The German Historical Museum in Berlin has received a 15,000-piece collection of Holocaust-era ephemera and artifacts from Wolfgang Haney, who passed in 2017 at the age of 93.
Haney was born to a Catholic father and a Jewish mother in 1924 in Berlin. Following the Nuremberg laws of 1935, Haney was considered a “first-degree Jewish half-breed” until the overturning of these laws at the end of World War II. He lost many family members to the Holocaust, and following his retirement from a successful career as a municipal civil engineer, he decided that he needed to do something to honor his lost family.
Afraid that the memory of the Holocaust was fading and that anti-Semitic sentiment was rising, he began to collect ephemera related to the genocide. Haney traveled across Germany to collect various objects of significance that told the story of anti-Semitism in Nazi Germany: posters, ration cards, torn Torah scrolls, mockery postcards, concentration camp currencies, and more. Some of these objects had been a part of “The Eternal Jew,” a traveling exhibition put on by the National Socialists before the war to spread derogatory stereotypes about Jews. The museum said that the collection will play a key role in a research program being run in collaboration with the Center for Research on Antisemitism.
“In schools [students] hear from teachers about the Nazis, but they’re not so informed,” Haney said in an interview with Widen the Circle following his winning of the Obermayer German Jewish History Award for Distinguished Service. “It’s very important that they know what happened.”
Haney spent three decades amassing his collection, which has been surveyed in exhibitions held at institutions in Germany and Poland. In 2006, he won the Berlin Order of Merit for his efforts. While he was still alive, Haney and his wife, who is also Jewish, used to tour schools and lecture about their experience, ensuring that memories of the Holocaust did not die with survivors, many of whom are now elderly.
The announcement of the Haney gift comes as Germany faces a spike in anti-Semitic crimes, with 2,000 such incidents recorded in the last year alone.
“The Haney Collection contains historically unique testimonies that show National Socialist’s oppression and crimes against humanity and the gradual escalation of the racist terror system,” said Monika Grütters, Germany’s minister of state for culture, in a statement to Artnet News. “The collection is such a valuable bundle for research into antisemitism, which is currently challenging us again.”