Saturday, October 4, 2008

Germany: "Looting and Restitution. Jewish-Owned Cultural Artifacts from 1933 to the Present" Exhibition at Berlin Jewish Museum

Germany: "Looting and Restitution. Jewish-Owned Cultural Artifacts from 1933 to the Present" exhibition at Berlin Jewish Museum

The Jewish Museum of Berlin has mounted a major exhibition highlighting the still controversial issues surrounding the looting and restitution of Jewish art during the Nazi period and the Holocaust. The exhibition "Looting and Restitution. Jewish-Owned Cultural Artifacts from 1933 to the Present" narrates the historical events, context, and consequences of the looting carried out by the Nazis throughout Europe. The exhibition will be on view through January 25, 2009.
A special website has been created for the exhibition.

The art and artifacts around which the exhibition is formed are not Jewish art, but art once-owned by Jews. If anything, exhibitions of this type show just how assimilated and conventional Jewish art collectors were in the inter-war period. There is a common perception of Jews as patrons of the avant-garde - and of course there were artistically progressive Jews. But most Jewish collections of art and art objects were stolidly middle-class and bourgeois in their taste in acquisition and presentation. And yet, despite the Jewish predilection for popular and predicable taste, this art as well as the so-called "degenerate art," was fair game for pillage. For the lucky, art was detached from owners by coercion or force, but the owners escaped with their lives. For millions of others all possession were forfeit to official plunderers and illegal scavengers. How to treat this legacy, which continues to circulate in the art market today, remains a persistent and unresolved ethical, legal and practical problem ot this day.

A German language publication has been prepared to accompany the exhibit.

Looting and Restitution. Jewish-Owned Cultural Artifacts from 1933 to the PresentEdited by Inka Bertz and Michael Dorrmann commissioned by the Jewish Museum Berlin and the Jewish Museum Frankfurt am Main.
German language edition only
320 pages, approximately 170 illustrations, paperback
Price: 24.90 euros
Wallstein Publishers, 2008
ISBN-10: 3-8353-0361-9
ISBN-13: 978-3-8353-0361-4

The well-illustrated exhibition book provides extensive information on the historical background to the looting of cultural artifacts and how their loss through persecution is handled today.
Two essays by Dan Diner and Constantin Goschler explore the historical, political, and moral dimensions of confiscation. Seventeen authors, among them experts of international renown such as Michael Bazyler, Patricia Grimsted, Jürgen Lillteicher, and Frank Kuitenbrouwer examine the procedures used by Nazi looting organizations and the often disreputable role of museums, libraries, and art dealers. The first restitutions of cultural artifacts by the Allies just after the war and the restitution procedures of the 1950s and 60s are described, as is the revival of the theme in Europe since the collapse of the Eastern bloc and the Washington conference in 1998.

These articles present the facts of the 15 case stories described in detail in the book. They tell of the often intricate paths from "looting" to "restitution." Involved parties such as heirs, lawyers, museum representatives, and politicians have their say in interviews.

Click here for an account fo the exhibit by AFP

Click here or a brief description of the exhibition at

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