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Persecution and protection: new Blavatnik programme announced

The Alfred Landecker Foundation has announced a new programme, focusing on the study of the persecution and protection of Europe’s minorities, at Oxford’s Blavatnik School of Government. It will include a new chair, the Alfred Landecker Professorship of Values and Public Policy, and postdoctoral and doctoral fellowships to support the research, teaching and engagement programme the Foundation undertakes.

Jonathan Wolff has been appointed by the Foundation as the first academic chair of the Alfred Landecker Professorship of Values and Public Policy, and gave the first annual lecture on the 27th of January to coincide with the United Nations’ Holocacust Remembrance Day. It was entitled ‘Political ideology in the 1930s: lessons for the 2020s’, and expanded on the similarities between the two eras, their values and ideologies, and how they can be countered to “articulate and reaffirm the values underlying open, liberal, democracy.” It drew on philosophy, history, politics, sociology, cultural studies, legal theory, and human rights theory. Wolff has taught at Oxford since 2016 and has published books on Marx, Nozick, ethics and political philosophy more generally.

David Kamenetzky, the Landecker Foundation’s chairman, described the focus of the broader programme as “researching the values of individual and communal dignity, liberty and belonging, rights and duties, and the role of public policy and government in protecting and strengthening such values.” He points to the rise of recent anti-semitic attacks as proof that such a programme is needed.

The Foundation was established by the billionaire Reimann family, the proprietors of JAB Holding Company, after discovering their predecessors had been ardent supporters of Adolf Hitler and used forced labour in their factories. Albert Reimann Jr., alongside his father, was the owner and director of Benickson, the predecessor to JAB, and described himself as an “unconditional follower” of Nazi race theory. His children, who inherited JAB Holdings after his death in 1984, named the Foundation after a maternal relative, Alfred Landecker, a Jew who was deported from Germany and is thought to have died in an extermination camp. Two of Landecker’s grandchildren currently own 45% of JAB. The firm counts Krispy Kreme and Pret a Manger as its subsidiaries and the family has a net worth of over $20 billion.

The programme to make amends includes a donation of €5 million to those forced to work in the family’s chemical factory, of which over 800 have been identified. The firm will also donate €25 million annually to educational programmes on the Holocaust and democracy, which will be monitored by an independent academic council.

Professor Ngaire Woods, Dean of the Blavatnik School of Government and vice-chair of the Landecker Foundation, praised the “courage” of the Reimann family. She also stressed the Blavatnik School’s desire to “find, educate and support a new and better kind of leadership in politics around the world.” Elsewhere, this has also been articulated through their Pathway to Success Leadership and Development programme which aims to increase the representation of Black and Ethnic Minority groups in politics.

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