Wednesday, April 10, 2019
Jonathan Petropoulos, the John V. Croul Professor of European History at Claremont McKenna College, will discuss his forthcoming book on the biography of one of history's biggest art plunderers, focusing on three areas: first, the scholarly field, where he will recount how researchers have addressed the “unfinished business” of World War II; second, the practical application of his scholarship, including how he has served as an expert witness in restitution litigation; and third, the personal dimensions of his research, including the ethical challenges of interviewing former perpetrators to write the history and achieve some measure of justice.
Jonathan Petropoulos is the John V. Croul Professor of European History and the chair of the department of history at Claremont McKenna College. He received his Ph.D. from Harvard University (1990), where he also had an appointment as a lecturer in history and history & literature. He began working on the subject of Nazi art looting and restitution in 1983, when he commenced graduate work in history and art history.
He is the author of “Art as Politics in the Third Reich” (University of North Carolina Press, 1996); “The Faustian Bargain: The Art World in Nazi Germany” (Oxford University Press, 2000); “Royals and the Reich: The Princes von Hessen in Nazi Germany” (Oxford University Press, 2006); “Artists Under Hitler: Collaboration and Survival in Nazi Germany” (Yale University Press, 2014). He has edited a number of other works and has helped organize art exhibitions, including Degenerate Art: The Fate of the Avant-Garde in Nazi Germany, which opened at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in 1991.
From 1998 to 2000, he served as research director for Art and Cultural Property on the Presidential Commission on Holocaust Assets in the United States, where he helped draft the report, Restitution and Plunder: The U.S. and Holocaust Victims’ Assets (2001). In this capacity, he supervised a staff of researchers who combed archives in the United States and Europe in order to understand better how representatives of the U.S. government (including the Armed Forces) handled the assets of Holocaust victims both during and after the war. He also provided expert testimony to the Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport in the U.K. House of Commons and to the Banking and Finance Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives. He has also participated in a number of international conferences on the subject of Nazi art looting and Allied restitution, including the Washington Conference on Holocaust-Era Assets in 1998, and the Vilnius International Forum on Holocaust-Era Looted Cultural Assets in 2000.
Petropoulos has served as an expert witness in a number of cases where Holocaust victims have tried to recover lost and stolen artworks. This includes Altmann v. Austria, which involved six paintings by Gustav Klimt claimed by Maria Altmann and other family members (five were returned).
For seven decades, American leadership has kept at bay the jungle of great power conflict, nationalism and tribalism, and spheres of influence. Drawing from his latest book, "The Jungle Grows Back: America and Our Imperiled World,” Robert Kagan, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, will reflect on what comes next for the United States.
Robert Kagan is the Stephen & Barbara Friedman Senior Fellow with the Project on International Order and Strategy in the foreign policy program at Brookings. He is a contributing columnist at The Washington Post. A prolific writer, his newest book is “The Jungle Grows Back: America and Our Imperiled World” (Knopf, 2018). His previous book was The New York Times bestseller, “The World America Made” (Knopf, 2012).
For his writings, Politico Magazine named Kagan one of the “Politico 50” in 2016, the “thinkers, doers and visionaries transforming American politics in 2016.” His most recent pieces include “The Twilight of the Liberal World Order” in “Brookings Big Ideas for America” and “Backing into World War III” in Foreign Policy.
He served in the State Department from 1984 to 1988 as a member of the policy planning staff, as principal speechwriter for Secretary of State George P. Shultz, and as deputy for policy in the Bureau of Inter-American Affairs.
He is a graduate of Yale University and Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government and holds a doctorate in American history from American University.
Mr. Kagan’s Athenaeum presentation is co-sponsored by the Salvatori Center and the Keck Center for International & Strategic Studies, both at CMC.
Food for Thought: Podcast with Robert Kagan