Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Two Leipzig Bookplates II

The Designer: Hugo Steiner-Prag

Hugo Steiner-Prag was a famous graphic artist, book illustrator and stage designer during the first half of the 20th century. Born in Prague, Czechoslovakia in 1880 as Hugo Steiner, he added the "Prag" to his name later. From 1907 onwards he taught at the Academy for Graphic Arts and Book Design in Leipzig, where he became Professor in 1910. He worked for many publishers and was the Art Director of the Propyläen Publishing Company and organizer of the IBA (International Book Artists) Exhibition in 1927. He also organized the exhibition for the centenary of Goethe's death: "Goethe in the Book Art of the World" in 1932. As a Jew, Hugo Steiner-Prag was dismissed from his post when the Nazis came to power in 1933. He returned home to Czechoslovakia, but when the Germans invaded his country he fled to the USA. He never returned to Europe, dying in New York in 1945.

The Design of Dr Hans-Joachim Hinrichsen's Bookplate

This was probably created in 1930, for Hans-Joachim's 21st birthday. It is a reproduction of a photograph taken around 1915, printed in sepia on cream coloured paper. Size: 10cms x 7cms. It shows the house: 10 Tal Strasse in Leipzig, which was the business premises of the Music Publishing Company - Musikverlag C.F. Peters, and also the home of the Hinrichsen family. Otto Brückewald, the architect who also designed Wagner's Festspielhaus in Bayreuth, designed the house. Commissioned by Dr. Max Abraham in 1873 the company moved in, in August 1874. In 1905 Henri Hinrichsen added an elegant looking new warehouse (the two-story building on the left), designed by another fine architect, Clemens Thieme. The flat roof became a beautiful roof garden. At that time the house was also modernized and refurbished, when central heating was installed (electric light having been in place since 1896).

The Tragedy

When the Nazis came to power in 1933, Hugo Steiner-Prag was not the only one to be affected. The Hinrichsen family was also Jewish. Descended from Sephardic Jews, my grandfather had always been proud of his family having been German citizens for almost 300 years. As an important citizen of Leipzig he did not think that the horrors perpetrated by his fatherland would be directed against himself and his family. In 1938 the music publishing business was confiscated and "aryanized" - sold to a suitably qualified non-Jew; grandfather never received a penny. The house was also confiscated from him and he had to give up his keys. His entire family was persecuted; fourteen close members were transported and died in various concentration camps. My grandparents managed to escape to Brussels in 1940, where Hans-Joachim joined them some six weeks later. When the Germans invaded Belgium my elderly grandparents had nowhere else to go and were awaiting a visa to immigrate to the USA. Hans-Joachim escaped to France, where the Gestapo caught him and imprisoned him in Perpignan; he died there a few weeks later, aged 31. My grandmother, who suffered from Diabetes, was dependent upon insulin; as a Jew, she was not permitted to have any. She died in Brussels in 1941. It was probably a blessing, because in 1942 my 74 year-old grandfather, Dr. Henri Hinrichsen, was transported to Auschwitz where, on arrival, he was taken on a lorry with all others over 50, to be gassed in Birkenau. In 1943 my grandparents' younger son, my uncle Paul, was also gassed in Auschwitz. Like Hans-Joachim, he was 31. The same fate awaited their daughter, my aunt Ilse's family - her husband, Dr. Ludwig Frankenthal along with their two little sons were gassed, whilst Ilse, incredibly survived the horrors of five concentration camps.

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