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Salvage to Restitution: 'Heirless' Jewish Cultural Property in Post-World War II

Kochavi, Shir (2017) Salvage to Restitution: 'Heirless' Jewish Cultural Property in Post-World War II. PhD thesis, University of Leeds.

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Abstract

Despite the extensive research over the past twenty years on Holocaust related restitution, little is known about the disposal process of ‘heirless’ Jewish cultural property at Central Collecting Points (CCPs) in Germany. This thesis follows the involvement of two institutions in this process: the Bezalel Museum in Jerusalem and the Jewish Museum in New York. In the early 1950s, both museums were used as repositories for a large number of the items shipped from Germany by the staff of the Jewish Cultural Reconstruction (JCR) that was responsible for the allocation of ‘heirless’ Jewish property. By analyzing primary sources from the personal archive of the first director of the Bezalel Museum, Mordecai Narkiss, I will demonstrate the conflicting viewpoints of Narkiss and the JCR personnel that led to the eventual sale of a portion of the objects. After the traumatic events of the Holocaust strengthened the Zionist concept identifying Israel as the only place for the Jewish people, Narkiss went to Europe to find and ship to Israel remaining Jewish cultural objects. This was one aspect of a larger salvage project that several cultural organizations in Israel and in the USA promoted at the time. Narkiss’s unique approach called for the incorporation of all items made or owned by Jews into the category of Jewish art. The foundations for this all-inclusive view are explored through the development of the idea of Kinnus, or ingathering, of cultural artefacts of a people, which stressed the importance of Jewish cultural heritage and shifted in the post-Holocaust years to salvage and later to restitution. Relying on the post-war interpretation of these three leading concepts, Kinnus, salvage and restitution demonstrate the influence of the Holocaust on the formation of the collections of both museums.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: World War II, Restitution, Salvage, Cultural property, Jewish, Israel, New York, Jewish Museum, Bezalel, Jerusalem, Central Collecting Points, Fine Art, Ritual Objects
Academic Units: The University of Leeds > Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Cultures (Leeds) > Fine Art, History of Art & Cultural Studies (Leeds)
Identification Number/EthosID: uk.bl.ethos.727232
Depositing User: Mrs Shir Kochavi
Date Deposited: 22 Nov 2017 14:48
Last Modified: 25 Jul 2018 09:56
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/18622

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