Mapping a Displaced Object: Greg Niemeyer on The Materials of Memory | PopUp Exhibition @Magnes December 9, 2015

Greg Niemeyer is Associate Professor of Art Practice and the Director of the Berkeley Center for New Media ( Born in Switzerland in 1967, he studied photography and classics, and received his MFA from Stanford, where he founded the Digital Art Center. At the Berkeley Center for New Media, Professor Niemeyer focuses on “the mediation between humans as individuals and humans as a collective through technological means, and emphasizes playful responses to technology”.

His presentation will focus on the materials from which the Hanukkah lamps in The Magnes Collection are made, paying particular attention to a lamp built in 1946-1948, immediately after the Holocaust, for or by survivors living in Displaced Persons camps.

Following is some preliminary research (conducted by Francesco Spagnolo) on this item.

The inscription, “Joint,” refers to the American Joint Distribution Committee:

The largest nonpolitical organization dedicated to helping Jews in distress all over the world. Generally known as the JDC or “Joint” and headquartered in New York, the organization (until 1931) was called the Joint Distribution Committee of (the American) Funds for Jewish War Sufferers. It was founded on 27 November 1914 with the aim of centralizing allocations of aid to Jews adversely affected by World War I.
(Source: YIVO Encyclopedia)

Lamp [79.70.1]: Hanukkah Lamp (Palestine, ca. 1946)

An identical lamp, with a different inscription (in Latin and Hebrew scripts), is part of the museum collections of Yad Vashem in Jerusalem. The inscription includes the monogram “BT” and the Hebrew words הועד המרכזי במינכן התש”ח (ha-va’ad ha-merkazi be-minkhen 5708, “The Central Committee in Munich, 1947-1948”).

The lamp at Yad Vashem is described as follows:

The truncated tree and a sprouting leaf on this Hannukah Menorah are the symbol of She’arit Hapleta (The Surviving Remnant). It was made in 1947 in the vocational workshop for Holocaust survivors established by the JDC [Joint Distribution Committee], the Jewish Agency and the Central Committee of Bavarian Jewry. This Hanukkah Menorah was among the first items made in the ceramics workshop. It was dedicated to Benarsh Thatch, a member of the vocational board. His initials – BT – are embossed in the center.

Yad Vashem Artifacts Collection, Gift of Benarsh Thatch, Southfield, MI, USA

It appears that several copies of the lamp may have been made in the workshop, with different dedications to various parties — individuals and organizations — involved in the DP Camps enterprise in the Munich area.

The next meeting of the Mapping Diasporas working group will also focus on this object and its possible history.


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