Institut für deutsche Literatur

Naomi Wilzig (1934-⁠2015) -⁠ Obituary

Dr. h.c. Naomi Wilzig (December 5, 1934 – April 7, 2015)


As a collector, a patron of the arts, and the director of the World Erotic Art Museum (WEAM) in Miami, Naomi Wilzig achieved great fame, popularity and recognition. Her collection of erotic art is an internationally significant document of the cultural history of sexuality. In 2011 the Institute for Advanced Study of Human Sexuality in San Francisco bestowed an honorary doctorate upon her in respect of her achievements.


The WEAM was her life's greatest work. It is the only collection of erotic art to date that has been developed by a woman, on account of which the American press lovingly proclaimed her to be the 'Queen of Erotic Art.'


Naomi Wilzig was the widow of the industrial magnate and banker Siegbert Wilzig (1926-2003), a Holocaust survivor who emigrated to the USA after being liberated from Auschwitz. Mrs Wilzig, who grew up in an orthodox Jewish family, dedicated a volume of poetry to her husband and engaged herself energetically on the behalf of the Holocaust memorial in Miami.


In the 1980s she began collecting works of erotic art and documents relating to the cultural history of sexuality with passion and an uninhibited curiosity. Through the constant study of specialist literature she achieved a level of expertise in the field that was admired and sought after in all corners. She based her collection upon historical role models, and was particularly inspired by the Bilderlexikon der Erotik (Vienna, 1928), which drew from Magnus Hirschfeld and his museum of the history of sexuality in the Berliner Institut für Sexualwissenschaft (1919-1933).


In 2005 Naomi Wilzig founded her museum, which has since achieved global fame, in the heart of Miami Beach in order to make her collection available to the public. A constant presence in travel guides and one of the main attractions of the city, the WEAM tells a special story of humanity. Naomi Wilzig presented her collection with the aim of imparting a historically and culturally comprehensive picture of erotic art. She explained that she wanted to evoke the sensual experience of the pleasure and pain of love, and also wanted to send a message of tolerance in acknowledgement of the community and diversity of mankind.


Naomi Wilzig was a loveable, intelligent and self-confident woman, a tirelessly active museum director, an impressive and engaged host, and a generous patron. Last year she surprised the guests at her 80th birthday party with a high quality can-can show from Paris, and the next day she donated a valuable Torah to her local Jewish community.


Since 2014, we had the great pleasure and great fortune of being able to work together with Naomi Wilzig on the realisation of her wish of bringing the collections of the WEAM into the hands of the Humboldt University Berlin. She was enthusiastic about the idea of thereby balancing out the historical loss of 1933, when the Nazis had plundered the Hirschfeld Institute and its collections.


We are mourning Naomi Wilzig, and we are filled with pain at the thought that she will no longer be able to experience the realisation of her wish first hand.


Prof. Dr. Andreas Kraß, Andreas Pretzel