Vienna, Jewish Community, Library, Israelitische Kultusgemeinde IKG, Bernhard Wachstein, Synagogue Temple Seitenstettengasse, Nazis World War II 2, burned books, Adolf Eichmann, Adolf Eichmann, Kurt Schubert, Jerusalem


On 25 October 2000, Austria’s first memorial to Jewish victims of the Holocaust was unveiled at the Judenplatz in Vienna. Conceived by Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal and designed by British sculptress Rachel Whiteread in the form of a nameless library, a concrete block displays shelves of books with their spines turned to the inside, enclosing an area made inaccessible by a permanently locked door. The outer memorial is designed to represent Jewish culture and learning that were lost forever in the Holocaust, while the empty space within symbolises the many readers of the library who did not live on. Parallel to the readers and authors of Jewish books systematically destroyed in the concentration camps, many of the books themselves were also annihilated.

If any historic collection had served as a model for the nameless library at the Judenplatz, the most likely one would have been the library of the Israelitische Kultusgemeinde Wien (Jewish religious community of Vienna, IKG). As with the insights symbolically entombed in an inaccessible library, the amalgam of spiritual and worldly wisdom that was once stored on the IKG library’s shelves is now impossible to reconstruct. No one can compile a complete bibliography of its looted, scattered and decimated volumes. A look at the history of its developing collections, however, can indicate just how great an intellectual treasure went to ruin in the organised lootings orchestrated during the Third Reich and in other unforeseen events.

A limited number of documents remain behind, bearing witness to the grandeur of the collection, the circumstances surrounding its sudden disappearance from Vienna, the presumed fate of scattered segments, and the library’s partial restoration.

Original Publication Citation

Richard Hacken. “The Jewish Community Library in Vienna: From Dispersion and Destruction to Partial Restoration.” Leo Baeck Institute Year Book 47 (2002): 151-172.

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Peer-Reviewed Article

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