walter schulze-mittendorff bio 17

Walter Schulze-Mittendorff

17. 1933
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It is those clear-minded people with an alert spirit who will not entertain any illusions about the harmlessness of the National socialists (Nazis). In 1933, artists as well as philosophers and scientists, the majority of them Jewish citizens, are leaving Germany in a first wave of emigration. But among them are also those Germans unwilling to live and work under the repression of an inhuman dictatorship; for all social fields now are forced into line with the Nazi-doctrine ("Gleichschaltung=Nazification"). The only things that may be said, taught, and done are those which conform to the ideology of the Nationalist Socialist Party.

„Die Mode im Wandel der Jahrtausende“ (,Fashion Through Millenia‘), coloured sculptures in the AGFA pavilion of the I.G. Farben at the exhibition of the Olympics

It is extremely difficult to imagine what it must mean, first wanting to escape the terror, and then to subject oneself to it, quite consciously. Such a situation requires daring – with concurrent modesty. Because, when there is fear, which is paired with selfishness one quickly falls prey to victimhood. Walter Schulze-Mittendorff's concern is for his family, but he also wants to be able to continue to work in his profession under circumstances as normal as they can be, which in these times means to work as an artist and simultaneously attract as little atteintion as possible.  Because one can become a victim in tow ways: firstly, to fall in disgrace and being persecuted; secondly, to show too much professional ambition which can easily lead to being misappropriated by the Nazis for their own purposes; 
Due to his comprehensive studies and training as sculptor, stuccoer and illustrator Walter Schulze-Mittendorff is able to work in many different ways, combining art with solid handicraft. In 1936, the I.G. Farbenindustrie AG ask him to design the exhibition „Die Mode im Wandel der Jahrtausende“ (Fashion Through the Millennia) for the ‚AGFA Pavillon’ on the occasion of the 1936 Olympics in Berlin.

The arts – this essential realm of creative freedom, is regulated, it has to submit to the taste as stipulated by the new rulers. The open space of art where the artist follows his stimuli and brings them to expression from his inner freedom, can quickly fall under the defamation of being degenerate ("entartete Kunst"), in which case the artist will consequently have to suffer from being prohibited to work. "Degenerate Art" is contrasted with "German Art", meaning art in the sense of National Socialism. Expressionism, for instance, also cubism and surrealism, are classified as "Degenerate Art".
Walter Schulze-Mittendorff also plans to leave Germany and he tries to get immigration papers for the United States of America. Indeed, he has the papers already in his pocket when it turns out that his in-laws deem themselves too old to emigrate. His father-in-law Max Liewen had already changed his originally Jewish name Levi into the germanised version of Liewen, many years ago, an indication for the fact that he considers himself to be German. By no means, however, does he underestimate the dangers of National Socialism to himself as a Jew. As soon as 1932 he sells his villa at Winkler Straße 4 and in 1933 he moves to a flat at Trabener Straße 19.
Walter Schulze-Mittendorff finds himself unable to emigrate, and leave his aged in-laws behind. In 1933 he and his wife move in with them so as to be near them. His in-laws die in their apartment in 1936; his wife's cousin emigrates to New York, but they maintain a friendship that will last until the end of Walter’s life.

Figure  for the exhibition „Die Mode im Wandel der Jahrtausende“

Walter Schulze-Mittendorff, second left, and interested Guests at the preparations 
for the exhibition „Die Mode im Wandel der Jahrtausende“.

Walter Schulze-Mittendorff at work with one of the two sculptures meant to flank the entrance to the AGFA pavilion. His art here is adapted to the prevailing conception of art, but the facial expression remains untouched. Where the sculptures of "German Art" are mostly martial and sombre in their expression, the face of this sculpture, same as the one in the picture above, radiates rather a troubled concern.

The entrance to the exhibition „Die Mode im Wandel der Jahrtausende“
with the two sculptures at each side.
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