August Sander, part four
August Sander (1876–1964) was a German portrait and documentary photographer. He has been described as “the most important German portrait photographer of the early twentieth century”.
In 1929, Sander published his book “Face of our Time” (Antlitz der Zeit), a selection of 60 portraits, from his series People of the 20th Century. In this series, he aims to show a cross-section of society during the Weimar Republic.
Under the Nazi regime, his work and personal life were greatly constrained. Sander’s book was seized in 1936 and the photographic plates destroyed. His son Erich, who was a member of the left wing Socialist Workers’ Party (SAP), was arrested in 1934 and sentenced to 10 years in prison, where he died in 1944, shortly before the end of his sentence. Around 1942, during World War II, Sander left Cologne and moved to a rural area, allowing him to save most of his negatives. His studio was destroyed in a 1944 bombing raid. Thirty thousand of Sander’s roughly forty-thousand negatives survived the war, only to perish in an accidental fire in Cologne in 1946. Sander practically ceased to work as a photographer after World War II. He died in Cologne in 1964.
THE NATIONAL SOCIALIST
This photograph of a seated National Socialist Party member (sergeant of the SA paramilitary group) is the first in the portfolio entitled ‘The National Socialists’ within the group ‘Classes and Professions’, in August Sander’s major project ‘People of the 20th Century’. Sander’s ambition in this project, which he conceived in the 1920s, was to create a typology of the German people during his lifetime that would function as a scientific documentation for future generations. He organised more than 500 photographs into seven groups and over 45 portfolios, classified by the categories of estate, profession and, in this case, political affiliation. Here the subject leans back in his chair, a swastika cufflink just visible in sharp focus peeking out from underneath his brown uniform shirt, and looks confidently into the camera.
National Socialism (German: Nationalsozialismus), more commonly known as Nazism is the ideology and practice associated with the 20th-century German Nazi Party (National Socialist German Workers’ Party) and Nazi Germany, as well as other far-right groups. Nazism characterized as a form of fascism that incorporates scientific racism and anti-Semitism. It was developed out of the influences of Pan-Germanism, the Völkisch German nationalist movement and the anti-communist Freikorps paramilitary groups that emerged during the Weimar Republic after German defeat in World War I.
The Sturmabteilung (SA), literally Storm Detachment, functioned as the original paramilitary wing of the Nazi Party (NSDAP). It played a significant role in Adolf Hitler’s rise to power in the 1920s and 1930s. Their primary purposes were providing protection for Nazi rallies and assemblies, disrupting the meetings of opposing parties, fighting against the paramilitary units of the opposing parties, especially the Red Front Fighters League (Rotfrontkämpferbund) of the Communist Party of Germany (KPD), and intimidating Slavic and Romani citizens, unionists, and Jews – for instance, during the Nazi boycott of Jewish businesses. The SA developed pseudo-military titles for its members. The SA ranks were adopted by the Schutzstaffel (SS), which originated as a branch of the SA before being separated. Truppführer was a Nazi Party paramilitary rank that was first created in 1930 as a rank of the Sturmabteilung (SA). Translated as “Troop Leader”, the rank of Truppführer was considered the equivalent of a senior sergeant, or sergeant first class. The SA have been known in contemporary times as “Brownshirts” (Braunhemden). Brown-coloured shirts were chosen as the SA uniform because a large batch of them were cheaply available after World War I, having originally been ordered during the war for colonial troops posted to Germany’s former African colonies. In the 1930s, the Hugo Boss Company produced these brown SA shirts along with the all-black SS uniform and the black-and-brown uniforms of the Hitler Youth.
Hugo Ferdinand Boss (1885–1948) was a German fashion designer and businessman. He was the founder of the clothing company Hugo Boss. Boss was born in Metzingen, in the Kingdom of Wurttemberg. He did an apprenticeship as a merchant, completed military service from 1903 to 1905 and worked in a weaving mill in Konstanz. In 1914, he was mobilized into the army and he served through World War I with the rank of corporal. He founded his own clothing company in Metzingen in 1923, producing shirts and jackets and then work-clothing, sportswear and raincoats. In 1928 he became the official supplier of uniforms to the SA, SS, Hitler Youth, National Socialist Motor Corps, and other party organizations. Boss joined the Nazi Party in 1931, and became a sponsoring member of the SS. He also joined the German Labour Front in 1936, the Reich Air Protection Association in 1939, and the National Socialist People’s Welfare in 1941. After joining these organizations, his sales increased from 38,260 Reichsmark (25.393,12 € ($26,993)) in 1932 to over 3,300,000 RM in 1941. After World War II, Boss was fined “a very heavy penalty” of 100,000 DM (66.371,32 € ($70,553)) for his support of Nazism and was not allowed to vote. He died of a tooth abscess in 1948, but his business survived.
In 1999, US lawyers acting on behalf of Holocaust survivors started legal proceedings against the Hugo Boss company over the use of slave labour during the war. The misuse of 140 Polish and 40 French forced workers led to an apology by the company.
Sources/More to Read:
Wikipedia: August Sander
Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur
August Sander Foundation
Wikipedia: Hugo_Boss (fashion designer)
Wikipedia: Hugo_Boss (company)
See also my other posts about August Sander’s work
Widower with his sons, Cologne, 1914
Confirmation candidate, 1911
The Notary, Cologne, 1924