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More than the Sum of Its Traits

The Need for Provenance Research on Judaica

Julie-Marthe Cohen, Felicitas Heimann-Jelinek

Pages 1 - 10

This article discusses Judaica, i. e. objects of Jewish ritual use, in the framework of provenance research related to the Nazi period. It argues that the long-lasting lack of attention for Judaica in international forums – Judaica and Jewish Cultural Property was a category explicitly dealt with for the first time only in the Terezín Declaration in 2009 – may be explained by both an inner Jewish perception of Judaica objects, as well as by a lack of interest from the international community, which for a long time ignored the destruction of Jewish cultural properties. The authors exemplify this by discussing Raphael Lemkin’s struggle to have genocide and cultural genocide of European Jewry codified as an international crime. Increasing awareness of the importance of tangible and intangible cultural property – a result of the preoccupation with cultural property protection by international organizations such as UNESCO – has lately resulted in active provenance research on Judaica objects, mostly in museums. It is only through provenance research, the authors argue, that Jewish cultural objects testify to the “Zivilisationsbruch”, that sheds a new light, and a new perspective on the layers of these objects.


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