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Material Texts: Kathy Peiss, "Book Purges and Restitution in the U.S. Occupation of Postwar Germany"
Monday, February 1, 2016 - 5:15pm to 8:00pm

Class of 1978 Pavilion
Kislak Center, 6th floor of Van Pelt-Dietrich Library

Please join us Monday, February 1st for this semester's first meeting of the Workshop in the History of Material Texts. We will convene at our usual time and place: 5:15pm in the Class of 1978 Pavilion in the Kislak Center on the 6th Floor of Van Pelt-Dietrich Library.

We're delighted to welcome Kathy Peiss (University of Pennsylvania) for a talk entitled "Book Purges and Restitution in the U.S. Occupation of Postwar Germany."

Kathy writes:

In the immediate aftermath of World War II, the American military government in Germany faced two challenges concerning millions of books: the denazification of libraries, publishers, and bookstores, on the one hand, and the restitution of looted Jewish books, on the other. The work of restitution, centered in the Offenbach Archival Depot and the work of the “Monuments Men,” was then and subsequently hailed as exemplary of American war and postwar aims. At this very time, in contrast, operations to collect and destroy all publications with Nazi or militaristic content received little notice, until a sweeping Allied order brought a firestorm of condemnation from the press and the library profession. Quickly, however, these book purges largely disappeared from sight and American memory. Many items from both missions ended up in American research and university libraries, including Penn’s, one of the few to question these acquisitions.

In this seminar, I will place these two histories together, to consider what they tell us about American policies and practices toward book culture in the WWII era. I will discuss how, under extremely difficult circumstances, books were identified, classified, sorted, and evaluated, and decisions about their fate made. My research is mainly archival, but there are several ways that the material aspects of books, such as book stamps and bookplates, offer a unique perspective on this history.

Kathy Peiss is the Roy F. and Jeannette P. Nichols Professor of American History at Penn. Her books include Cheap Amusements: Working Women and Leisure in Turn-of-the-Century New York (1986), Hope in a Jar: The Making of America’s Beauty Culture (1998), and Zoot Suit: The Enigmatic Career of an Extreme Style (2011). She has an ACLS fellowship this year to complete her book on the collecting missions of World War II.

All are welcome! Please forward this email widely to any who might be interested. Those who do not hold University of Pennsylvania ID cards should bring another form of photo identification in order to enter the library building.

Further announcements concerning our full semester schedule will follow very soon!

We look forward to seeing you there,

Peter Stallybrass
Annenberg Professor in the Humanities, University of Pennsylvania

Jerry Singerman
Senior Humanities Editor, University of Pennsylvania Press

John Pollack
Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts

Alan Niles
Brizdle-Schoenberg Fellow in the History of Material Texts