Remnants from a Lost World: Salvage and Restitution of Nazi-Looted Books in Postwar Europe
By 1945, uncountable numbers of Nazi-looted and displaced books of Jewish provenance were found all over Europe. The lecture will shed light on the American efforts to find, identify, salvage, and return cultural property in an unprecedented restitution initiative.
Jews are often called the “people of the book,” but what about the books of the Jewish people? Who owns the contents of the Cairo Geniza, the books taken from Holocaust victims, or the uniquely beautiful manuscripts of major private collectors? Who can or should preserve these items and provide or prevent access to them, materially or digitally? Undeniably, Jewish books from across the world and history form a collective heritage—but they also have particular, local, and sometimes fraught histories of possession. This series offers perspectives on the management of books as Jewish cultural property, looking at past events and current practices—and the difficult questions that attend both.
Elisabeth Gallas is deputy to the director and head of the research unit "Law" at the Leibniz Institute for Jewish History and Culture ‒ Simon Dubnow in Leipzig, Germany. Her research focuses on modern Jewish legal and cultural history as well as Holocaust and aftermath studies. At the Katz Center, she will explore how Jews in the diaspora enacted transnational legal initiatives and activities to counter assaults and promote advocacy in modern Europe.
Gallas received her PhD in modern History from Leipzig University. She has previously held fellowships at the Vienna Wiesenthal Institute of Holocaust-Studies and the Avraham Harman Institute of Contemporary Jewry of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.
The Herbert D. Katz Center gratefully acknowledges the support of the Klatt Family and the Harry Stern Family Foundation.