Death in Theresienstadt

In permanent memory of the Jewish painter Johanna Oppenheimer, who lived in Amperdorf for 23 years, the municipality of Schöngeising had a stumbling block set in the area of the Scherrerhaus nine years ago. In the winter of 1998/99, the City Museum of Fürstenfeldbruck dedicated an opulent exhibition to her entitled “The Fate and Work of a Jewish Painter”. The artist came from Frankfurt am Main, where she was born on July 17, 1872, 150 years ago.

Schöngeising: Johanna Oppenheimer

Johanna Oppenheimer

(Photo: Rolf Parchwitz/Krallinger Collection)

She grew up in Würzburg and at the age of 70 suffered the same fate as many victims of the Holocaust who fell victim to Nazi ideology at the time. In the spring of 1942 she was deported first to the Milbertshofen camp and from there to the Theresienstadt concentration camp, where she died on December 23 as a result of dysentery. Johanna Oppenheimer was the youngest of three daughters of wealthy, upper-class parents and was allowed to grow up in a culturally open atmosphere. Her parents allowed her to pursue an artistic career, even though women were still emancipated at the turn of the century. At that time, many women already had difficulties asserting themselves within the family with their educational and career ideas. They were not allowed to study at one of the art academies, and so the only option was usually to attend private painting schools.

Schöngeising: Johann Oppenheimer has lived and painted in Munich and the surrounding area since 1900.

From 1900 Johann Oppenheimer lived and painted in Munich and the surrounding area.

(Photo: Stadtmuseum Fürstenfeldbruck)

In 1900, Oppenheimer moved to Munich, a city that was then a painter’s stronghold. She first studied at the renowned painting school of the Munich Artists’ Association and soon found recognition in the urban artist scene. As a freelance painter, she oriented herself towards famous Impressionists such as Édouard Manet, Claude Monet and Paul Cézanne and came into contact with the Schwabing artist circle around the poets Joachim Ringelnatz and Rainer Maria Rilke as well as with the great painters Wassily Kandinsky and Paul Klee. Her paintings were popular, and so Johanna Oppenheimer was always allowed to show some of her works in exhibitions. In 1919 she was even represented at the Munich art exhibition in the Glaspalast.

Schöngeising: The stumbling block has been laid in front of the Scherrerhaus.

The stumbling block has been laid in front of the Scherrerhaus.

(Photo: Johannes Simon)

In 1917 she had acquired Bavarian citizenship and two years later she had moved from Munich to Schöngeising. The artist met the singer and lute player Else Hoffmann in a Munich café and became friends with her. Together they had a villa built with a salettl, in which the painter set up her studio. Johanna Oppenheimer had often come to the small village on the Amper to pursue her art in the great outdoors. Here she painted idyllic landscapes and made intensively colored pastel studies. The girlfriends had apparently followed the musician Heinrich Scherrer at the time. The royal Bavarian chamber virtuoso and flutist in the royal court orchestra settled in Schöngeising in 1917 and worked on the well-known collection of folk songs “Zupfgeigenhansl”.

Schöngeising: The landscape around Schöngeising provided Johanna Oppenheimer with many motifs.

The landscape around Schöngeising provided Johanna Oppenheimer with many motifs.

(Photo: Stadtmuseum Fürstenfeldbruck)

The three artists maintained close contact and were very attached to village life. In Schöngeising, the artist painted landscapes and portraits of children in the village, whom she also gave painting lessons. They were able to live from the sale of their paintings until the only Jewess in town was increasingly ignored in the emerging Nazi politics and was finally forbidden to paint. For fear of attacks, she is said to have hardly left the house until she was picked up by the Nazi henchmen and taken to the death camp.

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