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Forgotten Architects | Pentagram

December 10, 2009

Weiße Stadt Settlement, Berlin 1928-31 by Bruno Arhends

In the 1920s and early 1930s, German Jewish architects created some of the greatest modern buildings in Germany, mainly in the capital Berlin. A law issued by the newly elected German National Socialist Government in 1933 banned all of them from practicing architecture in Germany. In the years after 1933, many of them managed to emigrate, while many others were deported or killed under Hitler’s regime. Pentagram Papers 37: Forgotten Architects is a survey of 43 of these architects and their groundbreaking work.

In 1920, the Greater Berlin Act united dozens of suburban cities, villages, and estates around Berlin into a greatly expanded city at the expense of Brandenburg. After this expansion, Berlin had a population of around four million. After the decade of 1930, in 1943, Allied bombardment of Berlin started (on March 18, 1945 alone, 1,250 American bombers attacked the city). On May 2 1945, the city capitulated to the Soviet army. The destruction of buildings was nearly 100% in parts of the inner city business and residential sectors. The outlying sections suffered relatively little damage. Berlin was devastated by bombing raids during World War II and many of the old buildings that escaped the bombs were eradicated in the 1950s and 1960s in both West and East.

With these project, developed in 2008 and based on the extensive research of architect Myra Warhaftig, Pentagram Papers wanted to rescue the work of all these unknown architects that are part of this thoughtful compendium which presents the work of 43 Jewish German architects. Let’s see some of them:

Leopold Lustig, born in Poland in 1889, lived and worked in Dresden. Below: Office Building (Rendering), Dresden 1926

Eugen Karl Kaufmann, born in Frankfurt am Main in 1892, worked in various cities in Germany. In 1931 he had a project-based invitation to Moscow, and then moved to England in 1933. He renamed himself Eugene Charles Kent and continued working in architecture until 1967. His work is close to Bruno Taut’s social houses as in the image below: Praunheim Housing Estate, Frankfurt am Main 1927

Marie Frommer was born in Warsaw in 1890. She lived and worked in Berlin and fled to London in 1936. In 1940 she emigrated to New York, where she continued working as an interior architect. She died in New York in 1976. Below: Leiser Silk Shop, Berlin 1920s

Gustav Oelsner, born 1879 in Posen (today Poznan, Poland), was responsible for urban planning in Hamburg, but was fired in 1933 for being Jewish. In 1937 he fled to the USA, but was advised to emigrate to Turkey shortly before the outbreak of WWII. There he worked as an architectural consultant to the Turkish government. After the war in 1948, he was invited to return to Germany by the municipality of Hamburg to help rebuild the city. Oelsner died in Hamburg in 1956. Below, Employment Office, Hamburg 1926-27

Martin Albrecht Punitzer lived and worked in Berlin until he was deported to Oranienburg concentration camp in 1938. He was released after three weeks and managed to flee to Santiago de Chile where he died ten years later. Image below: Herbert Lindner Factory, Berlin 1932. Photo: M. Hawlik

This is only a brief selection of the whole research by Warhaftig, who spent twenty years investigating the fates of these architects and only recently published her findings in her book German Jewish Architects Before and After 1933: The Lexicon.

The complete site of Forgotten Architects is here.

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