Looted Music, Sources and Methodology, Workshop, SciencesPo, Paris, 31 January 2020

Events and Conferences

Researching musical instruments, musical scores and printed material, looted and pillaged in Europe, 1939-1945, including reparations and restitution issues

Organised by: Claire Andrieu (Sciences Po, Paris, Centre d’histoire de Sciences Po) and Jean-Marc Dreyfus (The University of Manchester / Centre d’histoire de Sciences Po, Paris)

With the support of "Musique et Spoliations", a French non-profit organisation, and Pascale Bernheim, founding member.

Scientific committee: Claire Andrieu (Sciences Po Paris, Centre d’histoire de Sciences Po), Isabelle Backouche, (EHESS, Paris), Pascale Bernheim (founding president of ‘Musique et Spoliations’), Laurence Bertrand Dorléac (Sciences Po Paris, Centre d’histoire de Sciences Po), Myriam Chimènes (CNRS), Jean-Marc Dreyfus (Université de Manchester, Centre d’histoire de Sciences Po), Sarah Gensburger, (CNRS, Paris-Ouest Nanterre), Eric Le Bourhis, (INALCO Paris), Karine Le Bail (CNRS EHESS), Marie-Anne Matard-Bonucci (Paris 8, Centre d’histoire de Sciences Po), Caroline Piketty (National Archives), Frédéric Ramel (Sciences Po, Paris, CERI), Willem de Vries, author of Sonderstab Musik.

Since the mid-1990s, Holocaust Studies have taken an economic turn. Academic researchers and families of victims have started to show an interest in looted assets and their subsequent restitution since 1945, if it has occurred. Throughout Europe and beyond, one has thus tried to discover what happened to looted bank accounts, companies, property and, in a less thorough manner, more personal possessions. More recently too, researchers have turned their attention to looted artworks. The subject has been approached historically, with a view to describing the structures of looting, and also from a financial angle, in order to encourage belated restitution and compensation.

Throughout this vast process, musical instruments, books about music and original or printed scores have largely been ignored. Aside from the work of one historian, Willem de Vries, little has been done to bring this aspect of the Holocaust to light, despite the fact that music played such a central role in German and European culture and in official Nazi representational systems. Within the context of the genocide of European Jewry, comprehensive looting was conducted with exceptional thoroughness, from productive assets owned by victims to their private belongings. Musical instruments formed an integral part of the looting process. They were the focus of specific attention on the part of Nazi pillaging organizations, as the establishment of a music section within Alfred Rosenberg's ERR, the Sonderstab Musik, shows. Moreover, musical instruments, only the most prestigious of which may be traced, have rarely been considered as apt for restitution. Among all the objects entrusted to French National Museums via the MNR (Musée Nationaux Récupération) and recognized as having been looted, only one double-register harp manufactured by Erard in 1873 and now on display at Paris' Musée de la Musique, remains. Musical instruments belonging to Jewish people, a simple harmonica, a Polish immigrant's violin, as well as major private collections of ancient instruments and original scores were stolen. Among these the most prominent was certainly that which belonged to the pianist and harpsichordist Wanda Landowska. Looted instruments circulated throughout Europe. The most prestigious were made available to Nazi leaders and Nazi-party satellite organizations. Thousands were also sold, and re-sold, on the European market. Many were distributed to German families who had suffered in air-raids, drawn either from a warehouse in Lodz where objects found in ghettos after their inhabitants had been taken away were stored; or from Western Europe, where apartments were systematically looted in the so- called "Furniture Operation". Only a fraction was recovered under a variety of post-war Western and Soviet tracing missions.

This first workshop, which will take place at Sciences Po Paris in Paris on 31 January, 2020, is intended as a gathering of scholars from a variety of backgrounds and disciplines. The idea is to assess the state of current research and the availability of archival sources, as well as to identify new avenues of research. The focus will be on France, with a transnational approach, as looted instruments have largely circulated throughout the territory of the Third Reich and beyond.

Contributions may tackle the following themes:

-          Procedures for looting musical instrument, including sorting, valuation and disposal, alongside the administrations involved, on a country-by-country basis; including the circulation of musical instruments throughout occupied Europe, neutral countries and beyond.

-          The role of national and occupying-power bureaucracies in facilitating transfers, such as customs authorities.

-          The market for musical instruments in Nazi-occupied Europe, with specific reference to the part played by instrument-makers and dealers.

-          The fate of secondary historical objects relating to music such as scores, cases, stands, manuscripts and original scores.

-          Restitution procedures where applicable in the post-war years and the state of restitution in the latter part of the 20th century.

-          Social and Cultural History relating to musical instruments before and during the Holocaust, including the way in which victim-families dealt with looting and loss of objects which defined their social and class status.

-          Every sort of instrument will be covered, from the most prestigious classical music instruments to popular music instruments of the thirties and forties.

The organizers and the scientific committee will receive proposal (up to 350 words), together with a brief CV (250 words) prior to 20 October 2019.

These may be sent in French or in English to the following email address:

Certain participants may apply for their travel and hotel expenses to be covered by the organizers.

The language of this workshop is French and English. Papers will be possibly delivered in German.

‘Musique et Spoliations’– a French Non-Profit organization.

Since 2017, “Musique et Spoliations” has endeavoured to help locate musical instruments confiscated or lost during the Second World War. This non-profit organization is further dedicated to identifying the history of musical instruments in circulation today.This research has led to an interest in a more contemporary issue, which is the complex question of how artworks and cultural artefacts circulate throughout the world today. Over the course of its existence, “Musique et Spoliations” has identified relative source information currently held in public and private archives. It has achieved an initial assessment of the available resources in this field.

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