Wolfgang Haney is obsessed.
Born in Berlin to a Jewish mother and gentile father, 87-year-old Haney scavenges flea markets all over Europe in search of Holocaust artifacts. To date he has amassed an impressive collection of yellow Stars of David that Jews were forced to wear during World War II. But those yellow badges aren’t all that he seeks.
Other Holocaust-era relics include telegrams from concentration camps, drawings by prisoners, anti-Semitic postcards, personal letters and other documents of identification.
How do we know he is obsessed?
His collection is taking a toll on his health. He doesn’t sleep well and he gets rashes that cause the pads of his fingers to burst open. “It has almost broken me down,” he says. When his wife complains he’s running himself ragged, he tells her, “You are absolutely right.”
Yet, he cannot stop.
But he knows his work is important, vital to the memory of those who died, physical proof that these atrocities happened to real people. To individuals. To people like you and me.
Apparently his collection fills his entire house. The article didn’t include any pictures so I have no idea if this is of Collyer brothers proportions (which I certainly hope it isn’t), but it does include this description:
“Books are stacked to the ceiling, posters cover the tables, and mountains of documents are everywhere. Three enormous iron safes in the cellar are filled to the brim with red and black folders. Thousands of pages, letters, food stamps, arm cuffs and drawings document the discrimination and elimination of Jews.”
This article also doesn’t say how many stars he has in his collection and a cursory search on Google yielded results almost entirely in German (which I can’t read), so I will have to ask my husband or mother-in-law to interpret for me. I’d also love to see photographs of his house-filled collection, just to get a sense of the variety and the volume of it.
Luckily Haney doesn’t keep it to himself; he organizes exhibits, gives lectures and publishes books.
I can only hope he wills his collection to a major Holocaust museum in Europe, Israel or the United States. I, for one, would be very interested in seeing it.
If anyone reading this knows anything about this man’s collection, please share in the comments section below.