Posts Tagged ‘Joseph A. Horne’

Here is a link to previous Interludes in our walk though history with Mr. Horne.


Walter Ings Farmer, Director, Wiesbaden Collecting Point

Walter Farmer, Director, Wiesbaden Collecting Point

In his book, The Safekeepers: Memoir of the Arts at the End of World War II (2000), Walter Ings Farmer writes that “The story of the Offenbach Archival Depot has never received the attention given to restoration of monuments … Nevertheless an account of MFA&A activities in the Frankfurt area would be incomplete without a description of the rescue of the literary and scriptural treasures that the Nazis had looted with the same nefarious purposes they applied to art collections. … Looting of libraries became as integral to the Nazis plan for cultural domination as the looting of art collections.

1933 Berlin Book Burning

1933 Berlin Book Burning

He describes how Nazi actions escalated from the 1930s public burnings of the authors they wanted to discredit to “a program of search and seizure among the libraries and archives of the nations that they sought to conquer. … These activities established a pattern which resulted in the eventual accumulation in Germany of storehouses full of other nation’s libraries.

Millions of books would be accumulated, along with a stunning amount of other cultural and religious items collected from across Europe.  Farmer writes of being introduced to Offenbach by “his boss” Captain James Rorimer in the fall of 1945.

James Rorimer

James Rorimer

He took me with him to inspect an abandoned warehouse within the I.G. Farben plant at Offenbach,” remembers Farmer. “This building was under consideration to become to repository primarily for Jewish libraries, archives and the Torahs.” Prior to the warehouse in Offenbach being established as a collecting point, library collections were being stored at the Rothschild Library in Frankfurt. Over time it was clear that infrastructure at the Rothschild Library was inadequate.

Based on his and others assessment of the situation, librarian and MFA&A officer Lt. Leslie Poste suggested that detailed cataloging of the items be stopped at Rothschild and that operations be relocated across the river to the I.G. Farben plant, the site of a five-story, reinforced concrete loft building.

Seymour Pomrenze (center)

Seymour Pomrenze (center)

Pomrenze put into place necessary administrative, transportation, cataloging and storage systems enabling the depot to operate much more effectively.  Professional conservation and preservation labs, a photographic studio and other needed infrastructure was created.  His successor, Captain Isaac Bencowitz, refined a system for photographing ex-libris and library markings found in books.

Isaac Bencowitz

Isaac Bencowitz

The resulting cataloging system would significantly increase staff ability to identify and sort items, identifying country of origin and other markers of ownership .  In the end Bencowitz and his team would complete “two volumes with reproductions of library markings belonging to 4,105 libraries of individuals and institutions in Western and Eastern Europe

and two volumes with more than 1,300 bookplates or ex-libris, including 1,200 German-Jewish, German-Masonic and probably German non-Jewish plates as well as over 100 mostly Dutch-Jewish bookplates.” (F. J. Hoogewoud)

As requests were submitted by individuals, families and nation states seeking missing items, MFA&A staff were able to use the catalogs to help them search through the millions of books and cultural items that would eventually be stored at Offenbach.

Bencowitz, during his tenure as director, used photography to document the operations of the depot and its staff and volunteers.

Staffing the depot was a mix of U.S. military, Allied and civilian personnel, as well as German civilians, and scholars from around the world. In October 1946, Bencowitz received orders for redeployment.  The imminent nature of his departure and shifting priorities in the region for policy and decision-making made selecting a new director difficult.  As an “emergency measure,” archivist Major Lester K. Born and his assistant, Joseph A. Horne, were sent to Offenbach for temporary duty.  Born was to develop an interim plan for continued operation of the depot, a plan that Mr. Horne was to implement.  In short, a plan was finally developed and by January 1947, Horne became the third director of the Offenbach Archival Depot.

Exactly what Horne was doing prior to assuming his new role remains opaque without futher research.  Archival records show him often assisting MFA&A colleagues like Gordon Gilkey, Leslie Post, Lester Born and Paul Vanderbilt with the acquisition of information about available artwork and cultural items.  His fluency in German, facility with “dead languages,” appreciation and knowledge of the arts, and photographic skills would have made him invaluable in the field.  He produced numerous reports about his trips across Germany about what he was seeing and hearing from locals. People were often very open with him.  Following is an excerpt from a field report after visiting libraries in over a dozen landkreise or rural districts:

By 1947, relations with the Russians had deteriorated significantly, adversely affecting the restitution of items to individuals and institutions in Russian-controlled territories, and the exchange of items between the Russian Zone and other Allied Zones.  With plans well underway to revitalize German economy and culture (including denazification), military and intelligence priorities shifted to stopping the Russians.  And so Horne like many within the MFA&A unit followed orders as high level officials made clear that those in the U.S. intelligence sector had full access to depot materials and freedom to act as they deemed necessary.

In February 1947, one month after Horne became director of Offenbach, Lucy Schildkret arrived.  She would later write, “his friends called him Tony. Before the war, he’d been on the staff of the Library of Congress’s photographic division.  Transferred from the MFA&A in Berlin, he was then new to the Depot, having taken over his duties barely two weeks before my visit.  About thirty, very tall, thin, lanky, and blond, he was the only American there.  He was in charge of a staff of some forty Germans.”

In her memoir, From That Place and Time, Lucy Schildkret describes her encounter with Horne as she works to sort, identify and return the YIVO library of Vilna, Poland.  The Yiddish Scientific Institute (YIVO) was founded in 1925 for the scientific study of Jewish life.  Headquartered in Vilna, the institute had branches around the world including the United States. At the start of the war its headquarters were transferred to New York City.

In late 1945, when the YIVO library was identified as being in Frankfurt, visiting Jewish scholar, Prof. Koppel S. Pinson sought permission from the YIVO leadership in New York to distribute, like a lending library, some of the unidentifiable books to Jews living in the Displacement Camps.  It would take time but he would be granted such authority.

A year later, Lucy Schildkret would also be granted authority to work with the books.

The complexities of sorting, identifying and returning books at the scale demanded of the Offenbach Archival Depot become clearer when reading through the declassified documents relating to what happened with just the YIVO library.  For instance, YIVO like many libraries of its size and mission had been the repository of family libraries.  Books at Offenbach were being identified by ex-libris and other markings as belonging to individuals and/or their families but they had in fact been donated to YIVO (or other institutions) by family members.  There are numerous letters between YIVO administrators with U.S. military officials trying to prove the ownership of items.

Though correspondence about the YIVO library begins in 1945, by early 1947 the vast library had yet to be shipped to YIVO in New York.  The reasons include continual reduction in manpower, both skilled and unskilled, at the depot and complex, bureaucratic chains of command within the U.S. military, between the Allied zones and even within the YIVO organization.  In a March 1947 document, Horne reports to his superiors that Miss Schildkret has been unable to examine several hundred thousand unidentified books because she had yet to receive authorization.

Vilna Library During German Occupation, in the files of the Offenbach Archival Depot

Vilna Library During German Occupation, in the files of the Offenbach Archival Depot

In 1938, Lucy Schildkret had studied in Vilna and worked at the YIVO.  Prior to the war, she would return to the U.S. and work as assistant to the research director at the YIVO headquarters in New York.  In 1946 she journeyed to Europe as an educational worker with the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (AJDC), the largest Jewish relief organization in America. Through this organization she was able to work with displaced persons in the camps.  With her skills in Yiddish and time at YIVO, she was able to discern that books that had been labeled as unidentifiable were indeed identifiable.  But even as she acquired the authority to help identify the YIVO library, she maintained her focus of serving the people housed in the displacement camps, and she would do so with a tenacity that would characterize her career for decades to come.

Schildkret responds two weeks later with a letter that concludes:

Her memoir presents a powerful account of the emotions stirred by working with the contents of the library from a place that she had called home and knowing what had happened to the people she’d called friends as the Nazis destroyed the city.

Eventually, with the combined effort of many individuals in several countries, over 90,000 items would be returned to the YIVO.  Seymour Pomrenze who had been pivotal in streamlining systems at the depot would be brought back to help shepherd the return of these items.  In 1998, Pomrenze shared his personal reminiscences of his experience with the Offenbach Archival Depot and the depot’s considerable achievements restituting and distributing millions of Nazi-looted materials including the YIVO library.

Mr. Horne, the person with whom we are taking this walk through history, would wrap up his tenure at Offenbach in 1948 though files show that he continued to support depot activities until its closure.  In the Cold War world, he would, strangely enough, continue to work with books and even return to his earlier interests in music and photography as he embarked upon a new journey.  One world war had ended. A new type of world war had begun. A new weapon in that war was the exchange of culture and what better place to share all that made up culture — from art to music to literature — than in a library.

More to follow …

Sources and Additional Readings

Cultural Plunder by the Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg (ERR)

What Became of the Jewish Books? (New Yorker, February 2014)

U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum — Offenbach Archival Depot

Pomrenze Personal Reminiscence about Offenbach

Mapping the Offenbach Archival Depot

Returning Looted European Library Collections

YIVO Digital Archive on Jewish Life in Poland

YIVO Institute

From That Place and Time: A Memoir, 1938-1947 by Lucy S. Davidowicz and Professor Nancy Sinkoff

Article – Dutch Jewish Ex-Libris Found among Looted Books in the Offenbach Archival Depot (1946) by F. J. Hoogewoud

1939 Photo of Lucy Schildkret in Vilna



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Previous Interludes

Portrait Eric Stenger, 1906, Museum Ludwig, Foto (c) Rheinisches Bildarchiv

Portrait Eric Stenger, 1906, Museum Ludwig, Foto (c) Rheinisches Bildarchiv

At the end of one letter, Dr. Erich Stenger writes, “I am up to my neck in work again and often regret that we did not get together more while you were here. There would have been so much more to show and to discuss. The director of the Kodak Museum B. Newhall has announced his visit. And when will YOU be returning to Germany?” (excerpt from 1950 letter from Stenger to Joseph A. Horne)

Erich Stenger (1878-1957) was a noted photographic historian and collector.  He trained as a chemist.  He worked during the early days of photography when photography was viewed more as a science rather than art.  In 1905, he would join the faculty of the Technische Hochschule in Berlin as an assistant instructor in the photographic department.  In the early 1900s, he co-wrote papers on The Fundamental Principles of Three-Colour Photography, and Radiation Sensitiveness of Silver Bromide Gelatin for White, Green and Orange Light.  By 1934, he was named to the chair of photography founded in 1864 by Hermann Wilhelm Vogel, a post he would retain until his retirement as Professor Emeritus in 1945.  He began building his photography collection as a student and would do so until the end of his days.

Portrait Franz Grainer, 1920er Jahre, Museum Ludwig, FH 2438, Foto: © Rheinisches Bildarchiv

Portrait Franz Grainer, 1920er Jahre, Museum Ludwig, FH 2438, Foto: © Rheinisches Bildarchiv

His collection was diverse, from landscapes to portraits, to decorative framed items to caricatures about photography.  Beaumont Newhall wrote that “At the time of World War II, his collection was said to be the largest in private hands anywhere in the world.”

Hermann Wilhelm Vogel: Dreifarbendruck nach Verfahren: Vogel-Ulrich. Aufnahme nach Ölgemälde und natürlichen Schmetterlingen 1892 Museum Ludwig, FH 10248, Foto: © Rheinisches Bildarchiv

Hermann Wilhelm Vogel: Dreifarbendruck nach Verfahren: Vogel-Ulrich.
Aufnahme nach Ölgemälde und natürlichen Schmetterlingen 1892
Museum Ludwig, FH 10248, Foto: © Rheinisches Bildarchiv

Beaumont Newhall (1908-1993), referred to in Stenger’s letter, was a pioneering historian and first curator of photography at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

Self Portrait at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1970.

Beaumont Newhall, Self Portrait, Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1970.

Over his career, he would write five editions of the signature work, The History of Photography.  In 1945-1946, the Roberts Commission would recommend him as a good candidate for the Monuments, Fine Arts and Archive unit.  Paul J. Sachs described Newhall “as one of the best men for library work.”

Newhall’s name appeared on one of the last lists of qualified officer personnel that the Roberts Commission presented to the War Department, indicating that “the only alternative after this is enlisted men.”  Newhall would not be assigned to the unit.  After discharge, Newhall returned to the U.S., continuing his research, lecturing, and curating photography exhibits.  In 1948, he became the first Curator of Photography at the Kodak Eastman House in Rochester, NY and would serve as its director from 1958-1971.

One of those enlisted men who would join the Monuments, Fine Arts and Archive unit was Joseph Anthony Horne.  And as part of that unit, Horne would meet Dr. Erich Stenger and learn of his unique photographic collection. Exactly when and where Horne first met Stenger in postwar Germany is unclear but the friendship they developed, as indicated through correspondence about everything from photography to family, would endure for a decade. That friendship must have stemmed from a mutual love of photography. Horne had been a photographer with the Farm Security Administration – Office of War Information (FSA-OWI).

Horne’s MFA&A colleague Paul Vanderbilt, during an Investigation Trip to Interview German Authorities and Inspect Private Papers, reports meeting Stenger in September 1946:

Vanderbilt recommended:

Horne certainly met Stenger at a December 1946 meeting of photographers and photographic scientists “to discuss the present situation of the photographic trade and industry in Germany.” Mr. Horne had been invited to attend by the Berlin Press Photographers Guild.  In his report following the meeting, he echoed Vanderbilt’s recommendations that Stenger be aided in reassembling his photographic collection, a collection spread across a divided postwar Germany.

"Germany occupation zones with border" by US Army - Modified version of http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/library/report/other/us-army_germany_1944-46_map3.htm. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Germany_occupation_zones_with_border.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Germany_occupation_zones_with_border.jpg

Germany Occupation Zones 1946

It is unclear from available records how helpful Horne, Vanderbilt and the other Monuments Men were in helping Dr. Stenger rebuild his collection in a post-war, rapidly becoming Cold War, world. What is clear is that this unit of librarians, archivists and those dedicated to preserving and sharing knowledge, felt strongly about helping this gentleman as much as they could.

As the socio-political landscape of Europe changed, and with it the U.S. presence, Horne prepared to move on to other positions within the U.S. foreign services.  Regardless, he and Stenger stayed in touch, corresponding about family and photography, and perhaps even their shared interest in stamp collecting.  Horne would highlight opportunities for Stenger to exhibit photography, and Stenger provided updates on the health of his collection.

“The day after tomorrow I will be going to Switzerland, where I have been asked to come to deliver a few scientific lectures. I will be back home in mid-November. While in Switzerland, where I used to make annual purchases from merchants who knew what I was collecting, I will once again be on the look-out for my collection. Not having been back in eleven years, most of the merchants won’t remember me. Recently I was able to acquire some very special objects here in Germany; considering the awful destruction, I marvel that here and there something useful still pops up.” (excerpt from 1950 letter from Stenger to Joseph A. Horne)

Henry Traut Porträt, München, Museum Ludwig, FH 11936 1932 Foto: Rheinisches Bildarchiv, rba_d036895

Henry Traut, Porträt, München, Museum Ludwig,
1932, Foto: Rheinisches Bildarchiv

In 1955, Stenger’s diverse collection was purchased by the company Agfa, and today it complements a number of other collections as part of the Photographic Collection of the Museum Ludwig in Cologne.  Stenger died in September 1957, and as Beaumont Newhall states in a later editorial, the world of photography lost a foremost historian and collector.


 Sources and Additional Readings

The Photographic Collection of the Museum Ludwig

Image Magazine, 1958, incl. editorial on Dr. Erich Stenger

press page about the Stenger Collection

About Beaumont Newhall (International Photography Hall of Fame and Museum)

Beaumont Newhall (Scheinbaum & Russek LTD)

Oral History Interview Beaumont Newhall

More about Paul Vanderbilt

Source of historical military records

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Spring will come! Meanwhile, here are a few projects that I’m working on.

1. New postcards coming to the Trinity Church Bookshop.  Most of my previous images have focused on details of the stained glass windows.  These new images highlight the wall paintings, murals and the interesting play of winter light across the unique architectural features of the building.

2. Moving forward with the InterludesInterludes is a collection of historical vignettes composed of words and images relating in someway to the life journey of Joseph A. Horne (1911-1987).  My research into his life began, in part, out of curiosity sparked by stories that he’d told his son and his son would later share with me.

Researching his life became a walk through history as I learned about orphan trains, immigration, the Depression, the Farm Security Administration, photography used at home and in war, and then there was the Monuments, Fine Arts & Archives program.  What a delight to share with his son, “Hey, did you know your dad was one of the Monuments Men?”

In addition to my main chapters, there are “interlude extras.”  Please check out previous posts here:  interludes TOC.  Coming soon Mr. Horne’s correspondence in the 1940s and 1950s with photographic historian and collector, Dr. Erich Stenger, and the complexities of operating the Offenbach Archival Depot.

3. Collecting and Sharing “Lost” Stories. It’s not so much that most of the stories are lost.  I just think that some portions of these stories could be more widely known.

For instance, it’s not so much sharing the technical story of this stained glass window designed by Frederic Crowninshield in the 1880s (which was sadly dismantled in the 1950s).  What I’m looking forward to sharing is the story of the remarkable Bostonian for whom the window was created and whose legacy is still being felt today.

I’m also looking forward to sharing even a small portion of the story of an African American architect who started out designing stained glass in the late 1800s before moving on to design buildings, and even starting an architecture department, before his death in the late 1920s.  Researching this man’s life has opened my eyes to the role of African Americans in architecture.  It has also given me a new perspective on the complexities of life, within and across ethnicities, as America forever dances (and fences) with the idea of becoming a “melting pot.” Stay tuned.

4. More Food Photography.  Well, when you’re stuck in a “snow globe” after many successive snowstorms, and your favorite place to work at home is the warm kitchen, you can start to have a lot of fun photographing food.  We’ll see what the rest of this wintry culinary season has to hold for me and my camera.

chive sprouts

chive sprouts



That’s the scoop. Stay warm!

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Eleanor Roosevelt arriving at opening of CIO Canteen, by Joseph A. Horne, 1944

Eleanor Roosevelt arriving at opening of Labor Canteen, by Joseph A. Horne, 1944

During World War II, canteens were sponsored nationwide by a wide array of different organizations, their overall goal to provide U.S. servicemen with refreshments, entertainment and good company.  Often the food, entertainment and the company of the hostesses was all volunteer.  The Washington Labor Canteen was sponsored by the Federal Workers of America, Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO).  It opened with great fanfare on February 13, 1944.  The party was to start at 8pm, with First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt scheduled to appear soon after.

photo by Joseph A. Horne, 1944

Folksinger Pete Seeger, photo by Joseph A. Horne, February 1944

Photographs from opening night show that there was good food, good company, great music and big smiles in abundance.

Folksinger Carlie Tart, photo by Joseph A. Horne, February 1944

Folksinger Carlie Tart, photo by Joseph A. Horne, February 1944

I first learned of the canteen because of my research into the life of Joseph Anthony Horne, where I chanced upon that iconic photo he took of a young Pete Seeger performing before the First Lady.  Horne was one of several photographers at this inaugural event, and so there are many photos capturing the uniqueness of the gathering.

photo by Alfred Eisenstaedt for Life Magazine, 1944

photo by Alfred Eisenstaedt for Life Magazine, 1944

Unique not so much because of the presence of the First Lady or the musical entertainment, but because of the interracial mix of party guests, having a good time together, as equals.  Operated by the CIO Women’s Auxiliary, the Labor Canteen was the only Washington canteen that was open to servicemen of all races.  Others provided services and entertainment to men of one color only.

photo by Alfred Eisenstaedt for Life Magazine, 1944

photo by Alfred Eisenstaedt for Life Magazine, 1944

Washington, DC, like much of America, was deeply segregated in the 1940s.  The photos by Horne and the other photographers suggested something special was taking place. In her February 16, 1944, My Day column, Eleanor Roosevelt wrote:  “After dinner Sunday night I went to the opening of the labor canteen under the auspices of the Washington Industrial Union Council.  It was crowded with servicemen and the hostesses were very busy providing entertainment and refreshments.  I think this will be a popular canteen, and I am sure that those who work there will find it very rewarding.”

Canteen Hostesses, photo by J. A. Horne, February 1944

Canteen Hostesses, photo by J. A. Horne, February 1944

Additional research pulled up several articles in a weekly newspaper called the Baltimore Afro-American.   Still in operation today (though in a very different format), it is apparently the longest running African American, family owned, newspaper in the U.S. dating back to 1892.  A February 1944 article in the newspaper highlights Eleanor Roosevelt’s support of the canteen as well as the consternation of others in Washington.

In June 1944, the article Army Jim Crow Hits CIO Canteen described the canteen being denied use of facilities due to “army policy” though the author indicates that the denial had more to do with the canteen’s racial integration.

Agnes Smedley, 1914

Agnes Smedley, 1914

In that same issue, another article stood out with its title A White Woman Tours the South by Agnes Smedley (1892-1950).  I’m not sure how her tour originated but Ms. Smedley, based in New York, had traveled to speak in the deep South.  Afterwards, she wrote in her article, “I am so bitter from experiences… that everything seems dark.”  The ferocity with which she wrote prompted me to look her up.  Quite a story there, but you can read more about her life via the links at the bottom of this post.

By December 1944, there was a new article in the Afro-American newspaper celebrating the 10-month success of the interracial canteen as a “victory for democracy.”  Labor Canteen hostess Miss Dorothy Shatson is quoted:  “The existence of a successful interracial canteen in a Southern city like Washington represents a victory of democratic forces, and the realization of some of the things for which we are fighting.”

A Washington Labor Canteen Hostess, photo by J. A. Horne, Feb. 1944

A Washington Labor Canteen Hostess, photo by J. A. Horne, Feb. 1944

In another newspaper article from March 31,1945, Mrs. Fern Urling, writes that she gives all her spare time to the canteen because she, too, feels it stands for real democracy.  Co-manager of the canteen at the time, she adds, “At first some Southern whites are startled to see the interracial atmosphere but they usually come back and finally get used to it and are just as contented as we are. … It is unfortunate that the Army won’t publish any of our activities in its official bulletin. We have to depend mostly on personal contact to advertise the canteen.”

Marian Anderson, photo by Roger Smith, 1943

Marian Anderson, photo by Roger Smith, 1943

Perhaps most surprising for me was the discovery of an October 1945 article in the Afro-American, The Democratic Labor Canteen Flays Mrs. Truman’s Stand.  In short, the membership of the canteen wanted Mrs. Truman to break her relationship with the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR), citing as an example the actions of former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt who had resigned from the DAR after the organization refused to allow Marian Anderson, as a person of color, to sing at Constitution Hall.  The telegram highlights how the the canteen’s two-year success was “living proof” of the fallacies of segregation.

photo by Joseph A. Horne

around a table at the canteen, photo by Joseph A. Horne

So what happened to the Washington Labor Canteen?  With the war’s end, I imagine the canteen closed.  But what a legacy to leave behind.  What seeds of friendship and camaraderie — or maybe just a little bit more respect — were planted in those few years between people who had few other opportunities to positively interact.


Sources/Further Reading

Prior Interlude features can be found HERE

Eleanor Roosevelt’s My Day Newspaper Columns

More about the Baltimore Afro-American

Army Jim Crow Hits CIO Canteen in Baltimore Afro-American, 1944

Democratic Labor Canteen Flays Mrs. Truman’s Stand in the Baltimore Afro-American, 1945

What Washington Citizens Are Doing (Fern Urling) in the Baltimore Afro-American, 1945

About Agnes Smedley on Wikipedia and summary from PBS Documentary

Agnes Smedley Collection at Arizona State University

Other famous canteens:

The Stage Door Canteen

The North Platte Canteen





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paintings by carl hofer

paintings by carl hofer

I enjoyed photographing the apricot and other fruits earlier this week.  In part, I was inspired by Carl Hofer‘s Bowl of Peaches and his other fruit still life paintings.  I did not know he was an artist when I began researching his life, nor could I imagine how much I would love his work.

paintings by carl hofer

paintings by carl hofer

My research began with only a name engraved on custom stationery and a signature at the bottom of a handwritten letter, dated 1948, addressed to Joseph A. Horne, the Director of the Offenbach Archival Depot.  The script was beautiful but illegible for me since it was in German.  Horne’s son remembered his father referring to the man but no other details about who he was or how his father and this Hofer might have met.

carl hofer painting

carl hofer painting

As part of my ongoing walk through history with Mr. Horne, I wanted to know more about this man in his life.  Translation of the letter would come later, but I began by researching the only words in the letter I could immediately understand, his name.

carl hofer self-portraits, spanning1920-1945

carl hofer self-portraits, spanning1920-1945

I quickly learned that Carl Hofer (1878-1955) was a noted German expressionist painter, printer and illustrator whose work  had been appearing in exhibits around the world since the early 1900s. At the end of this post are some of the links I found describing this important artist and teacher whose name may not be that familiar today outside of art circles. If not for Horne’s letter, I would not have learned of his work.

carl hofer paintings

carl hofer paintings

Of the many documents lost over time, that letter was one of the few that Horne retained.  For those of you familiar with my Interludes series, you know that Horne was involved with the recovery and restitution of stolen artwork, books and other cultural items in post-war Germany.  And he was also involved with those activities to foster and reinvigorate the artist communities in a war-ravaged Germany.  It is undoubtedly through these activities that Horne and Hofer met in the late 1940s.

carl hofer in later years, late 1940s

carl hofer in later years, late 1940s

Earlier, in the 1920s Hofer had been teaching art at a respected German institution and his work celebrated world-wide.  But, by the 1930s, he’d made Hitler’s list of degenerate artists.  He was removed from his teaching post.  Over 300 of his works were confiscated from museums and several included in a traveling exhibit of degenerate art alongside the works of Beckmann, Chagall, Kadinsky, Klee, Nolde and other artists.  By the war’s end, in Allied Occupied Germany, he would be reappointed as teacher and director of a new arts academy. As for the years in between and soon after …

carl hofer paintings, period 1947-1948

carl hofer paintings, period 1947-1948

In his memoir, From the Ashes of Disgrace, sociologist Hans Speier describes what happened to Hofer under the Nazis and Speier’s impressions of the man after they met in late 1945:

…The failure to find a safe place to work and live pushed [Hofer] to the brink of despair.  In 1943, a fire destroyed his studio along with all his paintings from the past ten years. He resumed work at once in a room in his apartment, only to be completely bombed out and lose everything in November 1944.  Thereafter he finally found refuge in a sanatorium in Babelsberg near Berlin, where the Nazis were hiding the French politician Herriot … Now [in November 1945] he owns no furniture, and he is hungry.  Nor has he suitable quarters for doing his work.  However, as president of the academy, which has been reconstituted … he is quite busy.  I was almost awed merely by seeing the expression on his face, and by his reserve and his dignity.” (page 25)

I was especially excited to find Speier’s 1945 account because his words corroborated and complemented what Hofer would write to Horne three years later in March 1948.  Once translated, the poignancy of the content came across although the specific meaning of words and references were not immediately clear.  Hofer writes of being touched by Horne’s inquiry into his well-being.  Then, he writes, after having been in the insane asylum for years, “now we are back in an asylum again.” He alludes to the monetary reforms of  postwar Germany that result in the “black market blossoms as never before, only this time prices are higher.”  Finally, he writes of “the American planes drone above our heads, reassuring us day and night that we won’t starve, unless the red Hitler gobbles us up.  It has been a crazy time, so different from what we pictured in our naive hope three years ago.

Berliners watch a C-54 Skymaster land at Tempelhof Airport, 1948

Berliners watch a C-54 Skymaster land at Tempelhof Airport, 1948

It wasn’t until I spoke with a woman who grew up in the Soviet Union that I understood that the reference to red Hitler was Stalin.  And when I looked more closely at the letter’s date, then did I understand the reference to crazy times, the security of American planes overhead and the possibilities of starvation.  Hofer wrote the letter only a short time before the Berlin Blockade.  As the Soviet blockade took place (June 1948-May 1949), Western Allies dropped food and other supplies into Western Berlin by air.  While the blockade would eventually end, the Cold War was only just beginning.  Hofer survived the blockade, and would continue to teach and to create art for several more years.

Life Magazine article, 1954

Life Magazine article, 1954

Today his work is found in museums, galleries and private collections around the world.  While there are a few more bits of correspondence between Hofer and Horne that I’ve found, their translation is a future project.  For now, it has been my pleasure to learn just a little bit about this influential artist, his perseverance, and the beauty he created until the end of his days in 1955.


Sources/Additional Reading

Degenerate Art Overview Wikipedia

Spaightwood Galleries Hofer Bio

Hofer Drawings at the Museum of Modern Art

Art Institute of Chicago Collection

Van Ham Art Estate and Hofer Archive

Life Magazine, May 10, 1954 Article

From the Ashes of Disgrace: A Journal from Germany, 1945-1955 by Hans Speier (page 25)

Berlin Blockade


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Excerpt from Edward Gordon Craig's Book of Penny Toys, 1899

Excerpt from Edward Gordon Craig’s Book of Penny Toys, 1899

One day, as I was perusing the files of the Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives Unit as part of my walk through history with Mr. Horne, I kept coming across the name, Gordon Craig.  In a series of letters, Craig appealed to different agencies seeking the return of items stolen in France and taken to Germany.  In one letter, he even presented a list:

Additional letters had been been submitted on his behalf by noted scholars in the art world, like Thomas Whittemore.

The correspondence, like this one, that first caught my attention was dated 1947.  By this time, many collections of books and papers recovered postwar had been shipped to the Offenbach Archival Depot in Germany, awaiting restitution.  And, by this time, Joseph A. Horne had been assigned as the third director of the Depot.  Horne was contacted and requested to make a search.  His findings:

Further inquiry would reveal that Craig’s property was in the hands of U.S. forces but in Austria, not Germany.  Unfortunately, while it was clear who had amassed the collection, it was unclear to whom the collection belonged, to which institution or even to which country.  But before I learned about that intrigue, I first had to learn about this Gordon Craig.  I was just curious.  Why was this man’s boxes of books and drawings of such interest?

Edward Gordon Craig

Edward Gordon Craig (1872-1966)

It didn’t take long to discover that he was one of the most innovative forces in theater whose influence is felt to this day.  A rather renaissance figure, an actor from a distinguished acting family…

as Hamlet, 1897

as Hamlet, 1897

a set designer and theatrical producer who revolutionized the use of light, space and costumes for storytelling

Craig's design (1908) for Hamlet 1-2 at Moscow Art Theatre, directed by Stanislavsky

Craig’s design (1908) for Hamlet 1-2 at Moscow Art Theatre, directed by Stanislavsky

a writer and publisher

who also did woodcuts and other illustrations.

I found many online biographies describing his years of studying, performing,  and teaching, and how he eventually moved to France.  One document even stated, “In 1931 he went to live in France and in 1948 made his home in Vence, in the south of that country, where he wrote his memoirs entitled Index to the Story of My Days (1957).” (National Trust)  But what happened between 1931 and 1948?  In most online bios, and even in this wonderful timeline charting his career, about this time period little is written.  It is the events that take place during this time that establishes Craig’s presence in the U.S. National Archives and in the files relating to the work of the Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives Unit.

Edward Gordon Craig, 1941, by Dora Kallmus

Edward Gordon Craig, 1941, by Dora Kallmus

By the 1930s he had begun building his Gordon Craig Collection of writings and resources on the tools, techniques and artistry of theater.  In 1942 he would be arrested in German-occupied France and taken to a Nazi Concentration Camp.  He would be released, and his collection taken. Soon after, conflicting stories would arise, as evidenced in this letter, about whether or not he’d sold the collection and, if so, under what circumstances.

Joseph Gregor, mentioned in the above letter, had been working with Craig prior to the war.  Documentation suggests that Gregor and others at the Vienna library in some way facilitated Craig’s sell of his collection to Hitler, who wanted to add the collection to his planned museum and library at Linz, Austria. Craig also made claims that Gregor had personally removed drawings from his apartment without his agreement.

It took time and lots of paperwork but it appears that the items dispersed during the war were reassembled as a whole, and an attempt was made to return them to Craig.

In October 1948, MFA&A officer Evelyn Tucker handed over the 40-plus cases comprising the Craig Collection to a French representative.  The cases contained manuscripts, illustrations, back issues of The Mask and The Marionnette Magazine.  By November bills of laden were being exchanged between at least France and Britain to cover the cost of shipping the cases to Paris on behalf of Mr. Craig.

Nearly seventy years later, Edward Gordon Craig artwork and writings are distributed, as collections, in many major museums, universities and public and private libraries.  His vision remains respected to this day.  New articles are being written critiquing his work and his legacy, and exhibits of his drawings take place around the world.


Sources/Additional Readings

Biography of Edward Gordon Craig

Stage Design of Edward Gordon Craig

Victoria & Albert Museum early Craig images

National Portrait Gallery Craig image 1950

Digitized version of Craig’s Woodcuts and Some Words

Digitized version of Craig’s Book of Penny Toys

More about photographer Dora Kallmus aka Madame d’Ora

Beyond the Mask: Gordon Craig, Movement and the Actor

Edward Gordon Craig: A Vision of Theatre

About Thomas Whittemore



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Following is an updated table of contents (TOC) for the series of interludes, a collection of historical vignettes, threaded together by following in the footsteps of one gentleman, Joseph A. Horne (1911-1987). It’s a glimpse into history that continues to shape this world.  It’s been a wonderful, sometimes surprising, experience for me. The interludes will conclude over the next few months including a few more “interlude extras.”  I hope you enjoy this journey of words and images.

I. interludes TOC

i. foreward to the interludes

ii. interlude: genesis

iii. interlude: exodus, part 1

iv. interlude: exodus, part 2

v. interlude: dust in the wind

vi. interlude: lamentations

vii. interlude: to protect, preserve, and return … if possible

viii. interlude: offenbach archival depot

ix.  interlude: amerika haus

II. interlude extras

interlude extra: arnold genthe

interlude extra: edward gordon craig

interlude extra: carl hofer

interlude extra: washington labor canteen, eleanor roosevelt and race relations

interlude extra: erich stenger

interlude extra: ludwig aloysius joutz

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