Tomorrow we will be remembering the 75th anniversary of “D-Day.” It was on June 6, 1944, that American, British and Canadian troops landed on the beaches of Normandy in one of the most massive air, land, and sea operations ever undertaken in the history of warfare, “Operation Overlord” better known to us as “D-Day” started. After four grueling years of war, the liberation of Europe had begun. It wasn't long thereafter that the Allied forces would defeat Nazi Germany. Since then, we have all heard the stories of heroic unsung heroes, their bravery and their sacrifices. It was because of them that on May 9, 1945, the Allied Forces (United States, United Kingdom, Canada, the Soviet Union, and France) were able to sign the Armistice.
Tomorrow I'd also like us to remember the millions of people who died at the hands of an evil regime and the ones who survived it. I'd like us to take a moment and think about he systematic extermination of the Jews, the Roma, the communists, and any and all political opponents of the regime. I lost my grandparents in that war. Many lost more. So tomorrow we will commemorate those who fell and remember never to let it happen again. Because it must never be allowed to happen again.
Today, I’d like to remember Felix Nussbaum, German-Jewish surrealist painter, in memory and as an icon of all those people who died in terrible and cruel circumstances during WWII just for being who they were.
Nussbaum was born in 1904 in Osnabrück, Germany. By 1924 he is studying at the Berlin School of Fine Arts and becomes a master student of Hans Meid by 1928. In 1929, he works at a studio owned by him and the Polish painter Felka Platek, who eventually becomes his wife. It's 1933, and the National Socialists are in power. The political and cultural atmosphere in Germany changes drastically. Somewhere around that time Felix receives a prestigious scholarship for the Villa Massimo, an extension of the Berlin Academy of the Arts in Rome, and studies there with other German expats from October 1932 until April 1933. He decides to leave the program after a visit of Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s propaganda minister, during which he lectures them on the “Nazi view of art” and realizes he cannot keep up with the confines of this doctrine, albeit keeping it to themes promoting heroism and the “Aryan race.” Back in Germany, his studio is set on fire precisely because of his Jewish identity, and some 150 works fall victim to the flames. He knows it is time to hit the road.
During those years he and his wife lived in exile in Italy and France until, in 1937, they moved to Brussels, Belgium. It is in 1939, just before the beginning of WWII that he paints “The Great Destruction,” likely his visionary description of the destruction of Europe.
While in Belgium, he was forced to change his place of residence more than once. And as German troops marched into Belgium in 1940, Nussbaum was arrested as a hostile foreigner and sent to the detention camp in St. Cyprien.
He managed to escape nevertheless and found his way back to Brussels. In 1942 he hid his paintings with two friends while he and his wife were hiding in the apartment of the Belgian sculptor Dolf Ledel where they continued to paint. His works of art include a series of self-portraits dealing with personal impressions and fears. It is in 1943 that he created Selbstbildnis mit Judenpass. No need for words here.
Felix Nussbaum is one of the new representatives of New Objectivity (Die Neue Sachlichkeit, a pseudo-Expressionist movement founded in Germany in the aftermath of World War I by Otto Dix and George Grosz.) In 1998 his hometown opened the Felix Nussbaum House, exhibiting 170 tableaus (about 2/3 of his complete work)
Nussbaum and his wife were arrested on June 20, 1944, and deported to Auschwitz where he died on July 31, 1944. He was 40 years old!
Take a moment to remember! Until next time peoples of the page. Namaste.
For more about D-Day : https://www.army.mil/d-day/
For more about Felix Nussbaum :
Note from author: ALL IMAGES representing work from Felix Nussbaum in this column are being used under the Creative Commons Agreement. We are using them with a CC license for non-commercial reuse without modifications with as sole purpose the sharing of Art. Please respect this.
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