Katharina Feil knew nothing about the Jewish history of her family who grew up in southern Germany. World War II wasn’t something she talked about with her parents – the topic was poignant.
In 1978, at age 18, they traveled as a pair to Boston, where they attended a lecture by Holocaust survivor Erich Goldhagen at Harvard.
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As a child who grew up in Baden-Württemberg, she had never met any Jewish survivors. The experience instilled in him something new, and he began to read all he could about the Nazi period.
When she arrived home the following year, she told her mother that she wanted to study Jewish studies for her bachelor’s degree. At this point, she still had no idea what her family had experienced during the war.
His mother was not keen on the idea.
“She was like, ‘Why are you doing this? felt said dw,
Her studies included a trip to Israel, which she said worries her mother greatly for reasons she did not yet understand.
“I realized she was really nervous… to me, it was a completely irrational notion that I would convert. Why? I didn’t know,” she said.
During later years, when Feil returned home safely from Israel and continued her studies, her mother began to accept the fact that her daughter’s fascination for Jewish history was not going to go away.
Eventually, she began to open up leaving some hints about family history, such as if she was part of a Nazi youth organization and wanted to be a leader but “couldn’t.”
When Feil tried to pressurize her mother to make these comments, she was distracted.
“She chose to talk, but as soon as I started getting curious and wanted to know more, she kind of got hooked,” she said. But the dam had started to leak.
And so began a mission that his brother Julian, decades later, would call his “life’s work.”
hidden Jewish roots
Feel’s mother eventually told her daughter that her grandfather was Jewish.
As a child, his mother, who was baptized as Lutheran, was also not aware of his Jewish roots. Her background was not shared with her until she tried to become a leader in the Bund Deutscher Mdel (BDM), a Nazi youth organization for young girls. To become a leader, she had to show proof that she was an “Aryan”.
She didn’t have that proof because of her father’s Jewish roots, but she had become so active in public life at the time that her mother might have worried that someone would find out about her lack of a German citizenship card. It was decided that he would be sent to live in a boarding school in East Germany.
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“My grandmother seems to know exactly who to call,” Feil said. These ties provided her mother with protection from the Nazis – a protection that did not extend to everyone in the family.
Once the war ended, Feil’s mother and her family moved to southern Germany, where they remained for the rest of their lives. After years of dropping hints about his past, but never disclosing everything, his mother gave birth certificates to two great-great-aunts that Feil had never heard of: Betty and Sophie. Wolff, bachelor artist who died in Berlin in 1941 and 1944.
At first, Feil didn’t know what to do with the documents. But after years of digging, she discovered that her relatives, who were never discussed in her family, were some of the leading female artists of the Berlin Secession art movement, at a time when women were not allowed to attend official art schools. .
Betty Wolfe was a painter who learned her craft by imitating old masters, while her sister Sophie worked in a variety of mediums, but became known for her sculptures.
Although there aren’t many records on the two women, Feil found that the artists rubbed elbows with personalities whose stories were well-documented – from German writer Anselma Heine to prominent French artist Auguste Rodin – calling them a Offering enough clues to string along. an understanding of what his life looked like.
Sophie’s name was mentioned in the diary of one of the most famous female artists of German secession, Cathay Kollwitz, whose graphic art and sculptures are still displayed throughout Germany today.
Kollwitz wrote in his diaries about visiting Auguste Rodin with Sophie Wolff in her studio in Paris.
She also noted that Sophie was “very well thought out among the Parisian independents.”
“She returned to Germany to live in shortly before the outbreak of World War I,” Kollwitz wrote. “This move was enough to her detriment. She did not achieve nearly as good a position in Berlin as she had in Paris, and did not receive the recognition she deserved for her exquisite sculpture and drawing.”
Kollwitz’s observations still hold true today: despite being a well-known painter and sculptor of the time, Sophie Wolff’s work has been more or less forgotten; His legacy, erased.
Less than Feil’s knowledge, the curator of the Georg Kolbe Museum in Berlin was also interested in Sophie Wolff. He included her sculptures in the 2018 exhibition Remembering the Forgotten Female Art of the Berlin Secession.
When Katharina begins arranging for her relatives to have a Stolperstein (or stumbling stone), she learns from the office that coordinates the memorial project in Berlin that the Georg Kolbe Museum already has one for Sophie Wolff. applied for stone.
In Germany and around the world, there are more than 90,000 brass stones commemorating the lives of those who were persecuted by the Nazis between 1933 and 1945.
Betty Wolfe, the older of the two sisters, pictured. She attended lessons with the Swiss painter Karl Stauffer-Bern, who also taught Kollwitz and other prominent budding female artists at the Painting and Drawing School of the Munich Artists Association.
Only a few months earlier, Feil learned that a painting by Adelheid Bleichroder’s Betty, a descendant of Gerson von Bleichröder, who had once worked with Otto von Bismarck and was one of the most prominent Jews in Berlin at the time, had been donated. was given. At the Jewish Museum in Berlin.
The search made sense to Feil – she had already found mention of Betty in a letter from Agathe Lippmann, a Bleicheroder before the wedding, in the collection of the Leo Back Institute.
death during war
Betty and Sophie Wolff had a good relationship and were part of several artistic circles in Berlin before the start of the war, such as the Association of Berlin Women Artists, the German Lyceum Club and the Women’s Art Association. However, in 1933, women were forced to leave any professional organization because of their Jewish roots.
1990 के दशक तक, कुछ शोधकर्ताओं ने उनकी विरासत को देखना शुरू कर दिया, उसने कहा। लेकिन इतने सालों के बाद उनकी कहानियों को एक साथ समेटना मुश्किल था।
ज्ञात हो कि युद्ध के दौरान दोनों महिलाओं की मृत्यु हो गई थी।
1944 में बर्लिन के विटेनाऊ जिले में एक मनोरोग अस्पताल में 1943 में एम्बुलेंस द्वारा भेजे जाने के तुरंत बाद सोफी की मृत्यु हो गई। आधी सदी से भी अधिक समय बाद अस्पताल के तहखाने में मिले उसके मृत्यु प्रमाण पत्र में कहा गया था कि उसकी मृत्यु स्वाभाविक रूप से हुई थी।
उसकी भाभी, आइरीन वोल्फ द्वारा हस्ताक्षरित मृत्यु प्रमाण पत्र के अनुसार, 1941 में एक स्ट्रोक से बेट्टी की मृत्यु हो गई।
मौन की संस्कृति
जैसा कि कैथरीना फील ने अपना शोध किया, उसने यह समझना शुरू कर दिया कि उसका पारिवारिक इतिहास – उसकी महान-मौसी की कुछ उपलब्धियों के रूप में शानदार – पर चर्चा क्यों नहीं की गई, और वह कमोबेश इस बात से अनजान क्यों हुई उसका परिवार अतीत।
“मेरी पीढ़ी जिस चुप्पी के साथ पली-बढ़ी थी, जैसा कि मैं आज इसे समझती हूं, एक जीवित रहने की तकनीक थी,” उसने उस समारोह में कहा, जहां स्टोलपरस्टीन को उसकी मौसी के सम्मान में रखा गया था।
“नाजी युग के दौरान मौन ने हमारी सुरक्षा की गारंटी दी। बाद में, चुप्पी इस अपराध की निशानी थी कि हमारे परिवार के कुछ सदस्यों ने फासीवादी व्यवस्था के माध्यम से सुरक्षा की रिश्वतखोरी से अपेक्षाकृत मुक्त हो गए, जबकि अन्य को स्पष्ट रूप से बहुत नुकसान हुआ।
इस अपराधबोध ने फील के परिवार को उनकी मौसी की कलात्मक विरासत में ले जाने वाले किसी भी गौरव को लूट लिया। हालाँकि परिवार के बचे हुए सदस्यों को कई मायनों में हाशिए पर रखा गया था, फिर भी उन्हें नाजियों द्वारा साथ खेलने के लिए पर्याप्त विशेषाधिकार भी दिए गए थे।
अपनी भूली-बिसरी मौसी के जीवन को समझने की कथरीना की खोज, और स्टोलपरस्टीन अब स्थायी रूप से बर्लिन के फुटपाथों पर अपना नाम छाप रहे हैं, यह सुनिश्चित करते हैं कि उनकी विरासत को अब और नहीं भुलाया जाएगा।
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