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The Holocaust, Museum Ethics, and Legalism
Southern California Review of Law & Social Justice (2008)
  • Jennifer Kreder
The attached article is a provocative analysis of the “Holocaust art movement.” The movement has led to significant and controversial restitutions from museums. This article focuses on two emotionally driven claims refused by the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum: One to recover a suitcase stolen from a murdered man, and the other to recover watercolors a woman was forced to paint for Josef Mengele to document his pseudo-scientific theories of racial inferiority and his cruel medical experiments. These claims provide insightful case studies to examine the emotional and ethical aspects of such disputes uncomplicated by the monetary issues in many of the cases concerning looted art masterworks. Drawing from a number of disciplines, this article demonstrates the inadequacy of the dominant frameworks influencing the cultural property field, which are grounded in property law, morality and utilitarianism, for evaluating Holocaust-related claims. This article posits that International Council of Museums (“ICOM”) Code of Ethics ICOM Principle 6.7, which calls on museums “to promote well-being,” should be the guiding light for museums deciding whether to return Holocaust-related objects The article concludes that the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum’s refusal to return the objects is faulty ethically, counter to its mission, and reflective of the inadequacy of Poland’s approach to post-war restitution.
  • Holocaust,
  • museum,
  • Nazi,
  • ethics,
  • tort,
  • ICOM,
  • Auschwitz,
  • loot,
  • looted,
  • rootedness,
  • weil,
  • restitution,
  • repatriation,
  • culture,
  • cultural,
  • cultural property,
  • MacKinnon,
  • moral,
  • morals,
  • morality,
  • utilitarian,
  • Cuno,
  • de Montebello,
  • Montebello,
  • public trust,
  • Jew,
  • Jews,
  • Jewish,
  • Shoah,
  • authenticity,
  • Poland,
  • Polish,
  • Europe
Publication Date
Citation Information
Jennifer Kreder. "The Holocaust, Museum Ethics, and Legalism" Southern California Review of Law & Social Justice Vol. 18 (2008)
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