History & Mission
Our vision is of a continuously developing library, archive and information service for the UK and for the international community, dedicated to supporting research, learning, teaching and advocacy about the Holocaust and genocide, their causes and consequences.
The Library provides a resource to oppose antisemitism and other forms of prejudice and intolerance. Its reputation rests on its independence and the scholarly objectivity of its activities and publications.
Our mission is:
- To serve scholars, professional researchers, the media and the public as a library of record.
- To be a living memorial to the evils of the past by ensuring that our wealth of materials is put at the service of the future.
- To engage people of all ages and backgrounds in understanding the Holocaust and its historical context through an active educational programme.
- To communicate the accessibility, power and contemporary relevance of our collections as a national resource for those wishing to prevent possible future genocides.
The Wiener Library traces its roots back to Germany in the 1920s. Dr Alfred Wiener, a German Jew, having fought in WWI, returned to Germany in 1919 and was horrified at the surge of right-wing antisemitism, which blamed Jews for the defeat.
Dr Wiener worked with the Central Association of German Citizens of Jewish Faith to combat antisemitism, writing, lobbying and speaking publicly. From 1925 (the year Hitler published Mein Kampf) he perceived a greater threat from the Nazi Party than any other antisemitic group or party. Under his influence an archive was started just to collect information about the Nazis, which formed the basis of campaigns to undermine their activities.
Dr Wiener and his family fled Germany in 1933 and settled in Amsterdam. Dr Wiener's first archive is believed to have been destroyed. Later that year he set up the Jewish Central Information Office at the request of the Board of Deputies of British Jews and the Anglo-Jewish Association. The JCIO essentially continued the work of the earlier archive.
Following the November Pogrom of 1938, Wiener prepared to bring his collection to the UK. It arrived the following summer and is believed to have opened on the day the Nazis invaded Poland.
Throughout the War the JCIO served the British Government as it fought the Nazi regime. Increasingly the collection was referred to as ‘Dr Wiener's Library' and eventually this led to its renaming.
Post-war, the Library assisted the prosecutors at the Nuremberg Trial, amassed early survivor testimony and helped to shape the emerging academic study of the Holocaust.
Today, the collection is among the largest and most respected in the world and continues to grow. In 2011 it moved to new premises in Russell Square and began a programme funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund to improve access and open its collections to the widest possible audience. In 2013, the Wiener Library celebrated its 80th anniversary year - view a digital version of our anniversary photo book featuring a photo series by Ali Mobasser, Russell Weekes & Marianne Noble Photography, Art Direction & Design.
Read Our History in:
This film was kindly donated by Emma Kane
Narrated by Natasha Kaplinsky
Scriptwriting by Adam Taub
Music by Chris Rogers
Sound recording by Chris Phinikas at Silk Sound Studios
Leica Camera c/o RG Lewis
Printing Press c/o The Old Printing Shop
Directed and Edited by Richard Gold