Art and National-Socialist Ideology

Fiess, Heinz. "Art and National-Socialist Ideology." Mitteilungsblatt, February 2009, 10-11.

This translation from the original German-language text to American English is provided by Alex Herzog

Observations regarding the paintings of Hertha Karasek-Strzygowski in the Heimatmuseum

"Just look, this is what the Bessarabian-Germans looked like," said a father to his children during the Tag der offenen Tuer [Open House] in the Heimthaus, as they were viewing paintings exhibited in a hallway. [One can view,] mothers, wrapped in colorfully striped shawls, their heads covered, carrying their small children; a Bessarabian farmer, clad in knit cap and a fur, whip in hand, presenting himself proudly; and in addition to other faces, a pair of conspicuously "Aryan" portraits of a young woman and a young man.

A hallway of the Heimatmuseum has been decorated with large-format drawings and paintings which Hertha Karasek-Stzygowski put to paper in the Semlin Camp in 1940, during the time of resettlement. Principally the pictures provide information about the clothing of those Bessarabia-German people, while their facial expressions often appear impersonal. Are these really individuals with their own thoughts and feelings that Mrs. Karasek wished to depict? Individuals with all their personal problems, especially in view of the loss of their familiar homeland, worriedly looking toward the future? -- Or was the painter trying to show something else entirely?

What is known about this artist? She herself was not a Bessarabian, but was working at the behest of her close friend and her future husband, Dr. Alfred Karasek, a native of the formerly Austrian Bruenn [Brno, today part of Slovakia - Tr.], a researcher of llnguistic "islands" and political author in the secret service of the SS, who had already been involved heavily in the resettlement of the Volhynia-Germans and during this resettlement of the Bessarabia-Germans was acting as "Regional Authorized Official of the Resettlement Staff" (cf. http:homepages.uni-tuebingen.degerd.simon). As, for example, Dr. Karl Stumpp, Director of the "Research Office of German-Russian-dom" of Berlin, Karasek also was a member of the intelligence department of the SS-Resettlement-Commando. On pp. 152 - 158 of her book "Die Deutschen aus Bessarabien [The Germans of Bessarabia]," Ute Schmidt delineates Karasek's area of responsibility during his activities as part of the Resettlement Commission. For example, on p. 156, U. Schmidt describes how the trek [wagon train] of women and children being resettled from Krasna was filmed by a camera, and narrated by Karasek, for the Wochenschau [a weekly newsreel - Tr.] More than 300 wagons (with a total of about 1200 travelers) were decorated and covered with texted banners. Karasek: "And here is the first wagon with these Ethnic Germans -- as you see me standing amidst fields of maize and grassy meadows, so begins the old familiar picture of just such a meeting. Hands are raised for the deutschen Gruss [the Nazi euphemism for the Hitler salute- Tr.], faces beaming, cries resounding. We meet wagon upon wagon, and each relays the greetings and cries to the next." According to U. Schmidt, in the same reference, this particular scene had to be re-filmed five times because the horses were not cooperating in the manner the camera crew had intended.

But let us return to Hertha Karasek's paintings. She, too, produced her paintings under the telling and inescapable influence of NS-[Nazi] ideology. Her work began in 1936, at first not in relationship with Alfred Karasek, but in the linguistic "islands" of the East. In making portraits of the Bessarabia-Germans, she was able to draw on her extensive experiences within the Kremnitz-Proben "ethnic isle" in Slovakia, in a receiving camp for Black Sea Germans in Lodz [Poland], in the Soviet-Volhynian colony of Blumental near Zhytomir, and in various other camps.

In viewing her pictures, one cannot fend off the impression that -- in addition to her pictorial representation --  she was primarily concerned with a propagandist message, which was intended to indicate that the Bessarabian Germans --at least as she had depicted them -- satisfied the demands expected of them for resettlement in Poland. They appear healthy, strong and allied with the soil, the women are fertile and concerned about their offspring, also: their bodily features and facial characteristics correspond clearly with what the NS teachings on race have called "Aryan." For the Reich they are thus truly welcome, and they will, as loyal pillars for the Eastern stronghold,clearly do justice to the assignments intended for them

So far, the images displayed in the hallway have been exhibited without any commentary. It is up to the observer as to which kind of thoughts might go through his head. In my opinion it would be proper to use some explanatory text to put these works of art into the proper light, so that they may thereby actually become a true and comprehensible component of the Bessarabian-German history.

Our appreciation is extended to Alex Herzog for translation of this article.

Permission to use any images from the GRHC website may be requested by contacting Michael M. Miller