In Memoriam Lord Weidenfeld (1919-2016)


Lord Weidenfeld, IWM Fellows’ Meeting, 1999

On January 20 2016, Lord Weidenfeld, the Vienna-born publisher and philanthropist, died at the age of 96. He was forced to flee as a refugee to London in 1938 after Austria’s Anschluss, and soon afterwards embarked on a remarkable career in the world of media, politics and publishing. In the 1940s he worked for the BBC Overseas Service, he was then a political advisor to the first President of Israel, and he founded in 1949 Weidenfeld & Nicolson, a publishing house of great international repute. He was made a life peer of Britain’s upper house in 1976. Lord Weidenfeld was also well known as a philanthropist. Last year, for instance, he established the Weidenfeld Safe Havens Fund with the aim to support Christians fleeing the “Islamic State” as a way of repaying, as he put it, his debt to British Quakers who had helped him escape from Hitler’s regime.

An advisor to, and supporter of, the Institute for Human Sciences and a member of our Board of Patrons, he had accompanied the IWM from its very inception. To name only a few of his contributions to the IWM, he was a regular participant in the Institute’s Castelgandolfo Colloquia; the publisher of Jews and Christians in a Pluralistic World, based on a Jewish-Christian encounter convened by the IWM in 1990. He was also the initiator of the Club of Three, an informal group bringing together leaders in the fields of politics, business and the media from the United Kingdom, France and Germany. In the early 2000s, several meetings focussing on questions of European integration were hosted by Karl von Schwarzenberg and organized by the IWM in Vienna.

The IWM has lost a true friend. The world has lost a versatile builder of many bridges, an intellectual, a statesman, and a passionate European.