William Lee Frost Professor of Jewish History, Harvard University; CES Resident Faculty & Seminar Chair, Harvard University
April 22, 2021
12:30pm - 1:45pm
In the dramatic years between 1870 and the end of World War II, a number of prominent French Jews — pillars of an embattled community — invested their fortunes in France’s cultural artifacts, sacrificed their sons to the country’s army, and were ultimately rewarded by seeing their collections plundered and their families deported to Nazi concentration camps.
This talk, based on James McAuley’s forthcoming book The House of Fragile Things,explores the central role that art and material culture played in the assimilation and identity of French Jews in the fin-de-siècle. Further, it shows how Jewish art collectors contended with antisemitic accusations that they were often accused of “invading” France’s cultural patrimony. The collections that these families left behind — many ultimately donated to the French state — were their response, tragic attempts to celebrate a nation that later betrayed them.