Alfred Wiener

Alfred Wiener (1885–1964) created the first systematic collection of evidence of Nazi persecution of the Jews.

© Wiener Library Collections
Alfred Wiener, London, around 1950.

Wiener was born in Potsdam, Germany. He wrote a doctoral thesis about Arabic literature, and lived in the Middle East from 1909–1911.

© Wiener Library Collections
Wiener’s first publication "Vor Pogromen?" (Prelude to Pogroms?), 1919. In this pamphlet he warned of the threat of right-wing anti-Semitism in Germany.

After working for a Jewish politician, Wiener served as a soldier in World War I. Horrified by the far-right extremism and anti-Semitism that aggravated after Germany’s defeat, he began to write and campaign to warn people about the consequences of growing hatred. From 1919-1933 he worked with the Central-Verein deutscher Staatsbürger jüdischen Glaubens (Central Association of German Citizens of Jewish Faith) to fight anti-Semitism. After reading Hitler’s Mein Kampf in 1925, he concentrated his efforts on the Nazi Party, which he saw as the most dangerous force in German politics. In 1933 Wiener fled with his family to the Netherlands and set up the Jewish Central Information Office (JCIO) in Amsterdam, which collected and disseminated evidence of the Nazi assault on Jewry and the fate of Jewish refugees.

© Wiener Library Collections
The title page of a volume of photographs accompanying a report by Wiener from 1936 in which he depicts the first anti-Semitic actions of the Nazis. The title translates to “The Disenfranchisement, Ostracism and Annihilation of the Jews in Germany under the Government of Adolf Hitler”.

In summer 1939, he moved the JCIO to London. He advised the British government throughout the war and issued two periodicals, The Nazis at War and Jewish News. Post-war, the JCIO was renamed The Wiener Library and became Britain’s largest collection of books and archives about the Nazi era and the Holocaust. Wiener continued to monitor right-wing extremism in Germany and collected many firsthand accounts from survivors.