Founding of the Wiener Library

The Wiener Library 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. The official name of the institution is now the "Institute of Contemporary History and Wiener Library, Ltd."

In 1933, Alfred Wiener, a German Jew who worked in the Centralverein deutscher Staatsbürger jüdischen Glaubens (Central Association of German Citizens of Jewish Faith), fled Germany for Amsterdam. Together with Prof. David Cohen, he set up the Jewish Central Information Office, collecting and disseminating information about events happening in Nazi Germany.

The collection was transferred to London in 1939 with Wiener making the resources available to the British and other governments' intelligence departments, and the international press, especially the BBC. The library soon became known as "Dr Wiener's Library" and the name was adopted.

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's most successful publishing venture was the production of 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 Institute of Contemporary History and Wiener Library in London is a research library dedicated to studying the Holocaust, Nazi Germany, and German Jewry, and documenting Antisemitism and Neonazism.

The Wiener Library is one of the world’s leading and most extensive archives on the Holocaust and Nazi era. Formed in 1933, the Library’s unique collection of over one million items includes published and unpublished works, press cuttings, photographs and eyewitness testimony.