"Remnants rescued from the fire"

A Transnational Cultural History of Jewish Ceremonial Objects (Judaica) after 1945

Anna-Carolin Augustin

The plunder and destruction of the material culture of European Jewry was an integral part of the annihilation of Jewish life and culture by the National Socialists. Largely destroyed and forcibly torn out of its original context, the remnants of Jewish ceremonial objects (Judaica) had dynamically changing functions and symbolic meanings on several levels and for various actors during the post-war era. Contemporary questions concerning religion, identity formation, politics of memory, law, art-history and commerce were conducted on the basis of this special group of objects.

The research project is the first to comprehensively examine the entangled object biographies and migration paths of Jewish ceremonial objects (Judaica) as well as their changing attributions of meaning and functions after 1945 in a transnational, cultural-historical study. The geographical focus will be on the Federal Republic of Germany, the USA and Israel. At the interface of cultural-historical migration and knowledge research, material culture, the politics of memory as well as historical network and art market research, the project will focus on the central actors, their relationships and networks as well as the hubs of migration of Judaica after 1945.

In this way, the study aims not only to develop foundations for Judaica provenance research, but also to open up a relevant aspect of Jewish history after 1945 that has received little attention up to now, and which will enrich research on contemporary German-Jewish history in particular. Methodologically, the source-oriented research project will draw on the object-immanent approach of provenance research, which uses objects themselves as a primary source and reconstructs the biographies of objects and entire collections.