of the archive material.

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