ANN: The Practice of Restitution and Reparations and the Historiography of the Holocaust: An Entangled History?

Yad Vashem, Jerusalem; The Eli and Diana Zborowski Center for the Study
of the Aftermath of the Holocaust; Prof. Dr. Regula Ludi, University of
Zurich, University of Fribourg; Prof. Dr. Daniel Siemens, Newcastle University

09.09.2019-11.09.2019, Jerusalem, Yad Vashem. The International
Institute for Holocaust Research
Deadline: 31.07.2019

It is well established that international criminal trials were essential to the historiography of Nazi crimes. By making source material available and framing the representation of Nazi atrocities they contributed to the knowledge, the rising public awareness and shifting scholarly interpretations of the Holocaust. At the same time, the role of historians acting as expert witnesses in such trials has been the subject of heated debates for a number of decades.

Still largely underexplored, however, is the relationship between the practice of restitution and reparations for Nazi victims and the historiography of Nazi crimes. Much less in the public eye than criminal trials, restorative justice mechanisms long failed to attract scholarly attention. As a consequence, the voices of claimants and the work of central agencies participating in restitution practices such as the International Tracing Service, victims’ associations, legal assistance organizations, and other private actors have been only dealt with in passing.

Recent years have finally seen a surging scholarly interest in these issues. We take this as an occasion for critical reflection on the relationship between restitution practices and Holocaust historiography. We would like to raise the following questions:

– How did restitution and reparations practices impact the historiography and our understanding of the Holocaust? What previously unknown documents and historical facts did they produce? What research questions did they stimulate?

– How do historians use the documentary evidence collected by restitution and reparations agencies for the purpose of Holocaust scholarship and what methodological challenges do they face when working with such collections?

– Are there specific events that contributed to new knowledge of the Holocaust or promoted a key shift in the interpretation of events, such as e.g. the controversies over the “forgotten victims” in the Federal Republic of Germany or the international restitution campaigns of the 1990s?

– What has been the role of historians in specific reparations and restitution procedures, not only with regard to the Nazi past, but more broadly?

With this workshop, we aim to promote the transnational exchange of recent research while stimulating a debate on the interrelationship between legal and political responses to past atrocities, as captured by the umbrella concept of transitional justice, and historical research.
The workshop will bring together some of the internationally leading scholars in the field from the US, Europe and Israel. The discussions to be held are designed to address a broader audience of scholars engaging with these questions as well as the wider academic community in Israel.

This workshop is a closed research workshop and not a public conference.

Monday, 9 September 2019

14:15 Opening Remarks
Dan Michman, Head of the International Institute for Holocaust Research
and Incumbent of the John Najmann Chair for Holocaust Studies, Yad
Vashem; Bar-Ilan University

Sharon Kangisser-Cohen, Chair of the Eli and Diana Zborowski Centre for
the Study of the Holocaust and Its Aftermath, Yad Vashem

14:30 Introduction by the Organizers
Regula Ludi, University of Zurich; University of Fribourg
Daniel Siemens, Newcastle University

15:00 Opening Lecture
Leora Bilsky, Tel Aviv University
Genocide and Cultural Restitution

Chair: Regula Ludi

Reception, Conference Dinner

Tuesday, 10 September 2019

9:00-10:30 Competing Claims: Equalization of Burdens and Court Decisions

Chair: José Brunner, Tel Aviv University

Iris Nachum, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem
German Expellees, Jewish Holocaust Survivors, and the Practice of Compensation

Eva Balz, Ruhr-University Bochum
Restitution Court Decisions as Sources for the Holocaust: Opportunities and Challenges

11:00-12:30 The Restitution of Cultural Property as a Catalyst in
Historical Awareness
Chair: Krista Hegburg, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

Elisabeth Gallas, Leibniz Institute for Jewish History and Culture –
Simon Dubnow;
“The Greatest Book Pogrom in Jewish History” – Cultural Restitution and
Holocaust Historiography in the Early Postwar Period

Bianca Gaudenzi, German Historical Institute in Rome; University of
Konstanz; University of Cambridge
“The Return of Beauty?” The Restitution of Looted Cultural Property in
Post-Fascist Italy, 1945-1989

12:30-13:30 Lunch Break

13:30-15:00 Spatial Dimensions of the Holocaust
Chair: Nicole Immler, University of Humanistic Studies, Utrecht

José Brunner, Tel Aviv University
The Holocaust Just Got Bigger again: Broadening the Definition of the
Holocaust Survivor for Compensation Purposes in the Beginning of the
21st Century

Regula Ludi, University of Zurich / University of Fribourg
Creating ‘Holes of Oblivion’: How Reparations Disappeared Swiss
Holocaust Victims from Historical Memory

15:00-17:00 Tour through the Yad Vashem Archives
Haim Gertner, Director of the Yad Vashem Archives and Fred Hilman Chair
for Holocaust Documentation and Elinor Koitoru, Deputy Director Archives
Division, Yad Vashem

Wednesday, 11 September 2019

9.30-11:00 New Actors Challenging Historical Narratives
Chair: Tanja Penter, Heidelberg University

Daniel Siemens, Newcastle University
Lawyers Writing History? The Vergangenheitspolitik of the United
Restitution Organisation (URO)

Anna Corsten, Selma Stern Center for Jewish Studies Berlin-Brandenburg
Delayed Recognition? Leading Holocaust Historians and the Debates on
Restitution and Reparations

11:30- 13:00 Opening up New Perspectives in Eastern Europe
Chair: Iris Nachum, Tel Aviv University

Tanja Penter, Heidelberg University
Compensation Practices and the Historiography and Public Perception of
the Holocaust in Post-Soviet Belarus

Krista Hegburg, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
The Politics of Repair: Compensation Claims by Czechoslovak Romani
Holocaust Survivors during Communism

13:00-14:00 Lunch Break

14:00-15:30 Through and Beyond the Holocaust
Chair: Elisabeth Gallas, Dubnow Institute, Leipzig

Gideon Reuveni, University of Sussex
The First Holocaust Experts: URO, the German Bureaucracy, and the Study
of the Holocaust

Nicole Immler, University of Humanistic Studies, Utrecht
Lessons from Holocaust Restitution in a Post-Colonial Setting

16:00-17:30 Final Discussion and Practical Matters (Publication)
Chairs: Daniel Siemens and Regula Ludi

Prof. Dr. Daniel Siemens
Newcastle University
School of History, Classics and Archaeology
Newcastle upon Tyne, UK
+44-191 208 6493