The Wiener Library for the Study of the Holocaust & Genocide was another rare treat amidst a hectic schedule and was the second library we visited that had not one but two Americans on staff, including an alumna of the British Studies Library Program. The Wiener Library is one of the leading Holocaust and Nazi era archives in the world, comparable to the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington D.C. and the Yad Vashem in Israel; yet for all its importance it has a very unassuming and comforting feel that welcomes you in after the noise and street traffic of London. Located down the street from the British Museum and just steps from the University of London campus, the Wiener Library is located in a five-story townhouse, its home since 2011. Originally the collection had been located in the home of its founder Dr. Weiner before space and functionality became an issue.
The archives began in 1933 by Dr. Alfred Weiner, a German Jew who had fought for his country during World War I only to return home under a cloud of anti-Semitic fear-mongering, which eventually led to the rise of the Adolph Hitler and the Nazis regime. Naturally concerned, Dr. Wiener began documenting and speaking out against these incidents but was force to flee Germany in 1933, first to Amsterdam, then to the UK. Dr. Wiener’s collection continued to grow and eventually began to be known as “Dr. Wiener’s Library”. Today the Wiener Library continues Dr. Wiener’s legacy by not only encouraging the study of the Jewish Holocaust and mass Genocide around the world but by continuing to document the messages of hate still being published and dispersed today. The Wiener Library is also concerned with promoting the stories of individuals affected by Anti-Semitism, Hitler’s Pogroms, and/or the Holocaust. While it is fine to remember the monumental events I believe the purpose behind Dr. Wiener’s work was that we never forget what happened to the individuals, so that we never forget their stories, so that we never forget their names.
Our visit ended on a high note, as our hostess and British Studies alum, Jessica Green, spoke with us about her journey to the UK and once again I was reminded of my own hopes and dreams for the future. But as I left and realized the rain had stopped, a smile broke on my face and I knew that I would never forget, I would always remember.
For information on the Wiener Library for the Study of the Holocaust & Genocide, including upcoming exhibitions and their catalog, find them on the web at http://www.wienerlibrary.co.uk/