Activities in Berlin 1939-1943

Guardian of “Degenerate” Art

The interest in my cause is constantly increasing and especially now there is such a need among young people to see true art. … You know, today, when so many hardships and sadnesses have to be suffered in addition to the terrible struggle, one has to take refuge in areas that elevate one above the present, be it music, literature or painting … I have been able to sell my proteges many a sale! This encourages them again in their own work and gives them courage.

Excerpt from a letter from Hanna Bekker vom Rath to her mother Maximiliane vom Rath, March 1941.

Since her separation from Paul Bekker, Hanna Bekker vom Rath spent the winter months in Berlin. After her return from Greece in 1934, she devoted herself additionally to the promotion of Karl Schmidt-Rottluff. In this year of his 50th birthday, she succeeded in participating in two sales, as confirmed by a letter from Emy Schmidt-Rottluff dated December 28, 1934: Privy Councillor Budczies bought the painting of Lake Leba with the moon reflection … I would also like to thank you very much for all your efforts to purchase the painting for the Kronprinzenpalais – dear Hanna. Hopefully you will soon be able to take a look at the S-R wall there!

After the situation of the painters affected by painting and exhibition bans had been made even worse by the beginning of the war, Hanna Bekker vom Rath decided to hold secret exhibitions in her Berlin studio apartment on Regensburger Strasse.

Entrance to Regensburger Straße 34
double-page of the guestbook

I spent the war winters of 1939 to the end of 1943 in Berlin … In the large studio room in Regensburger Strasse, I began to organize exhibitions from the circle of Expressionists, timidly and secretly, in order to promote contact between the artists, their collectors and the younger generation …, wrote Hanna Bekker vom Rath in 1973 in an autobiographical review.

Among the artists whose paintings have been exhibited are Willi Baumeister, Erich Heckel, Alexej Jawlensky, Ida Kerkovius, August Macke, Ernst Wilhelm Nay, Karl Schmidt-Rottluff, and Heinrich Wildemann. Only in some cases can sales still be documented.

Among the few written testimonies that have survived are the guest book Regensburger Straße, occasional correspondence and memoirs of some contemporary witnesses in the Archive Hanna Bekker vom Rath, which are presented in Chapter V. Support, Mediate and Secret Exhibitions in the biography Hanna Bekker vom Rath – Handelnde für Kunst und Künstler published for the first time. Here all 24 pages of the guestbook are reproduced and in the appendix a list of the 210 identified names is shown.

In 1967, for the opening of the Brücke Museum Berlin, initiated by Karl Schmidt-Rottluff, Hanna Bekker vom Rath donated the Worker with Balloon Cap, a sculpture by the artist. His estate was passed on to the Karl and Emy Schmidt-Rottluff Foundation.

In her will, she bequeathed the Chinese iron sculpture Wuzhiqi to the Museum of Asian Art in Berlin Dahlem.