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Objects and Emotions — Loss and Acquisition of Jewish Property, German Historical Institute London 26-27 July 2010

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Countless objects owned by Jews were illegally appropriated in Germany between 1933 and 1945: houses, businesses, paintings, furniture, tablecloths, bric-a-brac. Some of these items were returned to their previous owners after 1945, not always voluntarily, but many were not. These objects are connected with emotions. But what were the emotional associations for the original Jewish owners on the one hand, and for the Aryanisers, buyers and their heirs on the other?

Emotions are linked to cultural values and moral principles. Feelings of shame and enjoyment, for instance, are both the result of learning processes that take place within a specific social, cultural and political context. Which values were associated with the appropriated objects by dispossessed Jews and by their new owners, and which kind of idea of morality and value did the heirs of the latter attach to them, knowing that these objects had been in their family’s possession only since the Nazis had come to power? What do these values and emotions tell us about the way the National Socialist past was dealt with both emotionally and materially?

This conference investigated these questions emphasising in particular recent findings about how, in their private sphere, Germans tackled the questions of morality and emotions in relation to the appropriated and inherited possessions of the Nazi era. The conference approached these questions from two different angles: from the perspective of the objects, reconstructing their history, theft and eventual return or non-return; and by studying the emotions linked with such objects from the Nazi era. Scholars from the UK, USA, Germany and the Netherlands took part in this conference.

Workshop programme click here and see below:


Objects and Emotions – Loss and Appropriation of Jewish Property
International Workshop organised by the Leo Baeck Institute London & the German Historical Institute London
26-27 July 2010

Monday, 26 July


2.00 – 2.20pm Opening:

Prof Andreas Gestrich (GHI London/ Universität Trier)/ Dr Daniel Wildmann (LBI London/ Queen Mary, University of London)


2.30 – 3.30pm Author's Reading:

Chair: Dr Daniel Wildmann (LBI London/ Queen Mary, University of London)

Gila Lustiger (Paris): The Paper Weight


3.45 – 5.15pm Panel 1:

Chair: Dr Kerstin Brückweh (GHI London)

Dr Hanno Loewy (Jüdisches Museum Hohenems): Diasporic Home or

Homelessness? The Museum and the Never Ending Story of Lost and Found.

Dr Cathy Gelbin (University of Manchester): Broken Ties: Accounts of lost objects in Jewish survivor narratives


5.30 – 7.00pm Documentary:

Chair: Dr Judith Keilbach (Utrecht University)

Die Akte Joel – Die Geschichte zweier Familien (Austria, 2001-German version)

Tuesday, 27 July

9.30 – 11.00am Panel  2:
Chair: Prof Jane Caplan (St. Anthony's College, Oxford)
Inka Bertz (Jüdisches Museum Berlin): Property: Notions and Emotions
Dr Jürgen Lillteicher (Willy-Brandt-Haus Lübeck): Aryanization, Morality and the Reputation of a Good Merchant. Business Ethics before and after 1945
11.30am –

1.00pm Panel 3
Chair: Prof Andreas Gestrich (GHI London/ Universität Trier)
PD Dr Sabine Wienker-Piepho (Friedrich-Schiller-Universität Jena): “The Rabbi's Desk” - Narratives about a Jewish Object in German Hands
Dr Anthony Kauders (Keele University): The Emotional Geography of a Lost Space: Germany as an Object of Hatred and Desire after 1945

2.30 – 4.00pm Panel 4:
Chair: Prof Ute Frevert (FU Berlin/ Max-Planck-Institut für Bildungsforschung, Berlin)
Prof Norman Palmer CBE QC (King’s College London/ 3 Stone Buildings): Emblems and Heirlooms: Restitution, Reparation and the Subjective Value of Chattels: a Lawyer's Perspective
Dr. Hilde Schramm (Berlin): “Zurückgeben” – a foundation to support cultural projects of Jewish women in Germany

4.30 – 6.00pm Panel 5:
Chair: Prof Raphael Gross (LBI London/Fritz Bauer Institut/ Jüdisches Museum Frankfurt)
Prof Atina Grossmann (The Cooper Union, New York): Family Files: The Hotel Astoria and other (non) Restitution Stories
Prof Leora Auslander (University of Chicago): The lives of things: Some unexpected consequences of restitution processes

6.10 – 6.30pm Closing Remarks: Prof Peter Pulzer (LBI London/ All Soul's College, Oxford)

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