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Etching by Karl Schwesig showing one legged inmates going to work in a concentration camp

Object | Accession Number: 1988.5.17

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    Etching by Karl Schwesig showing one legged inmates going to work in a concentration camp


    Brief Narrative
    Etching created by Karl Schwesig between 1948 and 1949 in Dusseldorf. The drawing depicts two inmates missing legs 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
    Zur arbeit
    Alternate Title
    To Work
    creation:  1948-1949
    depiction: Noe (Concentration camp); Noe (France)
    creation: Dusseldorf (Germany)
    Credit Line
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection
    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 In 1937, his German citizenship was revoked and his property in Germany was confiscated by the Nazi regime.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
    Etching on paper depicting 2 inmates, walking to the left. Both men are wearing pants, shirts, vests, and brimless hats. They are each missing a leg, replaced with an artificial wooden leg. The man on the left is looking over his shoulder at the other man and carrying a shovel over his shoulder. The man on the right is looking forward and carrying a pick. Two inmates are walking in the midground, one pushing a wheelbarrow and another carrying a shovel. There is a tall tower with a circular top, a short building with a peaked roof, and trees behind them. There are mountains dotted with trees in the background.
    overall: Height: 17.625 inches (44.768 cm) | Width: 13.500 inches (34.29 cm)
    pictorial area: Height: 10.625 inches (26.988 cm) | Width: 8.125 inches (20.638 cm)
    overall : paper, ink
    front, lower left corner below image, pencil : Nr. 4
    front, lower right corner, pencil : illegible signature
    back, lower left corner, pencil : 0/12
    back, lower center, pencil : G81-25/12
    back, upper left corner of image, handwritten, blue ink : 737

    Rights & Restrictions

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

    Keywords & Subjects

    Administrative Notes

    The drawing 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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