Credit Due: Eight German-Jewish Artists Persecuted by the Nazis

Samson Schames, The Gate at the Huyton Alien Internment Camp, Watercolor, 1940

Samson Schames, The Gate at the Huyton Alien Internment Camp, Watercolor, 1940

In the years between 1933 to 1941 close to half a million Jews left Germany to seek refuge abroad, approximately 130,000 of them in the U.S. What made this exodus remarkable was not only the exceptional professional educational skills these refugees brought with them but also the large number of artists and intellectuals among them. Those artists lucky enough to get out of Germany in time included such prominent names as the photographer Lotte Jacobi, the sculptor Benno Elkan, and the painter Ludwig Meidner. Many of the artists who had already established international reputations were rescued by Varian Fry, an American estimated to have saved more than 1300 artists and intellectuals. Their plight and often spectacular escape is generally well documented, but what became of those artists who were not internationally known? What about those painters, sculptors and illustrators like Eugen Spiro, Suzanne-Carvallo-Schülein and Julius Wolfgang Schülein, Peter Lipman-Wulf, Arno Nadel, Samson Schames, Anne Ratkowski and her teacher and mentor Arthur Segal?

The painter and musician Arno Nadel, for example, was able to obtain an exit visa to England but was too weak and dispirited to make the journey after his incarceration in the concentration camp of Buchenwald. This exhibit takes a close look at the experiences various artists underwent prior to their emigration and explores the phenomenon of emigration itself as an existential experience.

To be sure, the lives of these artists are as diverse as their artistic styles, but there are some commonalities: Most of the refugees went from country to country, often unable to secure work or the right to stay for an extended period of time. Some of those who thought they found refuge in France and England found themselves interned as enemy aliens, faring only marginally better than concentration camp inmates; others were able to leave Europe only at the last minute, in great danger. However, one thing all have in common: The world has not given these artists the recognition that should be theirs. Much of the researchfor this exhibit is based on unpublished manuscripts and documents in the LBI Archives, presenting new insights into the lives of eight German-Jewish artists and their work.

The paintings, photos, and prints on display will be complemented by historical documentation, such as letters, diaries and family papers as well as printed publications from the LBI Archives and Library to provide a closer understanding of the momentous historical events of the times. Special attention is given to the role of the Jewish communities and self help organizations in organizing cultural events for the increasingly isolated Jewish community and upholding German culture when the culture around them was no longer deserving of this name.

June 13 – November 1, 2001 at Leo Baeck Institute

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