Placing the Irreplaceable – Restitution of Jewish Cultural Property: Negotiations, Historical Dimensions, Documentation
Annual Conference of the Dubnow Institute
The systematic destruction of European Jewish culture during World War II attained unprecedented dimensions; its repercussions can be felt to this day. International events such as the 1998 Washington Conference on Nazi Confiscated Art, resulting in the declaration of the Washington Principles and encouraging initiatives of provenance research and restitution worldwide, are testament to an increasing public awareness of related topics. But the ideas driving these initiatives were by no means new: negotiations about placement and restitution of looted Jewish cultural property had already been conducted in the early postwar period. The long history of activities and debates concerning the handling of displaced books, art works, and ritual objects – fragments of a disrupted past – reveals important layers of European political and cultural history after 1945. It brings to the surface dissonant perspectives on the future of Jewish life and culture after the war, exposes distinct forms of political and legal principles implemented during the Cold War in relation to property and ownership rights, and shows the different ways of Jewish memory creation in light of the Holocaust.
The aim of this conference is to associate two fields of research and activity which, all too often, take separate paths: the historical exploration of actors, institutions, and debates about the protection and restitution of looted Jewish cultural property after 1945 on the one hand, and the realm of provenance investigation, the reconstruction of collections, and the care for related material on the other. We hope to encourage a discussion that combines the actual concerns of finding and preserving relevant assets as well as their documentation, with a historical perspective on the significance of related questions for Jewish memory, recognition and belonging in the twentieth century.
16th to 17th November 2017