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Watercolor created by Karl Schwesig with a scene of soldiers and inmates in a concentration camp

Object | Accession Number: 1988.5.14

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    Watercolor created by Karl Schwesig with a scene of soldiers and inmates in a concentration camp


    Brief Narrative
    Ink wash drawing created by Karl Schwesig in 1948 in Dusseldorf. The drawing depicts inmates receiving soup in Noe internment camp in France, where Schwesig was held from February to March 1941. After Hitler came to power in January 1933, Schwesig, a Communist, was arrested and imprisoned for 16 months. After his release in 1935, he lived in Antwerp, Belgium. On May 10, 1940, Germany invaded Belgium. Schwesig was arrested and sent to Vichy France, where he was held in St. Cyprien, Gurs, Noe, and Nexon internment camps. In 1943, he was sent to Ulmer Hoeh prison in Dusseldorf, where he was liberated by American forces in April 1945.
    Artwork Title
    Alternate Title
    Food Distribution
    creation:  1948
    depiction: Noe (Concentration camp); Noe (France)
    creation: Dusseldorf (Germany)
    Credit Line
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection
    front, lower right corner, black ink : Karl Schwesig 1948
    Artist: Karl Schwesig
    Subject: Karl Schwesig
    Karl Schwesig was born on June 19, 1898, in Gelsenkirchen, Germany. His father was a miner. From 1916 to 1918, Schwesig served in the German Army during the First World War (1914-1918). In 1918, Schwesig began studying at the Academy of Fine Arts in Dusseldorf. In 1921, he left the conservative academy and joined the Junge Rhineland artist group. In 1924, Schwesig cofounded the satirical magazine Die Peitsche (The Whip). The right wing Nazi Party was growing rapidly in popularity duirng the 1920s and Schwesig was an outspoken anti-Nazi. He joined the Communist Party in the late 1920’s.

    Hitler came to power in Germany in January 1933 and the country was soon ruled by a Nazi dictatorship. On July 11, 1933, Schwesig was arrested for his anti-Nazi commentary. He was detained by the SA and interrogated for the names of colleagues who also resisted the Nazis. He was sent to Ulmer Höhe prison in Dusseldorf. In 1934, he was convicted of treason and served his sentence in Bendahl prison in Wuppertal. After his release on November 18, 1934, Schwesig was granted political asylum in Belgium and lived in Antwerp. In 1937, his German citizenship was revoked and his property in Germany was confiscated by the Nazi regime.

    On May 10, 1940, Germany invaded Belgium. Schwesig was arrested and deported to St. Cyprien internment camp in Vichy France. In October, he was moved to Gurs internment camp after St. Cyprien was destroyed by flooding. In February 1941, he was transferred to Noé internment camp. In March 1943, he was sent to Nexon internment camp and classified as a politcal prisoner. In June, Schwesig was sent to Fort Romainville prison in Paris and in July to Ulmer Höhe prison in Dusseldorf. Throughout his imprisonment, Schwesig drew images of daily life in the camps. Schwesig was liberated in Ulmer Höhe after American forces captured Dusseldorf on April 17, 1945. The war ended when Germany surrendered on May 7. Schwesig stayed in Dusseldorf. He died, age 57, in 1955.

    Physical Details

    Physical Description
    Ink wash drawing on rectangular light brown paper depicting inmates receiving food. On the right, an inmate is bending over a large cylindrical pot, holding the handle of a serving utensil. His face and torso are heavily shaded with black wash. To the left, an inmate is holding out a bowl for food. A uniformed guard with tall boots and a kepi stands between them. He has a round face and a small mustache. To the left and right are 2 additional inmates holding bowls. The men stand between 2 buildings. Another inmate stands next to the open doorway of the building on the left, which is labeled 12. The sky is black and the ground is shaded with black wash. The title, date, and artist’s signature are written above the lower edge.
    overall: Height: 19.375 inches (49.213 cm) | Width: 25.500 inches (64.77 cm)
    overall : paper, graphite, ink, watercolor
    front, lower center, pencil : Essen-Ausgabe [Food Distribution]
    back, lower left corner, stamped, purple ink : Nachlaß Karl Schwesig [Estate Karl Schwesig]
    back, lower left corner, handwritten, blue ink : 408
    back, lower left, pencil : 2/35
    back, lower center, pencil : 90 / F – EM
    back, lower right corner, stamped, black ink : Karl Schwesig / Düsseldorf-Oberkassel / Kaiser-Friedrich-Ring 16

    Rights & Restrictions

    Conditions on Access
    No restrictions on access
    Conditions on Use
    No restrictions on use

    Keywords & Subjects

    Administrative Notes

    The watercolor painting was acquired by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 1988.
    Record last modified:
    2022-07-28 18:28:31
    This page:

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