Gordon W. Gilkey’s Report on German War Art
At the end of World War II, U.S. Army Capt. Gordon W. Gilkey collected a large trove of Nazi propaganda and German war art to ship to the USA, where much of it still remains in a secure facility at Fort Belvoir. Gilkey wrote a report about how he gathered the artwork, but when I was researching a story I wrote about the Army’s collection, I had a very difficult time finding it. One historian at the National Archives told me she and another researcher had been looking for the original document for a couple of years with no luck. Luckily, Lee Reynolds at the U.S. Army Center of Military History in Washington, D.C., directed me to John Paul Weber’s long-out-of-print 1979 book The German War Artists, which reproduces the report in full. I transcribed the report, and I’m putting it up here in case anyone needs the text for their own research.
GERMAN WAR ART
Gordon W. GIlkey, 0–911537
Captain Air Corps
Office of the Chief Historian
Headquarters, European Command
Army Post Office 757
I. GERMAN WAR ART PROGRAM, UNITED STATES WAR DEPARTMENT
- THE DIRECTIVES AND PURPOSE
A Historical Properties section was established during the war in the Office of The Army Headquarters Commandant, Washington, D.C. War Department memorandum №345–45, 11 June 1945, “provided for the collection, processing, preservation, and control of war paintings, photographs, maps, trophies, relics, and objects of actual or potential historical interest or value produced during the present war which are or may become the property of the War Department.”
This section initiated TWX81902, dated 8 November 1945, to Headquarters, United States Forces, European Theater, Theater Historian, requesting the collection of “available paintings, watercolors, engravings, and drawings showing troop activities, views of battle fields, military installations, industrial or homefront activities produced by German and Italian artists during the present war.”
Title 18, Military Government Regulations, Office of Military Government, United States, 18–401.5, states that “all collections of works of art relating or dedicated to the perpetuation of German Militarism or Nazism will be closed permanently and taken into custody.”
The Office of Military Government, United States, Law number 52, defines categories of property subject to seizure.
2. SELECTION AND ASSIGNMENT TO THE PROJECT
But no German War Art was turned in to the Historical Division. Laws and Directives require personnel to enforce them. Colonel Clanton W. Williams, Chief Historian, Air Forces, and Major Hermann W. Williams, Jr., (formerly curator of paintings, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City, Chief of The Historical Properties Section during the war, and now Director of The Corcoran Gallery, Washington, D.C.) both tried at different intervals during the war to assign me to art projects, but my war assignments all had higher priorities. With the cessation of combat in the Pacific, The Chief, Historical Properties Section, suggested my name to Colonel Harold E. Potter, Chief, Historical Division, Headquarters, United States Forces, European Theater, and to Colonel A.F. Clark, Jr., Deputy Director, Historical Division, War Department Special Staff. They requested Headquarters, Army Air Forces, to release me for assignment to the Historical Division, Headquarters, United States Forces, European Theater (USFET). Headquarters, Army Air Forces again refused release, but Colonel Harold E. Potter was advised by G1, Military Personnel, Headquarters, USFET, that I could be requested by name upon arrival in Europe, if Air Forces assignment to The European Theater could be arranged. I volunteered for duty in the ETO and assignment to The Historical Division was awaiting upon arrival in Germany.
II. THE WORK IN EUROPE
I then began a period of research to find who had made what German War Art for whom, and where it could be located. This activity continued throughout the assignment.
The Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives Section of the Office for Military Government, United States Zone of Germany (OMGUS), received the information that a collection of war art was located in Schloss Ringberg near Tegernsee, Bavaria, the residence of Wilhelm Luitpold von Bayern, Prince Regent of Bavaria. I inspected the paintings and determined that they had been the property of Luftgaukommando VI with Headquarters in Muenster in Westphalia. I located the German index to the collection which proved invaluable to me. One case that had not been delivered to the Castle was still in the Rottach German Railway Express Office awaiting someone to sign the release papers. This was readily accomplished and I brought the complete Luftgaukommando “Kunst der Front” back to Headquarters.
Some of the larger war paintings acquired by Hitler had been removed from Munich in 1944 for safekeeping. A German architect, Herr Reger, who was in charge of the Fuehrerbau, had taken them to Bad Aussee, Austria. The paintings were too big to go in the salt mines with Hitler’s furniture and looted old master paintings, so they were concealed in salt bins in the salt refining plant where I found them. Not all the pictures had reached Bad Aussee. Checking back, I found that a truck had broken down enrollee from Salzburg to Bad Aussee. I traced these paintings to a second floor dance room in a bar and grill (Haus number 10), St. Agatha, Austria. Hitler’s collection of “Kunst der Front” was then brought back to Headquarters.
The search for the Oberkommandowehrmacht Staffel Der Bildenden Kuentsler collection of war art and the head of the organization, Hauptmann Luitpold Adam, led to a careful checking of all the trains that left Berlin a month before and up to the end of the war. The right train was located and placed as terminating its run at Frauenau in the Bayern Wald on the Czechoslovakian border. There, I found both Hauptmann Adam and the Oberkommandowermacht collection of war art. The freight cars carrying his staff’s war art left Berlin for Frauenau two weeks before the end of the war. The train was strafed by American P-47 lowflying fighter planes while enroute, but did not burn. The larger pictures were hidden in a previously selected location in the basement of Freiherr (Baron) Hippolyt Poschinger von Frauenau’s Schloss Oberfrauenau. The drawings and watercolors were rolled up in bundles and toted over a disused mountain trail to an abandoned woodcutter’s hut on a mountain straddling the border. Hauptmann Adam, his wife, and a local nine year old boy carried them there, working all night each night from ten nights before the end of fighting until two nights before the armistice. On the last night of fighting war, grounded Luftwaffe personnel, with some food, drinks, and frauleins, came to this secluded and abandoned hut and decided to have a party. Their singing and dancing attracted the attention of retreating SS men from Hitler’s personal bodyguard (some of whom are still living as a unit in nearby woods and now protecting Hitler, Bormann, or somebody). The SS men thought they had cornered some American troops in the cabin and opened fire on it. The Luftwaffe men in the cabin thought American troops had found them and returned the fire. A battle of mutual extermination resulted before the error was discovered. The cabin, constructed of stones with wooden timbers, did not burn. The war art had been placed where I found it, under the attic floorboards between heavy structural logs (approx. 12 to 18 inches in diameter) which protected the pictures from the horizontal SS rifle fire. I convinced Hauptmann Adam of the advisability of relinquishing his custody of the collection. Some photos of the Oberkommandowehrmacht collection plus negatives, the diapositive slides, and art supplies, were missing. I traced them from the Zweisel Military Government Property Control Office to Passau and caught up with them on the brink of the Danube River black market. The paintings, which had been stored in the basement of Schloss Oberfrauenau, were all damp and mildewed. The works which were hidden in the cabin were dry but a family of large mice had taken up residence in the rolls of watercolors and drawings. They had eaten the ends off many pictures, large holes in a few, and gave all the cabin pictures an uneven deckle edge. All the Oberkommandowehrmacht war art from these sources were brought back to Headquarters and given individual treatment according to the nature of their disorders.
The Haus der Deutschen Kunst in Munich, as a source of war art, was investigated. The building had been opened by Hitler in 1937 and each year, through 1944, had given a big exhibition of Nazi artist works (NSDAP party members only were allowed to exhibit there) which had met with the business approval of a crooked director and the art approval of Hitler. Not all artists in the NSDAP had works exhibited for one or two of the above reasons. Furthermore, many combat soldier artists were not party members and were consequently ineligible to exhibit in this show.
The building at the time of my search, contained a few crated pictures in the basement and several large war paintings which had been removed from their canvas stretchers, rolled up, camouflaged, and placed to resemble stage curtains. The 1944 exhibited works and unexhibited entries had been moved from the Haus der Deutschen Kunst to the basement of the Fuehrerbau on Koenigplatzt in Munich, and were in the process of being returned to the artists or owners. I called a temporary halt of this and looked at all the pictures even after assurances from German personnel in the building that it contained no war art. My search disclosed that about one out of every five proved to be a war picture. They had been hidden behind huge framed nudes and pastoral landscapes. The war and Nazi propaganda paintings, exhibited in the Haus der Duetschen Kunst during the previous years before 1944, are still in the possession of the artists or owners. Another section of the Fuehrerbau basement yielded parts of individual collections such as Hitler’s, Himmler’s, Bormann’s, some of the Reichs Ministers’, and works from the offices of the Fuehrerbau and other Nazi buildings in Munich. These included many portraits of Nazi and German military figures.
Himmler’s touring show of SS war art was last shown in Kelheim and then moved into hiding. It was located in the Kelheim Befreiungshalle.
These sources account for the bulk of the works collected. Miscellaneous sources included the Reichs Chancellery, and several German war artists who did not want their works left out of our distinguished collection, and several more who did want their pictures left out. All of these I brought to Headquarters during the summer and autumn of 1946.
I selected 103 war pictures and placed them in the Frankfurt a/Main Staedel Museum for an exhibition of German war art. On 6 December 1946, at 1100 hours, General Joseph T. McNarney, Commanding General, United States Forces, European Theater, and Colonel Harold E. Potter, Chief, Historical Division, Headquarters, United States Forces, European Theater, prevued the exhibition. During the afternoon of the same day, press representatives and photographers from the major syndicates in the United States were escorted through the exhibit. From 7 December 1946 through 15 December 1946, the Museum was open to American and Allied personnel. Fifteen hundred people accepted the promise of no heat or lights, during the cold weather at that time, to see the exhibit, which was placed in the three remaining rooms with four walls in the bombed building.
4. PRESERVATION AND RESTORATION
After the closing of the exhibit, and the return of the 103 works to Headquarters, I concerned myself with the preservation and restoration of the pictures requiring such attention. Portions of water damaged oils were repainted, and all the oil paintings cleaned. The pastel paintings and charcoal drawings were sprayed with fixatif.
5. CATALOGUING, LABELING, SHIPPING
With redeployment imminent, I embarked upon a rigorous schedule to get the war art in some semblance of order and to put down as much information as possible for their eventual use. Ignoring Sundays and holidays and working in an unheated damp room with no ventilation or outside light, I became a recluse. I put in 14 to 15 hours daily, seven days a week, from 16 December 1946, until shipment of the pictures and sculpture on 20 March 1947. All the pictures were labeled and packed, then shipped to the Chief, Historical Properties Section, Office of the Army Headquarters Commandant, The Pentagon, Washington 25, D.C. A form was rubber stamped and accomplished on all the pictures. An index card file was made continuing the same information and certifying the source of all the war art. This file is the Government’s protection against possible future German demands for the return of any items. The Luftgaukommando VI war art was arranged alphabetically by artists with a few individual odds and ends put in the middle and a few more at the End. The Oberkommandowehrmacht Staffel der Bildenden Kuentstler works, I alphabetized by artists and arranged them as nearly as possible in the chronological order of their execution. The total number of objects collected, labeled, and shipped, was 8722.
- OFFICIAL WAR ART PROGRAM IN HITLER GERMANY
After talking with many German war artists, and having examined about all the art produced in Germany during the last ten years, some conclusions are offered regarding German War Art.
Prior to the invasion of Poland, studio paintings were made by different established Nazi artists, using military subjects of World War I. Roman Feldmeyer, for example, made a number of paintings showing German patrols and ruined buildings in and around Fromelles, France, where Hitler boasted of his front line experience in World War I. These pictures appealed to Hitler and he bought them all. Otto Engelhard-Kyffhaeuser, a combat artist of World War I, painted historic feats of German armed might, as did Dr. Otto Bloss and others. These helped to build up a warlike spirit among the German people and were a manifestation of the feelings of the time.
With the entry of the Wehrmacht into Poland, accredited German artist war correspondents went along for commercial newspaper syndicates and magazines. Other newspaper artists at home “cooked up” improvised pictures to illustrate flashes from the front. Nearly all the war pictures during this period of 1939–1941 were concerned with “up and at ‘em” or “over the top” subjects, together with the usual number of portraits of Nazi and military leaders.
Soldier artists on off duty time, or during periods of monotony, made pictures of their experiences. Occasionally, one of these would be brought to the attention of a a soldier’s General. If the General was displeased, the artist would find himself whitewashing latrines to make constructive use of his urge to paint; or if the General was pleased, the soldier would find himself the “court painter of the General, with painting the military exploits of the General his duty assignment. A lot of poor war art thus resulted, as few German Generals could be considered good art critics.
But one good “court painter’s” work in 1941 was shown to Hitler, who considered himself the last word in such matters. He said, “Mein Gott, this man is good! How much of this sort of thing is going on?” With a reply that it was a disorganized unofficial activity of a few, Hitler ordered Oberkommandowehrmacht to set up a staff of selected artists to follow the German military exploits. Hitler designated the resulting works to hang in Army Museums and to decorate the club rooms and barracks of the permanent quarters of the victorious Wehrmacht units after their successful conclusion of the war. Hitler said he didn’t want the creation and selection of such pictures left up to the poor taste of his Generals; rather, the program would have professional supervision. During the war, these pictures were exhibited in Germany, Belgium, France, Poland, Norway, Italy, Austria, and elsewhere, for “educational and cultural purposes.” Hitler had an exhibition of them, December 1943, at his Field Headquarters somewhere, and Goebbels had a final showing, January 1945, at the Propaganda Ministry in Berlin. Vienna had a comprehensive show, and one was unveiled a the Rijks Museum in Amsterdam. Another German war art show was staged at the Jeu de Paume in Paris, but poorly attended because Picasso’s war pictures were not on exhibition.
b. WAR PAINTERS AND PRESS ARTISTS, PROPAGANDA ERSATZ ABTEILUNT, OBERKOMMANDOWEHRMACHT (KRIEGSMALER UND PRESSEZEICHNER)
A World War I German combat painter, and between wars a portrait painter of women and children, Herr Luitpold Adam, son, nephew, and grandson of German war painters, was selected to lead the Oberkommandowehrmacht art organizations. He was recalled to active duty as a 1st Lt. and in June 1941 assigned to the Propaganda Replacement Center in Potsdam, where he took charge of the group “War Painters and Press Artists.” As this group and the subsequent Oberkommandowehrmacht Staffel der Bildenden Kuenstler works form our most important items, some details of these organizations follow.
Adam inherited a small group of artists when he arrived in Potsdam. The artists had previously supplied their individual equipment needs and were housed in a small building, which by its lack of space and light, was inadequate for the purpose. Adam built an art supply depot and equipped his staff with the necessary tools for employment at the front. He designed a small portable case for use up front, and another more completely equipped one for use in painting finished works, from the battle sketches, behind the lines. At this time, Adam had no influence on the artists as to their mission. This was decided by a higher office in OKW or by the leader of the Propaganda Company to which the artist was assigned in the field. Each Propaganda Company had, in its table of organization, one artist and two advertising or commercial artists. The “fine artist” was thus subject to the understanding or incomprehension of his company fuehrer as to art activity. Some artists were used to make souvenirs and mementos. Under this arrangement, if a company was located for a long time in one place, the war painter suffered from a lack of suitable subjects. Adam advocated that the war painters work up at the front while the battle was in progress, or immediately afterwards, in order to make a true historical picture. The resulting works would thus have a stronger effect on future audiences if the artist had experienced the pictures himself, rather than “cooked them up” away from the scene, as advocated by the Propaganda Companies. German troop morale would be raised by the presence of combat artists up front immortalizing the soldier and his “important” contributions, his “heroic” deeds. Adam obtained an order whereby artists with special ideas could be withdrawn from Propaganda Companies and sent out by themselves on assignments. For example, Hauptmann Hanzl spent the hard winter of 1941–1942 with the Spanish Blue Division near Novgorod in Russia, and later, as a Major, covered the “Free Indian Troops in their position on the Southwest Coast of France.” By thus sending out artists from the Propaganda Companies, about twelve posts became vacant in the companies. Adam was able to fill the vacancies with the best artists from his staff.
During the winter of 1941–1942, Adam’s group in Potsdam increased to forty-five artists, only a small part of which had an opportunity of field combat assignments. These men had been screened from young soldiers and possessed ability, but inadequate art training. Not all could cope with the requirements of a war painter or press artists, who must work easily and quickly with and impersonal power of concentration to record what is going on around, but abstract himself from a personal feeling of danger. Consequently, a further screening by trial took place. They were all presented with painter problems requiring quick powers of conception and observation as well as of catching the impression of the situation in rapid sketches. Adam took his commissioned Officers, where combat actions were staged. An infantry regiment in adjoining barracks also acted as models for antitank gun unit crews, machine gunners, etc. Not far away was the drill field of a medium caliber artillery outfit, where studies could be made of these weapons during activity or disuse. Especially gifted artists went to Doeberitz to make drawings of the tanks, or were detached for engineer or other training. For an exact working knowledge of weapons, all kinds of calibers were borrowed and sketched. A horse with saddle and bridle provided studies of how to ride and lead a horse. In this way, Adam indoctrinated his artists in war painting and weeded out those who could not meet his demands. In the Spring of 1942, approval was obtained for the construction of a suitable painter-barracks. It consisted of two large rooms for studios, an office for Adam, and two small rooms for use by the men on duty. Patent frames were obtained for exhibitions to be held of the better works. Adam’s advice was usually followed in the selection of those best suited for special assignments, but his hopes for the artists in the Propaganda Companies to exploit their battle impressions during subsequent periods of rest, over several months time, were not yet realized.
During the Spring of 1942, the Press artists were withdrawn from Adam’s supervision, a change which he welcomed, as war painting and press sketches require ideas and approaches of completely different natures. A war painting requires conscientious preliminary studies and a sincere execution. The press sketch must be made in a few moments by a skillful artist and may depict a situation described in a radio communication received far away from the place of events, in order to appear in the next issue of the press. Historic truth is not required.
c. STAFFEL DER BILDENDEN KUENTSLER, PROPAGANDA ABTEILUNG, OBERKOMMANDOWEHRMACHT
In the Spring of 1942, under orders from Hitler, Major von Bromberg of OKH, called Adam in and explained a plan for a Staffel der Bildenden Kuenstler with some 80 artists, and with Adam as the Director. Up to this time, only a few and very well known artists had been sent to the battle fronts from OKH, plus the 16 Propaganda Companies’ artists at the higher OKH command post, many of whom were dilettantes. Thus, a plan to strengthen the employment of artists on the extended fronts found a ready disciple in Adam. A unified direction of the use of artists at the right time and in the appropriate spot was desired, but until this time not available.
The forming of the staff was approved by the Chief of the Replacement Army (Erstazheer), but not carried out by the Army. Through an arrangement with Oberkommandowehrmacht, the staff was placed in the OKW Propaganda Replacement Division. The table of organization allowed 20 men for technical office work plus the 80 combat artists. Adam was directed to find suitable qualified artists and make recommendations as to their field assignments. By the 1 June 1942, a number of artists had been selected, transferred to the staff, and made available le for field assignments. During the course of the next several months, about 45 artists were busy in their sphere of tasks. The supply of art materials had been increased to meet all their requirements.
Major von Bromberg had prevailed upon the superior command to allow the artists three months in a combat area, then to report back to Potsdam where he sketches were registered, whereupon the artists would make finished studies from hem in their own studios for the following three months. Then they would report back to Potsdam for new orders to a front area. Eventually, they were to bring back all their sketches to Potsdam Headquarters, together with the studio oils and watercolors, after their work was completed on a campaign or subject. These artists still have many of their sketches, ads they did not have time to paint all the pictures ordered from the sketches, and did not get back to Potsdam or Berlin in the last several months of the war.
In November 1942 the direction of the Staffel was transferred for a short time to Hauptmann Bindel (a Prof. on leave from the Dusseldorf Academy), and Adam was directed to establish the archives of the works and to administer the store of supplies. Adam initiated a search for a suitable and safe place in Berlin for this purpose. Lt. Col. Hans Eduard Dettmann (a landscape painter and son of Ludwig Dettmann — World War One combat artist), to whom the painters of the Luftwaffe were subordinated, suggested that some rooms had just been vacated at Luetzowplatz 7, the house of the Society of Berlin Artists, Berlin, but were sought by a business firm. The house had two large halls suitable for special exhibitions and adjacent offices plus a large secure basement for the supply store. General Hasso von Wedel, Chief of Wehrmacht Propaganda (OK), readily agreed to this location and gave a written order with which Adam was able to immediately seize the rooms. Detmann and Adam moved in, 1 January 1943, with their auxiliary personnel consisting of one sergeant, a corporal for supply and distribution, another sergeant for office work, and later a professional photographer. A reduction of the staff artists to thirty was made in the Army while the Navy and Luftwaffe were reduced to fifteen each. When the artists brought in their sketches, open discussions or critiques were held which were beneficial to the artists in their subsequent translation of the sketches into finished paintings. Adam again assumed the direction of the staff of artists and their employment at the fronts. However, the OKW Propaganda Division employment department took care of the actual issue of travel orders, food supply, pay, etc.
During January 1943, the purchase commission established by the OKH held its first meeting. This commission consisted of von Bromberg, the Chief of the Department von Bromberg, a representative of the Chief of the Army Museums, and a man from the construction office of the Army (Bauamt). Adam was present at all the meetings as an art adviser. The artists of the Staffel der Bildenden Kuenstler, who happened to be in Berlin at the time of meetings, were invited, along with others who were interested in such matters. The commission selected the best paintings and sketches to hang in Army Museums and Casinos of the Army. If the Casinos and the Army Museums both wanted the same work, the original went to Army Museums and the copy, which the artist was to make, went to the OKH Casinos. At the first meeting in January 1943, little material was available, owing to shortage of time, but about 5,000. — Reichsmarks were received. At the following meeting, in March, about 90,000. — Reichsmarks worth of pictures were purchased, and by the end of 1944, the OKH and the Heeresmuseen (Army Museums) alone had invested about 320,000. — Reichsmarks in Staffel der Bildenden Kuenstler pictures. The highest price for the largest and best oil painting was 4,000. — Reichsmarks. Watercolors averaged 250. — Reichsmarks each. The artists received all their materials free, but had to pay 3% of their salary to the Army pay office. The disposition of proceeds from the sale of art works to Army agencies or the transfer of funds resulting from such sales is not known to me. The registered works, made on active duty, with painting the duty assignment, already belonged to the Oberkommandowehrmacht.
After each commission meeting, an “evening of comradeship” was given by the purchasing commission for the artist who happened to be in Berlin. The evening gatherings served informally to further inform the artists of the wishes of the OKH and the Museums — the considerations behind the purchase of their works. The opportunity of becoming closer acquainted with each other also resulted, and many discussions took place over questions of art composition, subject matter, and related topics. Major von Fromberg emphasized again and again the importance of their works in depicting landscapes and terrains of all the fronts, in portraying characteristic and deserving officers and men, in preserving by artists’ works all types of weapons in use, by recording and documenting the war with visual means. From a working knowledge achieved at the front and with the aid of their front line sketches, the artists were able to reconstruct battles on canvas in their studios. The War Science Institute archives supplied additional historical data for battle scenes. The manner of approaching the subject and the technical execution was an individual matter left completely to the artists. “Fixed pictures” after a definite prescribed formula were thus avoided. With such a freedom of approach to the subject of war painting, the artists all had a great interest in their work.
The staff’s function was extended in the summer of 1944 by the addition of a professional photographer to the Berlin office. Photo archives were made of all the war art sold, as well as of the sketches brought in from the fronts. Diapositive slides of the most intuitive works of individual painters and pictures in campaign series were made. These slides were used in illustrated lectures to acquaint the soldiers and the German people with the nature of war painting. Wilhelm Wessel, a painter skilled in writing and articulation, held several lectures on his experiences in Africa and Italy. Wessel wrote, and illustrated with his front line sketches, two books, — “With Rommel in the Desert” (Mit Rommel in Der Wueste, Bildgut Verlag, Essen, 1943) and “Roman Land Fought for” (Umkaempftes Romisches Land, Bildgut Verlag, Berlin, 1944), in which military and artistic experiences are combined in an interesting and intuitive way. Fresher von Handel-Mazzetti’s series of pictures “Through the Don Area to the Caucasus” were the subject of lantern slides and lectures given by him. Combat art from Finnland, Norway, The Baltic, etc., was made the subject of slide series for lecture purposes. It was planned, in addition, that each artist should write an essay of some 50 pages or so on his combat art experiences and impressions. These were to appear in book form completely illustrated by his picture studies and sketches. About one hundred such books were planned on that many individual artists’ works. Within the framework of this series of books, prisons were made for the treatment of special subjects, such as “The Horse, Dog, and Pigeon During the War,” “The Times of the Goth and the Genoese on the Crimea” (where painter Karl Sommer had made a large number of sketches of the remaining ruins of huge castle constructions), “The War in the Caucasus,” “Norwegian Fjords and Strange Rocks,” “In the Land of the Midnight Sun (Northern Finnland),” etc. All would be fully illustrated with the works of the war artists. A great number of subjects awaited the artists by additional collaboration with writers, scientists, and scholars.
Adam told me that “after the Germans won the war,” he and von Bromberg planned to complete their project of “making the artists’ intellectual and art contribution, not just the horrible side of war, but war’s episodical and lyric moments, available to the German people, who by nature are inclined to meditate on and assimilate the spiritual-cultural values of a nation.”
Adam continued: “because of the immense extension of German fronts and the large occupied foreign lands, each sphere of knowledge included many inspirations and thus for the areas of tasks there were no limits for the artist in this respect. A picture descriptive of a combat episode is in itself a complete and bounded motif. The German soldier was sufficiently acquainted with the horrors of war and did not associate a great importance to the description of a battle engagement. Rather, he was interested in the region, where he stood, the recollection of what he experienced; these he could recall from a good painting of the landscape conceived in and producing or giving rise to a warlike atmosphere. The imagination of the painter must build up an indication of such an atmosphere. During the course of the war, by a conscious effort as to the direction of employment of the combat artists — i.e., those best suited for this task or that one — large groups of paintings were produced showing where German soldiers had been, characteristic types of peoples in front areas in foreign lands, as well as of all races and types of people who had opposed the German soldiers in the front lines. In this way, the entire description of the war crystallized more and more out of the complete picture achieved by the German war painters.”
During the summer of 1944, Lt. Col. Dettmann retired from his post, and Adam acquired direct supervision of the Luftwaffe artists also. Navy artists continued to receive their orders from OKM, but Adam exhibited their work and supplied them with materials from his art store.
The artists had been employed with the understanding that after they were through using their selected battle sketches to make finished studio works, these sketches were to be returned to Berlin. Thus, a large collection of thousands of sketches accumulated. January 1, 1945, Adam received an order to find a place of safekeeping for all these somewhere in Bavaria. He selected Schloss Oberfrauenau near Zwiesel. Part of his art store was left in Berlin for the press artists. The rest of his staff supplies and all the war art that had been returned to him, and which had not been selected or delivered per the purchasing commission, were moved by train in April, 1945, to the Castle. Preceding pages tell of my location of this repository a year and a half later. The art supplies stored in various places in the castle had been picked up by Military Government but had worked their way, by German hands, to the Danube River black market at Passau, together with the diapositive slides and negatives of the war art. I located them just in time and placed them in our custody. The art department of the Adjutant General Office, Hq., USFET, received the art supplies, except the portfolios in which I packed the sketches during the winter at Headquarters, and a set of oil paints which was shipped to Historical Properties (along with the German War Art) to be used for future retouching. Seldom do retouchers have available the same pigments with which the original paintings were made.
A thousand or more completed paintings commissioned from the Staffel der Bildenden Kuenstler material are intact in a castle at Torgau (Russian Zone) and guarded during the Russian Occupation by Lt. Col. von Bromberg. Completed works that were delivered to the Army Museums remain in their repositories. The Germans added their war paintings to the French Army Museums of Metz and Strasbourg during the German Occupation of France. The Strasbourg Museum Properties were evacuated by the Germans to Germany.
d. COMBAT ARTISTS IN WEHRKREISE AND LUFTGAUE DISTRICTS
The official Staffel der Bildenden Kuenstler of Oberkommandowehrmacht scorned the German combat art efforts of staffs not under their scrutiny, but within the 17 wehrkreise (military districts) and 9 Luftgaue (air districts) of greater Germany. Their war art was reproduced in domestic and military publications of a regional nature, and used as book illustrations for military campaign histories in which exploits were related of personnel of an area who made up the units (i.e., Bavarian regiments, etc.).
The collection “Kunst der Front” of Luftgaukommando VI (Muenster) was shipped in freight car #10033 by Herr C. Bertelsmann of Guetersloh, 1 September 1944, and arrived at Tegernsee six days later. It was taken to Schloss Ringberg in Bavaria for safekeeping. This is the only one of the district collections to be recovered by us. The Luftgaukommando VII (HQ., Munich) collection remains concealed and intact together with many other Luftwaffe war paintings made up by OKL artists, in a buried bunker in Potsdam (Russian Zone) and watched over by Herr Walter Wellenstein, the art adviser of Oberkommandoluftwaffe.
e. WAFFEN SS COMBAT ART GROUP
The Waffen SS “Kurt Eggers” Group of a small number of combat artists covered SS military assignments. The Headquarters of this Group was in the press building at Zimmerstrasse 9, Berlin SW 68. (This location is occupied at the present time by the Communist newspaper in the Russian Sector of Berlin.) I obtained a few of their works but the bulk of the “Kurt Eggers” collection still remain missing.
Thus it can be perceived that the Germans had an extensive and carefully planned combat art program to document the war. Perhaps the combat artists were sincere, working artists are simple people.
But behind it always was Adolf Hitler and the men around him. Hitler and his dreams of a super-race built upon the bones of the destruction of all who opposed him in his mad drive to rule the world. If his plan had succeeded, the suicide of the creative arts would have followed.
Hitler advocated freedom in art, but freedom only within the small scope of what he personally approved (and what the majority of Germans understood) — monumental realism. All else was “degenerate and verboten.”
All artists whose work did not coincide with Hitler’s viewpoints were forbidden to paint, exhibit, or sell.
Those who spoke against such tyranny had their works and property confiscated and were placed in concentration camps. Others, who could, left Germany before they too could not restrain their protests. Moreover, those whose works met all the visual requirements, but who by accident of birth did not belong to the “master” race, were destroyed along with their works.
A blindfold was placed on the borders of Germany to keep the German people free from the contamination and influence of contemporary culture and progressive creative movements in other lands. A good beginning of German Expressionism in art was declared degenerate and verboten. A generation of Germans was brought up in cultural ignorance.
A systematic looting of all removable cultural objects in German invaded lands was compensated for by the Germans with exhibits propagandizing the mighty Wehrmacht.
German art became a tool to spread the manure of Nazism and Nazi directed German Militarism.
Aside from the accumulation of intelligence and the historical value of the collected German War Art, my work of the past year has attained the removal from Germany of this monument to their baseness. If it had been left in Germany, it would have been a potential threat to the world through its future reinstallation and German misuse.
GORDON W. GILKEY
25 April 1947