top of page



This chapter of The Grave Project titled 'Berlin: Art & Activism' explores the lives of ten women who lived an artistic or activist life in Berlin. These ten individuals lived some form of public life that involved creativity and the pursuit of changing social norms. For this chapter, we chose matching purple boiler suits, this outfit brings connotations for both artist and activist lives and purple was used because of its association with the feminist movement. For the placards, we used the triangle symbol used by the nazi regime to divide and identify people they perceived as inferior. The black triangle was used as a marker for anyone who was deemed anti-social, including lesbians.


Berlin has had a long history of queerness, and these ten women lived over a time span of almost a century and a half, but two contrasting eras had a dramatic effect on nearly all their lives. During the more liberal time of the Weimar Republic, the city experienced one of the first mass queer cultural revolutions in Western history, fostering a period for many to flourish creatively and to challenge the ingrained notions of how women should be in society. The archetype 'new women' came to the fore in this period, with the androgynous way of dressing and a new independent and open way of living that had not been available before the 1920s. This era was quickly followed by the rise of National Socialism, with its strict enforcement of returning to the more traditional roles of women, the persecution of queerness and the rejection of free thought. The repression of the Nazi period affected their lives dramatically in a variety of ways. This period was simply a time of survival for many.


The ten people we made a pilgrimage to were Johanna Elberskirchen, who spent her whole life fighting for the empowerment of women, Hilde Radusch and Gertrude Sandmann who's earlier lives of oppression by the state resulted in creating queers spaces in later life, Charlotte von Mahlsdorf who's non-gender conforming life made the personal political and Lilly Wust who saved Jewish lives in World War Two. The artists include Jeanne Mammen and Anna Elisabet Weirauch, who captured the lesbian scene of the 1920s. Renée Sintenis and Hannah Höch, who played on the new women trope to become prominent artists in their fields and Käthe Kollwitz, who came from an older generation and lay the foundations of being a successful female artist. These women came from varying backgrounds and all suffered oppression from the patriarchy in different forms, but all of them had the determination to resist in their own particular way, to create their own unique queer life.

HR wide.jpg
HR Final.jpg
Hilde Radusch


 Hilde Radusch 


Born into a working-class family where your postal worker father encouraged an independent spirit in you until he died in the First World War. Moving from Weimar to Berlin at the age of eighteen as a self-described country bumpkin, you gained a qualification of infant care at the Pestalozzi-Fröbel Haus. Not long after arriving, you joined the Communist party. With little hope of finding employment in child care as a proud Communist, you worked as a telephone operator for the post office to make ends meet. While working there, you met Maria, who would become your first girlfriend, you moved in together shortly after meeting. During your free time, you took a lead role in the Red Women's and Girls association and wrote many articles for their newspaper promoting working women's rights. 


In 1929 you ran as a communist candidate for the Berlin city council election, eventually winning and becoming a councillor. Living openly with Maria and not concealing your queerness, you fell foul to the Communist Party administration, who refused to let you stand for re-election in 1932. A year later, the Nazi's seized power and banned any Communist activity. Maria, fearing she would lose her job if they found out she lived with a woman and a Communist broke off the relationship. The Nazi's eventually arrested you and incarcerated you in the notorious Barnimstrasse women's prison. Despite enduring immense emotional and physical pressure, you refused to sign a false confession letter the Gestapo had drafted. Imprisoned for six months, you made the best of your situation by having an affair with your cellmate. After being released, you found it extremely hard to find work and the Gestapo were constantly surveilling and harassing you. 


Just before the Second World War, you met your lifelong partner Else 'Eddy' Klopsch and opened a small restaurant together. The restaurant became a safe space for women released from prison and underground leftists. After the failed assignation attempt of Hitler in July 1944, your name was on a list of potential suspected collaborators, but a friend of Eddy's tipped you off, and you both fled. You spent the last year of the war hiding in the forest on the outskirts of Berlin; with no food stamps, you both came close to starving to death. At the start of the liberation, you acquired a job in the office of 'Victims of Fascism' but soon came into conflict with the new communist regime. Becoming uncomfortable with their totalitarian methods - you left the party. To counter this they expelled you from the Communist party, citing your relationship with a woman as the reason, forcing you into early retirement and living on a pension. Eddy's death from cancer inspired you to cofound the group L74, an activist and social group for older lesbians and you become the editor of the group's newspaper, Our Little Newspaper, one of the first lesbian newspapers since the Weimar era. Never once seeing yourself as a victim, you kept being a fighter until your last days.

Alter St.-Matthäus-Kirchhof, Berlin, Germany, 2020

GS wide.jpg
GS FInal.jpg
Gertrude Sandmann


 Gertrude Sandmann 


Born into a wealthy Jewish family of plantation owners in East Africa, you grew up in the heart of Berlin. Showing artistic talent from a young age, you liked to draw in charcoal and paint in watercolours, with the female figure being your primary interest. You studied at the Association of Women Artists because no women were allowed to enrol at the Academy of Fine Art. Following your studies, you received private tutelage from Käthe Kollwitz, who you would remain as a life-long friend and mentor. At the beginning of World War One, you were in a relationship with Lilly zu Klampen, an old friend from school. However, being financially dependent on your parents, they pressured you into marriage to the physician, Hans Rosenberg, but that ended in divorce almost immediately. During the more tolerant time of the Weimar Republic, you lived as openly as one could. However, it was no utopia, still having to hide your sexuality from family and employers. The odious views on your sexuality held by your religious community made you renounce Judaism.


With the rise of Fascism, you moved to Switzerland, but after not being able to renew your residency visa, you had to return to Berlin in 1934. The following year the state banned you from practicing your profession due to the Nuremberg laws - you were unable to exhibit, sell work or even teach. In the summer of 1939, you obtained a visa for England through an English art dealer but decided not to go because you couldn't leave your sick mother alone. A month after World War Two started, she died and travelling to England became impossible, leaving you trapped in Berlin with no way out. The Nazi state started the mass deportation of Jews in late 1941. When you received your deportation order, you decided to fake your death. You left a suicide note and your ration card in your abandoned apartment but made sure your artworks were kept safe in storage. 


Your gentile partner Hedwig 'Johnny' Koslowki arranged for you to stay with friends of hers, staying in a tiny closet for a year and a half, living off the little food that could be spared. A year later you moved to Hedwig's apartment, hiding out there until the end of the war. By the time you came out of hiding, you were left in a feeble state, both physically and mentally. You were one of only 1200 Jews to survive in Berlin during the war. After years of not being able to create art, you moved into a studio in the Schonenberg district and started to exhibit again. At age 81, together with other older lesbians, including your friend Kitty Kuse (who had helped bring you food while you were in hiding), you founded the group L74, an activist organisation that helped create a space for elderly lesbians. The community was always at the heart of your existence; you would declare, “Our power lies in the fact that we all help each other.”

Alter St.-Matthäus-Kirchhof, Berlin, Germany, 2020

JE wide.jpg
JE Final.jpg
Johanna Elberskirchen


 Johanna Elberskirchen 


Born into a large religious family, despite the repressive upbringing, your zeal for independent thinking shined early when at age twelve, you declared yourself an atheist. Working as an accountant, you were always frustrated by the limitations placed on working women and after seven years, you decided to quit and pursue higher education. With German Universities not admitting any female students, you had to move to Switzerland. In Bern, you studied medicine and philosophy, then law in Zurich but never completed a degree because you couldn't afford the tuition. During this time, you developed a strong repulsion for how patriarchal society was. While in Zurich, you published your first pamphlet called Men's Prostitution where you declared women were biologically superior and men are vermin and swine for their immoral behaviour. Over the coming years, you prolifically published your thoughts about male shortcomings. Partially angered by the misconception that men are more sexually potent, you urged women to embrace their sexual desires. 


While in Switzerland, you met Anna Eysoldt and immediately formed a romantic relationship, but Anna soon after was forced into marriage. After being abused, Anna left her husband, and you were reunited. Angered by Anna’s mistreatment by her husband, you published several pamphlets detailing his abuse causing you to be arrested several times for libel. After the turn of the century, you and Anna moved to Bonn together, where you started to write about homosexuality.  You declared homosexuality was superior to heterosexuality because heterosexual desire brought enormous suffering to women. Your writings brought unwanted attention in 1912 when the Prussian political police listed you as a dangerous radical. The following year after a long illness, Anna died, and you decided to move to Stettin to work in a sanatorium. While working there, you met Hildegarde Moniac, a young school teacher who was recovering from tuberculosis. Shortly after meeting, you moved to Berlin together. Years later, you bought a house together on the outskirts of Rudersorf, where you started and ran a homeopathic practice.


After arriving in Berlin, you joined the Scientific-Humanitarian Committee founded by Magnus Hirschfeld, whose purpose was to promote homosexual law reform. Being one of the few women in the organisation, your views differed as you thought male sexuality was the leading cause of society’s problems. The Hirschfeld crowd didn't hold you as their intellectual equal, and the Socialists considered you too bourgeois, leaving you feeling like an outsider. In the late 1920s, you travelled around Europe lecturing for the League for Sexual Reform, passionately declaring "give homosexuals what belongs to them: their full human rank". When the Nazis came to power, they banned you from writing and placed your works on the list of harmful and undesirable literature. Despite them prohibiting female doctors from practicing, you secretly continued your homeopathic services. Passing away before the end of the war, you were cremated and placed in an urn. Decades later, you were reunited with Hildegarde when your urn was secretly buried in her grave.

Rudolf-Breitscheid-Straße Friedhof, Berlin, Germany, 2020

CVM wide.jpg
CVM Final.jpg
Charlotte Von Mahlsdorf


 Charlotte von Mahlsdorf 


Born Lothar Berfelde and raised as a boy by a strict authoritarian family. Your father was a local Nazi party leader and forced you to join the Hitler youth as a teenager. You always felt more comfortable wearing female clothes and partaking in domestic activities. At age fifteen, your butch aunt caught you in a dress, resulting in her giving you a copy of the Magnus Hirschfeld book The Transvestites, which helped you to understand your desire to live your life as a woman. Constructing and playing with your biographical narrative became a device in your life. Near the end of the war, your mother left your father, resulting in him threatening you with a gun to force you to stay with him, you struck him in the head with a rolling pin, killing him. You were sentenced to four years in a juvenile detention centre but released after the liberation of Berlin.


After the war, you would walk through the bombed-out houses, collecting any items that interested you, taking a particular fondness to the late nineteenth century Grunderzeit era. Starting to call yourself Charlotte, you became a maid for an old World War One officer Herbert Von Zitzenau - always being drawn to older men and hard spankings - you two become lovers, but in 1957 Herbert passed away. A year later, you moved into an old ruined mansion, the Mahlsdorf manor in East Berlin. Because it was in ruins, you were allowed to live there rent-free. You started to renovate the estate and turned it into a public museum for the items you had collected over the years from the Grunderzeit era. Beginning with two rooms, over the years your collection would eventually expand, filling the whole manor. In 1974 the state tried to take over the museum and demand you pay tax on all the items, in an act of resistance, you started to give away your collection to visitors. After a campaign from some prominent East Germans, the state abandoned its plan to take control of your museum. 


The first East German gay activist group started to meet at your museum, and the museum became an important political and social place for the emerging queer scene. In 1989 you played a small role in the film Coming Out, the only gay-related film ever made in East Germany. You attended the premiere on the 9th of November 1989, after the film ended, you left the theatre to discover the Berlin wall had fallen. Reunification didn’t make life easier, in 1991 seventy skinheads attacked your guests at a party you were hosting at the museum, injuring dozens of people. Then the press revealed you used to pass information about people in the gay activist groups using your museum to the Stasi. The bad publicity resulted in you moving to central Sweden to open a new museum. Returning to Berlin for a visit in 2002, you died of a heart attack and were buried with your mother. Your relatives rejected your chosen narrative, inscribing your birth name onto your gravestone.

Ev. Waldkirchhof Mahlsdorf, Berlin, Germany, 2020

KK wide.jpg
KK Final.jpg
Kathe Kollwitz


 Käthe Kollwitz 


Born in the industrial East Prussian city of Königsberg, from a long line of free thinkers, your religious leader grandfather Julius Rupp preached against church control, while your father was a committed socialist. You and your younger sister Lise would wander the streets of Königsberg together, often exploring the docks and watching the men work. You showed a great talent for drawing from a young age, and your family strongly encouraged you to pursue your ability. As a teenager, you met the medical student Karl Kollwitz. Your father was unhappy about the prospect of you getting married, as it would impede your artistic career. He sent you away to Berlin and Munich to study art. While studying, you revelled in the Bohemian art scene and became best friends with fellow student Emma Jeep. Women weren’t allowed to take life drawing lessons, so Emma would often pose nude for you. During this time, you would explore your sexuality and write in your diary, ‘As a matter of fact I believe that bisexuality is almost a necessary factor in artistic production’.


After finishing your studies, you decided to marry Karl, upsetting Emma, who thought you were throwing your career away. Settling in a working-class neighbourhood in Berlin, where Karl ran a medical practice out of your house, you often connected with and drew the many women who would be waiting for their appointment. Soon after marriage, you had two sons Hans and Peter, and despite your conventional life choices, you were determined to pursue an artistic career. Inspired after seeing the play, The Weavers, about a failed workers revolt in the mid-nineteenth century, you created a series of lithographs illustrating the uprising. The work took five years to make and was exhibited in the Great Berlin Exhibition and brought you considerable attention. The work was going to win a prize for best work, but Kaiser Wilhelm vetoed it, refusing to allow a female socialist to win. Your work often depicted the oppressed and the vulnerable, portraying the grim reality of the time, empathy was always at the forefront of your work. You championed social issues, including legalising abortion and were one of the prominent Germans to sign Magnus Hirschfeld petition to decimalise homosexuality.


Despite being a committed pacifist, you gave permission for your eighteen-year-old son Peter to enlist for the First World War. He was killed almost instantly after being sent to the front, plunging you into great despair. The grieving mother would become an emblem of your later work. The more progressive times of the Weimar Republic would result in overwhelming recognition, becoming the first women to be admitted into the German Academy of Arts. You were outspoken about the rise of the Nazi’s, and when they came to power, they forced you to resign from the Academy, banned from exhibiting and removing your work from public institutions. The remaining years were a struggle, with Karl dying in 1940 and your grandson (Peter) dying fighting in World War Two. Your house was destroyed in an allied bombing raid, and you died less than a month before the end of the war.

Zentralfriedhof Friedrichsfelde, Berlin, Germany, 2020

HH wide.jpg
HH Final.jpg
Hannh Hoch


 Hannah Höch 


Born the oldest of five children into an upper-middle-class family. When you were fifteen, your youngest sister was born, and you were pulled out of school to help raise the child until you were twenty-one, when you moved to Berlin to study at the Charlottenburg School of Applied Arts. Coming to terms with your bourgeois upbringing by mixing with the desperate and vulnerable metropolitan population of Berlin during the First World War, led you to break from living a conventional life. In your art practice, you started to cut out mass media photography to create photomontages, becoming one of the medium’s pioneers. Influenced by working for the Ullstein Verlag publishing house creating advertising images for fashion adverts, you critiqued the new women as a market force for consumerism. You constructed work with a heavy sense of humour and irony, but there was also some misguided use of colonial ethnographic images along the way.


In 1915 you started a relationship with Raoul Hausmann, a prominent artist in the Berlin Dada group. It was an emotionally abusive relationship with Raoul refusing to leave his wife and insisting two pregnancies by him were terminated. Inspired by your tumultuous relationship with Raoul, you wrote a short story called The Painter, where the protagonist is thrown into an intense spiritual crisis when his wife asks him to do the dishes. You had to battle to claim your space in the chauvinist art world, which was even more evident in the Berlin Dada group’s hypocrisy. Despite their proclaimed radical left-wing politics, their misogamy ran deep. Although other members didn’t want to include you, you participated in the first international Dada fair. During and after your time in the Dada scene, the other members would try and dismiss your role and legacy in the group. 


In 1926 you started a decade-long relationship with the Dutch writer Til Brugman. Your relationship was intense, and you would describe her as an oppressively strong individual. Til would describe your relationship as ‘a complete and perfect intellectual union’. You both lived openly as a couple - you never wanted to define yourself or your sexuality. Even during the repressive political changes in the 1930s, you chose to stay in Berlin, despite the new regime declaring your work degenerate. With many of your friends and colleagues leaving Germany, you became relatively isolated, keeping a low profile and not exhibiting. After coming into an inheritance just before the war, you bought a house on the outskirts of Berlin. In the rafters of the house, you hid your work and the substantial archive of avant-garde artistic materials that you had collected. On several occasions, the Gestapo searched your home, but they could never find your secret stash of illegal culture. After the war, you lived quietly in your house, still making and exhibiting until the end. With time your reputation only grew stronger, leaving your male colleagues in the past.

Friedhof Heiligensee, Berlin, Germany, 2020

AEW wide.jpg
AEW Final.jpg
Anna Elisabet Weirauch


 Anna Elisabet Weirauch 


Born in Romania, where your father was one of the founders of the Romanian State Bank. You were the youngest of four siblings; at age four, your father died, plunging the family into crisis. Your mother decided to relocate to Berlin, where you started school and received acting and singing lessons from a young age. Wanting to be a professional actor, you made your stage debut at sixteen, your career rose quickly, and within a couple of years, you were working for the State Theatre under Max Reinhardt. You started to write plays and found this was where your real talent lay. Despite the great success on the stage and an emerging career in film, by the end of World War One, you retired from acting to commit more time to write. You again experienced a meteoric rise in your new profession, with your first novel The Little Dagmar being made into a film by Alfred Halm. You built a reputation for putting female characters into the foreground.


Living in the Schoneberg district, you witnessed and participated in the emerging queer scene developing in the area in the 1920s. Your lived experiences would influence your best-known work, the trilogy The Scorpion your only work that overtly depicts lesbian life. A book about a young woman named Mette from a strict bourgeois family finding her place in the world as a queer person in Weimar Germany. It was one of the first novels in German to depict lesbian relationships positively and sensitively. It touched many people during that period, including activist Hilde Radusch, who said ‘the book had a tremendous impression, I recognised myself in it’. In the mid-1920s, you met the young Dutchwomen Helena Geisenhainer, who would be your companion for the rest of your life. With the political turmoil of the early 1930s, you and Helena moved from Berlin to the Bavarian countryside. The Nazi state placed The Scorpion on the undesirable literature list, but it was the only one of your novels to be banned.


While never being a member of the National Socialist Party, you did join the Reich Chamber of Culture ‘Reichsschrifttumskammer’ that was a requirement for any artist to continue to create work. You published at least twenty novels during this period. You kept on writing after the war but never to any great success but as the years went on, The Scorpion continued to find enthusiastic new readers. Especially when it was translated to English in the 1970s impressing the liberation generation. In 1961 you returned to Berlin with Helena, moving into the Käte-Doesch-Heim retirement home for former actresses. Dying in 1970, you were buried in the Berlin Reinickendorf cemetery, Helena outlived you by twenty years, but she eventually joined you there. Despite your legacy and resting in the graveyard for forty years, they removed you because there was no one left to pay your dues. 

St. Hedwig-Friedhof III, Berlin, Germany, 2020

JM Final.jpg
JM Final.jpg
Jeanne Mammen


 Jeanne Mammen 


Born in Berlin and raised in a wealthy liberal family, at age five, you moved to Paris because your father bought a glassblowing factory. Both you and your younger sister showed artistic talent from a young age and as teenagers enrolled in the Académie Julian, and later undertook further training in Brussels and Rome. Returning to Paris with your sister, you both shared a studio and started to exhibit. The onset of the First World War dramatically upended your privileged life. Being German and living in an enemy country, the French government confiscated your family’s property and wealth, resulting in you fleeing back to Berlin. With no financial support and in near poverty, you survived by working as a commercial artist, creating illustrations for fashion magazines, and designing film posters for the UFA studios. For the first time in your life, you mixed with people outside your class, and you embraced the diverse culture of Berlin.


Your art changed to reflect these new experiences as you started chronicling the urban life of Berlin. Still, unlike your male contemporaries like Dix & Grosz, your work had an embedded empathy for your subjects. Mostly portraying female lives in the chaotic, bustling streets and cafes along with the intimate nightlife of the lesbian scene but being an introvert, you mostly wanted to observe and not be seen by others. With your reputation growing, your particular aesthetic was sought out by prominent figures in Berlin, including Magnus Hirschfeld, who commissioned you to illustrate his book Moral History of the Post-War Period. Curt Moreck also used some of your works in his guidebook, Naughty Berlin. In the early thirties, you were commissioned to illustrate the German version of The Songs of Bilitis, a collection of lesbian poems, but it would never be published because with the Nazi's seizure of power, they declared your work degenerate. 


Despite despising the new regime, you chose not to emigrate, not wanting to start a new life again, you decided to stay in Berlin and practice inner emigration. After they closed the publishers you were working for and banned you from exhibiting, there was little opportunity to earn a living, so you started to sell secondhand books on the street to survive. Realism lost interest for you as the horrors of Fascism took over, prompting you to experiment with abstraction in defiance of its degenerate status. When the war ended, you were part of the first modern art exhibition in post-war Berlin, and your career had a small resurgence. Becoming part of the Berlin art elite circle for the first time - but you soon grew tired of this crowd and retreated inwards. In the 1970s, there was a renewed interest in your work from historians, along with becoming a cult figure in the feminist movement. Always preferring the solitary life, you only gave one interview during your lifetime. Dying age eighty-five in your simple studio apartment that had been your home for the past half a century.

Friedhof Stubenrauchstraße, Berlin, Germany, 2020

LW wide.jpg
LW Final.jpg
Lilly Wust


 Lilly Wust 


Born into a life of nationalism, at a young age, you married Gunther - a Nazi soldier - giving birth to four sons for the Fatherland. As a mother with a portrait of Hitler on your wall, your early life was the ideal model for Aryan Germany. Having produced so many male children, the state awarded you the 'Mothers Cross' and hired you a housemaid called Ulla, who was secretly part of the underground helping Jews who were still in Berlin. 


One day you made the crass statement to Ulla “I can smell Jews”, she would later recount this story to her friend Felice Schragenheim, a Jew who was being hidden for her protection by Ulla’s parents. Felice thought it would be fun to test out your brag. Meeting at a cafe by the zoo, Felice flirted with you, and you felt an instant connection, but your nose failed you. She would visit you daily, bringing you flowers and poems. Felice being an active part of the underground network, would often bring other Jews to your house to party. Your friendship with Felice would evolve into you two becoming lovers. While Gunther was away on the Eastern front, you asked him for a divorce, and Felice moved in with you. You made marriage vowels with each other and pledged to spend the rest of your lives together. Felice’s underground activities meant she would disappear for days at a time to steal and fake documents for others in hiding. Eventually confronting her about her absences, she told you she was Jewish, and you swore to do everything you could to protect her.


After the traitor, Stella Kübler started to expose people in hiding, many in the underground fled to Switzerland; Felice decided to stay because she couldn't leave you. Returning from a summer’s day outing by the river, the Gestapo was waiting at your house, taking Felice away from you. They believed you when you said you didn't know she was Jewish because they couldn't fathom how a mother of four Aryan boys could harbour a Jew. Being held at an internment camp in Berlin, you managed to visit her, but she was sent away, ending up in Auschwitz, where she finally died during a death march. Despite several of Felice's friends blaming you for her deportation, you drew on her courage and spirit for the remainder of the war by taking an active role to aid the underground, housing three Jewish women in your attic. After the war, you searched and waited for Felice, but the grim reality took over as time went on. Outliving Felice by sixty years, you spent the remaining decades maintaining her memory. You lived in obscurity until the 1980s when Israel awarded you the Righteous Among the Nation award for your efforts to save Jewish lives. Interest in Felice and your story intensified over the coming decades, with your lives ultimately being immortalised in film, bringing your unique courage to a new generation.

Dorfkirche Giesensdorf, Berlin, Germany, 2020

rs wide.jpg
RS Final.jpg
Renee Sintenis


 Renée Sintenis 


Born Renate Alice, you grew up in a small Brandenburg town, spending your childhood in nature. Taking drawing lessons from a young age because your parents thought it would be an appropriate pre-marriage hobby. In 1905 your lawyer father moved the family to Berlin, where you enrolled in one of the few art schools that admitted women. Your father would later force you to drop out of art school so you could be his secretary. Falling out with your father, you left home and moved in with friends and started to call yourself Renée. To make a living, you became a life model for the sculptor Georg Kolbe, who inspired you to start creating your own female nude statues. Rejecting monumentality and inspired by your love of nature, you would begin making small bronze animal sculptures, which would become your trademark.


In 1917 you married the painter and poet Emil Rudolf Weiss who would help bring your work to a broader audience. Emil would also turn a blind eye to your adventures in the emerging lesbian scene in post-war Berlin. Standing at almost six foot with short hair and dressed in men's clothes, your androgynous look and independent spirit became the epitome of what the media was calling the 'New Women' during the Weimar Republic. Exploiting this, you became entwined with Berlin's artistic elite and became one of the most photographed women of the era. In 1920 the well-connected art dealer Alfred Flechtheim started representing you. Your small animal sculptures became a must-have for bourgeois families to adorn their living spaces, making you one of the top-earning artists of the time. Along with the money came acclaim, winning a bronze medal for sculpture in the 1928 Olympics and becoming only the second woman to become a member of the Berlin Academy of the Arts. 


The Nazis eventually forced you to leave the Academy, and your works were removed from public institutions because your maternal grandmother was Jewish. The Nazis also included a self-portrait of yours in their Degenerate Art exhibition. However, they never banned you from making art because you had a high up friend in the propaganda ministry. With your Jewish art dealer fleeing the country along with many of your Jewish and queer friends and buyers also escaping, you became very isolated. Emil died during the war, and your house was bombed by an allied raid, destroying most of your possessions, you fell into a deep depression. In 1945 you moved in with Magdalena Goldmann, who became your 'housekeeper' and you lived with each other for the next twenty years. After the war, you continued to create but never regained the heights of your youth. In 1957 a life-size statue of your Berlin Bear was installed on the city limits welcoming people entering the city. The Berlin film festival would later use the bear statue as the winner's trophy. You died in 1965, leaving your estate to Magdalena, who would pass away over fifteen years later, eventually being reunited by being buried with you.

Waldfriedhof Dahlem, Berlin, Germany, 2020

bottom of page