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Heinz-Hermann Köhler [Paintings]


Heinz-Hermann Köhler grew up in a country village in Lower Saxony. In 1936 after completing elementary school, he moved in with relatives in nearby Hildesheim, a mid-sized provincial town, so he could attend the Agricultural School. In contrast to the relatively homogenous and intimate village of his childhood, Hildesheim's economic and social composition was diverse. People of many different classes, occupations, and religious faiths lived and worked in close proximity. Heinz-Hermann fills most of his watercolors and pencil drawings with the rich texture of town life: the games children played, the work adults did, and the movement of vehicles. He also depicted holiday celebrations which, in light of the recent Great Depression, display a relative wealth of decoration and toys that must have impressed him.

Heinz-Hermann was also impressed and influenced by the politics of the Third Reich. In the run up to a plebiscite, he captured the plethora of flags and calls for a "yes" vote on the street. In "Help Them!," Heinz-Hermann imaginatively enters into the domestic space of a typical German farm family, annotating that they have "no work/nothing to eat/the stable is empty." If he is personally familiar with their plight, he nonetheless views the farm from the outside, in a style otherwise associated with romantic images of the countryside but that is here framed by a political slogan: "Give to W[inter] H[elp]." Young Germans were often encouraged to raise money for this Nazi charity; here Heinz-Hermann reiterates a charged political appeal for charity and solidarity with farmers who are implicitly fellow "Aryans."

These images are rather different from classic propaganda images of Nazi parades, rallies, or broadsides, but they are not innocent of Nazi politics. What do they tell us about how Nazi politics operate in everyday life? The artist captured the dynamism of capitalism, urbanity, and modernity for instance in the broadsides he discovered on an pillar which advertised cigarettes next to calls to support 'freedom' with a 'yes' vote. What do they tell us about how children experienced the Third Reich?

Heinz-Hermann never returned to the farm. He was conscripted into the German Army during World War II to help conquer "living space" for the Aryan race. He was killed in battle.


Donation by Marlise Schmidt (nee Dröge) of Hildesheim. Courtesy of the Stadtarchiv Hildesheim Bestand 803-118-04-300, -12-300, -14-300, and -18-300. Annotated by Andrew Stuart Bergerson.

How to Cite This Source

"Heinz-Hermann Köhler [Paintings]," in Children and Youth in History, Item #472, (accessed August 10, 2021).