Sep 2006 Journal

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The AJR and the Wiener Library

As our members will know, the Wiener Library is one of the leading archives, and certainly the oldest, archive recording the Holocaust and Nazi era. Its reputation extends far beyond our shores and the importance of its collection is as relevant today as when Dr Wiener began his work in Germany soon after the end of the First World War. It is unique in that, unlike other Holocaust archives, much of its collection was made at the time the events occurred. This gives it a powerful immediacy, which is both chilling and inspiring.

The Library has a collection of material consisting of 60,000 books, 2,000 periodicals (of which 200 are current), original documents, eyewitness testimonies, unpublished memoirs and a huge collection of press cuttings dating back to the 1930s. In addition, it has an important photographic archive approaching 15,000 images. The Library is also the proposed home of our Refugee Voices project once it is completed.

The Library today provides a resource to oppose antisemitism and other forms of intolerance. Many AJR members will have had first-hand experience of its work and maybe also attended one of its conferences or excellent lectures.

The Institute of Contemporary History and Wiener Library, to use its full name, moved to its present address in 1958. The lease comes to an end in mid-2009 so the search for a new home is gathering pace. Also, the needs of the collection for stable environmental conditions to promote the preservation of increasingly fragile and rare contemporary materials can no longer be met in the current building. The Library is focusing its search on central London, particularly the WC1 area, which is the academic center of gravity of its user base.

The AJR has always recognised the significance of the Wiener Library. Many AJR members will have visited the Library or perhaps accessed its catalogue online at www.wienerlibrary.co.uk and will have realised for themselves that its continued work is of great importance.

Andrew Kaufman, Chairman of the AJR, commented: 'When we heard that the Library needed to raise £4 million for a new home, the Trustees of the AJR Charitable Trust felt that it was entirely right that the Trust should become involved. The Trustees see the Library as a principal partner for the future; both organisations have a common goal, to ensure that the memory of our loved ones, who perished or were forced to flee their homeland, should never be forgotten. The Trustees have decided to grant the Library £150,000 towards the cost of its new home. The Trustees will recommend renewing this grant annually in the same amount for four years.'

Anthony Spiro, Chairman of the Wiener Library, endorsed Andrew's comments and added: 'We are thrilled that the AJR has made this very generous gesture. It is most heartening that our two organisations are moving even closer together to ensure that our vital work can continue to perpetuate the memory of a remarkable generation. The Wiener Library is far more than a collection of books and documents - it is a living symbol of Jewish survival.'

Ben Barkow, the Library's Director, added: 'As the Wiener Library moves forward into the new century, our growing links with the AJR help to connect us to our origins and to remind us why we are here. The AJR's decision to help us in this way means that all the Library's activities will be securely anchored in the memory of the sufferings and triumphs of the Jewish refugees.'

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