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(Il)legal Dialogues: Jews and Law in a Global Perspective post-1945

Sun, December 17, 4:45 to 6:15pm, Marriott Marquis Washington, DC, Gallaudet University Room

Session Submission Type: Panel Session


This panel explores the multi-layered relationship between Jews and law since 1945. In a shattered postwar world, it was law that served as a platform for global (and) Jewish reconstruction.
First, court trials of Nazis and ‘collaborators’ served as a way of reconstructing Europe and, indeed, much of the world in the aftermath of the Second World War. These trials sought to dispense justice toward past actions, but, especially, to lay foundations for the future. Lotte Houwink ten Cate's examination of a forgotten series of state trials in Western Europe against Jewish ‘collaborators’ brings these tensions to the fore. Probing both the historical narratives within the trial verdicts--which ended in convictions for ‘racial betrayal’-- and the subsequent erasure of these trials from postwar historiography, Houwink ten Cate highlights the problematics of these trials.
Second, law played a crucial role in the process of early postwar decolonization and post-colonial state formation––Israel included. Rephael Stern's paper examines Israeli connections with India and Pakistan in the years surrounding the 1948 War. The Israeli actors involved in transplanting Pakistani legislation to legalize the confiscation of Palestinian Evacuee Property were engaged in both debates about population transfer, minority rights, federations and confederations in wartime Europe and in those concerning global demography and population distribution. This examination, Stern argues, serves to place Israel at the interface between post-colonial networks of legal transplantation and postwar European reconstruction.
Third, law played a central role in establishing the positions of post-Holocaust Jewry in the hardening Cold War world. While there is significant literature on the impact of the Eichmann trial west of the Iron Curtain, Miriam Schulz’s paper examines its reception in the USSR amongst Soviet Jews through 1991. Drawing attention to the unique Soviet Yiddish Holocaust memorial culture in its complexities and transnational “multidirectionality,” Schulz challenges the still prevalent notions of “organized forgetfulness” and “mnemonical stasis” within this universe that was both Soviet and Jewish.
Finally, James Loeffler will comment on how these papers speak to the methodological promise and challenge in reconstructing the Jewish international and transnational legal imagination in the postwar period.

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