Author Archive

Anti-Semite – or not?

That is the question posed by Uwe Westphal in his piece for the Times of Israel entitled: He Helped Nazis Rob Jews: How is he ‘not an anti-Semite’?

Following the revelations contained in “Stolen Legacy” the University of Mannheim decided to change the name of the foundation and annual prize named in honor of Dr. Kurt Hamann – former chairman of the Victoria Insurance Company.  Today it is called the Foundation for the Promotion of Insurance Science.

The once-secret report – commissioned by the university into the wartime role of Dr. Hamann – has now been released to the public.

Mr. Westphal’s question is spot on.  The report’s author, Prof. Dr. Johannes Baehr, concluded that despite numerous instances of where Dr. Hamann  “obviously had no scruples at all about doing business in which the Victoria profited from the persecution of the Jews” nevertheless “There’s no doubt [Dr. Hamann] was not an anti-Semite.”

A press release by the university at the time of taking its decision about a name change stated:

“…under Hamann’s chairmanship, the Victoria demonstrably took many properties from Jewish owners… With the change of name, the University of Mannheim would like to set an example; any person who lends his name to a prize awarded to excellent young academics should also be able to serve as an ethical role model.” 

Anti-Semite or not?  You decide.

 

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RJ Julia Bookstore

It was a full house at the lovely RJ Julia bookstore on the Boston Post Road, Madison, CT this evening.

The audience paid close attention while I spoke and then asked some excellent questions. What they wanted to know was whether I had found ordinary Germans willing to be helpful, what had happened to the family’s Wannsee villa, the role of German insurance companies during the Third Reich, how the internet had assisted me in my research and if I had considered laying Stolpersteine at sites in Berlin mentioned in the book.

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Wiener Library, London

The Wiener Library hosted the UK book launch this evening of “Fashion Metropolis Berlin 1836-1939: The Story of the Rise and Destruction of the Jewish Fashion Industry”.  Author, Uwe Westphal, has spent thirty years researching the subject and gathering information from around the world, both in archives and in personal conversations with witnesses of the time.

As I contributed a chapter, on the history of the H. Wolff international fur fashion company, we did a joint presentation.  We showed over 70 slides of photos and video clips to illustrate  the tragic story of the demise of the once glorious Berlin fashion industry and how the Nazis destroyed it.

The event was sold out!

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Dr Kurt Hamann Foundation Renamed!

Mannheim University’s FORUM magazine interviewed me for an article entitled “An Awkward Legacy” in which I tell the story of what I discovered in the course of researching “Stolen Legacy”.

This is the culmination of many years of research into the past of Dr. Kurt Hamann – one-time head of the Victoria Insurance Company which foreclosed on my family’s property in 1937.  Dr. Hamann had a foundation named in his honor at the university.  The result of my investigations was to uncover his unsavory history during the Third Reich – which led to the university deciding to rename the foundation.

Read all about it.

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Institut für Zeitgeschichte, Munich


Today in Munich at the Institut für Zeitgeschichte – Institute of Contemporary History – speaking at a seminar for provenance researchers.

The Freie University of Berlin has devised a training course for museum staff and I was invited to talk about the meaning of restitution for families whose possessions were stolen, or acquired cheaply at auction, during the Third Reich.

I took along a few items of silverware passed down the generations from my grandmother to my mother and now to me.  Audience members enjoyed handling them and spotting the family initial engraved on the cake server as well as the fish knives and forks.  And they could also see the name of the manufacturer, the famous Berlin firm of Friedlaender Brothers, once jewelers to the Kaiser.

 

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Stolen Legacy is published by the American Bar Association and distributed by National Book Network.

Paperback: 328 pages   |   Language: English
ISBN: 978-1634254274
Includes book club discussion questions.