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Eine Frau erlebt den roten Alltag written by Lili Körber and designed by John Heartfield (cover): burnt books, exiled authors and dis:connective memories

burcu dogramaci
  In her work Die Bücher (2019/20, fig. 1 + 2), the artist Annette Kelm compiled photographs of book covers of volumes that were destroyed in the ritual book burnings of the National-Socialist era. In the campaign Wider den undeutschen Geist (Against the Un-German Spirit) promoted by the German Student Union, book pyres were erected and set alight in numerous German cities on 10 May 1933.

Fig. 01: Kunsthalle zu Kiel, exhibition view Annette Kelm. Die Bücher, 2022 (© Kunsthalle zu Kiel, photo: Helmut Kunde). Lilli Körber’s Eine Frau erlebt den roten Alltag on the far left.

Fig. 02: Kunsthalle zu Kiel, exhibition view Annette Kelm. Die Bücher, 2022 (© Kunsthalle zu Kiel, photo: Helmut Kunde).

The published lists of books ‘worthy of burning’[1] also included those photographed by Annette Kelm. Her photographs show the covers of 50 first editions of the publications that were burned in the auto-da-fé.[2] The inkjet prints, measuring 52 x 70 cm, show these books in the same bright illumination, with a drop shadow visible that emphasises their three-dimensionality, indicating that these are photographs of objects (not just of the front cover, for example). The photographs show the absent real object, whose contents remain illegible, as Robert Kehl points out in his review in the journal Texte zur Kunst. This shifts the accent from the book as an object of remembrance to the aesthetic diversity of book design, referring to the network of artists and designers of the Weimar Republic and thus problematising the never-linear act of commemoration.[3] In his argumentation, Kehl contrasts the factual and conceptual colour photography with the black and white of the historical photographs of the book burnings.[4] However, Annette Kelm’s expandable series contains more complicated implications that apply equally to Nazi book burning, persecuted writers and destroyed books as well as to the displacement of people and objects. I argue that, through Kelm’s photographic conceptual art, a contemporary audience can re-connect to the dis:connected publications and designs that were dispersed and therefore lost to a German audience due to Nazi persecution. Among the photographs (and, thus, also among the burned books) are several covers designed by John Heartfield: F.C. Weiskopf’s Umsteigen ins 21. Jahrhundert (1937) and Upton Sinclair’s Das Geld schreibt (1930), both published by Malik publishers in Berlin. Also tossed upon the pyre was Lili Körber’s Eine Frau erlebt den roten Alltag from 1932, which was published by Rowohlt Verlag with a book cover by Heartfield and is the starting point for my reflections (fig. 3).

An author, a graphic designer and a book – entangled histories

The literary scholar and writer Lili Körber was born in Moscow in 1897 as the daughter of an Austrian merchant family, and she later lived in Vienna. She was a member of the Social Democratic Workers’ Party, the Union of Socialist Writers and the League of Austrian Proletarian Revolutionary Writers. This political commitment was also expressed in her journalism; Lili Körber wrote for leftist print media, such as the Wiener Arbeiter-Zeitung, the Rote Fahne and the Arbeiter-Illustrierte-Zeitung (AIZ). [5] Together with Anna Seghers and Johannes R. Becher, she accepted an invitation from the Moscow state publishing house to travel to the Soviet Union in 1930. Fluent in Russian, she decided to get to know the living and working conditions of the people by serving as a driller in the Putilov tractor works in Leningrad for several months. It was a factory with a ‘well-known history of revolutionary resistance during the tsarist era’.[6] Körber published her experiences as Eine Frau erlebt den roten Alltag (A woman experiences the everyday life of the Reds), a book published by Rowohlt Berlin in 1932 that runs to 239 pages. The author worked in the genre of documentary novels by reproducing documents such as pay slips and pages from her work logbook in addition to passages from her diary, which convey authentic and personal experiences (fig. 4). The book was a bestseller and was reviewed in the press by, for example, Siegfried Kracauer in the Frankfurter Zeitung, and the run of 6000 copies was sold out in four weeks.[7] No further editions were ever published.[8]

Fig. 03: Lili Körber. Eine Frau erlebt den roten Alltag. Berlin: Rowohlt, 1932, cover design by John Heartfield, cover, spine and back (Archive Burcu Dogramaci, © The Heartfield Community of Heirs / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2023

The book cover was designed by the artist John Heartfield. The volume was published as a paperback with a dust jacket. Heartfield used three photographs for the cover, spine and back (fig. 3): at the front are two women with short haircuts measuring a milled steel piston. The photograph is cropped against a coral background that connects the three outer edges of the cover. The spine displays a square, with people walking in groups in the same direction (downwards in the picture) towards a common goal that lies outside the field of view. It could be a factory gate. On the back cover workers are erecting a large Soviet star and painting it with white Cyrillic letters; the lettering ‘There is metal’ refers to the accelerated construction of the metalworking industry in the Stalinist five-year plan.[9] Stalin’s likeness is presumably attached to the top. The three photographs work with dynamic lines. In front, the women look downwards, while tools and processed material point from the left to the top right. The crowd strides towards the bottom of the picture, the workers and the star are dynamically arranged from bottom left to top right. Heartfield’s design alludes to the content of the book: Körber’s experiences as a driller are echoed in the motifs of the workers, with the Soviet context on the back of the book. The dynamic composition again refers to the author and heroine's constant struggle with social and political circumstances as described in the blurb, which reads: ‘In workshops and hospitals, in furnished rooms and on the street, she fights day after day, with pleasure and agony, the heated lovers’ quarrel between the individual with the collective. Again and again balance is restored, and again and again the quarrel resumes’.[10] In addition, the cover in particular conveys an image of contemporary women and female workers in the Soviet Union, who outwardly resemble the New Women of the Weimar Republic.[11]

Fig. 04: Lili Körber. Eine Frau erlebt den roten Alltag. Berlin: Rowohlt, 1932 (Archive Burcu Dogramaci).

For his book and magazine covers, John Heartfield worked with the technique of photomontage, combining existing and specially taken photographs such that new meanings emerged. On the title page and in the pictures inside the AIZ, Heartfield brought together photographs from different contexts in one pictorial space. Through ‘the aesthetic closure of the cuts between the different photographic parts’[12] a new pictorial logic emerged, as Vera Chiquet notes. Heartfield’s photomontages for the AIZ used artistic means and pictorial constellations to expose the economic entanglements of National Socialism, the viciousness, the aggressiveness, the anti-Semitism of Nazi ideology. In his book covers, produced from 1920 onwards for publishers such as Malik (the publishing house run by Wieland Herzfelde, Heartfield's brother), Neuer Deutscher Verlag and Rowohlt, Heartfield used photographic material to translate books’ contents into artistic forms. [13] The ‘seductive aesthetic’[14] attracted attention on display tables and bookshop windows, and it drove sales along with the content, which was advertised via blurbs and reviews.

Dispersion – John Heartfield and Lili Körber in exile

Due to his political work, Heartfield had to flee to Prague as early as 1933, before continuing his artistic work for the AIZ. Like Heartfield, Körber, as a political author, quickly found herself in the crosshairs of the new rulers. Her 1934 novel Eine Jüdin erlebt das neue Deutschland (A Jewess Experiences the New Germany) ‘one of the first anti-fascist books’,[15] takes place in the transitional period between the end of the Weimar Republic and the establishment of the Nazi state, incisively observing the ideological suffusion of society. The list of harmful and undesirable literature (here as of October 1935), contains ‘Sämtliche Schriften’ (all writings) by Lili Körber.[16] In 1933, Eine Frau erlebt den roten Alltag was among the books burned.[17] A trip to Japan and China in 1934 found literary expression in the travelogue Begegnungen im Fernen Osten (Encounters in the Far East, Biblios publishers, Budapest, 1936, fig- 5) and in Sato-San, ein japanischer Held. Ein satyrischer Zeitroman (Sato-San, a Japanese Hero. A contemporary satyrical novel, Wiener Lesegilde, Vienna, 1936), which is a reflection on Japanese fascism that can also be read as a parody of Hitler. It thus becomes clear that the burning and banning of her books under National Socialism did not deter Körber from publishing political works.

Fig. 05: Lili Körber. Begegnungen im Fernen Osten. Budapest: Biblios publishers, 1936. Cover. (Archive Burcu Dogramaci).

Farewell shortly after the annexation of Austria, Körber fled Vienna to Paris via Zurich, where she wrote for Swiss newspapers and the Pariser Tageblatt.[18] From April 1938 onwards, the social-democratic newspaper Volksrecht in Zurich published the serial novel Eine Österreicherin erlebt den Anschluß (An Austrian woman experiences the annexation), in which Körber, under the pseudonym Agnes Muth, processed her observations in the proven form of an autobiographic novel. Finally, in June 1941, with the support of the Emergency Rescue Committee, she emigrated via Lisbon to New York, where Körber worked in a factory worker and as a nurse.[19] In addition to a few newspaper articles in, for example, the émigré newspaper Das andere Deutschland (The Other Germany) published in Buenos Aires, she also published the serial novel Ein Amerikaner in Russland (An American in Russia) in the New York ‘Anti-Nazi Newspaper’ Neue Volks-Zeitung in 1942/43.[20] Körber fell off the radar in Germany and Austria; her disappearance was the result of political persecution, the confiscation and destruction of her books and her emigration.[21] On the occasion of her 125th birthday, Lili Körber, who died in exile in New York in 1982, was described in a February 2022 newspaper article as ‘none forgotten, but today even a virtual unknown’.[22] This radical judgement must read in the context of the growing scholarly attention paid to her work in recent years. In the 1980s, two of her books were reissued in the wake of ascendant research on women writers and a burgeoning interest in exiled women. In 1984, persona publishers in Mannheim published Die Ehe der Ruth Gomperz (The Marriage of Ruth Gomperz), a re-edition of Eine Jüdin erlebt das neue Deutschland under a new title, and in 1988 the Brandstätter Verlag in Vienna reprinted Eine Österreicherin erlebt den Anschluß.[23] Körber’s book Eine Frau erlebt den roten Alltag has not been re-published to date, but it has been discussed in a number of academic papers.[24]This attention to Körber’s book can be attributed to the fact that male perspectives dominated reports on Russia until 1933, among other reasons. In the approximately 100 German-language reports published on Russia, there were only five other women besides Körber. [25]Nevertheless, the 1991 essay by the art historian Herta Wolf is entitled ‘Lili Körber – An Emigration into Oblivion’,[26] and the literary scholar Gabriele Kreis, who knew Körber personally, stated in 1993: ‘For the Austrian Lili Körber, exile meant the end of her existence as a writer. It turned her into a writing nurse. [...] When I asked her why she became a nurse, she answered: “It was the feeling that you can really do something in this profession, that you are needed.” As a writer, Lili Körber was no longer needed in Germany and Austria’.[27] As for John Heartfield, art history has undoubtedly not forgotten him. Rather, he is especially popular exponent of the Weimar Republic. His exile work, on the other hand, long received less notice. It was seen as subordinate and less political. John Heartfield fled from Prague to London in 1938, where he continued his work in various fields, as a member of the Free German League of Culture for example, composing title pages for magazines such as Picture Post, but above all as a designer for book covers. Heartfield designed numerous book covers between 1941 and 1949, especially for the publishing house Lindsay Drummond. These display both the continuation of his artistic means as well as the political orientation in his work.[28] The Lindsay Drummond publishing house, founded in 1937, had an anti-fascist programme that included books by politically active émigré authors. Not every book Heartfield designed for Drummond had a political impetus, but numerous publications were directed against the Nazi regime and its expansionist policies; they were devoted to wartime England and the Future of the Jews.[29] The book jacket of Wilhelm Necker's Hitler's War Machine and the Invasion of Britain (1941) shows a tank driving away from the viewpoint. The soldiers are captured from behind; parachutists and an aeroplane can be seen in the sky above. Soldiers in ranks, tanks and uniformed men marching are visible on the reverse. The visual symbolism depicts the Nazi army as technically advanced and disciplined; man and machine converge in this logic.

Fig. 06: Paul Duner. A Year and a Day. London: Lindsay Drummond, 1942 , cover design by John Hearfield (Archive Burcu Dogramaci, © The Heartfield Community of Heirs / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2023).

A Year and a Day by Paul Duner (1942, fig. 6), on the other hand, is dedicated to the author's escape from occupied Belgium in October 1940 and the subsequent passage until his arrival in England in October 1941. Heartfield, who signed the cover with his name, juxtaposed photographs from the countries on Duner’s escape route to form a mosaic. On it is a circular map, with Paul Duner’s route into exile drawn in red. Heartfield's work for Lindsay Drummond in particular contradicts the view widely held by art historians that the artist was less noticed in English exile because his work was too modern or radical.[30] That view ignores the fact that the book, like the magazine, was a mobile medium that was bought, read, shared and mailed. Even during the Second World War alone, Lindsay Drummond published 157 books, many of which were designed by Heartfield.[31] Heartfield’s work for the publisher gave him visibility and allowed his work to circulate in the public domain, often with Heartfield’s signature on the covers.[32] Heartfield’s last published work for Lindsay Drummond dates to 1949, and he relocated to East Germany a year later.[33] Though all too often devalued in the literature as him just earning a paycheque, Heartfield cherished his work for Lindsay Drummond, as proven by the many framed covers and motifs adorning the walls of his Berlin flat in Friedrichstraße after his remigration.[34]

Dis:connected objects and actors: reframing exile history

Lili Körber’s book Eine Frau erlebt den roten Alltag thus opens up two exile stories that stand for dispersion, dislocation and new beginnings. Although the book fell victim to Nazi book burning and was confiscated from German libraries, a few copies can still be found in used-book shops. My search was also successful, even ending in a rare copy with a preserved dust jacket. By the way, Lili Körber carried the book with her on her various exile stops. When Gabriele Kreis visited her in New York in May 1980, Körber showed her a copy of Eine Frau erlebt den roten Alltag, but distanced herself from the book because her view of the Soviet Union had long since changed.[35] In a questionnaire sent to emigrant writers in 1959 by the publicist Wilhelm Sternfeld, Körber listed her book Eine Jüdin erlebt das neue Deutschland (1934) as her first publication.[36] She had thus broken with her burnt first work during her exile. Incidentally, Eine Frau erlebt den roten Alltag can also be found in John Heartfield’s estate.[37] The artist thus took it into exile and carried the book with him when he remigrated to the SBZ. This makes it a book with its own history of exile, a moving object, reproductions of which have been repeatedly shown in reproduction at various exhibitions in recent years as part of Annette Kelm's work Die Bücher (2019/20). In conclusion, this also allows us to reflect on the connective and dis:connective. Lili Körber’s book Eine Frau erlebt den roten Alltag is connected to the publication landscape of the Weimar Republic, to the book burnings in National Socialism (and thus denied literary reception in Germany after 1933 and from 1938 onwards in Austria) and to histories of emigration. It is disconnected, though, from the local literary landscape in New York and London, because Körber’s books were not known there and were not available in translation. The book is connected to two actors who remained unconnected/dis:connected due to their global dispersion. Annette Kelm, in turn, has reacquainted the contemporary art scene and a contemporary art audience with Eine Frau erlebt den roten Alltag –- an audience that gains its own access to the dis:connected objects through Kelm’s photographic conceptual art.[38]   [1] On such verbrennungswürdiger Bücher, see: Angela Graf, ‘April/Mai 1933 — Die “Aktion wider den undeutschen Geist” und die Bücherverbrennungen, 9–22. Bonn: Bibliothek der Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, 2003’, in Verbrannt, geraubt, gerettet! Bücherverbrennungen in Deutschland. Eine Ausstellung der Bibliothek der Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung anlässlich des 70. Jahrestages (Bonn: Bibliothek der Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, 2003), 12. All translations from German are by the author. [2] The project was produced in 2019 as part of the exhibition Tell me yesterday tomorrow at the NS-Dokumentationszentrum, Munich. Cf.: Udo Kittelmann, Nicolaus Schafhausen, and Mirjam Zadoff, ‘Probleme in die Zukunft retten’, in Annette Kelm – Die Bücher, ed. Udo Kittelmann, Nicolaus Schafhausen, and Mirjam Zadoff (Cologne: Buchhandlung Walther und Franz König, 2022), 139–40. [3] Robert Kehl, ‘Überlebende Bücher’, Texte zur Kunst, 28 August 2020, https://www.textezurkunst.de/articles/robert-kehl-uberlebende-bucher/; see also: Jan-Holger Kirsch, ‘“Das Buch wird Bild”. Annette Kelms Fotoausstellung “Die Bücher” im Museum Frieder Burda, Salon Berlin’, Visual History, 17 August 2020, https://visual-history.de/2020/08/17/das-buch-wird-bild/. [4] Robert Kehl, ‘Überlebende Bücher’. [5] Cf.: Walter Fähnders, ‘Eine Frau erlebt den roten Alltag. Lili Körbers Tagebuch-Roman über die Putilow-Werke’, in Der lange Schatten des ‘Roten Oktober’. Zur Relevanz und Rezeption sowjet-russischer Literatur in Österreich 1918–1938, ed. Primus-Heinz Kucher and Rebecca Unterberger, Wechselwirkungen. Österreichische Literatur im internationalen Kontext, 22 (Berlin: Peter Lang, 2019), 118–19. [6] Viktoria Hertling, Quer durch: Von Dwinger bis Kisch: Berichte und Reportagen über die Sowjetunion aus der Epoche der Weimarer Republik (Königstein: Forum Academicum, 1982), 95. [7] Siegfried Kracauer, ‘Aus dem roten Alltag’, Frankfurter Zeitung, 24 July 1932, 2. Morgenblatt, 5; see also: Fähnders, ‘Eine Frau erlebt den roten Alltag’, 120; Hertling, Quer durch, 93. [8] The book has also been translated into English, Bulgarian and Japanese. Cf.: Viktoria Hertling, ‘Nachwort’, in Eine Österreicherin erlebt den Anschluss, by Lili Körber (Vienna: Christian Brandstätter, 1988), 151–57. [9] Cf.: Fähnders, Eine Frau erlebt den roten Alltag, 122–23. [10] Lili Körber, Eine Frau erlebt den roten Alltag (Rowohlt, 1932), Blurb. [11] Cf.: Hertling, , Quer durch, 96. [12] Vera Chiquet, Fake Fotos. John Heartfields Fotomontagen in populären Illustrierten, Edition Medienwissenschaft, 47 (Bielefeld: Transcipt Verlag, 2018), 19. [13] On the book covers see above all: Lux Rettej, John Heartfield. Buchgestaltung und Fotomontage. Eine Sammlung, ed. Friedrich Haufe (Berlin: Rotes Antiquariat and Galerie C. Bartsch, 2014). On the website https://heartfield.adk.de all book covers kept in the estate are available, often also different versions. [14] Chiquet, Fake Fotos, 123. [15] Hertling, ‘Nachwort’, 154; Lili Körber, Eine Jüdin erlebt das neue Deutschland (Vienna: Verlag der Buchhandlung Richard Lanyi, 1934). [16] Reichsschrifttumskammer, ed., Liste 1 des schädlichen und unerwünschten Schrifttums. Gemäß §1 der Anordnung des Präsidenten der Reichsschrifttumskammer vom 25. April 1935. (Berlin: Reichsdruckerei, 1935), 67, https://digitale-sammlungen.ulb.uni-bonn.de/periodical/pageview/6670278. [17] ‘Bibliothek verbrannter Bücher’, accessed 13 February 2023. http://www.verbrannte-buecher.de/. [18] Gabriele Kreis, ‘Lili Körber. Leben und Werk’, in Die Ehe der Ruth Gomperz. Roman, by Lili Körber (Mannheim: Persona, 1984), 10. [19] For a description of route Lili Körber and her partner Erich Grave took into exile, see: Viktoria Hertling, ‘Farewell to Yesterday. Lili Körbers Exil in New York zwischen Fiktion und Wirklichkeit’, Dachauer Hefte. Special Issue ‘Überleben und Spätfolgen’ 8, no. 8 (1992): 205–7. [20] I thank Silke Wehrle for making this serial novel accessible to me. [21] Cf.: Hertling, ‘Farewell to Yesterday’, 208. [22] Christiana Puschak, ‘Eine von ihnen. Auf Entdeckungsfahrt in die Wirklichkeit. Vor 125 Jahren wurde Lili Körber geboren’, Junge Welt, https://www.jungewelt.de/artikel/print.php?id=421489. Accessed  April, 2023. [23] Lili Körber, Die Ehe der Ruth Gomperz (Mannheim: Persona, 1984); Lili Körber, Eine Österreicherin erlebt den Anschluß (Vienna: Brandstätter, 1988). [24] See: Hertling, Quer durch; Herta Wolf, ‘Lili Körber. Eine Emigration in die Vergessenheit’, in Eine schwierige Heimkehr. Österreichische Literatur im Exil 1939–1945, ed. Johann Holzner, Sigurd Paul Scheichl and Wolfgang Wiesmüller (Innsbruck: Innsbrucker Beiträge zur Kulturwissenschaft, 1991), 285–298; Fähnders, Eine Frau erlebt den roten Alltag; Katharina Schätz, Alltag im Arbeiterviertel. österreichisch-russische Tagebuchrealitäten bei Alja Rachmanowa und Lili Körber (Vienna: Paesens Verlag, 2019). [25] Cf.: Fähnders, ‘Eine Frau erlebt den roten Alltag’, 121. See also: Matthias Heeke, Reise zu den Sowjets. Der ausländische Tourismus in Russland 1921–1941. Mit einem bio-bibliographischen Anhang zu 96 deutschen Reiseautoren (Münster et al.: LIT Verlag, 2003), 561–637. [26] Wolf, ‘Lili Körber’, 285–298. [27] Gabriele Kreis, ‘”Schreiben aus eigener Erfahrung...” Drei Schriftstellerinnen im Exil: Lili Körber, Irmgard Keun, Adrienne Thomas’, in Zwischen Aufbruch und Verfolgung. Künstlerinnen der zwanziger und dreißiger Jahre, ed. Denny Hirschbach and Sonia Nowoselsky (Bremen: Zeichen+Spuren, 1993), 67–71. [28] Anna Schultz, ‘Uncompromising Mimicry. Heartfield’s Exile in London’, in John Heartfield. Photography Plus Dynamyte, ed. Angela Lammert, Rosa von der Schulenburg, and Anna Schultz (Exh. Cat. Akademie der Künste, 2020), 76–71. For John Heartfield’s work in London, see also: Burcu Dogramaci, ‘John Heartfield’, Metromod, . accessed 14 February, https://archive.metromod.net/viewer.p/69/1470/object/5138-9615821 [29] The exiled Norwegian historian Jacob S. Worm-Müller published Norway revolts against the Nazis (1941, 2nd ed.) with Lindsay Drummond. The Austrian writer Felix Langer, who had lived in exile in London since 1939, published Stepping Stones to Peace. On the problems of post-war relations with Germany (1943). The volume The Future of the Jews was edited by J. J. Lynx in 1945. [30] See among others: Jutta Vinzent, Identity and Image. Refugee Artists from Nazi Germany in Britain (1933–1945), Schriften der Guernica-Gesellschaft, 16 (Weimar: VDG, 2006), 134; Barbara Copeland Buenger, ‘John Heartfield in London. 1938–45’, in Exil. Flucht und Emigration europäischer Künstler 1933–1945, ed. Stepahnie Barron and Sabine Eckmann (Munich: Prestel, 1997), 74. [31] See entries in the catalogue of British Library: http://explore.bl.uk/, accessed 14 February 2023. [32] Anna Schultz writes in ‘Uncompromising Mimicry. Heartfield’s Exile in London’, 197: ‘The firm’s (Lindsay Drummond) directors clearly wished to capitalize on Heartfield’s reputation, and his name was prominently displayed on the covers he designed.’ [33] Almost no information can be found about Drummond. On the one hand, it is said that he founded his publishing house in 1938 and died in 1949: John Krygier, ‘Russian Literature Library’, A Series of a Series: 20th-Century Publishers Book Series, accessed 14 February 2023, https://seriesofseries. owu.edu/russian-literature-library/. On the Wikipedia entry of his father, see ‘Laurence Drummond’, Wikipedia, accessed 14 February 2023, https:// en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laurence_Drummond. [34] Anna Schultz, ‘Uncompromising Mimicry’, 202, footnote 23. [35] Gabriele Kreis, ‘Lili Körber. Leben und Werk’, 7. [36]Ibid., 7. [37] See https://heartfield.adk.de/node/4466, accessed 14 February 2023. [38] This research on John Heartfield was conducted with the support of the author’s ERC Consolidator Grant project ‘Relocating Modernism: Global Metropolises, Modern Art and Exile (METROMOD)’ (European Research Council (ERC) under the Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme, 2016), grant agreement No 724649 – METROMOD.  
Akademie der Künste, ‘Eine Frau erlebt den roten Alltag: Ein Tagebuchroman aus den Putilovwerken’, Heartfield online. Accessed 14 February 2023. https:// heartfield.adk.de/node/4466. ‘Bibliothek verbrannter Bücher’. Accessed 13 February 2023. http://www. verbrannte-buecher.de/. British Library, ‘Explore the British Library’. Accessed 14 February 2023. http:// explore.bl.uk/. Chiquet, Vera. Fake Fotos. John Heartfields Fotomontagen in populären Illustrierten. Edition Medienwissenschaft, 47. Bielefeld: Transcipt Verlag, 2018. Copeland Buenger, Barbara. ‘John Heartfield in London. 1938–45’. In Exil. Flucht und Emigration    europäischer Künstler 1933–1945, edited by Stephanie Barron and Sabine Eckmann, 74–79. Munich: Prestel, 1997 Dogramaci, Burcu. ‘John Heartfield’. Metromod, 20 June 2021. https://archive.metromod.net/viewer.p/69/1470/object/5138-9615821. Fähnders, Walter. ‘Eine Frau erlebt den roten Alltag. Lili Körbers Tagebuch-Roman über die Putilow-Werke’. In Der lange Schatten des ‘Roten Oktober’. Zur Relevanz und Rezeption sowjet-russischer Literatur in Österreich 1918–1938, edited by Primus-Heinz Kucher and Rebecca Unterberger, Wechselwirkungen. Österreichische Literatur im internationalen Kontext, 22., 117–32. Berlin: Peter Lang, 2019. Graf, Angela. ‘April/Mai 1933 – Die “Aktion wider den undeutschen Geist” und die Bücherverbrennungen , 9–22. Bonn: Bibliothek Der Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, 2003.’ In Verbrannt, geraubt, gerettet! Bücherverbrennungen in Deutschland. Eine Ausstellung der Bibliothek der Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung anlässlich des 70. Jahrestages, 9–22. Bonn: Bibliothek der Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, 2003. Heeke, Matthias. Reise zu den Sowjets. Der ausländische Tourismus in Russland 1921–1941. Mit einem bio-bibliographischen Anhang zu 96 deutschen Reiseautoren. Münster et al.: LIT Verlag, 2003. Hertling, Viktoria. ‘Farewell to Yesterday. Lili Körbers Exil in New York zwischen Fiktion und Wirklichkeit’. Dachauer Hefte. Special Issue ‘Überleben und Spätfolgen’ 8, no. 8 (1992): 202–12. ———. ‘Nachwort’. In Eine Österreicherin erlebt den Anschluss, by Lili Körber, 151–57. Vienna: Christian Brandstätter, 1988. ———. Quer durch: Von Dwinger Bis Kisch: Berichte und Reportagen über die Sowjetunion aus der Epoche der Weimarer Republik. Königstein: Forum Academicum, 1982. Kehl, Robert. ‘Überlebende Bücher’. Texte zur Kunst, 28 August 2020. https://www.textezurkunst.de/articles/robert-kehl-uberlebende-bucher/. Kirsch, Jan-Holger. ‘“Das Buch wird Bild”. Annette Kelms Fotoausstellung “Die Bücher” im Museum Frieder Burda, Salon Berlin’. Visual History, 17 August 2020. https://visual-history.de/2020/08/17/das-buch-wird-bild/. Kittelmann, Udo, Nicolaus Schafhausen, and Mirjam Zadoff. ‘Probleme in die Zukunft retten’. In Annette Kelm – Die Bücher, edited by Udo Kittelmann, Nicolaus Schafhausen, and Mirjam Zadoff, 139–40. Cologne: Buchhandlung Walther und Franz König, 2022. Körber, Lili. Begegnungen im Fernen Osten. Budapest: Biblios publishers, 1936. ———. Die Ehe der Ruth Gomperz. Mannheim: Persona, 1984. ———. Eine Frau erlebt den roten Alltag. Rowohlt, 1932. ———. Eine Jüdin erlebt das neue Deutschland. Vienna: Verlag der Buchhandlung Richard Lanyi, 1934. ———. Eine Österreicherin erlebt den Anschluß. Vienna: Brandstätter, 1988. Kracauer, Siegfried. ‘Aus dem roten Alltag’. Frankfurter Zeitung, 24 July 1932, 2. Morgenblatt. Kreis, Gabriele. ‘Lili Körber. Leben und Werk’. In Die Ehe der Ruth Gomperz. Roman., by Lili Körber, 5–13. Mannheim: Persona, 1984. ———. ‘”Schreiben aus eigener Erfahrung...” Drei Schriftstellerinnen im Exil: Lili Körber, Irmgard Keun, Adrienne Thomas’. In Zwischen Aufbruch und Verfolgung. Künstlerinnen der zwanziger und dreißiger Jahre, edited by Denny Hirschbach and Sonia Nowoselsky, 65–80. Bremen: Zeichen+Spuren, 1993. Puschak, Christiana. ‘Eine von ihnen. Auf Entdeckungsfahrt in die Wirklichkeit. Vor 125 Jahren wurde Lili Körber geboren’. Junge Welt, 25 February 2022. https://www.jungewelt.de/artikel/print.php?id=421489. Reichsschrifttumskammer, ed. Liste 1 des schädlichen und unerwünschten Schrifttums. Gemäß §1 der Anordnung des Präsidenten der Reichsschrifttumskammer vom 25. April 1935. Berlin: Reichsdruckerei, 1935. https://digitale-sammlungen.ulb.uni-bonn.de/periodical/pageview/6670278. Rettej, Lux. John Heartfield. Buchgestaltung und Fotomontage. Eine Sammlung. Edited by Friedrich Haufe. Berlin: Rotes Antiquariat and Galerie C. Bartsch, 2014. Schätz, Katharina. Alltag Im Arbeiterviertel. Österreichisch-russische Tagebuchrealitäten bei Alja Rachmanowa und Lili Körber. Vienna: Paesens Verlag, 2019. Schultz, Anna. ‘Uncompromising Mimicry. Heartfield’s Exile in London’. In John Heartfield. Photography Plus Dynamyte, edited by Angela Lammert, Rosa von der Schulenburg, and Anna Schultz, 194–202. Exh. Cat. Akademie der Künste, 2020. Vinzent, Jutta. Identity and Image. Refugee Artists from Nazi Germany in Britain (1933–1945). Schriften der Guernica-Gesellschaft, 16. Weimar: VDG, 2006. Wolf, Herta. ‘Lili Körber. Eine Emigration in die Vergessenheit’. In Eine schwierige Heimkehr. Österreichische Literatur im Exil 1939–1945, edited by Johann Holzner, Sigurd Paul Scheichl, and Wolfgang Wiesmüller, 285–98. Innsbruck: Innsbrucker Beiträge zur Kulturwissenschaft, 1991.  
citation information:
Dogramaci, Burcu. ‘Eine Frau Erlebt Den Roten Alltag, Written by Lili Körber and Designed by John Heartfield (Cover): Burnt Books, Exiled Authors and Dis:Connective Memories’. Global Dis:Connect Blog (blog), 30 May 2023. https://www.globaldisconnect.org/05/30/exiled-authors-and-disconnected-memories/.
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Yvonne Hackenbroch’s birdcage: the experience of Jewish exile and the return as object

änne söll

Fig 1: Yvonne Hackenbroch with family dog 'Racker', Frankfurt on the Main, c. 1935/36 (from: Jörg Rasmussen: Festschrift: Studien zum europäischen Kunsthandwerk, München 1983, cover).

Two years after receiving her doctorate from the University of Munich in 1936, the Jewish art historian Yvonne Hackenbroch (1912 – 2012) was compelled to leave Germany and emigrate to London in 1938, where her older sister and mother were already residing. Yvonne Hackenbroch’s father, a prominent and prosperous art and antiques dealer, had passed away the year before. This photo portrait shows Hackenbroch with the family dog ‘Racker’ (Rascal) in her native city, Frankfurt am Main, near her parents’ house in 34 Untermainkai. It is from this house, Yvonne Hackenbroch’s childhood home in Frankfurt, that the birdcage in question originates.

Fig. 2: Birdcage, 1757, 26.3 x 35.5 x 21.2 cm, carved, partly coloured and gilded oak and coniferous wood, metal wire covering, tray, Historisches Museum Frankfurt am Main, donated by Yvonne Hackenbroch 2012 (© Horst Ziegenfusz).

Hackenbroch took the cage with her to London. In fact, it accompanied her throughout her exile spanning decades. The two went first to Toronto, where she worked from around 1945 until 1949 as a curator for the Fareham Collection at the University of Toronto, then to New York, where she curated the Irwin Untermeyer Collection, even moving with the collection when it was relocated to the Metropolitan Museum. When she returned to London after her retirement in 1982, the birdcage was again among her belongings and remained in her apartment near Hyde Park until her death in 2012. At her behest, the wooden cage was then donated to the Historical Museum in Frankfurt as a ‘token of reconciliation[1]’ by her great-nephew Adam Hills. The cage is thus both a gift and a legacy. In its current presentation at the museum, as will become clear, it is as much a gesture of reconciliation as it is an object of admonition. The birdcage as museum object also produces a contradiction: it is simultaneously a symbol of incarceration as well as a reminder of Hackenbroch’s endurance and dignity in the face of persecution turning it into a truly dis:connected object. With this bequest, Hackenbroch has (re-)inscribed herself and her displaced family into the history of the city of Frankfurt and sent what initially appears to be a reconciliatory message to the post-war generation. This gift can also be seen as the symbolic ‘return’ of Hackenbroch to the city of Frankfurt, which she had visited sporadically after the war, even delivering a lecture at the Historical Museum in 1990, but from which she was to remain permanently exiled, though it was the place she first called home. Since incorporating the birdcage into its collection in 2013, the Historical Museum in Frankfurt has preserved it and, since 2017, displayed it not only in its permanent exhibit on the history of the city, specifically as part of the display on National Socialism, but also shown it online as an item in the digital collection. Within the museum, the birdcage thus leads a double life, for, as will become clear, its physical presentation in the collection and its presentation on the museum's online platform are significantly different.

Bird/human/enlightenment: history, function and the symbolism of the cage

The birdcage presumably dates from 1757, as the year is emblazoned – prominently – along with Frankfurt's eagle emblem on its front. Why the year 1757 was so conspicuously positioned on the front of the cage, however, remains a mystery.[2] 1757 is not connected with any significant event in Frankfurt’s history. Was the year an important turning point in the life of the person or family who owned it? A marriage or a birth perhaps? Or maybe it had not belonged to a family at all, and 1757 marks the founding of a bird breeders’ association? Was the date inscribed on the cage retroactively, or does it denote the year of its manufacture? It is also impossible to determine whether the cage is a family heirloom that had belonged to the Hackenbroch family since the 18th century. After all, her mother’s side had resided in Frankfurt from the late Middle Ages. Might the cage not have come from Zaccharias Hackenbroch’s antique business after all? In short, there is no reliable information about the first 250 years of the birdcage’s ‘biography’. What is certain, however, is that the birdcage with its eagle, the emblem of the city of Frankfurt, reminded Yvonne Hackenbroch of her origins and that she valued the object immensely for that reason.[3] Thus, following Tilmann Habermas, the birdcage’s function for Hackenbroch was to integrate and symbolise her life story in exile.[4] In this way, the cage can also be called a Verlustsouvenir,[5] ‘a souvenir of loss’ that reminded Hackenbroch of the hometown that she had to leave behind and of her father, who most likely acquired it. In addition to the imposing eagle on the outside, the cage also contained a bird: when it was delivered to the museum, there was a small wooden bird inside. It is not a mechanical songbird in a cage of the kind that was popular in the salons of the early 18th century, but a simple, modern wooden toy, likely manufactured in the 20th century. Its greenish-yellow colouring resembles a canary. It is, therefore, a ‘modern’ inhabitant of an ‘old’, richly decorated and stately birdcage. In addition to its two bays, where the food dish and water bowl can be placed, the cage is made of partially gilded oak, softwood and iron rods.[6] Measuring 26cm x 25cm x 21 cm, the cage is quite small and was most likely intended for a delicate, domestic songbird or canary. Canaries had been bred in Tyrol as early as the 18th century and sold in large European cities by traders organised in guilds.[7] Birdcages of the 18th and 19th centuries featured a variety of designs from simple wood and wire models to elaborate, ornate versions made with costly materials.[8] This range indicates that bird keeping was a common activity across (almost) all social classes. Small pets, such as dogs and squirrels and birds, grew increasingly popular in the 18th century as ‘luxury objects of the “better circles” and social climbers’.[9] Birds were thus ‘the means and locus of social distinction and the representation of power’.[10] They were relevant to the starkly segregated social classes for different reasons. The nobility kept birds for reasons of status, including falconry birds and expensive birds imported from overseas. Learned, bourgeois circles — largely men — were interested in birds as objects of study. Bourgeois women, on the other hand, kept birds as companions and amusements, sometimes training them.[11] In the course of the 18th century, according to Julia Breittruck, there was a ‘”bourgeoisification” of the bird. Songbirds were no longer just a noble, elite accessory, but became a bourgeois cultural asset.’[12] Especially in genre paintings of the 18th century, birds are more frequently depicted as the domesticated pets of bourgeois ladies. For example, in this painting by Jean Simeon Chardin, a lady plays a melody to her canary on a serinette — a small organ made especially for this purpose.

Fig. 3a Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin: La Serinette, also called Lady varying her amusements, 1751, 50 x 43 cm, oil on canvas, Musée du Louvre, Paris (© 2010 RMN-Grand Palais (musée du Louvre) / René-Gabriel Ojéda).

Fig. 3b: Jean-François Colson: Portrait of the chemist Balthazar Sage, 1777, 100,5 x 81 cm, oil on canvas, Musée des beaux-arts, Dijon (© Musée des Beaux-Arts de Dijon/ François Jay, from: Julia Breittruck, Ein Flügelschlag in der Pariser Aufklärung, Zur Geschichte der Beziehungen zwischen Menschen und ihren Vögeln, Dortmund 2020, 64).

According to Julia Breittruck, the motif of the bourgeois lady with a bird she has trained was very popular in the mid-18th century. Breittruck sees this as enjoining bourgeois women to engage in the rearing not only of birds but also, of course, of their own children. In contrast to the aristocracy, bourgeois women were encouraged to see child-rearing as their intrinsically ‘female’ duty. The preoccupation with parlour birds was thus gender coded. While women were expected to educate, men were assigned the role of scientist, and their attention to birds became part of an experiment. Pet birds also developed into objects of bourgeois entertainment for ‘convivial circles’ and in salons over the course of the 18th century. They became domestic companions, kept in the private rooms reserved for family and close friends.[13] Consequently, ‘domesticated birds became more and more the private leisure companions of their respective owners, even co-constituents of the kind and manner of private leisure’.[14] In paintings and prints, the bird functions, according to Julia Breittruck, ‘as the imagined and real double, the eyes and ears of its owner’. Hackenbroch's birdcage, then, transports us to a time when songbirds had become a leisure activity of the middle classes and the object of scientific investigation and educational ambitions. So how did these factors impact museum’s presentation of its newly acquired object?

Semiophores: the twofold contextualisation of the birdcage in the museum

One of the fundamental tenets of museology is that objects stored or displayed in museums trade their original meaning and use value for a new one. They become what are known as ‘semiophores’,[15] a term coined by the Polish historian Krysztof Pomian to describe objects whose purpose, meaning or value is transformed with their relocation to the museum. In this vein, Hackenbroch’s birdcage loses its function as an 18th-century animal enclosure and the historical connotations discussed above. As a sort of ‘prison’, the old birdcage in the new context of the Historical Museum may allude to forced emigration and the ambiguous ‘freedom’ of exile. If we then see the wooden bird in the cage as representing the cage’s owner (and her persecuted family), we soon grasp the birdcage as a visual metaphor for the persecution of Jews in the Third Reich.

Fig. 4: Birdcage as shown within the Historische Museum Frankfurt's permanent collection (© 2022 the author).

Hackenbroch's cage, however, is not displayed in isolation but gains a special inflection from the objects around it, evoking a host of significations from which the historical background of 18th century fades entirely. Standing in the Historical Museum before the display case containing the birdcage, which forms part of the exhibit on National Socialism in Frankfurt,[16] the visitor sees diagonally below it a broken Biedermeier chair. The chair likely originates from the Museum of Jewish Antiquities that opened in 1922 in the former house of the Rothschild banking family in Frankfurt, which was looted and destroyed in 1938.[17] To the left of the cage is a can of Zyklon B, the poison manufactured in Frankfurt and used for mass murder in concentration camps. Walking around this ‘island’ of glass display cases, the visitor sees behind the bird cage objects ranging from a silver swastika once used as a Christmas tree ornament in a Frankfurt household to silver teapots and cutlery that once belonged to Frankfurt Jews that were confiscated and forcibly sold by the Nazi regime in the 1930s and 40s. In this arrangement, where the tools of destruction clash with bourgeois Jewish urban and commemorative culture – a composition designed deliberately by the museum’s curators to create contradictions and startling object constellations – the dainty birdcage with its Frankfurt eagle naturally signifies the annihilated Jewish urban culture of Frankfurt. That Hackenbroch took this cage into exile and donated it to the museum posthumously as a gesture of reconciliation is only revealed through the inscription on the display case. In light of the juxtapositions, the repatriation of the birdcage and the concomitant reconciliation recedes into the background. Nevertheless, the cage as gift also signals an intrinsic dialectic. After all, the cage as ‘prison’ refers to internment, execution and, with respect to exile, the forced escape from persecution, internment and death. The cage is thus not only a gesture of reconciliation and a symbolic return, but also an object of admonition.

Fig 5: Birdcage as shown on the Historische Museum Frankfurt's website, Screenshot (https://historisches-museum-frankfurt.de/de/node/34467?language=de, 07.02.2023).

While the birdcage in the museum is presented in the context of the threat to and annihilation of Jewish culture in Frankfurt, assuming various, sometimes contradictory levels of meaning, the website depicts it as an isolated object. It is displayed there with an inventory number, object data and the text of the panel on the display case, which informs visitors about the donor, her history of exile and her gift as a sign of reconciliation. The question, then, is which presentation better does justice to the object, its only partially reconstructable history and to the exile of its previous owner? Having first become acquainted with the birdcage virtually due to the pandemic, and only later being able to view it physically exhibited, I was initially surprised by the museum's perceptual arrangement (Wahrnehmungsordnung).[18] The juxtaposition of the birdcage with the objects described above disturbed me, as I had not expected to see it next to a can of Zyklon B. In the words of Gottfried Korff, the placement of the birdcage in the museum put me, the visitor, ‘in a state of heightened, imagination-enhancing self-awareness’.[19] The objects are arranged to place the birdcage visually and conceptually in the context of National Socialism and its extermination machine, subordinated or eliminating other associations. According to Korff, ‘the subject [through museum arrangements, in the best case] should be freed of pragmatic references and become porous in the “performative” process of perception’.[20] Korff is highlighting the fact that visitors can become more receptive, permeable, ‘porous’ to historical, social and emotional entanglements through such provocative arrangements. In the case of the birdcage, however, it also means that we are not only reminded of the object's connections to the period of National Socialism in Frankfurt, but are also reminded of the ruptures, detours, stations of exile — the dis:connections — contained in the fragmentary history of the birdcage. Thus, the birdcage does not function exclusively as a symbol or memento. As a multi-dimensional object, it resists clear-cut interpretation and integration into discourses of exile or National Socialism. This is complicated further by the fact that, as Doerte Bischoff and Joachim Schlör argue, objects of exile retain a ‘minimal power […] to preserve human dignity’.[21] The birdcage as a symbol of incarceration (and therefore inhumanity) on the one hand and as the symbol of Hackenbroch’s endurance and dignity on the other combines in itself contradictions that cannot be easily resolved, transforming the birdcage into a truly dis:connected object.

Dis:connectivities in the museum: exile, return, reconciliation?

As Burcu Dogramaci and her colleagues aptly describe in their preface to an edition of the Jahrbuch Exilforschung devoted to archives and museums of exile, the ‘placement of such materials in archives and museums [confronts us] with a tension between a delimiting situatedness, on the one hand, and a portability and boundarylessness to which they themselves bear witness’.[22] With respect to Yvonne Hackenbroch's birdcage, this tension arises not only from the object’s placement in the museum, but from the cage itself, which, as a movable thing, paradoxically exists to restrict the bird's freedom of movement. The birdcage embodies the indissoluble dialectic of exile as ‘liberation’ from persecution, on the one hand, and captivity in a foreign land on the other. It symbolises an intermediate state best described by Rafael Cardoso: ‘Exile, in the broad sense of the term, is a condition. One that involves simultaneous absence and presence […]. There is a liminality to this condition, an essential in-betweenness, that precludes ever arriving at anything so clear cut and unambiguous as freedom of the past.’[23]The return of the birdcage to the Historical Museum in Frankfurt is not an unequivocal gesture of reconciliation. Instead, the birdcage carries Hackenbroch’s exile experience within it and affects us, as Arjun Appadurai argues, through ‘the force of [its] histories, journeys, accidents and adventures’.[24] Hackenbroch's birdcage, then, is an ambivalent signifier of forced emigration and ‘dislocation’ that challenges us to see the experience of exile as a ‘cage perspective’ rooted in violent displacement from which there can be no liberation, not even for those standing outside the cage.   [1]  ‘ Zeichen der Versöhnung’ as worded in the object description of the museum: https://historisches-museum-frankfurt.de/de/node/34467, last accessed on 3 February. 2023, and: Jan Gerchow and Nina Gorgius, eds., 100 * Frankfurt: Geschichten aus (mehr als) 1000 Jahren (Frankfurt: Societäts Verlag, 2017), 274–75. [2] Neither the Hackenbroch family nor the museum curators were able to provide any information in this regard. [3] Adam Hills, Email to author, 21 February 2022. [4] Tilman Habermas, Geliebte Objekte. Symbole und Instrumente der Identitätsbildung (Frankfurt: Suhrkamp Verlag, 1996), 281. [5] Habermas, 278. [6] Julia Breittruck, Ein Flügelschlag in der Pariser Aufklärung: Zur Geschichte der Beziehungen zwischen Menschen und ihren Vögeln (Munich: University Library LMU, 2021). [7] Breittruck, 3–39. [8] This is based on research in the image library of the European Cultural Heritage Database, which I cannot discuss here due to space limitations: https://www.europeana.eu/de, Access date missing [9] Breittruck, Ein Flügelschlag in der Pariser Aufklärung: Zur Geschichte der Beziehungen zwischen Menschen und ihren Vögeln, 40. [10] Breittruck, 53–54. [11] Breittruck, 40 et seq. [12] Breittruck, 41. [13] Breittruck, 83. [14] Breittruck, 87. [15] Krzysztof Pomian, Der Ursprung des Museums: Vom Sammeln (Berlin: Wagenbach, 1988). [16] My visit to the Historical Museum in Frankfurt took place in May 2022. I thank the curators Nina Gorgus and Anne Gemeinhardt for their help and cooperation in my research. [17] Gerchow and Gorgius, 100 * Frankfurt: Geschichten aus (mehr als) 1000 Jahren, 277–79, on the Can of Zyklon B, 291– 93. [18] Gottfried Korff, ed., ‘Speichern und/oder Generator: Zum Verhältnis von Deponieren und Exponieren im Museum’, in Museumsdinge, deponieren/exponieren, 2nd ed. (Cologne: Böhlau Verlag, 2007), 172. [19] Korff, 173. [20] Korff, 172. [21] Doerte Bischoff and Joachim Schlör, ‘Dinge des Exils. Zur Einleitung’, in Dinge des Exils, Jahrbuch Exilforschung 31, 9-22. (Berlin/Boston: De Gruyter, 2013), 18. [22] Sylvia Asmus, Doerte Bischoff, and Burcu Dogramaci, eds., Archive und Museen des Exils, Jahrbuch Exilforschung 37 (Berlin/Boston: De Gruyter, 2018), 2. [23] Rafael Cardoso, ‘The living archive: On Hugo Simon’s posthumous return to Germany’, in Archive und Museen des Exils, Jahrbuch Exilforschung 37 (Berlin/Boston: De Gruyter, 2019), 106. [24] Arjun Appadurai, ‘Museum Objects as Accidental Refugees’, Historische Anthropologie 25, no. 3 (November 2017): 406.
Appadurai, Arjun. ‘Museum Objects as Accidental Refugees’. Historische Anthropologie 25, no. 3 (November 2017): 401–8. Asmus, Sylvia, Doerte Bischoff, and Burcu Dogramaci, eds. Archive und Museen des Exils. Jahrbuch Exilforschung 37. Berlin/Boston: De Gruyter, 2018. Bischoff, Doerte, and Joachim Schlör. ‘Dinge des Exils. Zur Einleitung’. In Dinge des Exils, Jahrbuch Exilforschung 31, 9-22. Berlin/Boston: De Gruyter, 2013. Breittruck, Julia. Ein Flügelschlag in der Pariser Aufklärung: Zur Geschichte der Beziehungen zwischen Menschen und ihren Vögeln. Munich: University Library LMU, 2021. Cardoso, Rafael. ‘The living archive: On Hugo Simon’s posthumous return to Germany’. In Archive und Museen des Exils, Jahrbuch Exilforschung 37, 96–107. Berlin/Boston: De Gruyter, 2019. Gerchow, Jan, and Nina Gorgius, eds. 100 * Frankfurt: Geschichten aus (mehr als) 1000 Jahren. Frankfurt: Societäts Verlag, 2017. Habermas, Tilman. Geliebte Objekte. Symbole und Instrumente der Identitätsbildung. Frankfurt: Suhrkamp Verlag, 1996. Korff, Gottfried, ed. ‘Speichern und/oder Generator: Zum Verhältnis von Deponieren und Exponieren im Museum’. In Museumsdinge, deponieren/exponieren, 2nd ed. Cologne: Böhlau Verlag, 2007. Pomian, Krzysztof. Der Ursprung des Museums: Vom Sammeln. Berlin: Wagenbach, 1988. Continue Reading

Mohamed: portrait of a Sahrawi exile

rahel losier
[Rahel Losier participated in our first annual summer school in August 2022. Her artistic approach to scholarship and scholarly approach to art in thinking about global dis:connection is precisely our raison d'être at global dis:connect. For more of Rahel's comics, check out her personal blog. - Ed note.]
citation information:
Losier, Rahel. ‘Mohamed: Portrait of a Sahrawi Exile’. Blog, Global Dis:Connect (blog), 13 December 2022. https://www.globaldisconnect.org/12/13/mohamed-portrait-of-a-sahrawi-exile/.
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Nomadic camera: photography, exile and dis:connectivity

burcu dogramaci
  In 1939, 16-year-old Hans Günter Flieg took a final photo in his hometown of Chemnitz, before he and his family emigrated to Brazil due to anti-Semitic persecution. Upon his arrival in São Paulo, he took the first photo of his exile home. Both pictures appear next to each other on a film strip. Here I focus on these photographs and bring together two concepts that are new to photography and exile research: the nomadic camera and dis:connectivity.

Image: Hans Günter Flieg, Last photograph taken in Chemnitz and first photograph in São Paulo, 1939, credit: Hans Gunter Flieg / Instituto Moreira Salles Collection.

  Flieg photographed with an Agfa roll film (Isopan F) suitable for 35mm cameras. He worked with Leica equipment that his parents had purchased in anticipation of his planned emigration to Brazil.[1] Flieg had been taking a photography course with Grete Kaplus at the Berlin Jewish Museum since March 1939. This enabled his family to justify the purchase of cameras for professional reasons and to prepare their son for a career as a photographer and a livelihood abroad.[2] The film strip shows two black-and-white shots: on the left is a view from the window of a street with buildings in the Gründerzeit style. Multi-storey apartment buildings stand on a residential street densely planted with a row of trees. The view of the camera — aimed from one of the upper floors of a building — leads past a residential building; on the left is a broad part with a cloudy sky. Flieg was taking pictures from his parents’ flat, which was located in the Kaßberg district of Chemnitz. Since the turn of the twentieth century, with the industrial boom in the city, the area was considered an upscale and exquisitely built residential district.[3] Flieg’s photo was taken in August 1939. The next photo on the right is dated December 1939 and shows a bright vase of white orchids. Here, too, one of the subjects, the vase, is cropped on the right, standing on a table. Four months separate the two adjacent shots. This film strip is often shown when Flieg’s photographic work is published.[4] Flieg also spoke about this picture in an interview uploaded to the page of the digital exile museum Künste im Exil (Arts in Exile) of the Deutsches Exilarchiv (German Exile Archive) 1933—1945, which itself is a project of the Deutsche Nationalbibliothek (German National Library).[5] The fascination with this negative strip is due to the two photos and the narrow strip between them, which condense an emigration (hi)story. The narrow strip and the four months of time suspended in it both conceal and expose a difficult route that led from Chemnitz to Munich, over the Brenner Pass to Italy and from there by sea to São Paulo. Several thousand kilometres condense just as much on the narrow strip between two photographs as time accumulates on an in-between space. Based on this (arguably enlarged) contact print of the film strip, I offer reflections in two directions. One is about the concept of the nomadic camera. The other is about the adaptation of the term dis:connectivity to photography and exile. With nomadic camera, I refer to the camera and photography as the central medium to visualise cross-border changes of place. Included in the term nomadic are forms of forced or voluntary relocation, i.e. migration, flight, displacement, exile. Etymologically, nomadic derives from the Latin nomas/Greek nomás. Nomás alludes to non-sedentary forms of existence that historically developed in the Old World dry belt — from West Africa, across the Arabian Peninsula to East Asia — of those who spend their lives wandering, adapting to living conditions with scarce resources spread over a wide area.[6] This archaic nomadism of migratory ethnic groups, which persists, has its revenant and related figures in post-industrial societies — in commuters, labour migrants, political refugees, in employees of globally oriented companies, students, global travellers, in artists who are globally present as visiting scholars and exhibitors.[7] With these diverse connotations of nomadism in mind, I would like to refer to Caren Kaplan, who recognises ‘continuities and discontinuities between terms such as “travel”, “displacement” and “location” as well as between the particularized practices and identities of “exile”, “tourist” and “nomad”. All displacements are not the same’.[8] But precisely the often-one-dimensional reception and connotations of these different transitive forms of existence — migration as alienation, travel as experience, nomadism and vagabonding as (artistic) freedom — problematise perceptions of them as sharply delineated possibilities of existence. The point is to focus instead on the intersections that emerge from them and how they catalyse new thoughts and perceptions. Nomads, migrants and travellers are united by change and movement, the potentially temporary instability of their existence, their experience of new spaces, societies and languages. Sometimes, as the history of emigration in the 1930s and 1940s shows, the transitions between tourism and exile were fluid. Examples include transalpine border crossings disguised as ski tours and exhibition and reading tour by artists and writers becoming exile because political circumstances no longer permitted their return.[9] As a concept, the nomadic camera connotes a non-settled and nomadic ‘meta-figure’ or ‘general metaphor’[10] and denotes a transitory state that proceeds from the technical apparatus, the camera, to include the act of photographing, the camera operator(s), the resulting photographs and their circulation as well as the objects photographed. With the accent on the camera, the research interest centres on the complex interconnections of photography, mobility and technology. It extends to touch on the photographic form and aesthetics. Photography can find different languages for forced and voluntary displacements, so the question of a specific pictorial aesthetic, the formal and compositional parameters of the photography of exile, migration and flight, arises. Already in the early days of photography since its introduction in 1839, photographers travelled even with heavy-plate and large-format cameras. Throughout its existence, photography has served as a means of visualising displacements. In 1852, the French writer Victor Hugo went into exile on the Channel Islands of Jersey and Guernsey, where he composed autobiographical texts as well as drawings and photographs that pictorially recorded his escape.  Hugo’s portraits in the island’s natural environment, taken in cooperation with his son Charles and the journalist Auguste Vaquerie, are perhaps the earliest exile photographs.[11] From Hugo’s exile, widely branching lines extend to current migration, flight and displacement. The 150 years of photographic migration history — or migrant photographic history — is closely connected with technical innovations that can only be traced coarsely here. Camera techniques like the plate camera and the daguerrotype or calotype favoured mainly professional photographers, as these techniques and transporting the large cameras were expensive and time-consuming. The introduction of the Kodak box camera in the late nineteenth century fuelled the market for amateur photography, which burgeoned globally with the miniature 35-mm cameras of the 1920s.[12] Hans Günter Flieg's film strips, the Agfa Isopan F film and the Leica miniature camera indicate photography’s unprecedented mobility in the 1920s and 1930s. Photography with film rolls was a democratic medium of images whose affordability and user-friendly technology made it broadly accessible. In addition, shops sprang up all over the world as service facilities where film had to be deposited for processing, with the negatives and prints to be collected later. Outsourcing the development process promoted the global use of photography by amateurs. Not only was the technology portable, but the photographic prints — the result of the technical process — were also available on the road. Since the massive introduction of miniature cameras in the 1920s at the latest, photography became the technical and artistic medium of migration, exile and flight. Handheld cameras accompanied their owners along their migrations, leaving their homeland either voluntarily and, after 1933, often forcibly. Photographs taken on passages into exile tell of the outward routes and modes of transport.[13] Thus, images created in emigration or reflecting migration phenomena themselves have inherently nomadic qualities. For me, photography is part of a history of migration and mobility. Flieg’s negative strip highlights this in an unusual way, as the movement of the photographer, his camera and the film manifests itself through the photographs in Chemnitz on the left, the narrow strip in the middle and the shot in São Paulo on the right. The localisation in a specific environment as the starting point of the flight is clearly recognisable on the left in the Chemnitz cityscape. São Paulo as the terminus of the escape, meanwhile, is marked by the vase with the white orchids — in Brazil there are about 3,000 species from the Orchidaceae family.[14] The passage itself, as already explained, remains hidden in the dark strip. The negative strip also offers access to, or an adaptation of, the concept of dis:connectivity in the context of global flight movements and their mediatisation in photography. Dis:connectivity overcomes a binary approach and has already been applied in, for example, sociological media theory, to capture digital (dis)connectivity, media consumption and media abstinence.[15] Dis:connectivity is a new approach to global history, which we global dis:connect have already used productively and which focuses neither on interconnectedness nor on deglobalisation exclusively. Rather, as Roland Wenzlhuemer writes, it is about a ‘tension between processes of entanglement and disentanglement’,[16] which means that global connections always contain interruptions, detours and voids, be they transport routes, communication channels, escape routes or capital flows. For exile research, the concept of dis:connectivity can illuminate both the actors (persons) and actants (objects). That is precisely the purpose behind examining Flieg’s photographs, which are connected to each other as successive images on a negative strip. Yet, there is an interstice, a gap between them. Theoretically, two images on 35-mm film could be separated by only a few moments, as it was possible to take up to 36 images in succession with the Leica camera. Flieg, however, took the photographs and put the camera aside, not using it while in transit. Therefore, no photograph exists of this passage into exile, at least not on this film and not with this camera. It can be assumed that he did not want to draw attention to himself, at least towards the beginning of his journey, which led to Italy over the Brenner Pass. On the ship — I sadly don’t know the exact route — no photographs were taken with the Leica either. Absence, the blank space marked in black on the strip, thus stands for a journey that was not visually documented. Absence, as Ulrike Lehmann writes, refers to a former presence and what has now disappeared: ‘The absent presupposes the present. ’[17] But the space in-between also evidences the dis:connective relationship between home and abroad, between the origin and the terminus of the journey that was to separate Flieg almost permanently from the city of Chemnitz and from Germany. He only returned on the occasion of his first solo exhibition in Germany at the Kunstsammlungen Chemnitz in 2008, almost 70 years after he had emigrated.[18] The film strip can also be understood as a timeline in which the direction runs from left to right, corresponding to the numbering of the images from 10 (Chemnitz) to 11 (São Paulo). Timelines are culturally bound. Where Latin script predominates, they run from left to right (i.e. as one reads), and where Arabic prevails, they are ordered from right to left (again according to the direction of reading). In everyday life, time is perceived as a trajectory that always runs irreversibly in one direction towards a final state.[19] This negative strip, however, also allows for another interpretation, namely time as something that runs from exilein two directions separated by the dividing space. There is a time before exile and a time of exile or post-exile. These times are not characterised by succession, but by the difference and divergence of experiences and of cultural and linguistic spaces. Time and space — the latter as a variable often used for flight, exile and migration — form an important connection. One could equally speak of dis:connective times and dis:connective spaces. Incidentally, Hans Günter Flieg found the film strip with the two photos from Chemnitz and São Paulo among his early photos only many decades later, when he was preparing a retrospective of his works for the Museu da Imagem de do Som in São Paulo in 1981. Through this find, he was able to recall the time of his emigration with temporal distance, thus creating connectivity.     [1] Michael Nungesser, ‘Chemnitz Liegt Bei São Paulo. Der Fotograf Hans Günter Flieg’, ed. Ingrid Mössinger and Katharina Metz, 2008. [2] Agi Straus, Interview mit der Malerin Agi Straus, São Paulo, 15 April 2013, https://kuenste-im-exil.de/KIE/Content/DE/Objekte/flieg-interview.html?cms_x=4&catalog=1; Nungesser, ‘Chemnitz Liegt Bei São Paulo. Der Fotograf Hans Günter Flieg’. [3] Tilo Richter, ed., Der Kassberg. Ein Chemnitzer Lese- Und Bilderbuch (Leipzig: Passage-Verlag, 1996). [4] Ingrid Mössinger and Katharina Metz, eds., in Hans Günter Flieg: Dokumentarfotografie Aus Brasilien (1940-1970) (Bielefeld: Kerber Verlag, 2008), 48–49; Sylvia Asmus, in ......Mehr Vorwärts Als Rückwärts Schauen... (Berlin: Hentrich & Hentrich, 2013). [5] Hans Günter Flieg, Interview des Deutschen Exilarchivs 1933 - 1945 mit Hans Günter Flieg : São Paulo, 18.04.2013 / Interview und Bild: Sylvia Asmus und Jochanan Shelliem, 18 April 2013, https://d-nb.info/1059580241. [6] Alfred Hendricks, ‘Menschen unterwegs. Mobilität als Erfolgsstrategie’, in Unterwegs. Nomaden früher und heute, ed. Alfred Hendricks (Gütersloh: Linnemann, 2003), 8–11. [7] Birgit Haehnel, in Regelwerk und Umgestaltung. Nomadistische Denkweisen in der Kunstwahrnehmung nach 1945 (Berlin: Reimer, 2007), 29; T. J. Demos, in The Migrant Image: The Art and Politics of Documentary during Global Crisis (Verona: Electa, 2017), 18–26. [8] Caren Kaplan, Questions of Travel. Postmodern Discourses of Displacement (Durham/London: Duke University Press, 1996). [9] Thomas Oellermann, ‘Wenzel Jaksch Und Die Seliger-Gemeinde’, Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, 27 November 2021, https://www.fes.de/themenportal-geschichte-kultur-medien-netz/artikelseite/wenzel-jaksch. [10] Peter Gross, ‘Der Nomade’, in Diven, Hacker, Spekulanten. Sozialfiguren der Gegenwart, ed. Stephan Moebius and Markus Schroer (Berlin: Suhrkamp, 2010), 316–25. [11] Denis Canguilhem, ‘En Collaboration Avec Le Soleil. Victor Hugo, Photographies de l’exil (Cat. Exp.), Textes de F. Heilbrun, Q. Bajac, P. Néagu, N. Savy, S. Rouleau, F. Rodari, Paris, Paris-Musées/Réunion Des Musées Nationaux, 1998’, n.d., https://journals.openedition.org/etudesphotographiques//200. [12] Todd Gustavson, Camera: A History of Photography from Daguerreotype to Digital (New York: Sterling Publishing, 2009); Erich Stenger, Die Geschichte Der Kleinbildkamera Bis Zur Leica (Frankfurt am Main, 1949). [13] Burcu Dogramaci, in Fotografieren Und Forschen: Wissenschaftliche Expeditionen Mit Der Kamera Im Türkischen Exil Nach 1933, 1. (Marburg: ‎ Jonas Verlag, 2013). [14] ‘Orchideen S.O.S.’, 20 December 2021, https://brasilienportal.ch/wissen/brasilien-report/kurz-reportagen/orchideen-sos/. [15] Pepita Hesselberth, ‘Discourses on Disconnectivity and the Right to Disconnect’, no. vol. 20, 5 (8 June 2017). [16] Roland Wenzlhuemer, ‘Dis:Konnektivität Und Krise’, 12 November 2020, https://www.blog.cas.uni-muenchen.de/topics/global-worlds/dis-konnektivitaet-und-krise. [17] Ulrike Lehmann, ‘Ästhetik Der Absenz. Ihre Rituale Des Verbergens Und Der Verweigerung. Eine Kunstgeschichtliche Betrachtung’, in Ästhetik Der Absenz. Bilder Zwischen Anwesenheit Und Abwesenheit, ed. Ulrike Lehmann and Peter Weibel (München/Berlin: Klinckhardt & Biermann, 1994), 42–74. [18] Hans Günter Flieg, in Hans Günter Flieg: Dokumentarfotografie Aus Brasilien (1940-1970), ed. Ingrid Mössinger (Bielefeld: Kerber Verlag, 2008), 8. [19] Erhard Keppler, Zeitliches. Vom Umgang mit der Zeit seit der Antike. Eine Kulturgeschichte des Zeitbegriffs (Katlenburg-Lindau: Copernicus, 2007).  
Asmus, Sylvia, and Marlen Eckl, editors, ‘... mehr vorwärts als rückwärts schauen ... ’. Das deutschsprachige Exil in Brasilien 1933-1945 / ‘... olhando mais para frente do que para trás  ... ’. O exílio de língua alemã no Brasil 1933-1945 (Berlin: Hentrich & Hentrich, 2013) Demos, T.J. ‘Charting a Course. Exile, Diaspora, Nomads, Refugees. A Genealogy of Art and Migration’, in The Restless Earth, exh. cat. Fondazione La Triennale di Milano. Fondazione Nicola Trussardi, Milan (Verona: Mondadori Electa, 2017), 18-26. Dogramaci, Burcu, Fotografieren und Forschen. Wissenschaftliche Expeditionen mit der Kamera im türkischen Exil nach 1933 (Marburg: Jonas, 2013), 29 and 81 En collaboration avec le soleil. Victor Hugo. Photographies de l’exil, exh. cat. Musée d’Orsay et Maison de Victor Hugo, Paris, 1998 Flieg, Hans Günter. “Interview on 18 April 2013, video, https://kuenste-im-exil.de/KIE/Content/DE/Objekte/flieg-interview.html?cms_x=4&catalog=1, accessed 3.4.2022. Gross, Peter, ‘Der Nomade’, in Diven, Hacker, Spekulanten. Sozialfiguren der Gegenwart, edited by Stephan Moebius and Markus Schroer (Berlin: Suhrkamp, 2010), 316-325. Gustavson, Todd, Camera. A History of Photography from Daguerreotype to Digital (New York: Sterling Publishing, 2009). Haehnel, Birgit, Regelwerk und Umgestaltung. Nomadistische Denkweisen in der Kunstwahrnehmung nach 1945 (Berlin: Reimer, 2006) Hans Günter Flieg. Dokumentarfotografie aus Brasilien, edited by Ingrid Mössinger and Katharina Metz, exh. cat. Kunstsammlungen Chemnitz, Chemnitz (Bielefeld: Kerber, 2008). Hendricks, Alfred, ‘Menschen unterwegs. Mobilität als Erfolgsstrategie’, in idem, editor, Unterwegs. Nomaden früher und heute (Gütersloh: Siegbert Linnemann, 2003), 8-11. Hesselberth, Pepita, ‘Discourses on Disconnectivity and the Right to Disconnect’, in New Media & Society, vol. 20, no. 5, 2018, 1994–2010. Kaplan, Caren, Questions of Travel. Postmodern Discourses of Displacement (Durham/London: Duke University Press, 1996) Keppler, Erhard, Zeitliches. Vom Umgang mit der Zeit seit der Antike. Eine Kulturgeschichte des Zeitbegriffs (Katlenburg-Lindau: Projekte-Verlag Cornelius, 2007). Lehmann, Ulrike, ‘Ästhetik der Absenz. Ihre Rituale des Verbergens und der Verweigerung. Eine kunstgeschichtliche Betrachtung’, in Ästhetik der Absenz. Bilder zwischen Anwesenheit und Abwesenheit, edited by Ulrike Lehmann and Peter Weibel (Munich/Berlin: Klinkhardt & Biermann, 1994), 42-74. Nungesser, Michael. “Chemnitz liegt bei São Paulo. Der Fotograf Hans Günter Flieg, in: Hans Günter Flieg. Dokumentarfotografie aus Brasilien, hg. v. Ingrid Mössinger und Katharina Metz, Ausst.-Kat. Kunstsammlungen Chemnitz, Chemnitz 2008, S. 10-14 Oellermann, Thomas, ‘Wenzel Jaksch und die Seliger-Gemeinde’, 27.11.2021, https://www.fes.de/themenportal-geschichte-kultur-medien-netz/artikelseite/wenzel-jaksch, accessed 3.4.2022. Richter, Tilo, editor, Der Kaßberg. Ein Chemnitzer Lese- und Bilderbuch (Leipzig: Passage-Verlag, 1996). Stenger, Erich, Die Geschichte der Kleinbildkamera bis zur Leica (Frankfurt/Main: Umschau 1949). Wenzlhuemer, Roland. ‘Dis:konnektivität und Krise’,  CAS LMU Blog, 12 November 2020, https://www.blog.cas.uni-muenchen.de/topics/global-worlds/dis-konnektivitaet-und-krise, accessed 4 April 2022.  
citation information
Dogramaci, Burcu. ‘Nomadic Camera: Photography, Exile and Dis:Connectivity’. Institute Website. Blog, Global Dis:Connect (blog), 8 February 2022. https://www.globaldisconnect.org/08/02/nomadic-camera-photography-exile-and-disconnectivity/?lang=en.
This post has also appeared in issue 1.1 of our in-house journal, static.
Dogramaci, Burcu. ‘Nomadic Camera: Photography, Exile and Dis:Connectivity’. Static. Thoughts and Research from Global Dis:Connect, 2022.
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