Rabbi Jacob G. Wiener collection
- Credit Line
- United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Jacob G. Wiener
Collection of documents including war ration books and identification papers issued to Gerd Zwienicki (previous name of Rabbi Jacob G. Wiener) by the United States Government after his arrival in the United States after his escape from Nazi occupied Europe.
- Document Creator
- Jacob G. Wiener Ph.D.
Jacob Wiener (1917-2011) was born Koppel Gerd Zwienicki in Bremen, Germany, and was known as Gerd. His parents were Josef, born on February 15, 1892, in Zlatopol, Russia, and Sarah Selma Stiefel, born on June 9, 1882, in Hamburg, Germany. He was the oldest of four children: Avraham Alfred (b. September 19, 1925), Benno (b. October 5, 1918), and Liesel (b. February 2, 1921). His father owned a bicycle and motorcar sales and repair shop; his mother was a kindergarten teacher and a bookkeeper before her marriage, after which she helped with the family business. When he was sixteen, Jacob created a chapter of Agudath Israel, a religiously orthodox alternative to leftist Zionist organizations, such as Hashomer Hatzair, to which he previously belonged.
The Zwienickis lived in a predominantly non-Jewish neighborhood, and the children attended public schools. Jacob was the only Jew in a school of over 700 boys. As early as 1928, Nazi activists in Bremen harassed Jews and made Jacob’s parents worried about their future in Germany. When the Nazis came to national power in 1933, some of their neighbors tried to reassure the Zwienickis that this was a temporary phase, and that they did not support the Nazi ideology. Even those who joined the Nazi party appeared to the Zweinickis to be doing so as a result of intimidation. Local Nazi officials created obstacles to the family business, and instituted restrictions in the schools for Jewish students. The children Jacob had previously played with were enlisted in the Hitler Youth. They were encouraged to report to the authorities about their parents’ activities, such as associating with Jews, creating further barriers between the Zweinickis and their neighbors. Most of the teacher’s in Jacob’s school supported the Nazi ideology and racial science courses, explaining the superiority of the Aryan race, and the inferiority of Jews, were made part of the curriculum. By 1934, Jacob’s mother was writing to relatives in other countries, such as in South America, trying to find a way to emigrate from Germany.
In 1936, Jacob went to Frankfurt am Main for a year to begin rabbinical studies and serve in Hachshara, a Zionist movement that prepared Jews for the rigors of immigration to the Holy Land. In 1937, he entered the Jewish Teachers Seminary in Wurzburg. He was in the dormitory there on Kristallnacht in November 9-10, 1938, when rioters damaged the building. In the morning, the students were taken through a jeering crowd to the police station. They were kept in prison for eight days and then sent to their home towns. Upon returning to Bremen, Jacob learned that his mother had been shot and killed on Kristallnacht by men who had raided their apartment. His father had not been home, but had been in hiding, since rioters had mainly been targeting Jewish men. Though a neighbor was able to name the murderers, the Nazi-run police took no action. Also on Kristallnacht, Jacob's brother Benno was arrested and sent to the Sachsenhausen concentration camp. He was among a few young people released six weeks later.
After Kristallnacht, the Gestapo kept close control over the Jews of Bremen. Jacob became one of the members of the community who reported to the local Gestapo office several times a week and negotiated with the authorities on such matters as permission to run a school for Jewish children, who had been barred from other schools. The school was granted official status, with Jacob as the principal, and it remained in operation until the middle of 1942, when the remaining Jewish population was deported to concentration camps. The school was allowed to operate until 1941. In January, 1939, Jacob and other members of Agudath Israel had an opportunity to get some Jews released from a concentration camp and sent out of the country. They forged letters that said the bearer was expected for Hachshara service in the Baltic states. Approximately 200 Jewish youth were allowed to leave Germany through this effort, though their fate once Germany invaded those countries was not known.
Jacob’s father renewed the effort to contact relatives outside Germany. A cousin in Canada was able to arrange the affidavits and landing cards that would allow Jacob’s family to come to Canada as refugees. The Germans allowed them to sell their house for only enough money to buy tickets for the voyage to Canada. Jacob, his father, and his three siblings left Germany on May 31, 1939. Jacob then went to Baltimore, Maryland, to pursue rabbinical studies. He settled in the United States and became a rabbi and social worker. He changed his name to Jacob G. Wiener. In 1948, he married Trudel Farntrog, who had been born September 6, 1921, in Fuerth, Germany, and whom he had known at the teacher’s seminary in Wurzburg. She had survived the Holocaust by being sent on a Kindertransport to England. Jacob and Trudel had three children. They were married for 53 years until Trudel’s death, age 81 on January 15, 2002. Jacob died, age 93, on February 15, 2011.
- Holder of Originals
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
- Legal Status
- Permanent Collection
Record last modified: 2018-07-18 10:56:46
This page: https://collections.ushmm.org/search/catalog/irn34267