Posts Tagged ‘concentration camps

22
Jan
14

Exhibition: ‘Erwin Blumenfeld (1897-1969) Photographs, drawings and photomontages’ at Jeu de Paume, Paris

Exhibition dates: 15th October 2013 – 26th January 2014

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Considering the nature of Blumenfeld’s collages such as Grauenfresse / Hitler, Holland, 1933 and Minotaur / Dictator I would say that the artist was very, very lucky to escape to America in 1941. Let us remember all those that were not so fortunate…

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“In 1940 he was interned as a German Jew in France, first in Montbard, then in Loriol, Le Vernet, and Catus. He made a daring escape with his family in 1941, returning via Casablanca to New York, where he subsequently lived and worked until his death.” (press release)

“After Blumenfeld returned to France, during World War II, Blumenfeld and his family spent time in Vézelay with Le Corbusier and Romain Rolland. He was incarcerated at Camp Vernet and other concentration camps. His daughter Lisette (who had just turned 18) was incarcerated at the Gurs internment camp. Luckily Blumenfeld was bunked next to the husband of the woman Lisette was bunked next to. Through postcards and letters the Blumenfeld family of five managed to reunite. In 1941 they obtained a visa and escaped to North Africa and then New York.” (Wikipedia)

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The Vichy Policy on Jewish Deportation

Paul Webster
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Jewish Statute

Despite autonomy from German policies, Pétain brought in legislation setting up a Jewish Statute in October 1940. By then about 150,000 Jews had crossed what was known as the Demarcation Line to seek protection from Vichy in the south – only to find they were subjected to fierce discrimination along lines practised by the Germans in the north.

Jews were eventually banned from the professions, show business, teaching, the civil service and journalism. After an intense propaganda campaign, Jewish businesses were ‘aryanised’ by Vichy’s Commission for Jewish Affairs and their property was confiscated. More than 40,000 refugee Jews were held in concentration camps under French control, and 3,000 died of poor treatment during the winters of 1940 and 1941. The writer Arthur Koestler, who was held at Le Vernet near the Spanish frontier, said conditions were worse than in the notorious German camp, Dachau.

During 1941 anti-Semitic legislation, applicable in both zones, was tightened. French police carried out the first mass arrests in Paris in May 1941when 3,747 men were interned. Two more sweeps took place before the first deportation train provided by French state railways left for Germany under French guard on 12 March 1942. On 16 July 1942, French police arrested 12,884 Jews, including 4,501 children and 5,802 women, in Paris during what became known as La Grande Rafle (‘the big round-up’). Most were temporarily interned in a sports stadium, in conditions witnessed by a Paris lawyer, Georges Wellers.

‘All those wretched people lived five horrifying days in the enormous interior filled with deafening noise … among the screams and cries of people who had gone mad, or the injured who tried to kill themselves’, he recalled. Within days, detainees were being sent to Germany in cattle-wagons, and some became the first Jews to die in the gas chambers at Auschwitz.

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Vichy crimes

Many historians consider that an even worse crime was committed in Vichy-controlled southern France, where the Germans had no say. In August 1942, gendarmes were sent to hunt down foreign refugees. Families were seized in their houses or captured after manhunts across the countryside. About 11,000 Jews were transported to Drancy in the Paris suburbs, the main transit centre for Auschwitz. Children as young as three were separated from their mothers – gendarmes used batons and hoses – before being sent to Germany under French guard, after weeks of maltreatment.

During 1942, officials sent 41,951 Jews to Germany, although the deportations came to a temporary halt when some religious leaders warned Vichy against possible public reaction. Afterwards, arrests were carried out more discreetly. In 1943 and 1944, the regime deported 31,899 people – the last train left in August 1944, as Allied troops entered Paris. Out of the total of 75,721 deportees, contained in a register drawn up by a Jewish organisation, fewer than 2,000 survived.

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Revolt and aftermath

The number of dead would have been far higher if the Italian fascist leader, Benito Mussolini, had not ordered troops in France to defy German-French plans for mass round ups in Italian-occupied south-eastern France. Thousands were smuggled into Italy after Italian generals said that ‘no country can ask Italy, cradle of Christianity and law, to be associated with these (Nazi) acts’. After the Italian surrender in September 1943, arrests in the area restarted, but by then French public opinion had changed. Escape lines to Switzerland and Spain had been set up, and thousands of families risked death to shelter Jews. Since the war, Israel has given medals to 2,000 French people, including several priests, in recognition of this, and of the fact that about 250,000 Jews survived in France.

Post-war indifference to anti-Semitic persecution pushed the issue into the background until Serge Klarsfield, a Jewish lawyer whose Romanian father died in Germany, reawakened the national conscience. He tracked down the German chief of the Secret Service in Lyon, Klaus Barbie, who was hiding in Bolivia but was subsequently jailed for life in 1987. His case threw light on Vichy’s complicity in the Holocaust. Klarsfeld’s efforts were frustrated by the Socialist president of France at this time, Francois Mitterrand, who had been an official at Vichy and was decorated by Pétain. It was not until 1992 that one of Barbie’s French aides, Paul Touvier, who had been a minor figure in wartime France, was jailed for life for his crimes.

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Facing facts

French courts, responding to Mitterrand’s warnings that trials would cause civil unrest, blocked other prosecutions, including that of the Vichy police chief, René Bousquet, who organised the Paris and Vichy zone mass arrests. He was assassinated by a lone gunman in June 1993. It was not until Mitterrand retired in 1995 that France began to face up to its responsibility in the persecution of Jews. When the new right-wing president, Jacques Chirac, came to power, he immediately condemned Vichy as a criminal regime and two years later the Catholic Church publicly asked for forgiveness for its failure to protect the Jews.

But the most significant step forward was the trial in 1997 of Maurice Papon, 89, for crimes concerning the deportation of Jews from Bordeaux. He had served as a cabinet minister after the war, before losing a 16-year legal battle to avoid trial. He was released from jail because of poor health, but his ten-year prison sentence has been interpreted as official recognition of French complicity in the Holocaust, although there are still those who continue to defend his actions.

Since the trial, France has opened up hidden archives and offered compensation to survivors – and ensured that schools, where history manuals used not to mention France’s part in the deportations, now have compulsory lessons on Vichy persecution. While anti-Semitism is still a social problem in France, there is no official discrimination, and today’s 600,000-strong Jewish community is represented at every level of the establishment, including in the Catholic Church, where the Archbishop of Paris is Cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger.”

Extract from Paul Webster. “The Vichy Policy on Jewish Deportation,” on the BBC History website, 17/02/2011

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Many thankx to Jeu de Paume for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

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Erwin Blumenfeld. 'Mode-Montage' c. 1950

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Erwin Blumenfeld
Mode-Montage
c. 1950
Vintage gelatin silver print
Collection Helaine et Yorick Blumenfeld
Courtesy of Modernism Inc., San Francisco
© The Estate of Erwin Blumenfeld

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Erwin Blumenfeld. 'Marguerite von Sivers sur le toit du studio 9, rue Delambre' [Marguerite von Sivers on the roof of Blumenfeld’s studio at 9, rue Delambre] Paris, 1937

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Erwin Blumenfeld
Marguerite von Sivers sur le toit du studio 9, rue Delambre [Marguerite von Sivers on the roof of Blumenfeld’s studio at 9, rue Delambre]
Paris, 1937
Vintage gelatin silver print
Collection Yvette Blumenfeld Georges Deeton / Art+Commerce, New York, Gallery Kicken Berlin, Berlin
© The Estate of Erwin Blumenfeld

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Erwin Blumenfeld. 'Untitled [Natalia Pasco]' 1942

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Erwin Blumenfeld
Untitled [Natalia Pasco]
1942
Vintage gelatin silver print
Collection Henry Blumenfeld
© The Estate of Erwin Blumenfeld

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Erwin Blumenfeld. 'Minotaur / Dictator' [Minotaure / Dictateur] The Minotaur or The Dictator Paris, c. 1937

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Erwin Blumenfeld
Minotaur / Dictator [Minotaure / Dictateur]
The Minotaur or The Dictator
Paris, c. 1937
Vintage gelatin silver print
Collection Yvette Blumenfeld Georges Deeton / Art+Commerce, New York, Gallery Kicken Berlin, Berlin

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Erwin Blumenfeld. 'Voile mouillé' [Wet veil] Paris, 1937

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Erwin Blumenfeld
Voile mouillé [Wet Veil]
Paris, 1937
Vintage gelatin silver print
Collection particulière, Suisse
© The Estate of Erwin Blumenfeld

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Erwin Blumenfeld. 'Cecil Beaton' 1946

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Erwin Blumenfeld
Cecil Beaton
1946
Vintage silver gelatin print
Collection particulière, Suisse
© The Estate of Erwin Blumenfeld

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Erwin Blumenfeld. 'Self-Portrait' Paris, c. 1937

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Erwin Blumenfeld
Self-Portrait
Paris, c. 1937
Gelatin silver print. Printed later
Collection Helaine and Yorick Blumenfeld
© The Estate of Erwin Blumenfeld

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Erwin Blumenfeld. 'Untitled (Self-Portrait)' 1945

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Erwin Blumenfeld
Untitled (Self-Portrait)
1945

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“Erwin Blumenfeld’s life and work impressively document the socio-political context of artistic development between the two World Wars, while highlighting the individual consequences of emigration. The exhibition devoted to Erwin Blumenfeld’s multi-layered œuvre brings together over 300 works and documents from the late 1910s to the 1960s, and encompasses the various media explored by the artist throughout his career: drawings, photographs, montages and collages.

This exhibition traces his visual creativity and encompasses the early drawings, the collages and montages, which mostly stem from the early 1920s, the beginnings of his portrait art in Holland, the first black and white fashion photographs of the Paris period, the masterful colour photography created in New York and the urban photos taken toward the end of his life.

The retrospective also showcases his drawings, many of which have never been shown before, as well as his early collages and photomontages, shedding fascinating light on the evolution of his photographic oeuvre and revealing the full extent of his creative genius. The now classic motifs of his experimental black-and-white photographs can be seen alongside his numerous selfportraits and portraits of famous and little-known people, as well as his fashion and advertising work.

In the first years of his career, he worked only in black and white, but as soon as it became technically possible he enthusiastically used color. He transferred his experiences with black-and-white photography to color; applying them to the field of fashion, he developed a particularly original repertoire of forms. The female body became Erwin Blumenfeld’s principal subject. In his initial portrait work, then the nudes he produced while living in Paris and, later on, his fashion photography, he sought to bring out the unknown, hidden nature of his subjects; the object of his quest was not realism, but the mystery of reality

Blumenfeld’s work was showcased most recently in France in a 1981 show at the Centre Pompidou, which focused on his fashion photography, in 1998 at the Maison Européenne de la Photographie, as well as more recently in the exhibition Blumenfeld Studio, Colour, New York, 1941-1960 (Chalon-sur-Saône, Essen, London).”

Press release from the Jeu de Paume website

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“Bringing together over three hundred works and documents dating from the late 1910s to the 1960s, this exhibition, the first in France to showcase the multilayered aspects of Erwin Blumenfeld’s oeuvre, encompasses the various media explored by the artist throughout his career: drawing, photography, montage, and collage.

The life and work of Erwin Blumenfeld (Berlin, 1897 – Rome, 1969) provides an impressive record of the socio-political context of artistic development between the two World Wars, while highlighting the individual consequences of emigration. Erwin Blumenfeld, a German Jew, only spent a few years in his country of birth. It was only in 1919, when he was in self-imposed exile in the Netherlands, that Blumenfeld began to take a deeper interest in photography, particularly the photographic process and above all the artistic possibilities offered by darkroom experiments. For a short while, he ran an Amsterdam-based portrait studio that doubled as an exhibition space, before moving to Paris in 1936, where the art dealer Walter Feilchenfeldt helped him rent a studio in the rue Delambre. That same year, his photographs were exhibited at the Galerie Billiet, while the following year saw his first beauty cover, for Votre Beauté magazine. In 1938 he received a visit from leading fashion photographer Cecil Beaton, who helped him to obtain a contract with the French Vogue. Blumenfeld travelled to New York, returning in 1939, shortly before the outbreak of war, to become Harper’s Bazaar’s fashion correspondent in Paris.

In 1940 he was interned as a German Jew in France, first in Montbard, then in Loriol, Le Vernet, and Catus. He made a daring escape with his family in 1941, returning via Casablanca to New York, where he subsequently lived and worked until his death. It was in New York that Blumenfeld’s astonishing career as a much sought after, highly paid fashion photographer really took off, first of all in the studio he shared with Martin Munkácsi, then from 1943 in his own premises. The contract he signed with the publishers Condé Nast in 1944 marked the beginning of ten years of remarkable photography and cover shots for various magazines in the company’s stable. Following on from his experimental black-and-white shots of the 1930s, he began playing with colour. The present exhibition includes, besides photographs, both magazine work and early experimental films made for the Dayton department store in Minneapolis, his leading advertising customer.

Not until 1960 did Blumenfeld return to Berlin for a visit. He devoted the following years to finishing his autobiography, begun in the 1950s. The work was completed in 1969 with the help of his assistant Marina Schinz, but was only published in 1975, initially in French translation, then in the original German in 1976. His book My One Hundred Best Photos was also released posthumously, in 1979.

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Drawings, Montages, and Collages

Between 1916 and 1933 Erwin Blumenfeld produced a fairly limited number of drawings and montages. As a young man he was very interested in literature, writing poems and short stories. And as early as 1915 he mentioned that he was interested in writing an autobiography. Almost all of his montages and collages include drawings and snippets of language. He plays with written and printed words and typography, juxtaposing names, concepts, and places to create ironic commentaries and provocative titles. His collages typically combine drawing, language, and cut-outs of original or printed photographs. He also often used letter stationery to form a background, leaving bare spaces. In 1918 Blumenfeld made the acquaintance of the Dadaist George Grosz; two years later he and Paul Citroen wrote to Francis Picabia in the name of the Hollandse Dadacentrale, but neither was present at the First International Dada Fair in Berlin in 1920. That same year, Blumenfeld began using the pseudonyms Erwin Bloomfeld and Jan Bloomfield, as documented in his Dadaist publications and in some of his collages. The drawings in the present exhibition, most of which have never been shown in public, were produced in Berlin and the Netherlands. Only a handful of them are dated. They are quick sketches from life or from imagination, rough cartoons and acid caricatures, in pencil, ink, watercolour, or coloured pencil – whatever was to hand. Blumenfeld was clearly fascinated by the quality and immediacy of drawing as a medium, and, as these works reveal, it certainly stimulated his playful side.

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Self-Portraits

Blumenfeld took his first photographs as a schoolboy, using himself as one of his first subjects. The earliest date from the 1910s, but he continued taking self-portraits to the end of his life. The young man with the dreamy gaze turned into the louche bohemian with a cigarette, then the carefully staged photographer experimenting with his camera. His self-portraits are not the product of excessive vanity, but rather playful experiments, with and without masks, models, and other grotesque objects such as a calf’s head, all used to create witty images.

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Portraits

Blumenfeld’s first steps in professional photography were in portraiture. He started “learning by doing” in the early 1920s in Amsterdam, where he had opened the ladies handbag store Fox Leather Company. This is where he took portraits of customers, using a darkroom in the back of the store. Comparison of the contact sheets from the time with the blow-ups taken from them clearly shows, right from the outset, the importance in Blumenfeld’s work of the finishing in the lab. The final images display extremely tight framing, high levels of contrast, and lighting that creates dramatic, even devilish, effects. When he arrived in Paris in 1936 his first photographs were portraits, featuring among others Henri Matisse and Georges Rouault. Although he quickly entered the Paris fashion scene, he retained a strong interest in portraiture throughout the remainder of his life.

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Nudes

Blumenfeld’s earliest, highly narrative nudes date from his time in the Netherlands, but the subject only became a passion during his Paris years from 1936 on, when he discovered the work of French avantgarde photographers. His admiration for them is particularly evident in his nude photographs, as is the influence of Man Ray’s work. The bodies of the women in these images were surfaces onto which he projected his artistic imagination. He cut them up, solarised them, and transformed them into abstract imagery through the play of light and shadow. The faces of his nudes from the 1930s are only rarely visible, the women remaining somewhat mysterious entities. The nudes Blumenfeld produced in the 1950s after he had settled in New York tended to be more concrete, illustrative works.

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Architecture

The black-and-white architectural photographs that Erwin Blumenfeld took in the 1930s feature buildings and urban spaces from various experimental and abstract perspectives. The Eiffel Tower, for instance, is captured in sharp reliefs of light and shade, while the photographs of Rouen Cathedral are intended to draw the viewer’s visual attention to the building’s specific forms. Blumenfeld expresses his artistic vision and his knowledge of Gothic architecture by focusing on the abstraction of details. During the 1950s and 1960s Blumenfeld used a 35mm camera for cityscapes. The exhibition showcases three of these colour slide projects for the first time. They feature New York, Paris, and Berlin – three places that made a mark on his art and also shaped his career.

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The Dictator

In 1933, according to his autobiography, Blumenfeld reacted to Hitler’s rise to power in Germany with a photomontage. This outstanding piece of work, probably his most famous photograph, symbolizes and anticipates the dictator’s dehumanization. Following on from the political themes in some of his early collages, he here combined different negatives – a skull and a portrait of Hitler – to make a single print. In one of these montages he included a swastika, while in a different portrait “bleeding eyes” were added later on the surface. Later on, in Paris, he photographed a calf’s head, using this subject to compose different images. One in which he placed the animal’s head on a woman’s torso was titled The Minotaure or The Dictator. This image, which does not refer to a specific figure, is obviously intended to be allegorical. In 1941 Blumenfeld was able to escape from the Nazis with his family to New York.

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Fashion

Blumenfeld’s move to Paris in 1936 marked the beginning of his career as a fashion photographer, although he had already had contacts with magazines in Paris while living in Amsterdam. The work that appeared in French publications in the late 1930s raised Blumenfeld’s profile as a modernist photographer and brought him to the attention of the famous British photographer Cecil Beaton, who visited him in his studio in 1938 and helped him sign his first contract with the French edition of Vogue. When Blumenfeld made his first trip to New York following his sensational set of fashion photographs on the Eiffel Tower, he came home with a new contract as Paris fashion correspondent for Harper’s Bazaar. He was only able to file his reports for a year before he was interned in various prison camps across France. In 1941 he was able to escape from German-occupied France to New York with his family. In the first half of the 1950s, he drew on his experiments in black-and-white photography to develop an exceptionally original artistic repertoire, reflected in his use of colour and his fashion work.”

Ute Eskildsen
Curator of the exhibition
Translated from German by Susan Pickford

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Erwin Blumenfeld. 'Three Graces (1947), New York' 1947

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Erwin Blumenfeld
Three Graces (1947), New York
1947

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Leslie Petersen appears here in a triple variation inspired by Botticelli’s Primavera. The photograph, was intended to show off a gown by Cadwallader. The final image is made of two shots. The two on the right are similar but with different degrees of sharpness. The pose on the left is different. (Text from Phaidon)

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Erwin Blumenfeld. 'Nude (Lisette)' Paris, 1937

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Erwin Blumenfeld
Nude (Lisette)
Paris, 1937
Gelatin silver print, negative print, solarization. Vintage print
Collection Yvette Blumenfeld Georges Deeton / Art + Commerce, New York, Gallery Kicken Berlin, Berlin
© The Estate of Erwin Blumenfeld

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Erwin Blumenfeld. 'Charlie' 1920

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Erwin Blumenfeld
Charlie
1920
Collage, Indian ink, watercolor and pencil on paper
Collection Helaine and Yorick Blumenfeld
© The Estate of Erwin Blumenfeld

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Erwin Blumenfeld. 'Untitled, New York, 1944' 1944

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Erwin Blumenfeld
Untitled, New York, 1944
1944
Gelatin silver print. Vintage print
Collection Henry Blumenfeld
© The Estate of Erwin Blumenfeld

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Erwin Blumenfeld. 'Grauenfresse / Hitler, Holland, 1933' 1933

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Erwin Blumenfeld
Grauenfresse / Hitler, Holland, 1933
1933
Collage and ink on photomontage (gelatin silver print, double-exposition). Printed later
Collection Helaine and Yorick Blumenfeld, Courtesy of Modernism Inc., San Francisco
© The Estate of Erwin Blumenfeld

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Erwin Blumenfeld. 'In hoc signo vinces [in this sign you will conquer]' 1967

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Erwin Blumenfeld
In hoc signo vinces [in this sign you will conquer]
1967
Gelatin silver print. Vintage print
Private collection, Switzerland
© The Estate of Erwin Blumenfeld

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Erwin Blumenfeld. 'Audrey Hepburn' New York, 1950

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Erwin Blumenfeld
Audrey Hepburn
New York, 1950
Vintage silver gelatin print
Collection particulière, Suisse.
© The Estate of Erwin Blumenfeld

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Audrey Hepburn is wearing a hat designed by Blumenfeld and made by Mister Fred, one of New York’s most talented milliners. Blumenfeld here uses a system of mirrors showing the front and back of the hat and allowing infinite repetition of the motif. (Text from Phaidon)

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Erwin Blumenfeld. 'Untitled [Homme agenouillé avec tour]' [Kneeling man with tower] 1920

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Erwin Blumenfeld
Untitled [Homme agenouillé avec tour] [Kneeling man with tower]
1920
Indian ink, ink, watercolor and collage on paper
Collection Henry Blumenfeld.
© The Estate of Erwin Blumenfeld

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Erwin Blumenfeld. 'Group with Chaplin' Early 1920's

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Erwin Blumenfeld
Group with Chaplin
Early 1920’s
Gouache and pencil on paper
Collection Henry Blumenfeld
© The Estate of Erwin Blumenfeld

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Erwin Blumenfeld. 'Untitled (Green dress)' 1946

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Erwin Blumenfeld
Untitled (Green dress)
1946

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Erwin Blumenfeld. 'Do your part for the Red Cross' [Soutenez la Croix-Rouge] 1945

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Erwin Blumenfeld
Do your part for the Red Cross [Soutenez la Croix-Rouge]
1945
Variante de la photographie de couverture de Vogue US, 15 mars 1945
Variant of a cover photograph of Vogue, “Do your part for the Red Cross”, New York, March 15th, 1945
Impression jet d’encre sur papier Canson baryta, tirage posthume (2012).
Collection Henry Blumenfeld.
© The Estate of Erwin Blumenfeld

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A model, a red cross: fashion and current affairs superimposed. The background to this humanitarian appeal is the liberation of the concentration camps and the aid brought to prisoners of war. Blumenfeld reinterprets these humanitarian signs just as he blurs those of fashion. (Text from Phaidon)

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Erwin Blumenfeld. Variant of the photograph published in Life Magazine entitled "The Picasso Girl" [The young woman of Picasso] (model: Lisette) c. 1941-1942

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Erwin Blumenfeld
Variante de la photographie parue dans Life Magazine et intitulée “The Picasso Girl” [La jeune femme Picasso]
Variant of the photograph published in Life Magazine entitled “The Picasso Girl” [The young woman of Picasso]
(model: Lisette)
c. 1941-1942
Inkjet printing on Canson baryta paper, posthumous print (2012)
Collection Henry Blumenfeld
© The Estate of Erwin Blumenfeld

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Erwin Blumenfeld. Three profiles. Variant of the photograph published in the article "Color and lighting" Photograph Annual of 1952

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Erwin Blumenfeld
Trois profils. Variante de la photographie parue dans l’article “Color and lighting” [Couleur et éclairage], de Photograph Annual 1952
Three profiles. Variant of the photograph published in the article “Color and lighting” Photograph Annual of 1952
1952
Inkjet printing on Canson baryta paper, posthumous print (2012)
Collection Henry Blumenfeld
© The Estate of Erwin Blumenfeld

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29
Jan
11

Exhibition: ‘Forced Labour. The Germans, the Forced Labourers and the War’ at the Jewish Museum, Berlin

Exhibition dates: 28th September 2010 – 30th January 2011

 

G. Gronfeld. 'Arrival at the transit camp' 1942

 

G. Gronfeld
Arrival at the transit camp
1942

 

Female forced labourers from the Soviet Union on their arrival at the Berlin-Wilhelmshagen Transit Camp, December 1942.
Source: Deutsches Historisches Museum, Berlin

 

 

This is an emotional and sobering posting. The photograph of the Liberated forced laborer with tuberculosis by an unknown photographer (1945, below) is as heartbreaking as the photograph of a mother and child, Tomoko Uemura in Her Bath, Minamata (1972) by Eugene Smith. The look on the man’s face when I first saw it made me burst into tears… it is difficult to talk about it now without being overcome. An unknown man photographed by an unknown photographer.

There is something paradoxical about the solidity of the doctor’s steel helmet, his uniform and the fact he is a doctor contrasted with the strength, size and gentleness of his hand as it rests near the elbow of this emaciated man, this human … yet the intimacy and tenderness of this gesture, as the man stares straight into the camera lens – is so touching that to look at this picture, is almost unbearable. Man’s (in)humanity to man.

 

Some pertinent facts

The Germans abducted about 12 million people from almost twenty European countries; about two thirds of whom came from Eastern Europe. Many workers died as a result of their living conditions, mistreatment or were civilian casualties of the war. They received little or no compensation during or after the war … At the peak of the war, one of every five workers in the economy of the Third Reich was a forced labourer. According to Fried, in January 1944 the Third Reich was relying on 10 million forced labourers. Of these, 6.5 million were civilians within German borders, 2.2 million were prisoners of war, and 1.3 million were located at forced labor camps outside Germany’s borders. Homze reported that civilian forced labourers from other countries working within the German borders rose steeply from 300,000 in 1939 to more than 5 million in 1944.

Examples:

Russian Foreign Civilian Forced Labourers in Nazi Germany (total number approximately): 2,000,000

Russian Number of Known and Estimated Survivors Reported by Reconciliation Foundations: 334,500

(Source: Beyer, John C. and Schneider, Stephen A. “Forced Labour under Third Reich – Part 1” (pdf). Nathan Associates Inc.. 1999.)

 

Russian “volunteer” POW workers

“Between 22 June 1941 and the end of the war, roughly 5.7 million members of the Red Army fell into German hands. In January 1945, 930,000 were still in German camps. A million at most had been released, most of whom were so-called “volunteer” (Hilfswillige) for (often compulsory) auxiliary service in the Wehrmacht. Another 500,000, as estimated by the Army High Command, had either fled or been liberated. The remaining 3,300,000 (57.5 percent of the total) had perished.”

(Source: Streit, Christian. Keine Kameraden: Die Wehrmacht und die Sowjetischen Kriegsgefangenen, 1941-1945, Bonn: Dietz (3. Aufl., 1. Aufl. 1978))

The remaining 3,300,000 had perished. A sobering figure indeed (if you can even imagine such a number of human beings).

Dr Marcus Bunyan

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Many thankx to the Jewish Museum in Berlin for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photograph for a larger version of the image.

 

 

Unknown. 'Liberated forced laborer with tuberculosis' 1945

 

Unknown
Liberated forced laborer with tuberculosis
1945

 

A doctor of the U.S. Army examines a former forced labourer from Russia who was ill with tuberculosis. The Americans had discovered the sick forced labourers in a barrack yard in Dortmund. Dortmund, 30 April 1945.
Source: National Archives, Washington

 

G. Gronfeld. 'Registration at the transit camp' 1942

 

G. Gronfeld
Registration at the transit camp
1942

 

Berlin-Wilhelmshagen Transit Camp, December 1942. Labour office staff registered the forced labourers and handed out employment certificates.
Source: Deutsches Historisches Museum, Berlin

 

Unknown. 'Humiliation of Bernhard Kuhnt in Chemnitz' Nd

 

Unknown
Humiliation of Bernhard Kuhnt in Chemnitz
Nd

 

The inscription, “Always dignified! The naval fleet’s mutineer Bernh. Kuhnt arrives at his new workplace (washing off the dirt),” refers to the myth that mutinous social democratic and communist sailors were responsible for the defeat of the German empire in the First World War.
Source: Bundesarchiv, Koblenz

 

Unknown. 'Selection in a Prisoner of War Camp: Recruitment for Mining' 1942

 

Unknown
Selection in a Prisoner of War Camp: Recruitment for Mining
1942

 

In the summer of 1942, Soviet prisoners of war were selected from the prisoner of war camp Zeithain to perform forced labor in Belgian mines.
Source: Gedenkstätte Ehrenhain Zeithain

 

Selection in a Prisoner of War Camp

In the summer of 1942, Karl Schmitt – head of the Wehrmacht mining division in Liège, Belgium – went to Berlin on vacation with his wife. On the way, he visited the Zeithain prisoner of war camp in Saxony. The Soviet POWs were ordered to present themselves for inspection with the aim of deploying them to Belgian mines under German control. They were accordingly checked for physical fitness. Karl Schmitt decided who was to be transported to Belgium and who was not.

Soviet prisoners of war were frequently put to work in mines. The Reich Security Main Office had ruled that they could be employed only in work gangs kept separate from German workers. The authorities considered the mines particularly suitable in that respect.
Source: Gedenkstätte Ehrenhain Zeithain.

 

 

Over 20 million men, women, and children were taken to Germany and the occupied territories from all over Europe as “foreign workers,” prisoners of war, and concentration camp inmates to perform forced labor. By 1942, forced laborers were part of daily life in Nazi Germany. The deported workers from all over Europe and Eastern Europe in particular were exploited in armament factories, on building sites and farms, as craftsmen, in public institutions and private households. Be it as a soldier of the occupying army in Poland or as a farmer in Thuringia, all Germans encountered forced laborers and many profited from them. Forced labor was no secret but a largely public crime.

The exhibition Forced Labor. The Germans, the Forced Laborers, and the War on view at the Jewish Museum in Berlin provides the first comprehensive presentation of the history of forced labor and its ramifications after 1945. The exhibition was curated by the Buchenwald and Mittelbau-Dora Memorials Foundation and initiated and sponsored by the “Remembrance, Responsibility and Future” Foundation. Federal President Christian Wulff has assumed patronage for the exhibition. The exhibition’s first venue on its international tour is the Jewish Museum Berlin, other venues are planned in European capitals and in North America.

Forced labor was without precedent in European history. No other Nazi crime involved so many people – as victims, perpetrators, or onlookers. The exhibition provides the first comprehensive presentation of the history of this ubiquitous Nazi crime and its ramifications after 1945. It shows how forced labor was part of the Nazi regime’s racist social order from the outset: The propagated “Volksgemeinschaft” (people’s community) and forced labor for the excluded belonged together. The German “Herrenmenschen” (superior race) ruthlessly exploited those they considered “Untermenschen” (subhumans). The ordinariness and the broad societal participation of forced labor reflect the racist core of Nazism.

The exhibition pays special attention to the relationships between Germans and forced laborers. Every German had to decide whether to treat forced laborers with a residual trace of humanity or with the supposedly required racist frostiness and implacability of a member of an allegedly superior race. How Germans made use of the scope this framework reveals something not only about the individuals but also about the allure and shaping power of Nazi ideology and practice. Through this perspective, the exhibition goes beyond a presentation of forced labor in the narrow sense to illustrate the extent to which Nazi values had infiltrated German society. Forced labor cannot be passed off as a mere crime of the regime but should rather be considered a crime of society.

Over 60 representative case histories form the core of the exhibition. As is true of the majority of documents on show, they resulted from meticulous investigations in Europe, the USA, and Israel. Moreover the exhibition team viewed hundreds of interviews with former forced laborers that have been carried out in recent years. In terms of content, these case histories range from the degrading work of the politically persecuted in Chemnitz through the murderous slave labor performed by Jews in occupied Poland to daily life as a forced laborer on a farm in Lower Austria.

Among the surprises of the extensive international archival research was discovering unexpectedly broad photographic coverage of significant events. The photos relating to the case histories represent the second pillar of the exhibition. Whole series of photos were traced back to their creator and the scene and people depicted. This presentation, based on well-founded sources, allows quasi dramatic insight into aspects of forced labor. Cinematically arranged photo or photo-detail enlargements form the introduction to the continued inquiry into the history of forced labor.

The exhibition is divided into four sections. The first covers the years from 1933 to 1939 and unveils in particular how the racist ideology of Nazi forced labor struck roots. What was propagated up to the beginning of WWII, partly laid down in laws and widely implemented by society in practice, formed the basis for the subsequent radicalisation of forced labor in occupied Europe culminating in extermination through labor. This escalation and radicalisation is the focus of the second section of the exhibition. The third part covers forced labor as a mass phenomenon in the Third Reich from 1941/42, ending with the massacre of forced laborers at the end of the war. The fourth section explores the period from the time of liberation in 1945 to society’s analysis and recognition of forced labor as a crime today. Former forced laborers have the last word.

Press release from The Jewish Museum website.
Forced Labor exhibition website

 

Unknown. 'Daimler facility in Minsk' 1942

 

Unknown
Daimler facility in Minsk
1942

 

Female forced laborers of the Daimler facility in Minsk, September 1942.
Source: Mercedes-Benz Classic, Archive, Stuttgart

 

Minsk: German firms in occupied Eastern Europe

In Minsk, a town which had suffered major destruction, Daimler-Benz ran a large repair facility for motorised Wehrmacht vehicles. Together, Daimler and Organisation Todt set up more than thirty repair sheds on the grounds of a ruined military base. With a workforce of five thousand, the facility was soon one of the largest enterprises in occupied Eastern Europe. The management exploited prisoners of war and members of the local population, among them Jews. Laborers were also deported from White Russian villages to the Minsk works as part of the effort to crush the partisan movement.

In the occupied areas of Eastern Europe, many German companies took advantage of the opportunity to take over local firms or establish branch operations. The unlimited availability of laborers was an important factor in their business strategies.

 

Unknown. 'Foreign workers at BMW in Allach' 1943

 

Unknown
Foreign workers at BMW in Allach
c. 1943

 

All the foreigners in aircraft engine production had to be visibly identifiable as such. The Soviet prisoners of war had the “SU” symbol on their jackets. Concentration camp inmates could be recognised by their striped uniforms. These photographs were most likely propaganda photos. Munich-Allach, c. 1943.
Source: BMW Group Archiv.

 

Munich-Allach: Working for BMW

Toward the end of the war ninety percent of the workforce at the largest aircraft engine factory in the German Reich – BMW’s plant in Munich-Allach – consisted of foreign civilian workers, POWs and concentration camp inmates. The number of workers had risen from 1,000 in 1939 to more than 17,000 in 1944.

Forced laborers worked not only in the assembly halls, but also on the factory’s expansion. Due to BMW’s importance to the armament industry, the authorities gave it priority over other companies in the assignment of workers. Nevertheless, its personnel demand was never completely met.

Some of the Western European workers lived in private quarters. For all others, barrack camps were set up all around the factory grounds until 1944, ultimately accommodating 14,000 people. That figure included several thousand concentration camp inmates which the company management had applied for already in 1942.

 

Unknown. 'KZ-prisoners on the industrial union color building site, Auschwitz' c. 1943

 

Unknown
KZ-prisoners on the industrial union color building site, Auschwitz
c. 1943
Source: © Bundesarchiv, Koblenz

 

Unknown. 'Liberated Jewish women' 1945

 

Unknown
Liberated Jewish women
1945

 

These young Jewish women were released from a forced labor camp at Kauritz (Saxony) by U.S. Army troops in early April, 1945. They are part of a large group removed from homes in France, Holland, Belgium and other occupied areas in Europe.
Source: National Archives, Washington

 

Unknown. 'Wladyslaw Kolopoleski' Nd

 

Unknown
Wladyslaw Kolopoleski
Nd

 

“In addition to the hard work, which exceeded my strength, I was beaten on the slightest provocation, sometimes to the point of unconsciousness. Once, for example, I suffered a severe head injury after I was beaten by Max Ewert, an SA officer. I not only lost consciousness, but I had to have head surgery,” wrote Władysław Kołopoleski, a young Pole born in Łódź in 1932. He was deployed in April 1940 on the estate of mayor Max Ewert in Gervin, now Górawino, in Pomerania.
Source: Foundation “Polish-German Reconciliation,” Warsaw

 

 

Jewish Museum Berlin
Lindenstraße 9-14, 10969 Berlin
Phone: +49 (0)30 259 93 300

Opening hours:
10 am – 8 pm

The Jewish Museum website

Forced Labor exhibition website

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His art work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes Art Blart, a photographic archive and form of cultural memory, which posts mainly photography exhibitions from around the world. He holds a Dr of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne, a Master of Arts (Fine Art Photography) from RMIT University, and a Master of Art Curatorship from the University of Melbourne.

Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘Sleep/Wound’ 1995-96


Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: 'Sleep/Wound' 1995-96 *PLEASE NOTE THIS POSTING CONTAINS PHOTOGRAPHS OF MALE NUDITY - IF YOU DO NOT LIKE PLEASE DO NOT LOOK, FAIR WARNING HAS BEEN GIVEN*

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