An article by Misha Sidenberg, visual arts curator at the Jewish Museum in Prague, details what she calls “an unparalleled example of Jewish defiance against Nazi genocide and cultural plunder” — the rescue and preservation of Jewish cultural and material heritage in Bohemia and Moravia during and after World War II.
The article, Rescue / Ransom / Restitution: The Struggle to Preserve the Collective Memory of Czech and Moravian Jews, has just been made available online. (It is a paper Sidenberg presented at the international conference “From Refugees to Restitution: The History of Nazi-Looted Art in the UK in Transnational Perspective,” held at the University of Cambridge (Newham College, Cambridge, U.K., March 23-24, 2017.)
In it, Sidenberg outlines the history of the Jewish Museum in Prague, from its origins in 1906 as the third Jewish museum in Europe, through the Nazi period, when it became the repository of material looted from more than 150 provincial Jewish communities, through the communist period of repressive state control, til today.
The Jewish Museum in Prague is a unique example of a memory institution in its truest sense. It literally represents the layers of memory of a community that was nearly wiped out by two totalitarian regimes but nevertheless was capable of rescuing its own material legacy in an irrepressible, defiant belief in its own posterity. It is a place where the integrity of the collection is a moral imperative to its custodians, since almost every single object represents a life and a name that would be forgotten should the object be lost or divorced from its context.