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Dissent and Displacement foreword by Rabbi Baroness Neuberger DBE

In Dissent and Displacement Monica Petzal takes on the oldest of journeys; people leaving their homeland because of persecution and war, and turns it into a story that never ends.

Using her own family’s experience, Petzal forces us to see what gets missed, where longing lies, and how the search for home, and the comfort of home, never really ends. And yet, more refugees arrive, Syrians, East African Asians from Uganda, Congolese, Eritreans, and more and more. And each group, each wave, has both a separate story to tell, and the same story to tell. In this exhibition, we begin to share in the emotions of the displaced as well as understanding how a host community can
reach out and provide comfort. In this exhibition we see people of conscience asking us all to help, to stretch out a hand to the oppressed and to identify with Leicester in particular, home to so many refugees and migrants, and home too to dissent from prevailing orthodoxies, and a place of welcome. Leicester was the birthplace of George Fox, founder of the Religious Society of Friends (the Quakers), famous for their work with refugees, asylum seekers and displaced people. And it is also the birthplace of Alice Hawkins, a famous suffragette, looking at freedom and freedom of conscience in a different way. Leicester has stretched out its arms time and again to wave after
wave of migrants. And they have, eventually, called it home.

This exhibition challenges conventional thinking about refugees. They never forget their original home. They long for it and often behave as they would have done in their countries of birth. But they do it in a new way, and their habits morph, their patterns of behaviour morph, until gradually they are absorbed into a new society, welcomed or tolerated, newly at home, though perhaps never wholly secure. Admission to a new country and a welcome, rejection and toleration, experience overlaid with experience, the morphing of ideas of home; all these are shown in Petzal’s exhibition and all her
prints challenge us, the viewers, to think again what displacement means to those who experience it and to those who come after them.

Rabbi Baroness Neuberger DBE 2020

Introduction by Monica Petzal

Dissent and Displacement is about narrative and testament, identity and memory. It is about how we construct and interpret history and how we create meaning. Retelling our stories helps us understand
who we are and offers a space in which to consider how to move forward.

There was a bookshelf in our house devoted to unopened transcripts of the Nurnberg Trials and Winston Churchill’s History of the Second World War. We did not need to open the books; the shadow of my parents’ displacement, the Holocaust and World War II fell over so much of our daily life.

We were enveloped in memory and ritual. Our suburban house had been refashioned to look like the ‘Bauhaus’. We ate apple strudel off Rosenthal china with silver cutlery. My brothers and I played the Blüthner grand piano and heard Schubert lieder on the gramophone. My mother translated and taught German, a language she loved and used with her husband and all their social circle. Being Jewish did not figure as a religious practice, but as a cultural identity. My parents were enduringly grateful for the refuge that Britain had offered them, considered themselves highly assimilated, and yet fondly referred to ‘the English’ as people who were entirely different from them.

This upbringing was, of course, on a collision course with growing up in London in the 1950s and 1960s. I did my utmost to detach myself from it, turning into a rebellious teenager and student. It has taken almost fifty years of life experience for me to seriously reevaluate the significance of my history and capture the stories that I have woven into the images that follow.

I first came to Leicester in 1994 for an exhibition of the work of Conrad Felixmüller, to which I had lent the work owned by my grandparents. Leicester had also managed to borrow a privately owned Felixmüller painting of my grandmother, Sofie, which I had never seen: my grandfather had sold it in the 1960s. It was very odd to gaze at a painting of a woman I never knew, but whom I so closely resembled, down to the squint. I have returned regularly to see the developing collection and the more I learned of the history of those who contributed towards it, the more the stories grew
in my imagination.

Making prints is about the interaction of ideas and process. My way of working, which is slow, allows thoughts to change and develop. My research, because not everything is digital, has involved various boxes of letters, documents and photos that I inherited, visits to libraries and record offices, and chance conversations. It has included journeys to Germany, Holland and Belgium, to many places where I was pleased to be, but to some where I could not bear to linger. It has been the most absorbing of projects. It has changed me, and there is more work to be done.

Monica Petzal 2020

1A Text

The German Empire was founded in 1871, a complex coming together of previously separate states. Prussia occupied more than three-fifths of the area of this new empire, had approximately three-fifths of the population and became the dominant force in the nation until after World War I.

My maternal grandfather, Erich Max Isakowitz, was born in Königsberg (now Kaliningrad), the capital of Eastern Prussia, in February 1891. A fortified city with a bustling port, Königsberg (top right and map) was a university city and important intellectual and cultural centre. Its most famous son was the philosopher Immanuel Kant, who taught at the Albertina University.

Jews have been subject to a wide range of restrictions throughout European history. Königsberg had been home to Jews since the mid-16th century, but the small numbers had led severely constrained lives. The emancipation of Prussian Jews in 1812 improved the situation, but they were still restricted from most military and government professions. Full emancipation came in 1869 and by 1900 the city had a flourishing and diverse Jewish community with three synagogues.

Erich, the 10th child of Bernhard and Johanna (Kosminsky) Isakowitz, prosperous observant Jews, attended the prestigious Collegium Fridericianum school in the city. His mother died in 1905 and he recalled ‘attending synagogue thrice daily after her death to say the mourners, Kaddish’. His beleaguered father sent him as a boarder to a medical family in Tilsit (top left). Inspired by his generous hosts, Erich fixed upon medicine as his future profession and in 1909 began a drawn-out academic education at the Albertina Universität Königsberg and the University of Munich.

My grandmother, Sofie Berlowitz, was born in 1893 in Eydtkuhnen (now called Chernyshevkoye), a small town on the Prussian-Russian border. Eydtkuhnen (bottom left) was the easternmost terminus of the Prussian Eastern Railway, connecting Berlin and other German cities with the St. Petersburg–Warsaw Railway in the Russian Empire. To continue their voyages west all passengers and goods had to change trains in Eydtkuhnen to the German gauge railway. The several prosperous Berlowitz family businesses included moving goods and passengers from one set of trains to another.

Between 1881 and 1914 about two million Jews fleeing poverty and pogroms emigrated from the Russian Empire via routes like this through Germany, heading for Hamburg or Bremen to board ships for America. This westward migration, entailing compulsory health checks, intensified in the 1880s and continued until the beginning of World War I. An Eydtkuhnen-based committee started by the Jewish communities of East Prussia supported the often-destitute emigrants. Eydtkuhnen had its own small but prosperous Jewish community and a synagogue was built on the town square in 1872. The town was severely damaged by the Russians in World War I (bottom right).

Sofie, the second of four children of Isidor and Fanny Berlowitz, was tall, intelligent, strong willed, well-educated and well-travelled. Sofie had visited England, which was unusual for those times and there is some indication of flirtation with an Englishman. This is suggested by the silver card holder (centre), with her name engraved on it and the English hallmark. That she spoke good English was a factor that would eventually help her family leave Germany in 1936 with permission to settle in Britain.

1B Text

My grandfather Erich trained as a doctor and then as a dental surgeon, as was the custom of the time. Erich was intelligent, creative and charming but also quick tempered and an inveterate womaniser. Before World War I he became an assistant dental surgeon in Silesia where he fell in love with a girl who had a Prussian officer, a friend of his, as her lover. He fought over her with the lieutenant in an illegal ‘American duel’. In such duels, lots were drawn to decide which of the duellers should kill himself before a given date! The officer got the ‘short straw’ and shot himself; it is not known if this was fatal. Erich was court martialled but pronounced innocent. Ultimately, Erich did not marry the girl, after some research into her reputation found it wanting.

His businessman father Bernhardt, unimpressed by his behaviour, refused to help him professionally. With an eye to the constant flow of travellers westward, Erich took out a bank loan and opened a surgery in Eydtkuhnen. Here he met Sofie, a distant relative on his father’s side. This stylish, headstrong couple(top right, seated) were married in a Jewish ceremony in Eydtkuhnen on 26th April 1914 (marriage certificate bottom left). Isidor, Sofie’s father, offered a considerable dowry on their
marriage and her new husband gave Sofie this necklace (bottom left). Erich’s marriage to my grandmother was always stormy, marked by infidelity and only saved by convention and the level of adversity they faced together. After the outbreak of World War I, the couple moved to Tilsit (now known as Sovetsk), where Erich had lived as a teenager and he again set up a dental practice.

In early 1915 Erich was called up and served at Metz and Verdun as a medical orderly (centre right). Later he served on the Western Front, where he specialised in fractures of the jaw. In diaries he described in detail an outbreak of ‘Spanish flu’ which killed one of his brothers, and wrote of giving injections, for which per 100 soldiers they had 4 syringes and 10 needles. As he did not see active combat, he was not decorated but did receive recognition and compensation for his war service.

In the early 20th century Tilsit was thriving. An elegant town with 34,500 inhabitants; it had electric tramways, a direct railway line to Königsberg and steamers docked daily close to the famous Queen Louise bridge, which spanned the Memel river. Like Eydtkuhnen, Tilsit was a city of transit, thronging with those fleeing poverty, persecution or both. In Tilsit, travellers bought tickets for their onward journey or collected the coveted vouchers already paid for by relatives. Tilsit itself was chiefly made up of Germans, who lived alongside minority Lithuanians and Jews. There was, however, a Prussian policy of deportation which regularly required the permanent Jewish citizens of town to make hazardous life decisions: either move on or fight for their existence in the city. Those like my grandfather, who were able with professional expertise and influence to stay there, came to completely identify themselves with the Imperial Empire and were active in their community and as soldiers.

My mother, Hannalore, always known as Lore (centre), their only child, was born on 15th July 1915 (birth certificate above) at the height of the Great War. An anxious and timid child, she was hurt by some older boys in an anti-Semitic attack at the age of 5. This led her father and his male relatives ‘to form a queue at the school exit and hit every boy who could not give an alibi, in the same way they hit my daughter’. The mounting political tension and rise of anti-Semitism, coupled with the beginning of the hyperinflation of the period, led the family to leave Tilsit in 1924. They made the 1000km journey to Dresden, where Sofie’s brother, also a dental surgeon, and his family had settled.

1C Text

When the Isakowitz family came to Dresden they found a vibrant and sophisticated modern city. Well established since medieval times, Dresden, ‘The Florence of the Elbe’, was one of the great European cities. A major economic centre and transport hub, it was influential and world renowned for its culture and architecture. At the time, the city was enjoying a brief period of calm after the turmoil of the hardships imposed by the Treaty of Versailles and the hyperinflation of the Deutschmark.

Dresden had developed dramatically in the 18th Century, under Elector Friedrich August I (Augustus the Strong), to become the city of the Baroque, instantly recognisable by its iconic skyline (top).
The royal court and nobility commissioned extensive building work and encouraged outstanding artistic achievement. The original ‘schloss’, or castle, originated from the 13th century but had been greatly added to over the centuries. The master builder and architect Matthäus Pöppelmann built the Zwinger and Taschenbergpalais in 1711, the Japanese Palais in 1715 and the summer palace in Pillnitz in 1721. The Frauenkirche, designed by George Bähr, was completed in 1734 and the cathedral in 1755. The outstanding collections of the Picture Gallery and the Green Vault were established and the first European porcelain manufactory, which later moved to Meissen, was founded.

Dresden continued to grow rapidly in the mid-19th century. Additional bridges over the Elbe, new railway lines, stations and a port were built, along with a new city hall and numerous other public buildings. The first electric tram line (centre) opened in 1893. The city became recognised for car production, banking and the fabrication of medical equipment. It also became famous for its many camera works, including Zeiss Ikon, and its cigarette factories. The Yenidze factory, known as the ‘Tobacco Mosque’, was built by Jewish entrepreneur Hugo Zietz in 1909 and still dominates the riverside at Dresden Friedrichstadt.

After various temporary addresses the Isakowitz family rented a spacious first floor flat at Werderstrasse 44 (bottom left), in the north eastern part ofDresden Plauen. The house was on the corner of a square, at the centre of which stood the Lukas Kirche, an imposing, now reconstructed, late Victorian Lutheran church and important Dresden landmark. Plauen was a recently developed suburban area south of the Altstadt (Old Town) and the Hauptbahnof, the main railway station. Characterised by large detached villas with handsome facades and spacious gardens, it was
taken up by the middle and professional classes. The house contained several apartments, was centrally heated and their apartment had a bathroom, a conservatory known as the ‘winter garden’, maid’s quarters and telephone. Furnished with contemporary Bauhaus style furniture (bottom right) and work by artists including their friend Conrad Felixmüller, it was a comfortable home for a professional Jewish family.

Erich had his practice at 25 Königsbrücker Strasse and drove there by car. The family used the car, driven by both Erich and Sofie, for outings and foreign holidays. This is testified to by a considerable number of photo albums. The family were on friendly terms with their neighbours, in particular the Rickenback family and their son Peter, who lived next door. They all frequented the tennis club opposite, which remains to this day. The house itself took a direct hit during World War II and has been recently replaced with a modern building, having been for many years an empty site. The street has been renamed and is now known as Andreas-Schubert-street after an eminent 19th century engineer.From 1926 Lore attended the Deutsche Oberschule in Plauen, now known as the Gymnasium Dresden Plauen. Built in 1896, it was spared the bombing and remains largely as it was during her attendance. Lore kept a remarkable amount from her time at school including school reports, diaries (see writing across centre) and photo albums of school events and trips.

1D Text

The Dresden of the 1920’s was in extraordinary cultural ferment. The artists’ group Die Brücke, some of whom attended the Dresden Academy of Art (bottom right), had been established there in 1905. This moment is acknowledged as the birth of Expressionism, with the name Brücke (bridge) reflecting the artists’ eagerness to move into a new era. They used simplified or distorted forms and strong colours to shock the viewer and provoke an emotional response. Its leading members were Karl Schmidt-Rottluff, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Erich Heckel and Max Pechstein.

‘Houses by the Water’ by Karl Schmidt- Rottluff (1884-1976) in 1910 (top right and in the Leicester Collection) is typical of the artist’s decisive woodcuts, which were to become increasingly abstract, influenced by African art. Wood cutting tools (centre) were an important part of the Expressionists
means of communication, they were simple to use, the materials were easily accessible and inexpensive, and the blocks were straightforward to print.

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner‘s lithograph ‘Portrait of Carl Sternheim’ (centre right and in the Leicester Collection), the playwright and satirist, was created in 1916. A supporter and patron of the Expressionists, Sternheim sat for his portrait during a period when Kirchner was recovering from a nervous breakdown due to what he had witnessed in 1914 and 1915 as an infantry soldier in the German Army.

George Grosz’s 1922 lithograph ‘The Toads of Property’ (top left and in the Leicester Collection) took its title from Schiller’s play The Robbers in which he criticized the hypocrisies of class and religion and the economic iniquities of German society. In the print ‘the fat cat capitalists jealously guard their profits, while unemployed workers stand nearby’. From their arrival in Dresden until the rise of Hitler in 1933 was a golden time for the Isakowitz family. Erich’s dental practice prospered. Their wide and interesting social circle included artists, writers and academics. Lore, by all accounts, blossomed at the Plauen Gymnasium, a good all-round pupil with particular skill at languages. She enjoyed many social activities including dance classes in which the pupils wore full evening dress (bottom left). She had close friends, some of whom she remained in touch with after leaving for England.

The Jewish community of over 5000 focussed on the Semper Synagogue (centre left). Built in 1840, it was designed by Semper, a non-Jew, who also designed the Opera House. It reflected the aspirations of German Reform Judaism. This emphasised assimilation and the need to modernise rituals with the introduction of music; the organ and a choir. Reform Jews stressed that Jews were not in a state of continual exile but were vital contributory members of their community and nation. The synagogue was prosperous and well-endowed. It owned a valuable library, ran a community newspaper and maintained numerous social and charitable organizations. My grandmother Sofie volunteered for some of these charities and Erich was associated with a Jewish Freemasons Lodge. The Semper synagogue stood close to the Bruhl Terrace and the Carola Bridge. The synagogue, focus of Jewish life in Dresden, burnt down like over a thousand others in Germany and Austria on the night known as Kristallnacht, the 9th and 10th November 1938. A remaining fragment of the wall and the Star of David from the roof are now incorporated into the new synagogue, which is on the same site.

1E Text

Conrad Felixmüller (centre) was born in Dresden in 1897, the son of a blacksmith in a piano factory. A child prodigy in both music and art, he began studying at the Dresden Academy of Art at the age of 15 and became an independent artist in Dresden at the age of 18. A conscientious objector, he repeatedly flouted the military draft until 1917, when he was arrested and classified as mentally ill. He was then briefly conscripted as a medical orderly. His troubling lithograph ‘Soldier in the Madhouse II’ (top left and in the Leicester Collection) was made during this period and reflects his experience of the horrors of war. This served to reinforce his lifelong pacifism. Felixmüller was a great joiner of groups and causes, politically active on the Left from before he left the art academy. His radical commitment was an enduring feature of both his artistic practice and his way of life.

In a later biography he talked about the impulses around this early phase of Expressionism: ‘I was impelled to bold experiments of the kind which were currently shaking up the artistic life of all countries; strong independent colours, radically simplified forms. The goal which obsessed me was to convey not impressions of the external world but the expression of experienced reality.’ Felixmüller became an accomplished graphic artist, making woodcuts and lithographs for left wing journals such as ‘Der Sturm’ and ‘Die Aktion’. In 1919 he both joined the Communist Party and founded the Dresden New Secession group, forging important contacts and friendships. 1921’s ‘Autumn Evening, Klotzsche’ (bottom right and in the Leicester Collection) came about after Felixmüller won a Saxony state award intended for travel to Rome. He chose instead to go to the Ruhrgebiet, an industrial region on the Ruhr, where his brother was a mining engineer. Here he could focus on observing the lives of workers and their families, and comment on the grim reality of working conditions in the mines. In this dramatic painting a factory worker is returning from his shift, conveying not just the drudgery but also the dignity of working life.

His 1927 woodcut ‘Portrait of Christian Rohlfs’ (centre right and in the Leicester Collection) testifies to Felixmüller’s prominence within German Expressionist circles. Rohlfs, considerably his senior, was also a close friend of the Hess family of Erfurt whose generosity has made the Leicester collection possible.

How Felixmüller met my grandparents is not known, but by 1930 they were firm friends. Felixmüller’s wife Londa was from an aristocratic family and had introduced him to a largely Jewish circle of professional and enlightened supporters and patrons. It is also possible, as was common, that my grandfather waived his professional dentistry fees in exchange for artwork. The family acquired a copy of ‘Das Maler Leben’ in 1927 (excerpt top right). ‘Das Maler Leben’ (The Artist’s Life) was a book of 16 lithographs dedicated to Carl Sternheim and printed privately by the artist in Dresden. In 1932 Felixmüller made several drawings of my 17-year-old mother (bottom right), a drawing of my grandfather and a remarkable painting of my grandmother which my grandfather (for reasons that never became evident) sold in London in the 1960s. Felixmüller also gave them a personalised, dedicated watercolour in 1933, wishing them well on their holidays and a woodblock print of lovers. There is some evidence of other works owned by the family in the artist’s catalogue raisonné, but their whereabouts are not known. By 1932 Felixmüller, by then a happily married father of two boys, had moved away from the angular forms and intense palette of Expressionism towards more conventional and recognisable compositions: perhaps because of the wishes of his patrons, or in a search for more harmonious forms. Felixmüller’s shift would not prevent his work being roundly denounced by the Nazis.

1F Text

Perhaps the most detailed account of life in Germany, and specifically Dresden, from 1933 onwards is in the mostly handwritten (centre) diaries of Victor Klemperer (top left and bottom right). A Professor of Romance Languages at the University of Dresden (centre right), Klemperer was a Jew married to Eva (bottom left), an Aryan. In his writing Klemperer demonstrates the importance of an almost daily record. He aspired to ‘become a writer of contemporary cultural history’. The diaries, which were published in Germany in 1995, cover the years 1933 to 1945 and bring together detailed
observation, linguistic mastery and an educated scepticism. These chronicles, with their mix of political acuity, domestic minutiae and unflinching self-reflection have become a standard source for historians of the period. The relationship between the Isakowitz family and the acclaimed diarist
was initially professional but developed into a close personal friendship. I understand significantly more about my grandparent’s and mother’s experience of this time from the diaries. As Lore, age 17, was about to take her school leaving certificate, this was Klemperer’s diary entry for Friday 10th March:

1933: 10th March, Friday
Hitler Chancellor. What, up to election Sunday on 5th March I called terror was a mild prelude. Now the business of 1918 is being exactly repeated, only under a different sign, under the swastika. Again, it’s astounding how easily everything collapses.

1933: 10th August, Thursday
Stepun sent me a Fräulein Isakowitz for vocational guidance. She took her school-leaving certificate at Easter, father a Jewish dentist. She would like to become an interpreter. How? The institute in Mannheim has been moved to Heidelberg, Gutkind removed – who knows where – non-Aryans are not admitted. She wants to try and study here for one or two semesters. Questionable if she’ll be allowed to.

1933: 9th November, Thursday
At the first lecture Monday, French Renaissance, five people, for the exercises, Renaissance lyric poetry, four, today at Corneille, two. These two: Lore Isakowitz, yellow Jewish card – really, she wants to be an interpreter, I have already been advising her for some time…

1934: 9th January, Tuesday
Since a week ago and for a long while to come much time lost, torment and expense because of dental treatment. I have unfortunately had to give up old Petri, upright but Aryan, to support Israel: Dr Isakowitz, father of my student Lore Isakowitz, who is sometimes his assistant.

1934: 2nd March, Friday evening
I wound up this bad semester on Wednesday. I took the penultimate Corneille class with the ‘Jewish quota’, that is, little Isakowitz, and the last one with her and a young man, who will now take his state examination with Wengler.

1934: 4th December, Tuesday
Eva (Klemperer’s wife) is feeling better, she is faring remarkably well with the lengthy dental treatment. These long journeys into town are almost a stimulation, she likes Isakowitz – I am always in the treatment room. (Dentist – housework, housework, housework – semester – is it any wonder that Voltaire is taking so long?)

1934: 30th December, Sunday
On the first day of the holiday we ate at the station in the evening, walked a little down the Prager Strasse and returned on the F bus, which, fortunately for us, has been running between Nausslitz and the Neustädtische railway station since 1st November. (So at least we no longer have the inordinate cost of the taxis.) – (Coming from the dentist, Isakowitz often takes us part of the way in his own car. We are usually there at half past twelve, Eva then has something light to eat in town, we perhaps do some shopping and then back for coffee. A regular arrangement, twice a week.)

1935: 9th January, Wednesday
So, from Easter I shall have no more students and have to retire, i.e. be reduced from 800M to 400. But even now I can hardly meet my obligations; the life insurance must remain unpaid, and when on earth Isakowitz will see his money is quite uncertain.

1935: 16th January, Wednesday Isakowitz – after the treatment it is by now usual for him to drive us in his car to the station, where Eva has a soup, today after the removal of her bridge fairly toothless -again expressed the mood of Jewry, and today, in fact, my own also.

1935: 22nd April, Easter Monday
Eva meanwhile has got trouble with her teeth again, new expeditions to Isakowitz have begun, there will be a new bill.

1935: 2nd May, Thursday
Lore Isakowitz also appeared and asked me for books – she now wants to get a qualification at the Department of Oriental Languages in Berlin – which I promised her for Tuesday.

1935: 11th June, Tuesday after Whitsun
After our meal on Sunday the Isakowitz’s picked us up in their handsome car and drove us to the Bastei……All three of the Isakowitz’s, father, daughter, mother, are very agreeable people; the wife is painted and done up like a Babylonian whore trying to hide her decline, but she has a quite simple and obliging nature…

1935: 30th June, Sunday afternoon
Through Annemarie Köhler’s intervention I very quickly came by an excellent typewriter. Isakowitz’s ‘Little Erika’ was a) a loan and b) not ideal.

1935: 11th August, Sunday
The three Isakowitzes were here once in the evening for coffee. He touchingly offered me money, if my pension should not arrive. He said his nerves were finished, and he is thinking of emigrating.

1935: 6th October, Sunday
It so happened that on two occasions in the last few weeks we were with the Isakowitzes twice in one day. Eva unexpectedly required a supplementary repair; in the evenings of the two days the three Isakowitzes were first of all our guests for coffee, the second time our hosts for supper, (which unfortunately demands a return match) and that on the Jewish New Year. It turned out that the Isakowitzes are more orthodox than we had realised; the man came from ‘temple’ (I have not heard the word for thirty years), his head covered he read from the Torah, a hat was put on my head too, candles burned. I found it quite painful. Where do I belong? To the ‘Jewish nation’ decrees Hitler. And I feel the Jewish nation recognised by Isakowitz is a comedy and am nothing but a German or German European. The mood on both evenings was one of extreme depression. Isakowitz fears that at any moment he will no longer be allowed to treat insured patients and thus be deprived of a living. He has been considering emigration to Palestine for some time. An Aryan has long wanted to buy his practice from him for 15,000M. He at last decides on this sale – with the heaviest of hearts, because in Palestine there is said to be at least one doctor in every house – when at the last moment such sales of Jewish practices are forbidden… His wife had gone to Berlin to make enquiries at the
‘Jewish town hall in Meineckestrasse’, i.e. the advice centre of the Zionists which now represents all German – Jewish interests. Mood of panic, crowds of people, broken windows from the last rampage, which are ostentatiously left unrepaired, strongly advised to emigrate, more and more people fleeing. At the service (the New Year celebration, the time of joy!) the rabbi’s words had been deeply depressing, he had spoken a prayer for the dead, there had been many tears…

1935: 19th October, Saturday
On the 8th we had the Wieghardts and the Isakowitzes for supper. He is now trying to find a living in England. His wife is there at the moment to make enquiries. We are prisoners without hope of rescue.

1935: 31st October, Thursday
On Sunday afternoon the three Isakowitzes were here. Frau Isakowitz was in London for a week; there is a possibility that her husband will be allowed to practice as a dentist in England without sitting an examination. She relates that the rabbis preached the boycott of German goods from the pulpit; they addressed the women: It is natural that your husbands do not order machines from Germany for their factories; but you must not buy any German Odol mouthwash or other toilet or domestic things! Her Christian landlady said to her with reference to Hitler: ‘And there is nobody who kills this big swine?’. People say we are ruled by madmen, are completely bankrupt – it cannot last much longer.

Postscripts to 1935, noted down on 1st January 1936
In the course of this year we won as new friends the Isakowitz family. That has turned into a really warm friendship with the father, mother and daughter. They will probably emigrate to England, and that would be a real loss for us.

1936: 11th February, Tuesday
Last Sunday the Isakowitzes were our guests in the evening. The man is much worn down by worry and uncertainty; despite his despair he told terribly smutty jokes, he himself said: ‘Out of despair’.

1936: 6th March
Isakowitz informed me by telephone that he has permission to practice in England and wants to leave in April. We shall soon be quite alone.

1936: 5th April, Sunday
Last Sunday the Isakowitzes, man and wife, were here, ready to depart for London, very nervous and low in spirit.

1936: 30th May, Saturday evening
The Isakowitzes’ farewell visit last Sunday was fairly depressing, and the leave-taking today at the station was very depressing. It was from the women; over Whitsun the family is staying with relatives in Landeck, while he is returning to his surgery for one more week, will also complete Eva’s treatment; mother and daughter are travelling to London via Berlin. The day before yesterday I fetched flowers, which have been left to us, from their liquidated apartment. A repetition of the Blumenfelds’ departure. Nothing has changed in the meantime; the power of the Third Reich has only grown ever larger and more secure.

1936: 12th June, Friday
Isakowitz was with us – for the last time – yesterday evening.

1936: 28th June, Sunday
Isakowitz finally took his leave of us on Thursday evening; he was very tired and nervous – a new tablecloth suffered the consequences; in a single movement he poured a whole cup of coffee over it – but nevertheless in high spirits. Because at 45 years of age he is once again making a new start, because he is moving from servitude and lawlessness to humane and civilised conditions. Yet it was visibly hard for him to leave Germany. He philosophised a great deal and talked about art, with somewhat limited knowledge and clarity, but with much interest and an evident moral foundation. I heard with satisfaction, that despite the ‘customs examination’, he has still managed to get some property safely abroad, and that other émigrés evidently also repeatedly find opportunities to do so.

1938: 12th July, Tuesday, Eva’s birthday
Frau Schaps writes of her children settling down in London and of contact made with Isakowitz the dentist. All these people have made new lives for themselves – but I have not succeeded in doing so, we have been left in disgrace and penury, in some degree buried alive, buried up to the neck so to speak and waiting from day to day for the last shovelfuls.

 

2A Text

Book burning and destruction has a long and ignoble history. From King Jehoiakim ordering a scroll written by the Hebrew prophet Jeremiah to be burnt, to the public burning of the ‘papist bull’ at the instruction of Martin Luther in Wittenberg’s, to the wholesale destruction of copies of Margaret Sanger’s book on birth control ‘Family Limitation’ as recently as 1923. In 1823, the German Jewish writer Heinrich Heine wrote in his play ‘Almansor’ the words, ‘Dort wo man Bücher verbrennt, verbrennt man auch am Ende Menschen’ or ‘Where books are burned, in the end, people will also be burned’.

Dresden was an early adopter of National Socialism and the Nazis in Dresden took a similarly prompt lead on book burning. On 8th March 1933, a large bonfire of books blazed opposite the Dresden Royal Conservatory of Music. The new Reich Governor
Martin Mutschmann appointed in 1933 had been assiduous in following orders. What followed in the city after his installation made some prescient citizens leave immediately, whilst others like Victor Klemperer and my family, simply looked on in horror.

The Nazi book burnings were ostensibly a campaign conducted by the German Student Union. Actions like the Dresden bonfire were repeated in towns and cities across the Reich. On May 10th, in many university towns, right-wing students marched in torchlight parades ‘against the un-German spirit.’ These highly scripted rituals required Nazi officials, academics and student leaders to address participants and spectators. The books targeted for burning were those viewed as being subversive or opposed to Nazi ideologies. The bonfires also served to instill fear.

All these types of writing, as described by the Nazis, along with many others were banned: writing by Jewish authors regardless of the field, the works of traitors, emigrants and authors from foreign countries who believed they could attack and denigrate the new German Reich, the literature of Marxism, Communism and Bolshevism, Pacifist literature, literature with liberal and democratic attitudes and writings supporting the Weimar Republic, historical writings whose purpose was to denigrate the origin, spirit and culture of the German ‘Volk’, books that advocated “art”, which is decadent, bloodless or purely constructivist, writings on sexuality and sexual education which serve the egocentric pleasure of the individual and thus completely destroy the principles of race and Volk, popular entertainment literature that depicts life and life’s goals in a superficial, unrealistic and cloying manner, based on a bourgeois or upper-class view of life and patriotic kitsch in literature.

Book burning was a stark warning to, and persecution of, those whose opinions were opposed to Nazi ideology. And, of course, far worse was to come. Like Victor Klemperer, many artists, writers and scientists were banned from working and publication. Their works could no longer be found in libraries or on the syllabuses of schools or universities. Some of them were driven to exile, others were deprived of their citizenship or forced into a self-imposed exile from society. For other writers Nazi persecutions ended in death. Many died in concentration camps or were murdered, others despaired and committed suicide.

2B Text

Hitler had aspired to be a painter, twice rejected for a place at Vienna’s Academy of Fine Arts, and held vociferous views on art and its role in society. All modern art was considered ‘degenerate’ by the Nazis, with Expressionism and ‘Die Brücke’ group particularly singled out. They used the phrase ‘Entartete Kunst’, for which the English translation is ‘degenerate art’. This view of art as dangerous was not new. The idea that artists could have clinical conditions, that their art could be not just bad, but mad and also contagious had been widely argued in the late 19th century.

Visual symbolism was central to the Nazi world view,and they devoted significant resources to promoting their views through art. From January 1933 Nazi agencies began to dismantle the progressive collecting policy of German museums, which held some of the finest examples of European 20th century art. In the years that followed the Nazis removed over 20,000 artworks from state-owned museums.

In Dresden, January 1933, the leader of the regional branch of the Nazi Party Martin Mutschmann was appointed the leader of Saxony in a power grab. He was assiduous in following orders and courting favour with the regime.

The first exhibition of ‘Degenerate Art’, known as the ‘Schandausstellung’ (shame exhibition), was encouraged by Mutschmann and curated at short notice by the artist Richard Müller (bottom left), the director of the Dresden Art Academy. It plundered the city’s art museums and opened in the inner courtyard of the City Hall Dresden (centre left) on 23rd September 1933. It included works by Felixmüller, as well as work by all the great artists of German Expressionism from the Dresden collections. Otto Dix’s painting ‘The Trench’ was shown in the Dresden exhibition (top left, in a still taken from a brief film of the event). It was one of eight works by Dix later included in the Degenerate
Art Exhibition in Munich in 1937. In the catalogue for the exhibition it was named ‘painted military sabotage of the painter Otto Dix’. Dix was an art student in Dresden before WW1. Conscripted in 1915, he served as a machine gunner on both the Eastern and Western Fronts. He returned to study at the Dresden Academy of Fine Arts and was a founder, together with his mentor Felixmüller, of the Dresden Secession group. His horrendous experiences in the trenches inspired the anti-war art he created after 1920, including ‘The Trench’. From 1929 to 1932 he painted a triptych, entitled ‘The War’ (centre right), the central panel of which reworks themes from ‘The Trench’. The status of the Trench painting was known until March 1939, but its destination and fate are unknown. It remains lost, and may have been destroyed in WWII.

The triptych of ‘The War’ with its distinctive panels was hidden by Dix, survived and has since 1968, well before German unification, hung in the Galeries Neues Meister in Dresden.

Felixmüller’s 1925 woodcut ‘Portrait of Carl Sternheim’ (top right,and in the Leicester collection) was amongst the more than 40 works by him in the Dresden City Hall exhibition. Here the work was contentious not only in terms of style but also subject matter. Sternheim was best known as a playwright but also as an art collector and contributor to the magazine ‘Die Aktion’ which is how he met and became friends with the artist. Felixmuller portrays him with a library of his controversial plays behind him.