Introduction - Ben Barkow, General Editor & Director of the Wiener Library, London.
ghettos, camps: Jews in captivity under the Third Reich
Dr Nikolaus Wachsmann, Birkbeck College, University of London
The Origins of the Holocaust
Professor Dan Stone, Royal Holloway College, University of London
by Ben Barkow.
General Editor & Director of the Wiener Library, London.
Library is the oldest institution in the world established for the task of
documenting the Nazi regime and its crimes against the Jewish people.
Alfred Wiener (1885 - 1964) was a German Jew, born in Potsdam, who had studied
Arabic literature to doctorate level, and spent the years 1907 - 1909
travelling in the Middle East. This experience persuaded him that the Zionist
ideal was misplaced and that efforts to establish a national homeland for the
Jews could only prove damaging to the Jews (naturally he altered his views
later, enjoying friendly relations with former political enemies and even, for
a time, pondering whether the Wiener Library should not move to Jerusalem).
in the 1914 - 1918 war (in the course of which he was decorated with the Iron
Cross, 2nd Class) he became increasingly perturbed by the rise of extreme
right-wing anti-Semitic groups in Germany. He joined the largest Jewish civil
rights organisation, the conservative and anti-Zionist Centralverein deutscher
Staatsbürger jüdischen Glaubens (Central Association of German Citizens of
Jewish Faith), and devoted himself to the task of enlightening the German
people about the dangers of right-wing extremism and anti-Semitism. Within a
few years he had risen to a very high position in the organisation and was
closely involved in formulating its policy. From 1925 onwards Wiener was in no
doubt that the greatest danger from the far right was from the National
Socialists under Hitler. He directed most of his efforts towards combating the
As part of
this work Wiener was involved in an initiative in 1928 to set up an office to
collect all available information about the Nazi Party, its leaders and its
activities. The office was called Büro Wilhelmstrasse, after the main street in
Berlin’s government district. The Büro Wilhelmstrasse collected newspapers,
journals, pamphlets, leaflets and ephemeral matter produced by or relating to
the Nazis, and used these as the basis for campaigns against the Nazis. Typical
is a sticker featuring a cartoon of Hitler and the words ‘Die Nazis sind unser
Unglück!’ (the Nazis are our misfortune!), parodying the Nazi slogan ‘Die Juden
sind unser Unglück!’ (the Jews are our misfortune!). In the few years of its
existence the archive amassed a collection of about 200,000 items and was
probably the largest collection of material about the Nazis in existence at the
accession to power in January 1933, the Büro was closed down and its materials
sent into hiding in Bavaria. It is presumed that the collection was lost or
destroyed during the war.
Hitler’s Machtergreifung was a
personal crisis. After suffering a sort of nervous collapse he made plans to go
into exile. In the summer of 1933 he and his family moved to Amsterdam. There
he met Professor David Cohen, a leading member of the city's Jewish community,
and together they formulated plans to set up what became known as the Jewish Central Information Office (JCIO).
The task of
the JCIO was essentially similar to that of its predecessor the Büro
Wilhelmstrasse. From early 1934 it issued a stream of publications, some
substantial, the majority short mimeographed reports on particular issues or
events. In addition, the office produced in-depth responses to three events:
the Bern trial of distributors of the so-called Protocols of the Elders of
Zion, the murder of the Swiss Nazi leader Wilhelm
Gustloff by a young
Jewish medical student, David Frankfurter and the Pogrom of 9/10 November 1938,
the so-called Kristallnacht.
Kristallnacht the JCIO came under mounting pressure from the Dutch government
to limit its activities. For Wiener and Cohen this was a warning that the
JCIO’s days in Amsterdam were numbered. In spring 1939 Wiener came to London and began the preparations for bringing the Office to safety. It eventually opened
its doors at 19 Manchester Square, London on 1 September 1939.
members of the staff, including Wiener’s wife, remained in Amsterdam, becoming
stranded there after the German invasion in April 1940. Kurt Zielenziger,
Wiener's Deputy, Bernard Krieg, the JCIO's book-keeper and Wiener’s wife and
children were eventually arrested and taken to the transit camp Westerbork before being
deported to Bergen-Belsen in Germany.
Zielenziger and Krieg died there. Although Margarethe Wiener and the children
survived and were freed in a prisoner exchange in January 1945, Mrs Wiener was
so weakened by her time in Belsen that she died within hours of crossing the
border to Switzerland.
spent the war years in the United States of America. According to one source,
he suffered a renewed nervous collapse after the outbreak of war, and was
determined to get out of Europe. With the invasion of the Netherlands the JCIO's supply lines of materials from Germany were for the most part cut off. Wiener
established new ones in America and also worked for British government
agencies. The Office in London was left in the care of his new Deputy Louis Bondy
The work of
the JCIO in London concentrated on supplying information to various government
departments such as the Ministry of Information, the Political Intelligence
Department of the Foreign Office, and the BBC. It also assisted the
London-based exiled governments and continued to offer its resources to Jewish
organisations worldwide. In addition it issued two periodicals, The Nazis at War
and Jewish News, which featured compilations of extracts from publications and press
reports about political developments in Germany and the occupied territories.
It was in London that the name-change from JCIO to Wiener Library came about. The cause was the
reluctance of the ministries and offices which used the JCIO to use a name that
highlighted the specifically Jewish nature of the organisation. Instead the
Office was euphemistically known as ‘Dr Wiener’s Library’ and eventually this
name became the accepted one, even within the Office itself. After the war,
when the work of the JCIO became increasingly academic, the new name seemed
more fitting and was officially adopted in the form ‘Wiener Library’.
late 1940s and 50s the Library devoted itself to a number of tasks: assisting
the prosecution of war criminals at Nuremberg , helping
individuals with restitution claims
years the Library had a lawyer on its staff), and collecting eyewitness
accounts of what eventually became known as the Holocaust. From 1946 it issued
the Wiener Library Bulletin, which became a renowned forum for information
about research, books and news items relating to the Nazi era, German
neo-Nazism, the Holocaust and all matters to do with right-wing extremism in Europe. The Library also carried out detailed monitoring of the German Austrian press,
publishing the weekly Auszüge aus der deutschen und österreichischen Presse from
1948 (this publication is not included in the Testaments to the Holocaust series).
died in 1964 and was replaced as Director by Walter
Laqueur, a young
and ambitious academic who broadened the range of the Library's activities and
interests and made it the forum for a series of lectures and international
conferences which were of fundamental importance to the development of the
academic study of Nazi Germany and the Holocaust. The Library also sponsored
original research into topics such as the November
persecution of Gypsies under the Nazis and the Nazi use of propaganda. Much of this research led
to publications which remain standard works.
many achievements were set against the background of a steadily weakening
financial position. By the mid-1970s the situation was so desperate that
outside help was needed. This came from the University of Tel Aviv, which
part-funded the Library for five years and eventually gave a secure home to a
large part of the book collection.
years after 1980 the Library’s focus was on fund-raising and re-building the
collection. By 1990 the financial situation had been stabilised and the
collection was back to full strength. Since the early 1990s the emphasis, under
the new Director, David Cesarani, has been to re-establish the Library’s
credentials as an academic institution of international renown. This has been
achieved by means of twice-yearly
lecture series and a string of major international conferences on topics
including the Final Solution, De-Nazification, representations of the Holocaust
and the reconstruction
of Jewish life in Europe after the war.
Library serves a readership comprising academic researchers, writers,
broadcasters, the media, students and youngsters studying the Holocaust at
school. Survivors and their families make use of its resources to trace family
history, to study the history of towns and villages where they had their origins
and the ghettos and camps where so many of their loved-ones perished.
of the Library’s holdings reproduced in the Testaments to the Holocaust series
is intended to make rare and unique historical material available to a wider
public. Original Nazi propaganda materials are scarce and command high prices
from dealers and at auction. Yet access to these materials is essential to
anyone wishing to study the period. Reading secondary accounts of Nazi
propaganda can never take the place of confronting the material directly.
collection of Eyewitness Accounts has long been recognised by historians as a
uniquely valuable resource, offering insights into almost every aspect of the
Holocaust. These documents are of particular interest in that they were
assembled during the 1950s and early 1960s, an era when interest in the
Holocaust was at a low and when terms such as ‘Holocaust’ and ‘Shoah’ had
either not been coined at all or were not in general use.
Library publications cover a time span from the early 1930s to the mid 1960s.
It follows that much of the material reports on events in Germany and Europe as they were unfolding. This early material also testifies to Jewish efforts to
resist the onslaught of the Nazis.
The post-war publications
document the slow emergence of Holocaust related issues as topics of academic
discourse. The Wiener Library Bulletin
particular, remains an invaluable source of information on virtually all
aspects of Nazi Germany and the Holocaust.
material needs little explanation. It has been included both for the
information it contains and for its immediacy and impact. Nothing can
communicate the essential nightmarish horror of what occurred in Europe during
the war more than the image of, say, a uniformed German aiming his rifle at a
defenceless woman as she clutches a child in her arms. Confronting this
material is painful, and can be frightening and distressing, nevertheless, it
is vital in terms of promoting a sound understanding of what took place.
together, the materials assembled in the Testaments to the Holocaust series
provide the basis for studying Nazi Germany and its crimes against the Jews
from any number of perspectives. It does not offer answers but rather a wealth
of raw materials for students to explore and work with in their effort to reach
their own conclusions. Complemented by appropriate secondary literature the
collection offers outstanding opportunities to gain insights into one of the
darkest periods of human history.
gathered together here demonstrate the range and ingenuity of Nazi propaganda.
The illustrated books and pamphlets offer examples both of propaganda in favour
of the Nazis as well as against their political and ‘racial’ enemies.
Particularly striking is the welter of material designed to promote the cult of
personality around Hitler. He is seen on parade, giving speeches, on trains, in
cars, in the air, opening autobahns, relaxing in his mountain retreat,
greeting crowds and
patting children. One publication is devoted entirely to photographic studies
of his hands.
theme of this material is the rise of Germany from the ruins of the First World
War and the economic crises of the 1920s. Germany is depicted ‘between night
and day’, May 1933 is presented as the ‘first German May’, and ordinary people
are depicted as falling gratefully into line behind the National Socialist
saviours of Germany. The industrial worker is glorified, as is the peasant, the
road-builder and the sports person. On every front the Nazi will is shown in
extraordinary – and not repeated – experiment, the Nazis attempted to
demonstrate their sense of humour, in a volume showing innocuous
cartoon satires of Hitler.
A note in the book assures retailers that the product has Party approval.
From the late
1930s there is material about the ‘liberation’
of the Saar, Austria and the Sudetenland.
happy images of Nazi progress and victory there are other more sinister ones: a
volume showing the constant readiness of the police, several displaying the
steadily growing might of the armed forces, and one volume devoted to the
enemy: the sub-humanity of the East. This grotesque publication, issued by the
SS, features horrific pictures of mangled corpses and starving children and
carries the message that the Nazis are fighting in order to prevent Germany being overrun by such atrocities.
More than any
other propaganda item in the collection this book illustrates the soulless
cynicism of the regime.
collection of calendars produced
by Nazi organisations demonstrates again the regime’s overriding concern with
propaganda. Featured are examples produced by the Hitler Youth, the SA, the SS,
the Office of Racial Politics, the Strength through Joy organisation and others.
Sigilla Veri, a very
rare encyclopaedic work of anti-Semitism, was compiled by Philipp Stauff, who
also produced a reference work called Semi-Kürschner, the title
referring to Joseph Kürschner’s annual German Literary Calendar, which was
known as the Kürschner. The ‘Semi’ in the title is supposed to refer to
‘Semites’, the Semi-Kürschner being strenuously anti-Semitic. Sigilla Veri
might have remained obscure and little known but for the fact that it was taken
up and published by U-Bodung Verlag, owned by Ullrich Fleischhauer, who became
famous as a defence witness at the trial in Bern, Switzerland in 1935 of distributors
of the notorious anti-Semitic forgery The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.
Fleischhauer was also the publisher of a periodical called
Weltdienst, again violently
anti-Semitic. For a number of years Fleischhauer was secretly funded by the
Nazi Party, as were a number of similar organisations. Eventually all such
organisations were incorporated into the Propaganda empire of Joseph Goebbels.
was planned to run to six volumes. In the event only four were completed. The
fifth volume, included in this collection, is extremely rare, having been
produced several years after the others. In itself it is incomplete, breaking
off in the middle of an entry on Walter
was never available in shops: it could only be ordered direct from the
publisher. Anyone buying a copy was required to sign a declaration that ‘I am
not of Jewish descent, have no Jewish blood nor Jewish relatives. I pledge
myself not to sell or present this book to anyone. I give my word of honour
that I am not acting as a man of straw for anyone.’
aimed at children and young people was seen as extremely important by the
Nazis. Hitler stated that he wanted ‘a violently active, dominating, brutal
youth,’ without too much education: ‘knowledge is ruin to my young men.’
of the publications featured in the collection relate to the
Hitler Youth, but the
Bund Deutscher Mädel
is represented by a publication from the Ostmark – annexed Austria.
regime regarded singing and songs as a vehicle for domination. The songbooks
featured were produced by various organisations: the Party, the SA, the SS, NSBO, NS Frauenschaft. The lyrics extol the glories of the Reich and the Führer and
threaten destruction to racial enemies.
If these songs
were intended to unite the faithful and strengthen their unthinking commitment
to the regime, other – unpublished – songs were used in concentration camps
as a means to further the dehumanisation and demoralisation of inmates. Many
camps, including the German concentration camp Buchenwald and the Polish
extermination camp Treblinka, had special songs of their own. Inmates were made
to sing as they marched to and from forced labour, and were accompanied by
music on their way to executions.
It is somehow
characteristic of the Nazi regime that it turned music, which to most people is
a consolation and blessing, into a torment and curse.
infiltration of Nazi ideology into the education system in Germany was one of the most pernicious and damaging ways in which the regime sought to mould the
thinking of the population.
some of this material is not dissimilar to that of earlier or later eras:
German children were taught things that children all over the world were and
are taught. But a glimpse into biology textbooks reveals the extent to which
education was distorted to serve ideology.
Der Giftpilz (The Poison
Mushroom) is devoted solely to demonising Jews.
Der Pudelmopsdackelpinscher (the title conflates the names of four breeds of dog) is about the
dangers of interbreeding the human ‘races’.
also features history, mathematics, geography, reading books, some colouring
books for very young children, songbooks for children and theoretical works for
did a Nazi education have on young minds? The answer may be found in a slender
Einführung in die Vererbungslehre (Introduction to Hereditary Theory). Opposite page 20 are two
photographs. The top one depicts a shambling, shabbily-dressed rabble,
suggestive of mental patients or a gang of delinquents. The caption reads,
‘Should Germany's young people be like this?’ The image below shows handsome
young men in shorts, stripped to the waist, on a cross-country run. The caption
reads, ‘Or like this?’ The implication is unmistakable: the racial degenerates
of the top picture will destroy Germany unless they are stopped.
pencil in the space between the pictures, presumably by a pupil, is the word
‘Erschiessen!!’, ‘Shoot them!!’
heading there are two collections. The first was gathered in the weeks and
months after the November Pogrom of 1938 and comprises reports
length from just a few lines to several pages, some signed, most anonymous.
This documentation is extremely valuable, having been written immediately after
the Pogrom, in some cases within a day or two.
much larger, collection was assembled over a period of years from 1955 onwards.
This collection covers most aspects of Nazi persecution, from random attacks on
individuals in early 1933 to the incarceration of around 30,000 Jewish men
after the November Pogrom, to the concentration and extermination camps in Poland during the war. Some of the accounts are based on interviews, others were specially
written for the collection by the eyewitness, others still are in the form of
contemporary letters or documents donated by eyewitnesses.
feature of this collection is when it was assembled. The 1950s marked something
of a low-point in interest in these matters; most people, including survivors,
wanted to forget and to get on with building new lives. It was, compared with
the 1970s, 80s and 90s a relatively ‘silent’ era. Forgetting was all. The
self-selected group who chose to contribute to the collection bucked this
general trend. Their testimony is in certain respects more valuable than some
collected in later
decades: memories were fresher in the 1950s, stories less worn with repetition.
These accounts are not influenced by present day social attitudes towards the
Holocaust. In fact, neither the word ‘Holocaust’ or ‘Shoah’ is to be found in
the collection: these terms were not in use at the time. Many of the accounts
are surprising for the tone of irony and even mild humour in which they are
couched. This is best explained as a distancing device, adopted to cope with
unbearably painful memories. Some writers speak in the plainest language,
others adopt highly literary styles. The material is endlessly fascinating,
profoundly moving and forms a great monument to the suffering and courage of
those who contributed.
Accounts follow the order of the original ‘P-Scheme’ file: at the beginning of
each eyewitness account is the accompanying index card from the ‘P scheme’
file; please note that these cards may carry incorrect information with regards
to the number of pages which the corresponding eyewitness account contains.
It should be
recognised by those consulting this section of the archive that the eyewitness
accounts were printed or written with a variety of inks and pens and on various
types of paper, some of which are very thin, leading to a bleedthrough of the
text, and some of which may have become discoloured or stained thus rendering
the original document difficult to read.
to how these publications came into being is explained in the opening section
of this introduction. The material falls into three periods. Firstly there are
the materials produced and circulated during the Library's period in Amsterdam.
Secondly, there are the two periodical publications produced in London during the War,
and lastly there are the post-war publications, most strikingly the
Wiener Library Bulletin. This was edited by C.C.
Aronsfeld, who also wrote most of the unsigned articles. The Bulletin
was a very influential publication, the only forum in the UK for scholarly debate on Holocaust-related issues for many years. Many later well-known writers
made early contributions to it. It remains an invaluable source for many little
known episodes of the War, Nazi Germany and the persecution of the Jews, as
well as post-war right-wing extremism.
It should be
recognised by those using this section of the microfilm edition that the
quality of the original newsletters and reports has been accurately
reproduced. Therefore, poor as well as high quality images will be found on
photographic collection covers a number of eras and topics. The first material
relates to the pre-Nazi era and comprises family
documenting the domestic life of Central European Jews, mostly middle class and
prosperous before the Nazis seized power. These are followed by more general
photographs of life in Weimar Germany, showing periods of civil unrest, poverty
caused by inflation and so on. This is followed by material relating to Nazi
election campaigns, Hitler as a public speaker, and the Nazi era.
Jewish life is
further documented in a collection of picture postcards and photographs of Europe’s
synagogues, very many
of them destroyed in the war (or even before, in the November Pogrom). There is
also a collection, formed by the Jewish Central Information Office in Amsterdam, of memorials to Jewish dead of World War I. The purpose of this was to counter a
common accusation against Jews that they avoided front-line duty during the
Great War and protected themselves in safe postings well away from danger. In
fact Jews died in the same proportion as every other grouping in Germany.
persecution of Jews is documented in a series of distressing (some extremely
so) images. These show the activities of Einsatzgruppen death
squads, conditions in ghettos and finally in concentration camps.
with Displaced Persons (DPs) is
The photographic section ends with two collections of
biographical index cards
(mostly illustrated) of major figures in the Nazi
Party, military and SS hierarchies
It should be
recognised by those consulting this section of the archive that due to the fact
that a number of the photographs are either very old, fragile or in poor
condition, the quality of the images seen may be affected.
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