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Alfons Schneider, Sylvesternacht 1941

Alfons Schneider, Sylvesternacht 1941 Alfons Schneider, Sylvesternacht 1941 Alfons Schneider, Sylvesternacht 1941

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'Sylvesternacht 1941' ('New Year's Eve 1941')

Monumental painting, displayed at the GDK 1942 room 13.
Size 167 x 149 cm.
Depicted are German soldiers in snow camouflage uniforms at New Year’s Eve 1941 in the Ukraine trenches: heavy shell explosions and artillery fire turn the sky red.
The winter of 1941/42 is known as one of the coldest European/Russian winters of the 20th Century.


Alfons Schneider, 'Sylvesternacht 1941' displayed at the Grosse Deutsche Kunstausstellung 1942 (right).
In the middel (background): 'Im Atlantik' by Claus Bergen, bought by Robert Ley for 25.000 RM and in the possession of the Deutsches Historisches Museum, Berlin (size 320 x 180 cm). 




Extreme scarce work of art

Art works considered as overt propaganda were massively destroyed

As described below, in accordance with the Potsdam Agreement of August 1945, the Allied Control Council laws and military government regulations, all collections of works of art related or dedicated to the perpetuation of German militarism or Nazism, were destroyed. Thousands of paintings were considered of ‘no value’ and burned. Around 8,722 artworks were shipped to military deposits in the U.S. In 1986 the largest part was returned to Germany, with the exception of 200 paintings which were considered as overt propaganda: depictions of German Soldiers, war sceneries, swastika’s and portraits of Nazi leaders.

 

- condition : II                    
- size : 167 x 149 cm; excluding frame 140 x 120 cm
- signed : left, under
- type : oil on canvas                                      

 






 

Alfons Schneider, 'Vor Tschernikow', GDK 1942, room 13. Tschernikow ('Tschernigow'), the Ukrainian city on the river Desna, has several war cemeteries with fallen Wehrmacht soldiers; more than 970 German soldiers lost their lives there. The painting is lost (Photo Collection SOMA, Brussel, 184702).
 


Alfons Schneider, 'Gebirgstruppe' ('Mountain-troops'). GDK 1939 room 13. Bought by Hitler for 2.500 Reichsmark. Size 157 x 137 cm. In the possession of Deutsches Historisches Museum.  



‘Gebirgsjäger mit Reichskriegsflagge‘ (‘Mountain Troops with Imperial War Flag‘). GDK 1943, room 27. Bought by the Deutsche Arbeitsfront, Berlin (‘German Labour Front, Berlin‘) for 5.000 RM.


Left: Alfons Schneider, 'Hochtal' ('High valey'). GDK 1938, room 19. Bought by Adolf Hitler for 1.000 RM. 'Hochtal' was placed in the Neue Reichszkanzlei ('für die Inneneinrichtung des Erweiterungsbaues der Reichskanzlei'). The painting is on the 144-List, see below.
Right: Alfons Schneider, ‘Bergried’ (‘Mountain pond’). GDK 1942, room 33.
  



What happened to the art Hitler purchased at the Great German Art Exhibitions?
With his insatiable passion for collecting art, Hitler was the most important purchaser of works from the GDKs. Every year, several times, he visited the Haus der Deustchen Kunst. From 1937 to 1944 he bought in total 1316 works at the GDKs.  
Hitler’s mass art purchases were mostly undertaken without a plan regarding the future location of the works. He only had a specific usage in mind from the start for a few of these works of art. The majority of the paintings and sculptures acquired at the GDKs faced an uncertain future. They were stored at the Haus der Deutschen Kunst until further notice (some were eventually taken to the Führerbau).  
Below we describe the fate of a limited number of artworks which were - as an exception- given a special destination by Hitler:
1. 144 paintings, sculptures and graphic works were bought by Hitler in 1938; they were transported to Berlin and placed in the Neue Reichskanzlei under construction, which was completed in January 1939. The list of 144 works (in our possession) is not exhaustive. Hitler did buy more works at the GDK in 1938, and in later years, which were also placed in the Reichskanzlei.
2. In 1939 Hitler gave 10 works of art to the Jagdmuseum in Munich: works by Carl von Dombroswki, Ludwig Eugen, Felix Kupsch, Friedrich Reimann (5), Karl Wagner and Renz Waller.
3. A few pieces were used to decorate Hitler’s various offices and private residences; for example, Adolf Ziegler’s ‘Die Vier Elemente’ was famously placed over the fireplace in a salon of the Führerbau in Munich.
4. In April 1943 Hitler had 21 paintings from the GDK delivered to his Munich apartment in the Prinzregentenstrasse. This delivery included works by Anton Müller-Wischin, Franz Xaver Wolf, Freidrich Schüz, Hermann Urban, Ludwig Platzöder, Sep Happ and Sepp Meindl.
5. In 1939 Hitler bought two works, explicitly meant for his own personal use: ‘Beethoven’ by Josef Jurutka and ‘Bauernkrieg’ by Franz Xavier Wolf.


Left: Alfons Schneider, ‘Nach dem Gewitter‘ (‘Afther Thunderstrom‘), postcard from Wiechmann-Verlag, Starnberg. Displayed at the GDK 1940 room 17.
Right: the same painting by Alfons Schneider depicted under the name ‘Nachtgewitter‘ (‘Night-thundering‘) in 'Bruckmanns Lexikon der Münchener Kunst', 1993. Size 120 x 110 cm. The work is in the possession of the Sparkasse Fürstenfeldbruck.
    


Right: Alfons Schneider, ‘Schwarzwaldhäuser‘ ('Houses in the Schwarzwald‘). Size 80 x 66 cm. In the possession of the Sparkasse Fürstenfeldbruck. Depicted in 'Bruckmanns Lexikon der Münchener Kunst', 1993.


The extreme scarcity of National Socialistic art
Massive, systematic destruction of Nazi art since 1945: the Potsdam-Agreement
From 1933 to 1949 Germany experienced two massive art purges. Both the National Socialist government and OMGUS (the U.S. Military Government in Germany) were highly concerned with controlling what people saw and how they saw it. The Nazis eliminated what they called ‘Degenerate art’, erasing the pictorial traces of turmoil and heterogeneity that they associated with modern art. The Western Allies in turn eradicated ‘Nazi art’ and forbade all artworks military subjects or themes that could have military and/or chauvinist symbolism from pictorial representation. Both the Third Reich and OMGUS utilized the visual arts as instruments for the construction of new German cultural heritages.
The Potsdam Agreement of 2 August 1945, subparagraph 3, Part III, Section A stated that one purpose of the occupation of Germany was ‘to destroy the National Socialistic Party and its affiliated and supervised organizations and to dissolve all Nazi and militaristic activity or propaganda.’ In accordance with Allied Control Council laws and military government regulations, all documents and objects which might tend to revitalize the Nazi spirit or German militarism would be confiscated or destroyed. For example, Title 18, Military Government Regulation, OMGUS stated that: ‘all collections of works of art related or dedicated to the perpetuation of German militarism or Nazism will be closed permanently and taken into custody.’ As a consequence, thousands of paintings –portraits of Nazi-leaders, paintings containing a swastika or depicting military/war sceneries– were considered ‘of no value’ and destroyed. With knives, fires and hammers, they smashed countless sculptures and burned thousands of paintings. Around 8,722 artworks were shipped to military deposits in the U.S.
OMGUS regulated and censored the art world. The Information Control Division (ICD, the key structure in the political control of post-war German culture in the American zone) was in fact a non-violent version of the Reichskulturkammer (Reich Chamber of Culture). With its seven subdivisions (i.e. press, literature, radio, film, theatre, music, and art), the ICD neatly replaced the Reich Chamber of Culture. The ICD established through its various sections a system of licensed activity, with screening and vetting by Intelligence to exclude all politically undesirable people.

‘Free’ German artists producing ‘free German art’ after 1945
In the ideology of OMGUS, painting was conceived of as a strategic element in the campaign to politically re-educate the German people for a new democratic internationalism. Modern art allowed for the establishment of an easy continuity with the pre-Nazi modernist past, and it could serve as a springboard for the international projection of Germany as a new country interacting with its new Western partners.
‘Free’ artists producing ‘free art’ was one of the most powerful symbols of the new Germany, the answer to the politically controlled art of the Third Reich. Modern art linked Western Germany to Western Europe – separating the new West German aesthetic and politics from that of the Nazi era, the U.S.S.R., and East Germany – and suggested an ‘authentically’ German identity.


Alfons Schneider, two of his painting at the GDK 1939 room 33. In the middle the famous 'Kalenberger Bauernfamilie' by Adolf Wissel, bought by Hitler for 12.000 Reichsmark and currently in the possession of the Deutsches Historisches Museum.
Left: 'Aprilschnee' ('Aprilsnow') by Schneider.
Right: 'Leuchtende Berge' ('Shining Mountains') by Schneider. 



Left: Alfons Schneider, ‘Im Karwendel‘ (‘In the Karwendel‘, mountaingroup in Tyrol). Size 81 x 67 cm.
Right: Alfons Schneider, ‘Fryung und Seefeld mit Blick auf die Stubaier Gletscher‘ (‘Fryung and Seefeld, with view on the Stubai Gletscher‘). Size 100 x 86 cm. Sold in 2016 by a German auction house.
  


Left: Alfons Schneider, 'Kirche in Bailleul' ('Church in Baulleul').
Right: Alfons Schneider, 'Flankierungs-Anlage' ('Flanking Position').
Both works depicted in 'Arras und Somme, Skizzenblätter aus den Kämpfen vor Arras und an der Somme', 1917. 
  


Left: Alfons Schneider, 'An der Somme' ('At the Somme-river').
Right: Alfons Schneider, 'Bahneinschnitt bei Arras' ('Railraod near Arras').
Both works depicted in 'Arras und Somme, Skizzenblätter aus den Kämpfen vor Arras und an der Somme', 1917. 
  


Left: Alfons Schneider, 'Schlosspark von St. laurent' ('Casttle-park of St. Laurent').
Right: Alfons Schneider, 'Stellung vor Roclingcourt' ('Position near Roclingcourt').
Both works depicted in 'Arras und Somme, Skizzenblätter aus den Kämpfen vor Arras und an der Somme', 1917. 
  



In 1997 (in France) was published the book ‘Dans la Tranchée Devant Arras. R’ecit d’Alfons Schneider’. Documents d’Archéologie et d’Histore du 20e siècle, 1997. This book is based on Schneiders 1917-publication 'Arras und Somme'.




Left: Alfons Schneider, depicted on the cover of the book ‘Dans la Tranchée Devant Arras. R’ecit d’Alfons Schneider’. Documents d’Archéologie et d’Histore du 20e siècle, 1997. The foto is likely from around 1917.
Right: Schneider at a later age, depicted in the same book.
  






Alfons Schneider, landscape and war painter
Alfons Schneider (1868 – 1961), born in Oberndorf am Neckar, grew up in a family of businessmen. Before the First World War, he travelled through Europe and studied at universities in Paris, Vienna and Munich.
He served in the Königlich Bayerisches Reserve-Infanterie-Regiment Nr. 2. Because of his courageous behaviour (and not related to education or family background) Schneider was promoted to officer ('Tapferheitsoffizier'). From 1914 to 1916, during a period of 22 months, he created a large range of sketches, watercolors and paintings representing war-sceneries around Arras and the Somme-river; Schneider painted in trenches and other positions within the first frontlines. In 1917 he published the book 'Arras und Somme, Skizzenblätter aus den Kämpfen vor Arras und an der Somme‘. This book is a description of his life in this period, illustrated with around 80 depictions of his work.
Around 1918 he settled in Fürstenfeldbruck, where he lived until his death in 1961. Schneider had a summer atelier in Mittelwald, a village in Bavaria close to the Austrian border. In 1933, when Hitler came into power, an Aryan origin and a strong pro-German attitude became essential for artists. The regional art association 'Künstlervereinigung Fürstenfeldbruck' was dissolved and Schneider became the chairman of the newly formed National Socialist-orientated 'Fürstenfeldbrucker Kunstring'. After WWII, in 1948, the 'Brucker Kunstring' was dissolved and the 'Künstlervereinigung Fürstenfeldbruck' was re-founded. Schneider, who had been the chairman of the 'Brucker Kunstring' until 1945, was (again) elected chairman.
Alfons Schneider was, just like his contemporary collegue-painter Erwin Ketteman, well represented in the Great German Art Exhibitions. As supporters of the 19th century 'Karlsruher Schule', they painted huge rock formations and high mountains with a strong emphasis on geological details. However, unlike Erwin Kettemann, who only painted mountains and landscapes, Schneider also created military/political scenes, such as 'Silvesternacht 1941', 'Gebirgstrupe', 'Vor Tschernikow' and 'Gebirksjäger mit Reichskreigsfalgge'.
In the Great German Art Exhibitions Schneider had 17 paintings displayed, of which 'Gebirgstruppe'  ('Mountain Troops', GDK 1939 room 13) and 'Hochtal' ('High valey', GDK 1938, room 19) were bought by Hitler. Schneiders paintings at the GDK were sold for prices of up to 5,000 Reichsmark. 'Hochtal' was placed in the Neue Reichszkanzlei ('für die Inneneinrichtung des Erweiterungsbaues der Reichskanzlei'). The painting is on the '144-List'.
Alfons Schneider died in 1961 in Fürstenfeldbruck.
In 1962 the city of Oberndorf organised the 'Alfons Schneider Gedächtnis-Austellung'.
In 1986 approximately 5850 paintings hold by the US Army Cente of Military History were returned to Germany (including 'Gebirkstruppe'). Around 450 paintings were retained, of which 200 are portraits of Nazi leaders, or contain the swastika or are considered overt propaganda; the 250 remaining paintings were retained ‘as a study collection’. 'Gebirgstruppe' is nowadays in the possession of Deutsches Historische Museum, Berlin. The Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen holds 'Alpenlandschaft' by Schneider. The Sparkasse Füstenfeldbruck owns two works by Schneider, both depicted in 'Bruckmanns Lexikon der Münchener Kunst', 1993; one of them is ‘Nach dem Gewitter‘ (‘Afther Thunderstrom‘), displayed at the GDK 1940 room 17.
In 1997, in France, was published the book ‘Dans la Tranchée Devant Arras. R’ecit d’Alfons Schneider’. Documents d’Archéologie et d’Histore du 20e siècle, 1997. This book is based on the 1917-publication 'Arras und Somme'.