Friday, April 29, 2005

How photo archive was salvaged from a trash can

My two posts, Downfall and the mystery of Karajan's personal photographer and The mystery of the Siegfried Lauterwasser Collection solved via the internet on the fascinating, and chilling, Siegfried Lauterwasser archive of photos has generated a lot of interest, not the least from a very supportive post on The Periscope which is the companion blog to the Euro-correspondent.com journalist network.

The whole Lauterwasser story hinges on the archive held at George Eastman House which is part of Ryerson University in Toronto. Although the archivist there, Jo Struble, has been helpful there have been problems with broken links on their web pages, and latterly performance problems on their server which mean some of the images are slow in loading.

Andy Eskind is the original researcher whose remarkable internet detective work while working at George Eastman House proved conclusively that the remarkable, and powerful, archive of Nazi photos was indeed the work of Siegrfried Lauterwasser; who later became conductor Herbert von Karajan's personal photographer, and whose images grace many CD and LP covers. Because of the various navigation glitches on the George Eastman House pages I asked Andy to give me a summary of the 'missing' parts of the Lauterwasser Collection story. Here it is.....


'Look this way and smile' - Karajan in his more normal position in front of the camera, again caught by Lauterwasser.

The key evidence is the one photograph which shows the front page of the newspaper Fränkischer Kürier which was successfully matched against microfilm of that newspaper in the archives at Marburg. It turned out to be September 1935 rather than the annual Parteitag Rally in Nurnberg of 1934 which I had erroneously written in the 1995 article in Image. It was the appearance of Riefenstahl in 2 frames which had led me astray. Otherwise, the Parteitag Rallies looked very similar from year to year in the mid-1930s. My mistake was failing to realize that Riefenstahl's presence wasn't necessarily on the occasion of making Triumph of the Will (1934); rather she was there working on the much less known follow-on project Hitler encouraged her to do the following year which resulted in Tag der Freiheit (1935) - which Riefenstahl herself avoided acknowledging (no mention in her lengthy autobiography) until a surviving print surfaced after the Cold War. This part of the story is best told by David Culbert's 1995 article in Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television. I simply wasn't aware of his work when I was writing in 1995. The full citation and illustrations of the key newspaper front page are easily viewed at this link.


A classic Lauterwasser DGG cover

The link to the attribution notes which explain in detail the Lauterwasser research which came later does indeed appear to be somehow broken. If I had a copy handy, I'd offer it to you and GEH for posting, but that goes back at least 2 computers for me, and my backup habits aren't up to quickly locating a copy. In brief, Lauterwasser would have been about 22 in 1935 when he did this work which technically isn't very proficient. Sadly, he never - even at the end of his life - revealed much about how he was engaged to cover the Borman outing to Unteruhldingen in May 1935, the Parteitag Rally that September, nor the subsequent small jobs over the next couple of years. What we do know is that he served in the German Army and survived the War - establishing a reputation as a successful photographer specializing in musicians. Returning home to a French Occupation zone, he apparently feared that possession of these pre-War negatives could get him in trouble. So he simply threw out roughly half of them. The match between the half he kept (which today are in the hands of his family), and the half he threw away (those now at GEH) doesn't superficially appear to have much rhyme or reason. Perhaps he did it in haste; perhaps he returned to such a clutter after VE day that they had been accidentally scrambled into 2 batches. Further study may or may not clarify this.



Another photo from the Lauterwasser Collection

What is very clear is that his neighbor, Mr. Ernst Zaumseil, unbeknownst to Lauterwasser, salvaged/rescued the negatives from the trash. Zaumseil subsequently gave the negatives to his American brother-in-law, Mr. Konrad Klein, who apparently hoped to market the images in the US. Klein self-published a book (which I've never seen) based on some of the images. His failed effort led to bankruptcy proceedings from which GEH purchased these assets. The strips of film arrived at GEH with absolutely no notes, markings, sleeves, order, or any clue beyond their self-evident image content. Only thru the subsequent outstanding intermediary efforts of Dr. Gunter Schoebel was this story reconstructed. Schoebel tracked down and interviewed Mr. Zaumseil living in a nursing home at age 92. It was also Schoebel who showed Lauterwasser the discarded images and relayed Lauterwasser's reactions at age 86 upon being reconnected with this long forgotten material. In some ways, the story of Schoebel's detective work, the research effort, etc is more interesting than the scattered photographic record. Afterall, the Parteitag Rallies were documented by 100s of photographers - both casual attendees, as well as professionals. There are 100s of thousands of negatives similar to these at US National Archives, in Germany, and elsewhere. Many are from more priviledged vantage points than those Lauterwasser enjoyed. Puzzles are always fun to work on just for the sake of solving puzzles. There are certainly more pieces which could be assembled, more work which could be done.
Hope this helps for now.
ahe


More from the Lauterwasser Collection

This is a fascinating, and exclusive, story. I am particularly grateful to Andy Eskind for providing additional material as I know he is very busy with a grant application in the US at the moment (I know the feeling Andy!). On An Overgrown Path will return to the more familiar ground of music postings tomorrow. But following this particular overgrown path, which started quite innocently with a photo caption in my post My first classical record, and has led from the UK to Canada, the US, and Germany totally validates the random wanderings that determine the content of this blog. Andy very wisely writes.."puzzles are always fun to work on just for the sake of solving puzzles", which I guess applies to Bach's Art of Fugue, and much else.

Update 3rd May - in another fascinating development the blog Uncle Jazzbeau’s Gallimaufrey has pointed out that the Lauterwasser family photo business is still trading in Unterlingen, Germany. You can visit their web site through this link. They have a page on Siegfried Lauterwasser with lots of Karajan images, (plus a page of mildly erotic stuff which is a new direcion on the overgrown path) but unsurprisingly there's nothing from the George Eastman House archive.
Any copyrighted material on these pages is included as "fair use", for the purpose of study, review or critical analysis only, and will be removed at the request of copyright owner(s). Report broken links, missing images and errors to - overgrownpath at hotmail dot co dot uk

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