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Inside The Wiener Library's New Home & Exhibition Space

By Lindsey Last edited 59 months ago
Inside The Wiener Library's New Home & Exhibition Space
The Wolfson Reading Room
The Wolfson Reading Room
The book store: The library has around 65,000 books and periodicals; about 6,500 are in the Reading Room
The book store: The library has around 65,000 books and periodicals; about 6,500 are in the Reading Room
The photo archive store - a converted listed wine cellar
The photo archive store - a converted listed wine cellar
The document store, including personal memoirs, pamphlets and Philipp Manes' notebooks
The document store, including personal memoirs, pamphlets and Philipp Manes' notebooks
by Ali Mobasser
Philipp Manes' nine notebooks detailing life in Terezin Concentration Camp. The last notebook breaks off mid-sentence. After Manes’ deportation to Auschwitz, the notebooks were left with fellow inmate Lies Klemich, who hid them until she was liberated and carried them with her for many months until she found a way to send them to the Franck family in Bavaria who were childhood friends of Manes. They in turn traced his children and sent the notebooks to his daughter Eva Manes in the UK in 1947/8.
WL Doc 1031/1/22
Censored letter by Hedwig Leibetseder to her family, sent from the concentration camp Lichtenburg, 4 September 1938
Tarnscriften: disguised anti-Nazi writings where you get a little booklet inside tea/tomato seed packets - photo by Ali Mobasser
Tarnscriften: disguised anti-Nazi writings where you get a little booklet inside tea/tomato seed packets - photo by Ali Mobasser
Fuhrer Quartett (basically, Nazi Happy Families)
Fuhrer Quartett (basically, Nazi Happy Families)
Nazi Children’s Board Game, Juden Raus (Jews Out), manufactured commercially in 1936.  The aim of the game is to move around the board and round up ‘Jews’ represented by yellow conical counters, and return to your ‘Collecting Point’.  The first to collect six ‘Jews’ wins.
Nazi Children’s Board Game, Juden Raus (Jews Out), manufactured commercially in 1936. The aim of the game is to move around the board and round up ‘Jews’ represented by yellow conical counters, and return to your ‘Collecting Point’. The first to collect six ‘Jews’ wins.

In anticipation of Holocaust Memorial Day on Friday 27 January, we went to visit the new home of the Wiener Library, the world's oldest Holocaust Memorial Institution, in Russell Square.

The library first made a home in London in 1939. It lived in Manchester Square until the 1950 when it moved to Devonshire Street. The new building at 29 Russell Square opened to the public on 1 December 2011, with storage space in the basement, an elegant reading room on the first floor and — for the first time in its history — an exhibition space on the ground floor.

The library's first public display, 'A is for Adolf: Teaching German Children Nazi Values' is fascinating and disturbing. It comprises a collection of children's books, games and toys covered in swastikas, perpetuating the Aryan racial ideal, demonising Jews and celebrating the Führer. The board game, 'Juden Raus' (Jew’s Out), illustrated above, is a prime — and rare — example.

Once you're seen the exhibition, you'll want to visit the Wolfson Reading Room. Around 6,500 books are available to peruse from the shelf as well as the full library catalogue. The library is used a great deal by students, researchers and historians but also by people trying to trace members of their family.

The Wiener Library collection is extensive and still being added to. Treated to a tour of the basement stores, Development Director Bridget McGing showed us a copy of Mein Kampf signed in pencil by Hitler. A black and white snapshot above the autograph indicates 'Hitler' and 'Karen', an English tourist getting her book signed. A handwritten note explains that the event happened a day before Karen and her husband were evacuated from Germany as war broke out. From the periodicals we were gobsmacked by a glossy magazine for SS 'old boys', the latest edition from 2011.

In the document archive, the beautifully written notebooks of Philipp Manes (pictured) fill one box of hundreds, all stuffed with relics and memoirs of time spent in concentration camps or in exile. A dip into the photo archives reveal some beautiful images of the 'Bulldogs Bank' children - orphan survivors of the Holocaust brought to Britain after the war — used to raise funds for their care. Some still bear handwritten captions, carefully constructed to persuade you part with with your money.

There's a real possibility that a brief, curious drop-in to the Wiener Library may lead you to spending many hours investigating these incredible, sobering, moving and important collections.

The library runs a programme of public events. These are coming up in the next few days:

Speak Up, Speak Out: The 1942 UN Declaration on the Persecution of the Jews - A Special Lecture by Dr Dan Plesch to mark Holocaust Memorial Day on Thursday 26 January 2012 at 6.30pm (free).

The Unspeakable Past? West German Conversations about Nazi War Crimes since 1945 - A lunchtime talk by Dr Caroline Sharples to mark Holocaust Memorial Day 2012 on Friday 27 January 2012 at 1pm (free).

Open Day: Welcome to the New Home of The Wiener Library on Sunday 29 January from 12-4pm (free but please reserve a place).

'A is for Adolf' is a free exhibition, open Monday to Friday, 10am to 5pm, Tuesday, 10am to 7.30pm until 6 March. Ring the buzzer for access - don't be put off by the closed doors!

Access to the reading room is free and open to all (although on first visit ID is required) and the reading room is open on weekdays from 10am to 5pm, and till 7.30pm on Tuesdays. If you wish to borrow books you must become a member.

Visit Trafalgar Square today until 7pm to sign the Speak Up, Speak Out Pledge for HMD 2012 on a series of newly created pledge pillars, you – the general public – will be committing to challenging the language of hatred.

Last Updated 26 January 2012