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The Seizure of Jewish Intellectual Property Ahead of World War II

Library of Congress – Copyright Creativity at Work: “The following is a guest post by Marilyn Creswell, information resources assistant at the University of Michigan Law School. She served as Librarian-in-Residence at the U.S. Copyright Office from July 2020 to April 2021. [h/t Mary Whisner]

As the United States enters the Days of Remembrance of the Victims of the Holocaust, we remember the many hardships Jewish people have overcome. In this blog we specifically explore the lesser-known area of intellectual property (IP) leading up to and during World War II. Beginning in 1933, the Nazi German state began pressuring Jewish business owners to sell their businesses far below market value. By 1938, a majority of Jewish-owned businesses were already sold or out of business when this process, called Aryanization, became compulsory after Kristallnacht.1 As part of the seizure of businesses and personal property, the ability of Jewish people to benefit from their intellectual property was also severely restricted. A 1939 executive order required all Jewish men to add “Israel” as a second name and women to add “Sara.”2 This made it easier for Nazi officials to deny intellectual property registrations and renewals to Jewish applicants, cutting them off from the IP system.3 While the loss of IP rights pales in comparison to the horrific death tolls during World War II, its loss is another indignity the Jewish people suffered and source of wealth extracted at the hands of the Nazis…”

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