In the new production by Roy Princess we put the work of Gerti Deutsch Your first day in England in contrast with the work of Mario Steigerwald Your first day in Germany. The photographs by Gerti Deutsch were taken in 1938 for the newly founded Picture Post and show Jewish children from Germany who escaped to England on a Kindertransport. The works by Mario Steigerwald document the arrival of unaccompanied Afghan and Ethiopian refugee children in Munich in 2015. In the play we want to show that the flight of minors from violence, abuse and death is not a singular event, but a cruel constant in human history – worldwide.
Gerti Deutsch’s life path is a typical émigré fate of the last century: Born in 1908 into a bourgeois family and at home in downtown Vienna, she completed an apprenticeship as a photographer at the graphic teaching and research institute in Vienna in 1933/1934. She remained resistant to the new heroic image aesthetic propagated by National Socialism; instead, her photos are characterized by high-contrast lighting with terrifying immediacy and drastic realism. In 1936, when Austrofascism had already severely restricted liberal life, she emigrated to England and was one of the few women who took photographs for the liberal anti-fascist magazine Picture Post.
THE RESCUE OF THE TEN THOUSAND
Immediately after the international reporting on the November pogroms of 1938, several countries decided to relax their strict entry regulations for Jewish refugees. Above all Great Britain, but also Switzerland, Holland, Belgium, France and Sweden agreed to accept children and young people up to the age of 17 from the German Reich. The beginning of the Second World War ended the large-scale aid campaign. The last official Kindertransport reached England on September 2, 1939. 10,000 children escaped the Holocaust and survived – often the only ones in their families.
Growing up in Uruguay, he joined the Tupamaros resistance movement after the 1973 military coup and was thus exposed to severe repression. The 17-year-old student fled into European exile after the fingers of his right hand were broken during an interrogation. In Belgium he studied graphics, art and photography at the école Supérieure Artistique „Le 75“, after which he worked as a freelance photographer and gallery owner in Brussels, Paris and Munich. With his sensitive human studies far removed from all social romanticism, he quickly became well known as a street photographer. Homeless people, sleeping people, bathers, but also actors and dancers in the spotlight appear from his subjective perspective in an emotional, almost intimate context. In 2015, Mario Steigerwald photographed refugees arriving at the main railway station in Munich and followed them with his camera through the city for several days and nights.
NEARLY HALF OF ALL REFUGEES WORLDWIDE ARE CHILDREN
2015 was the year of the so-called refugee crisis, teddy bears flew to strangers, the term “welcoming culture” became world-famous: an emotional outburst, an exceptional situation. Only one year later, the excitement was over. The results of the nationwide BumF* 2020 survey among professionals on the situation of young refugees in Germany point to a social climate that criminalizes young refugees and discriminates against them on numerous levels. They illustrate to an alarming extent that young refugees suffer massively from experiences of violence and are increasingly affected by everyday and institutional racism. The study documents a significant increase in (including sexualized) experiences of violence and human trafficking. There is a lack of a differentiated care structure for girls, young women, young parents and young refugees with physical, mental or emotional disabilities. Furthermore, there is a lack of adequate protection and living spaces for intersexual, transsexual and diverse young people.
*Association for Unaccompanied Refugee Minors
The exhibition with the pictures by Gerti Deutsch and Mario Steigerwald forms the framework of the play, in which actors and musicians read and comment on the interview transcripts with the survivors of the Kindertransporte, the correspondence of the parents who stayed behind with their children and reports from the Picture Post from 1938. In parallel, the interviews and messenger messages of the Afghan and Ethiopian children with their parents from 2015 are presented. The denser the narrative structure becomes in the course of the performance, the more the temporal context blurs. The deeply human feelings described in the correspondences are no different in 2015 than they were in 1938.
WE SEARCH WORLDWIDE
- For the children who were portrayed by Gerti Deutsch when they arrived in England in December 1938
You can find the pictures of Gerti Deutsch on the page: