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Etching by Karl Schwesig of 3 inmates at work under an armed guard in a prison camp

Object | Accession Number: 1988.5.15

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    Etching by Karl Schwesig of 3 inmates at work under an armed guard in a prison camp

    Overview

    Brief Narrative
    Etching created by Karl Schwesig between 1948 and 1949 in Dusseldorf. The drawing depicts three inmates missing limbs and is based on Schwesig’s experiences in internment camps in Vichy France. 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
    Trabajar (Arbeiten)
    Alternate Title
    Work (Working)
    Date
    creation:  1948-1949
    Geography
    creation: Dusseldorf (Germany)
    Credit Line
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection
    Contributor
    Artist: Karl Schwesig
    Subject: Karl Schwesig
    Biography
    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 In 1937, his German citizenship was revoked and his property in Germany was confiscated by the Nazi regime.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

    Language
    German
    Classification
    Art
    Category
    Prints
    Object Type
    Etching (lcsh)
    Physical Description
    Etching in ink on paper depicting 3 inmates in matching uniforms laboring in a field. The man on the left is digging with a shovel and is missing his right arm below the shoulder. The man in the center is swinging a pick and is missing his left arm below the shoulder. The man on the right is pushing a wheelbarrow and is missing his right leg below the thigh, replaced with an artificial wooden leg. A uniformed guard wearing a helmet and carrying a rifle over his shoulder is patrolling behind them. In the background are several buildings with peaked roofs and hills dotted with trees. The sky is shaded with dark lines, creating rays of light.
    Dimensions
    overall: Height: 13.500 inches (34.29 cm) | Width: 18.125 inches (46.038 cm)
    pictorial area: Height: 8.125 inches (20.638 cm) | Width: 10.750 inches (27.305 cm)
    Materials
    overall : paper, graphite, ink
    Inscription
    front, lower left corner below image, pencil : Nr. 5. Trabajar (arbeiten) [Work (working)]
    front, lower right corner, pencil : illegible signature
    back, lower left corner, pencil : 0/12
    back, lower center, pencil : G81/25/10
    back, lower left corner of image, handwritten, blue ink : 734

    Rights & Restrictions

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

    Keywords & Subjects

    Administrative Notes

    Provenance
    The drawing was acquired by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 1988.
    Record last modified:
    2022-07-28 18:28:31
    This page:
    https:​/​/collections.ushmm.org​/search​/catalog​/irn513900

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