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Alfred Wiener and the History of the Wiener Library

Alfred Wiener

(The Wiener Library)



Alfred Wiener and the librarian Ilse Wolff circa 1960

Alfred Wiener was born in Potsdam, Germany on the 16 March 1885 and after attending grammar school in Bentschen, Poznan and then in Potsdam, he studied at the Universities of Berlin and Heidleberg, where he took his doctorate in Arab literature.


Following World War One, Wiener became the syndic and executive officer of the Centralverein, the largest Jewish organisation in Germany, which at its peak represented 300,000 people, over half the Jewish population in the country.


Its ideology was assimilation, emphasizing that Jews were national Germans entitled to full equality and differentiated only by religion. It offered legal protection to Jews, fought against the erosion of Jewish identity and the flood of anti-Semitic propaganda which was sweeping Germany in the 1920’s.


Wiener was particularly active in this struggle, regarding anti- Semitism as a test case of German democracy and constantly protesting against the indifference of the authorities, the silence of the press and public apathy.


Description by Alfred Wiener, of the leadership of the Centralverein of the position of Jews in Germany - June 1, 1933:


Between Heaven and Earth

...The great majority of German Jews remains firmly rooted in the soil of its German homeland, despite everything. There may be some who have been shaken in their feeling for the German Fatherland by the weight of recent events. They will overcome the shock, and if they do not overcome it then the roots which bound them to the German mother earth were never sufficiently strong.


But according to the ruling of the laws and regulations directed against us only the "Aryans" now belong to the German people. What are we, then? Before the Law we are non-Germans without equal rights; to ourselves we are Germans with full rights. We reject it, to be a folk or national minority, perhaps like the Germans in Poland or the Poles in Germany, because we cannot deceive our own innermost [feelings].


We wish to be subject as Germans with equal rights to the new Government and not to some other creation, whether it is called League of Nations or anything else. As far as we are concerned that also closes the question of Geneva,** which at present occupies Jewish people everywhere.

Thus we are suspended between heaven and earth. We will have to fight with courage and strength in order to get back to earth, in the eyes of State and Law too...


Wiener’s brochure “Vor Pogromen?” published in 1919 warned of the consequences of the pseudo-scientific hate-mongering which was perverting German nationalism under the eyes of the authorities, and he attacked the leniency of the judiciary in the early days of Nazi subversion. Wiener’s appeals to the conservative middle classes fell on deaf ears and he was obliged to leave Germany in 1933, fleeing to Holland where he established the Jewish Central Information Office.

Read more here: http://www.holocaustresearchproject.org/survivor/wiener.html

The Holocaust Education & Archive Research Team



Copyright Carmelo Lisciotto H.E.A.R.T 2009

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