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Freie Deutsche Kultur

  • Kind of Object:
    Newsletter
  • Name:
    Freie Deutsche Kultur

    Word Count: 3

  • Creator (Organisation):
    Free German League of Culture
  • Year Start:
    1939
  • Year End:
    1945
  • Known addresses in Metromod cities:

    Free German League of Culture (Freier Deutscher Kulturbund), 36 Upper Park Road, Hampstead, London NW3.

  • City:
    London (GB)
  • Introduction:

    The Free German League of Culture was an association of emigrant artists and authors who organised exhibitions, concerts and lectures. The events were announced in the Freie Deutsche Kultur newsletter.

    Word Count: 30

  • Content:

    The Free German League of Culture (Freier Deutscher Kulturbund), founded by emigrants, many of them politically persecuted, was an association of artists and authors who organised exhibitions, concerts, readings and plays. The League was founded in 1938 at the home of the artist Fred Uhlman, but moved to its own headquarters in Hampstead, London, at the turn of 1939/40. The Free German League of Culture was committed to the preservation and communication of a free German culture that had not been appropriated by National Socialism. It also aimed to contribute to understanding between the English population and refugees and to stand in solidarity with other democratic, liberal and progressive movements (Coles 2014, 318).
    A self-description of the League states its aim as being: “in the cultural field, to preserve the most beautiful things that Germany has given to the world – to convey the most beautiful things that England has given to the world and to the German refugees – and to give the German refugees the opportunity to submit their work in the cultural field to the judgement of the public. In the field of welfare to help the German refugees with social, legal and medical advice, to support the internees, and to pave the way for the refugees to be integrated into the labour process”. (Flesch 1941, translated from German) The Free German League of Culture empowered its members by allowing them to organise and participate artistically.

    The events were mainly directed at the émigré community, but local audiences were also addressed and English creatives and intellectuals such as the Bishop of Chichester or the biologist Julian Huxley engaged as patrons and honorary members of the League. It was not only an organisation that strengthened self-confidence and visibility, but also a charity that raised money for internees (for example through concerts and sales exhibitions) and drew attention to the plight of internees (Bihler 2018, 124). The events of the Free German League of Culture were announced and discussed in the Freie Deutsche Kultur newsletter. This was published between 1939 and 1945, from 1941 with the writer Max Zimmering as editor. Contributors included Lion Feuchwanger, Oskar Kokoschka, Anna Seghers and many more. Through the Freie Deutsche Kultur newsletter, members and other interested parties were informed about the League’s cultural activities – concerts, exhibitions, plays, readings and lectures.
    In addition, advertisements were placed in Freie Deutsche Kultur, which functioned in two directions: emigrants were able to offer their services and in turn were offered services and goods ranging from language courses to accommodation, photocopying facilities, food, furniture and textiles. In Freie Deutsche Kultur, no. 4, 1940, p. 2, for example, there appeared an advertisement for “Practical English for Foreigners”. The League was thus not only a forum that offered exchange and opportunities to present artistic work, but also an information exchange that supported everyday life and functioned as a node in a network that extended far beyond art and culture. In addition, it also addressed the basic needs of the emigrants, providing cheap hot lunches at the clubhouse in Hampstead. These were advertised thus: “Cheap lunch daily from 12.30 to 2 o’clock at the FDKB house, 36a, Upper Park Road” with the addition “cheaper by subscription” (Freie Deutsche Kultur, no. 3, 1940, p. 4).
    But by no means all emigrated artists joined the League, and some may have been discouraged by the organisation’s leftist political agenda. In a letter to the League on 1 September 1945, the artist Kurt Schwitters wrote: “The responsibility of an artist is only to art. If someone who makes pictures or sculptures were under any other influence than that of the laws of art for the form of his work, then this work would not be art and the person concerned would not be an artist.” (Schwitters 1974, 182, translated from German)

    The Artists’ Section of the Free German League of Culture organised several exhibitions, often in cooperation with other organisations such as the Artists’ International Association. Shortly after the opening of the new clubhouse in Hampstead, Freie Deutsche Kultur called on artists to exhibit at the Kulturbundhaus; the newsletter had a circulation of 2,000 copies and the aim was to draw the attention of a wider public to the shows (Freie Deutsche Kultur, no. 5, 1940, p. 5).
    In addition to this supportive function, the League’s exhibitions had other concerns: for example, shows such as Exhibition of English and Refugee Art were intended to raise funds to support emigrants interned since 1940 in camps such as those on the Isle of Man and in Canada. Exhibitions of works by (former) internees, such as Camp Art in Canada. Exhibition of Interned Refugee’s Art and Poetry (1941), were intended to draw attention to internees overseas. John Heartfield, who gave the introductory speech for the exhibition, published a review of the exhibition in Freie Deutsche Kultur, which said: “‘Don’t forget us!’ our friends who are still interned call out to us. This exhibition supports in the best possible way the tireless work of the Free German Cultural Association: not to forget them and to give them all the help we can until they are all free again and can work together with us to make the sun rise.” (Heartfield 1941, 2, translated from German). The Allies Inside Germany exhibition, organised in 1942, aimed to inform and educate, but at the same time advocated for the émigré community as representatives of another Germany. The exhibition opened on 3 July 1942 in an empty shop at 149 Regent Street and later toured English cities. Organised in 1943, Artists Aid Jewry was dedicated to the Jewish victims of Nazism and brought together 137 works by 39 artists in exile (Müller-Härlin 2010, 68).

    The 1941 An Exhibition of Paintings and Engravings: The Story of London Town (Freie Deutsche Kultur, July 1941, p. 3) showed how emigrant and other artists dealt with the city of London in wartime. In this way, the League showed an artistic form of place-making. At the end of 1941, the Exhibition of Sculpture, Pottery and Sculptors’ Drawings was organised by the League, together with the Artists’ International Association, in the League’s clubhouse in Upper Park Road in London. In December 1941, the League’s newsletter Freie Deutsche Kultur looked back on the successful exhibition, which was “praised by English critics as well as the emigration press”. The text particularly highlights a bust by Jussuf Abbo as “splendid work[ing]” and refers to the acclaim for and sales of Abbo’s pottery on display (Anonymous 1941). Also worthy of mention is the group exhibition Exhibition of Drawings, Paintings and Sculptures (1944), which with 50 works gave an impression of the diversity of artistic expression in the German-speaking emigrant community. Monographic exhibitions were also organised by the FDKB: for example, an exhibition of the artists René Graetz, Dorothea Wüsten, Igna Beth and Erich Kahn was announced for April 1944, demonstrating the League’s open-mindedness towards female artists, who were shown here in a ratio of 1:1 alongside their male colleagues (Freie Deutsche Kultur, no. 4, 1944, p. 12). Freie Deutsche Kultur appeared until 1945, partly as a series of publications of the Free German League of Culture, which disbanded a year later.

    Word Count: 1157

  • Signature Image:
    Announcement for the Camp-Art in Kanada exhibition, 1941, Freie Deutsche Kultur, no. 4, 1941, p. 3, detail (Deutsche Nationalbibliothek, Deutsches Exilarchiv 1933–1945, Frankfurt am Main).
  • Media:
    “Wir haben ein Haus.” Freie Deutsche Kultur, no. 12, 1939, p. 6 (Deutsche Nationalbibliothek, Deutsches Exilarchiv 1933–1945, Frankfurt am Main).
    36 Upper Park Road – the clubhouse of the Free German League of Culture from 1939 (Photo: Julia Winckler, 2008, originally used in Brinson/Dove 2010).
    Announcement for the Camp-Art in Kanada exhibition, 1941, Freie Deutsche Kultur, no. 4, 1941, p. 3: Introductory Words by John Heartfield and Herbert Lieske (Deutsche Nationalbibliothek, Deutsches Exilarchiv 1933–1945, Frankfurt am Main).
    Advertisements in Freie Deutsche Kultur, no. 4, 1941, p. 11: From boardinghouses to typewriters, from modern furniture wanted to Wiener and Berliner bakeries (Deutsche Nationalbibliothek, Deutsches Exilarchiv 1933–1945, Frankfurt am Main).
    Announcement for The Story of London Town exhibition, 1941, Freie Deutsche Kultur, no. 7, 1941, p. 3 (Deutsche Nationalbibliothek, Deutsches Exilarchiv 1933–1945, Frankfurt am Main).
    Advertisements in Freie Deutsche Kultur, no. 2, 1942, p. 14: Lindsay Drummond publishing house, the Central Books Ltd. bookshop, the Laterndl theatre and cabaret, The Austrian Theatre and “What the Stars Foretell” – a new cabaret revue of the Free German League of Culture (Deutsche Nationalbibliothek, Deutsches Exilarchiv 1933–1945, Frankfurt am Main).
    Review of the Mid-European Art exhibition (1944) at Leicester Museum and Art Gallery by Oskar Kokoschka in Freie Deutsche Kultur, no. 5, 1944, p. 3. The page includes a reproduction of Erich Kahn’s Flüchtlinge, announcements of a lecture by Francis Klingender and life classes by the sculptor Paul Hamann (Deutsche Nationalbibliothek, Deutsches Exilarchiv 1933–1945, Frankfurt am Main).
    Article on “Samson Schames – Bilder und Mosaiken” at the Civil Defence Artists’ Exhibition (1944) in Freie Deutsche Kultur, no. 10, 1944, p. 13 (Deutsche Nationalbibliothek, Deutsches Exilarchiv 1933–1945, Frankfurt am Main).
  • Bibliography (selected):

    Bihler, Lori Gemeiner. Cities of refuge: German Jews in London and New York, 1935–1945. SUNY Press, 2018.

    Brinson, Charmian, and Richard Dove, editors. Politics By Other Means. The Free German League of Culture in London 1939–1946. Vallentine Mitchell, 2010.

    Coles, Anthony. John Heartfield. Ein politisches Leben. Böhlau, 2014.

    Freie Deutsche Kultur – Mitteilungsblatt des Freien Deutschen Kulturbundes in England, 1939–1945.

    Flesch, Hans. “Freunde in der Not.” Freie Deutsche Kultur, no. 6, 1941, p. 2.

    Heartfield, John. “Camp-Art in Canada.” Freie Deutsche Kultur, no. 5, 1941, p. 1f.

    Müller-Härlin, Anna. “The Artists’ Section.” Politics By Other Means. The Free German League of Culture in London 1939–1946, edited by Charmian Brinson and Richard Dove, Vallentine Mitchell, 2010, pp. 54–73.

    Schwitters, Kurt. Wir spielen, bis uns der Tod abholt. Briefe aus fünf Jahrzehnten. Compiled by Ernst Nündel, Ullstein, 1974.

    Vinzent, Jutta. Identity and Image. Refugee Artists from Nazi Germany in Britain (1933–1945) (Schriften der Guernica-Gesellschaft, 16). VDG, 2006.

    Word Count: 141

  • Archives and Sources:

    Deutsche Nationalbibliothek, DEA Exilpresse Digital.

    Word Count: 5

  • Acknowledgements:

    My deepest thanks go to Sylvia Asmus and Katrin Kokot (Deutsche Nationalbibliothek, Deutsches Exilarchiv 1933–1945, Frankfurt am Main) for providing me with the images of Freie Deutsche Kultur.

    Word Count: 27

  • Author:
    Burcu Dogramaci
  • Metropolis:
    London
  • Entry in process:
    no
  • Burcu Dogramaci. "Freie Deutsche Kultur." METROMOD Archive, 2021, https://archive.metromod.net/viewer.p/69/1470/object/5140-11260521, last modified: 27-04-2021.
  • Anna Freud
    Psychoanalyst

    The psychoanalyst Anna Freud and her partner Dorothy Burlingham-Tiffany opened the War Nursery research and care facility in Hampstead in January 1941 under the impact of the bombing of London.

    Word Count: 29

    Anna Freud and Dorothy Burlingham, Jackson Nursery, Vienna, 1937 (© Freud Museum London).
    Dorothy Burlingham and Anna Freud. Annual Report of a Residential War Nursery. Hampstead Nursery, 1942, title page (Photo: Private Archive).Dorothy Burlingham and Anna Freud. Annual Report of a Residential War Nursery. Hampstead Nursery, 1942 (Photo: Private Archive). Page with addresses of Hampstead Nursery.Dorothy Burlingham and Anna Freud. Kriegskinder. Jahresbericht des Kriegskinderheims Hampstead Nurseries. Imago Publishing, 1949, cover (Photo: Private Archive). German version of Annual Report of a Residential War Nursery from 1942.Anna Freud and Dorothy Burlingham, Cork, 1949 (© Freud Museum London).Dorothy Burlingham and Anna Freud. Anstaltskinder. Imago Publishing, 1950, title page (Photo: Private Archive). German version of Infants without Families, 1943.Installation view from the Freud Museum London: Anna Freud at her loom, Walberswick, Suffolk, c. 1960s, Weaving Shuttles of Anna Freud, Crocheted scarf made by Anna Freud (Photo: Burcu Dogramaci, 2018. Courtesy of the Freud Museum London).Freud House at Maresfield Gardens (Photo: Burcu Dogramaci, 2018).
    London
    Jussuf Abbo
    SculptorGraphic Artist

    The Berlin sculptor Jussuf Abbo emigrated together with his family to London in 1935, where he received a limited number of commissions and participated in a few group exhibitions.

    Word Count: 28

    Jussuf Abbo, Selbstbildnis, in Der Querschnitt, vol. 4, no. 1, 1924, p. 71 (Photo: Private Archive, © Estate of Jussuf Abbo).
    Else Lasker-Schüler, “Jussuff Abbu.” Berliner Börsen-Courier, vol. 55, no. 327, 15 July 1923, p. 5 (Photo: Private Archive).Jussuf Abbo, Untitled [Else Lasker Schüler?], n.d. [1920s], lithograph, 52 x 39,5 cm (Photo: Burcu Dogramaci, 2010, © Estate of Jussuf Abbo).Genja Jonas, Portrait Jussuf Abbo, 1926 (© Estate of Jussuf Abbo).Jussuf Abbo, Untitled [Thomas Sturge Moore?], n.d. [1940], bronze, H. 27 cm (Photo: Burcu Dogramaci, 2010, © Estate of Jussuf Abbo).Jussuf Abo, Untitled, 1928, plaster, 36 x 29 x 22 cm (Photo: Burcu Dogramaci, 2010, © Estate of Jussuf Abbo).Jussuf Abo, Untitled, n.d., clay, coloured, 37,5 x 18 cm (Photo: Burcu Dogramaci, 2010, © Estate of Jussuf Abbo).Jussuf Abbo, Untitled [sleeping girl], n.d. [c. 1939/40], clay (© Estate of Jussuf Abbo).Jussuf Abbo, Untitled [c. 1939/40], n.d., clay, 15 x 36 cm (© Estate of Jussuf Abbo).Review of the Exhibition of Sculpture, Pottery and Sculptors’ Drawings in the monthly newsletter Freie Deutsche Kultur (no. 12, 1941, p. 10). The exhibition was organised by the Free German League of Culture and the Artists International Association. Abbo is mentioned twice with reference to a bronze bust and potteries (Deutsche Nationalbibliothek, Deutsches Exilarchiv 1933–1945, Frankfurt am Main).Jussuf Abbo took part in the Opening Exhibition at Ben Uri Art Gallery in 1944 (© Ben Uri Archive).Opening Exhibition, exh cat. Ben Uri Gallery, London, 1944, p. 4–5 with Abbo’s Torso listed as first entry (© Ben Uri Archive).Kurt Schwitters’s London address book, undated [1941/1945] (Sprengel Museum Hannover, Kurt Schwitters Archiv, Hannover, Leihgabe Kurt und Ernst Schwitters Stiftung, Hannover). On the right is the address of Abbo’s studio at Lambolle Road and a reference to the Abbo family in Sussex.
    London
    John Heartfield
    ArtistGraphic DesignerFotomonteur (mounter of photographs)

    After escaping from his first exile in Prague in December 1938, the political artist John Heartfield lived in London since 1950, working for Picture Post and the publisher Lindsay Drummond.

    Word Count: 28

    Richard St. Barbe Baker. Africa drums. Lindsay Drummond, 1943, cover design by John Heartfield (METROMOD Archive, © The Heartfield Community of Heirs / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2021).
    London
    Julian Huxley
    ZoologistPhilosopherWriter

    Julian Huxley was the director of London Zoo from 1935 to 1942 and worked closely with emigrant photographers, artists and architects, including Berthold Lubetkin, Erna Pinner and Wolf Suschitzky.

    Word Count: 27

    Editorial by Julian Huxley in the first issue of Animal and Zoo Magazine, no. 1, 1936, p. 6 (METROMOD Archive).
    Charlotte Wolff. Studies in Hand-Reading. Chatto & Windus, 1936, p. 77: Reading Julian and Aldous Huxley’s hands (Deutsche Nationalbibliothek, Deutsches Exilarchiv 1933–1945, Frankfurt am Main).Charlotte Wolff. “The Form and Dermatoglyphs of the Hands and Feet of certain Anthropoid Apes”. Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London, Series A, 1937, Part 3, 347 + Plate (Library of the Zoological Institute, University of Hamburg). At the zoo’s behest, Charlotte Wolff applied chirology to the primates at London Zoo.“Young Artists in the Zoo” reads the headline to this photo essay on the Animal Art Studio at London Zoo, published in the Animal and Zoo Magazine, vol. 2, no. 11, 1938, p. 18–19 (METROMOD Archive).Julian Huxley and Ludwig Koch. Animal Language. Photographs by Ylla. Country Life, 1938, cover (METROMOD Archive). Two records of animal voices were included with this sound book.Erna Pinner. “Map of geographical distribution.” Julian S. Huxley. Zoo. Official Guide to the Gardens and Aquarium of the Zoological Society of London, 1937, pp. 102–103 (ZSL Library, London, Original © Erna Pinner).Julian Huxley and Wolf Suschitzky. Kingdom of the Beasts. Thames & Hudson, 1956, pp. 157–158 (© The Estate of Wolfgang Suschitzky)László Moholy-Nagy, Bill of Fare, farewell dinner menu for Walter Gropius, London, March 1937: List of Toasts naming Julian Huxley as chairman of the event (Pritchard Papers, University of East Anglia, @ László Moholy-Nagy).
    London
    Herbert Read
    Art HistorianArt CriticPoet

    The British art historian Herbert Read established himself as a central figure in the London artistic scene in the 1930s and was one of the outstanding supporters of exiled artists.

    Word Count: 30

    Howard Coster, Herbert Read, 1934 (Art in Britain 1930–40 1965, 5).
    Howard Coster, Herbert Read, 1934 (© National Portrait Gallery, London, NPG x19537).“Map showing where some of the people connected with the modern movement in art lived in Hampstead during the 1930s.” (Art in Britain 1930–40 1965, 9).Mall Studios behind Parkhill Road in Hampstead, occupied during the 1930s by Barbara Hepworth, Ben Nicholson, Cecil Stephenson and Herbert Read (Art in Britain 1930–40 1965, 8).Herbert Read. Art Now. An Introduction to the Theory of Modern Painting and Sculpture. Harcourt, Brace & Company, 1933, cover (METROMOD Archive).
    London
    Lindsay Drummond
    Publishing House

    The artist John Heartfield designed covers for the publishing house Lindsay Drummond, which had an anti-fascist programme and published books by emigrated authors such as Wilhelm Necker and Felix Langer.

    Word Count: 30

    Paul Duner’s A Year and a Day (Lindsay Drummond, 1942) tells the story of the author's flight from Belgium to England (METROMOD Archive, © The Heartfield Community of Heirs / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2021). Cover design by John Heartfield.
    Jacob S. Worm-Müller’s Norway Revolts Against the Nazis (Lindsay Drummond, 1941) with a cover design by John Heartfield (METROMOD Archive, © The Heartfield Community of Heirs / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2021).Jacob S. Worm-Müller’s Norway Revolts Against the Nazis (Lindsay Drummond, 1941), title page (METROMOD Archive).Hans J. Rehfisch. In Tyrannos. Four Century of Struggle against Tyranny in Germany. Lindsay Drummond, 1943 (METROMOD Archive, © The Heartfield Community of Heirs / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2021). First book publication of the émigré Club 43. Cover design by John Heartfield.Advertisement for Erika Mann’s School for Babarians. Education under the Nazis in The Manchester Guardian, 28 March 1939, p. 7 (Photo: Private Archive).Advertisement for Lindsay Drummond’s book series Europe under the Nazis in Freie Deutsche Kultur, no. 2, 1942, p. 14 (Deutsche Nationalbibliothek, Deutsches Exilarchiv 1933–1945, Frankfurt am Main).Advertisement for Edith Hoffmann’s Chagall. Watercolours 1942–46, Lindsay Drummond, 1947 in The Manchester Guardian, 13 January 1950, p. 4 (Photo: Private Archive).
    London
    Kurt Schwitters
    ArtistPoet

    The artist and poet Kurt Schwitters lived in London between 1941 and 1945, where he stood in contact to émigré and local artists, before moving to the Lake District.

    Word Count: 27

    In 1933 Herbert Read reproduced Kurt Schwitters’s Grey-rose picture assemblage (1932) in his book Art Now. An Introduction to the Theory of Modern Painting and Sculpture (METROMOD Archive).
    Kurt Schwitters, Red Wire Sculpture, 1944, Metal, plaster, stone, ceramics, dried fruit, wood, painted (Tate Collection, T05767, Photo © Tate, CC-BY-NC-ND 3.0 (Unported)).Kurt Schwitters’s London address book, undated [1941/1945] (Sprengel Museum Hannover, Kurt Schwitters Archiv, Hannover, Leihgabe Kurt und Ernst Schwitters Stiftung, Hannover). On the right is the address of Abbo’s studio at Lambolle Road and a reference to the Abbo family in Sussex.Letter [draft?] from Kurt Schwitters to Jussuf Abbo, London, 23 December 1941 (Sprengel Museum Hannover, Kurt Schwitters Archiv, Hannover, Leihgabe Kurt und Ernst Schwitters Stiftung, Hannover). Schwitters writes: “I found you in the exhibition of the German League of Culture and am glad to have you in London. You remember our meetings in Berlin and at the Hanoversche Secession. I come from Norway, where I have been resident for 11 years. When and where can I see you one day?”Leaflet advertising the December exhibition held at the Modern Art Gallery on Masterpieces by Great Masters, also featuring Paintings and Sculptures by Kurt Schwitters, Modern Art Gallery Ltd., 1944 (Tate Archive, TGA 9510/4/8/1, Photo © Tate, CC-BY-NC-ND 3.0 (Unported)).
    London