The library was founded in 1933 by Alfred Wiener together with David Cohen as the Jewish Central Information Office (JCIO) in Amsterdam to provide information about the persecution of Jews by the Nazis. Wiener had previously been a staff member of the Centralverein deutscher Staatsbürger jüdischen Glaubens in Berlin, where he had begun documenting the Nazi movement and the accompanying rise of antisemitism in Germany since the publication of Hitler’s Mein Kampf in 1925. After Hitler’s seizure of power in 1933, he fled to Amsterdam and, shortly before the German occupation in 1939, rescued himself and his material to London. The Wiener Holocaust Library is one of the world’s leading and most comprehensive archives on the Holocaust and National Socialist Germany. It has a unique collection of over one million objects, unpublished/published works, press clippings, photographs and eyewitness accounts, including countless reports of refugees.
Much of our material on Vilnius is based on a find in the Wiener Holocaust Library. Here Miriam Schulz discovered the archive of the refugee collective Komitet tsu zamlen materialn vegn yidishn khurbn in Poyln 1939 (Committee to Collect Material on the Destruction of Polish Jewry 1939). The committee was founded in November 1939 by a Polish Jewish refugee collective in Vilnius to document the crimes of Nazi Germany against the Jewish population in occupied Poland on the basis of refugee reports. It is regarded as one of the earliest historical Jewish commissions to offer documentary resistance in the shadow of the incipient Holocaust. Some of the documents in its archive are part of the We Refugees Archive.