Yad Vashem, Israel

Agnieszka-Anna Yass-Alston (Poland), PhD candidate, Jagiellonian University, Krakow, “Jewish Art Collectors in Prewar Krakow; Plunder and Destruction of Jewish Cultural Assets during WWII”.

Yagna Yass-Alston is a PhD Candidate in the Jewish Studies Institute of Jagiellonian University in Krakow, Poland. She holds a Master’s Degree in Jewish Studies, JU, and a Bachelor’s Degree in Art History from Northwestern University, Evanston (USA). She also completed the Museum Studies Program at Northwestern University, Evanston (USA). In 2013 she was a Fellow of the Holocaust Educational Foundation at Northwestern University, Evanston (USA). In the years 2012-2013, Yagna participated several times in the Provenance Research Training Programs in Magdeburg, Zagreb and Vilnius. In 2010 she attended the Teachers’ Summer Seminar at Yad Vashem.

During her EHRI fellowship, she conducts research for her dissertation project: “Jewish Art Collectors in Interwar Krakow; Plunder and Destruction of Jewish Cultural Assets in Krakow during the WWII”. This dissertation aims to highlight the Krakow Jewry as an important part of the Polish elite that patronized and collected fine arts, and to show the machinery and size of plunder of cultural assets which belonged to Krakow Jewry during the World War II. It includes descriptions of the Jewish families, their cultural assets, and as a conclusion their fate during the World War II. The EHRI fellowship at Yad Vashem will help to access the collection of survivors’ testimonies. The pre-war archival collection of Krakow Jewry documents will augment previously gathered information from Polish archives. Moreover, through the Treuhandstelle’s procedures documents and Nazi trials’ files, Yagna Yass-Alston counts on finding information on plunder of Jewish cultural assets in Krakow. The use of the Yad Vashem archives is the most crucial in the examination for purposes of cross-reference values. If possible she will also conduct research in the Jerusalem Central Archives for the History of the Jewish People and interview Jewish former citizens of Krakow or their families.

Yagna Yass-Alston hopes that with the completion of the picture of Jewish art collectors in prewar Krakow, her dissertation will not only be the first complete research on the subject, but that it will also aid in righting some contemporary injustices as to works of art that belonged to Krakow Jewry prior to WWII. “Jewish Art Collectors in Interwar Krakow; Plunder and Destruction of Jewish Cultural Assets in Krakow during the WWII” will give testimony of not only the Jewish people living in Poland, who were lovers of art and had the means to benefit artists and cultural institutions, but also of the way the Shoah destroyed their lives and shattered their collections.