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Hashavat Avedah : a history of Jewish Cultural Reconstruction, Inc. / Dana Herman.

Publication | Library Call Number: D818 .H47 2009

This thesis is an institutional history of Jewish Cultural Reconstruction, Inc. (JCR), an organization mandated by the Office of Military Government, United States (OMGUS) to assume trusteeship over heirless Jewish cultural property that had been plundered by the Nazis and later centralized in depots in the American Zone of Germany in the wake of the Second World War. Formally established in 1947, until 1951 JCR functioned as the cultural arm of the Jewish Restitution Successor Organization (JRSO) and distributed hundreds of thousands of books, thousands of ceremonial objects, and Torah scrolls to Jewish communities around the world including the United States, Israel, West Germany, Britain, and Canada. Looking beyond its mandated mission, JCR was also involved in searching for caches of Jewish property in the Allied zones, microfilming manuscripts and archives in German public institutions, and negotiating the enactment of West German legislation to safeguard future discoveries of Jewish property. Salo Baron, professor of Jewish history at Columbia University, was JCR's founder and president; many of the foremost Jewish intellectuals of the day, including Hannah Arendt, Gershom Scholem, and Leo Baeck were associated with it. This study of JCR sheds light on numerous topics, not the least of which is the political activities of Jewish academics in the aftermath of the Holocaust. Further, the internecine struggles among Jewish organizations over which group best represented world Jewry as trustee of this property is highlighted along with the development of JCR from a research commission to a U.S.-recognized supervisory body. JCR's interactions with the State and War departments as well as with the American military government in Germany add to the discussion of Jewish influence during this period. The examination of JCR's activities in the American zone between 1948 and 1951 serves to underscore the diligent work that was carried out, but also the less than ideal conditions in which this work was done. The distribution process undertaken by JCR and its member organizations emphasizes the debate surrounding what it meant to culturally reconstruct the Jewish world after the Holocaust. Finally, a discussion of JCR's very limited activities, from 1952 to 1977 when it was finally dissolved, underscores the difficulties inherent in maintaining a relevant rationale and function in an ever-changing political landscape.

Herman, Dana.
Record last modified: 2018-05-25 09:44:00
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