Preview of an exhibition later this year at the Wiener Library, London

Working from home on the Library’s forthcoming exhibition
Dr Barbara Warnock, Senior Curator and Head of Education
Map showing battles during the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, April 1943. Wiener Holocaust Library Collections.
At the point that The Wiener Holocaust Library closed to the public and staff started working from home as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, preparations were underway for our forthcoming exhibition Jewish Resistance to the Holocaust, intended for launch in mid-May. The themes of the exhibition had been determined and I had started to identify some of the items from our archival collections that could be included in the display, but the majority of the work of researching, writing and structuring the exhibition remained to be done.

Once we took the decision to close the Library, I gathered the books I needed and scanned some of the documents and photographs I wanted to show in the exhibition in order to be able to continue my work from home. Fortunately, one important set of relevant documents – eye-witness accounts of anti-Nazi resistance – is scanned and available remotely to staff.

Despite the drawbacks of working from home – not being able to quickly consult a book in our library, retrieve extra items from the archive or run ideas past colleagues as I work – the exhibition is now nearing completion. The help of Dr Christine Schmidt in reviewing the exhibition content, our exhibition designer Kate Pettit in creating an effective look and layout and Martina Ravagnan in organising translations of documents, has been invaluable. A few remaining details will be finished off on the return of some staff to the Library this month, and we really hope to be able to open the exhibition to the public before too long.

Jewish Lithuanian partisans group ‘The Avengers’ on their return to Vilna at the time of the liberation of the city by the Red Army, July 1944. Wiener Holocaust Library Collections.
The exhibition opens in June 1941, at the time of the invasion of the Soviet Union and Soviet held territories, and looks first at the responses of Jewish partisan groups based in forests to the orchestrated mass murder perpetrated by the Nazis and their collaborators in places such as Lithuania and Belarus.

The exhibition then examines Jewish resistance to the Holocaust across various sites in Nazi-occupied Europe including ghettos and camps, as well as considering urban resistance by armed groups and rescue networks in cities such as Paris, Berlin, Vienna and Brussels.

In various places, the exhibition considers what can be termed spiritual resistance to the Holocaust. It explores how, in the most adverse of circumstances, through the maintenance of covert religious practices, the creation of illicit personal or historical records and attempts to survive in hiding, Jews sought to subvert the Nazis’ policies of annihilation.

As I have worked on the exhibition, it has been a privilege to learn more about the stories of Jewish resistance that lie behind the Library’s collections on this subject, and, ahead of the opening of the exhibition, we share some of the documents that will be on display below.

Filip Müller’s testimony about Sonderkommando resistance in Auschwitz, 1957, from The Wiener Library’s collection of eye-witness accounts to the Holocaust. Wiener Holocaust Library Collections.
A portrait of Philipp Manes and an illustration of the Theresienstadt ghetto from Manes’ journals, 1944. Wiener Holocaust Library Collections.
The exhibition features a display of some of the extensive journals maintained by Philipp Manes in the Theresienstadt Ghetto. Manes’ journals include records of the cultural activities that he organised in the ghetto, and contributions including writings and drawings from other Jews incarcerated there.
Part of a testimony given by Ida Sterno to The Wiener Library in 1957. Wiener Holocaust Library Collections.
Ida Sterno worked for the Comité des Défense des Juifs (CDJ) in Belgium arranging the rescues of Jewish children.
The first page of an account given to The Wiener Library about the activities of the Baum Group, date unknown. Wiener Holocaust Library Collections.
Based in Berlin, the Baum Group launched arson attacks on a Nazi anti-Soviet and anti-Semitic exhibition, Soviet Paradise in 1942. The Library has two important testimonies on the activities of the Baum group in its collections.
Part of the testimony of Mr Weichselbaum, c. 1955. Wiener Holocaust Library Collections.
This extensive testimony gives an account of Weichselbaum’s life and resistance activities in France, including his service as a leader of the French partisan group the Maquis.
Keep updated about the launch of Jewish Resistance to the Holocaust here. We hope to be able to announce some events to accompany this exhibition soon.