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The NS Past of Marta Mierendorff

As a student in studio of Arno Breker--Died as an expert on Jews in exile


By Ariel Cohen, Los Angeles


Witnesses of a glorious past: road to the Jäckelsbruch Castle, the seat of Arno Breker. On the left, one of many park sculptures from France, which Breker bought there in 1938. On the right, a detail photo of a stone vase of the main entrance to the studio grounds. The castle was destroyed in 1945 by the Soviet Army, land, building and furnishings were confiscated by DDR (German Democratic Republic), but was not returned to the rightful owner by the German government in Bonn after the German re-unification in 1989. Today, the town Wriezen in Oderbruch has left the property vacant and decaying, because of the disputed ownership.

Foto Copyright 2002, Marco, Bonn


New York/Berlin (bpb) New light falls on an unusual woman: art sociolog Marta Mierendorff. She died in USA on May 30, 2002 at the age of 91 years. Whoever was born, like Marta Mierendorff as a German in Berlin in 1911, he or she had necessarily an NS past. Obviously, Mierendorff has never written about this part of her fate. They remained hidden in shadows till her death. She died as an expert on Jews in exile in the United States, and has achieved great merits in this field.

Her NS past falls into the last years of the World War II in Germany. In the official records Mierendorff describes her stay in the last years in the state sculptural studio of Arno Breker in Wriezen in Oderbruch. There were large ateliers, set up by Hitler's architeck Albert SPeer, in which was to be created the sculptural ornamentation for the new, redesigned Berlin according to the ideas of the NS leadership. Mierendorff was active there in the last year before the end of the war. According to the archives in Berlin, she served there as a 'business employee". Whoever, as a woman of 33 years old got such a protected job and did not have to serve in the military or in a munition factory, was in the NS times considered privileged.

More than a year after the end of the Third Reich, Mierendorff writes in November 1946 in the newspaper "Telegraf" in Berlin, that she did her "student internship" in the Breker's studios. Such an opportunity included living space well known to be protected against American, English and Russian airplane bombings, as well as a good supply with food. Arno Breker was able to get all this for his co-workers. According to historical evaluations, this was "no job for resistance fighters."

Obviously, as a result of the dramatic war experiences with the advance of the Soviet Army and Germany's downfall, Mierendorff became a subjective chroniclers and critic of the NS times, through which she herself lived. Her one-time benefactors and helpers, including Minister Albert Speer, Mierendorff called in the new democratic society "shameful for society". Her descriptions show her .............. On one hand, she for example described Arno Breker as a friendly, helpful man: "Breker's name has been misused by the top ten thousand, who made for themselves a paradise in Wriezen at the expense of the state". Then she directed in other descriptions merciless criticism toward Breker, whose guest she used to be at various events for the business and art elite. Mierendorff thought that the prohibition that Breker was not allowed to work after 1945 in the US occupation zone in Bavaria as "right and easy". At the same time she proclaimed "Despite that, one has to let him regain righteousness and and must not blame him for what was done by dangerous criminals without his will."

Marta Mierendorff has survived with her art in the new German and American society. In 1966 she moved to Los Angeles, and began research about German Jews in exile. Thus she became a pioneer in this area. Her loyalty to the Jewish society and her historical knowledge brought her finally in her professional life a job as a professor at the University of Southern California. At the age of 70 years, she lived on Westbourne Drive in West Hollywood. She also died in California. Her friends want to keep her in their good memories, both with her good qualities and her contradictions.


Copyright 2002 West-Art, Prometheus 85/2002



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Copyright 2002 West-Art

PROMETHEUS, Internet Bulletin for Art, Politics and Science.

Nr. 85, Winter 2002