Hannah Arendt, a Jewish intellectual who had fled to the United States in 1941, wrote this field report during her first trip back to Germany after the war. In contrast to her now famous account “The Aftermath of Nazi Rule. Report from Germany,” her field report directly mentions the circumstances which brought Arendt to Germany. She traveled as an emissary for Jewish Cultural Reconstruction, Inc. (JCR), an association of major Jewish organizations and institutions founded in New York in 1947 which dealt with the collection and restitution of looted Jewish cultural artifacts in Europe after the Second World War.
In late 1949, Hannah Arendt traveled to Germany for four months, during which time she visited the British occupation zone in order to survey restitutable cultural assets in the cities of Hamburg, Hannover, Köln, and Lübeck. In Hamburg in particular, she found numerous collections previously confiscated by the Nazis whose legal heirs had yet to be determined.
During her trip, Arendt wrote five official reports for JCR which were distributed to all its board members once they reached New York. These were internal communications not intended to be made public. They give an insight into the extent of Jewish organizations’ activities in dealing with the aftermath of the Holocaust and attest to the difficulty faced by Jewish advocates in their fight for the reinstatement of the rule of law and justice after 1945.
Hannah Arendt, Jewish Cultural Reconstruction Field Reports, 1948–1951, Field Report No. 18, February 15 – March 10, 1950, edited in: Key Documents of German-Jewish History, <https://dx.doi.org/10.23691/jgo:source-126.en.v1> [September 27, 2021].