Gottfried Helnwein Info

Texts and Essays

Gottfried Helnwein, Ninth November Night, Catalogue – November 30, 1987



by Charles-Henri Favrod, Museé de L'elysée Lausanne

"In the struggle against the Jew, I defend the acts of God!" Those were Hitler's words in Mein Kampf.

As early as April 1933, the SA organises a boycott of all Jewish businesses and a decree forbids the employment of Jewish people as functionaries. September 15, 1935: The Nuremberg Laws withdraw the German nationality from Jewish people, forbid marriage and extra martial relationships between Jewish people and Aryans. In the course of the next few years Jewish people are excluded from professional occupations. The assassination of the German diplomatic counsellor in Paris, von Rath, by a young, polish Jew leads to "Reichskristallnacht", in the night of November 9th to 10th, 1938, during which the businesses and residences of Jewish people and the synagogues are plundered. Decrees enforce the complete exclusion of Jewish people from economic life in the days which follow. A fine to the amount of one billion Marks is imposed upon them, they are forced to wear yellow stars, they are forbidden to leave Germany, they are arrested and deported soon after. The nucleus of Nacht und Nebel lies in "Reichskristallnacht". Thereafter, the sorting according to the shape of the nose or the ears, the colour of the eyes or hair begins, all coupled with pseudo-scientific arguments which exemplify the perversity of it all. It was Gottfried Helnwein's intention to remind us admonishingly of exceptional laws and the abhorrent Aryan theory of Eugenics. The series of childrens' portraits stigmatises racial ideology and it exudes an extraordinary force. Moreover, it is this radial energy which provoked the knife attack by a nostalgic, as the monumental pictures were being exhibited between the cathedral and Museum Ludwig in Cologne. I admire the work of Gottfried Helnwein a great deal. This photographic testimony encourages reflection and provokes the examination of conscience, which is necessary for every one of us where racism is concerned. The laceration of the portraits is proof of the fact that we cannot be indifferent to the warning of the "final solution". I consider myself lucky to be able to exhibit this gallery of memories in its present form in Lausanne. There are also a number of photographers from the East to be found there, in the name of the new emerging Europe, now that totalitarianism is being forced back. The childrens' faces are to remind us that innumerable victims were needed during the past sixty years to get out of "the Night and the Fog." Museum Ludwig Köln 17.9. - 30.11.1988 Museé de l'Elysée Lausanne 22.6. - 30.8.1990