‘Gegen England’ (‘Against England’)
U-Boat VII C in Heavy Seas with Junker 88 Squadron
Depiction of a U-Boat pressing onward in a stormy, blue-green sea, accompanied by Junkers bombers. The original massive version of ‘Gegen England’ (3.2 metres by 1.9 metres) hung in the GDK 1940, room 1. It was bought by Adolf Hitler for 12,000 RM; currently it is owned by Deutsches Historisches Museum, Berlin.
The U.S. House of Representatives, 1978, discusses the return to Germany of 10 paintings by Claus Bergen
On August 9, 1978, the U.S. House of Representatives, Committee on Armed Services, Investigation Subcommittee, Washington, D.C., discussed the return to Germany of 10 paintings by Claus Bergen -depicting the German navy- that were seized from the German Government by the United States Army in March 1947. In 1979 these 10 works by Bergen were handed over to the Deutsches Schiffahrtsmuseum in Bremerhaven (two years later, in September 1981, the House of Representatives discussed the transfer to Germany of all the pieces of war art (6.337) that were seized from the German Government). Below some remarkable quotes from the discussion in the U.S. House of Representatives in 1978.
George William Whitehurst (Member of the U.S. House of Representatives, journalist, professor) about the 10 paintings by Claus Bergen:
‘They are dramatic renderings of submarines and destroyers at sea and apparently have long inspired German Navy men…’These paintings have no political significance and in no way glorify the Hitler era. They are instead renderings by a respected artist of German naval tradition. Their worth is clearly artistic and inspirational, not political.’
The Chairman of the Committee about the question whether the Claus Bergen paintings might have something to do with German militarism:
‘We had from World War II and the other world wars an artist group that painted a number of wartime paintings, many of which hang in the corridors of the Pentagon. ..And those would be regarded as, if not perpetuating American militarism, at least trying to pay some tribute to those who served in uniform? And we don’t regard them as bad in our own Government, do we?… Otherwise they would not be hanging up in the Pentagon… It seems a little bit strange here, that maybe we’re applying a double standard.’ …’and our own Government is so dedicated to militarism that they have commissioned artists from all of our mores whose painting hang in the Pentagon, and a number of which had been loaned to Members of Congress to hang in their offices.’
|– condition||: II with some craquelure|
|– size||: 126 x 96 cm, unframed 110 x 80|
|– signed||: left, under|
|– type||: oil on canvas|
|– misc. I||: sold in 2011 by auctionshaus Herman Historica, Munich|
|– misc. II||: professional cleaned and reframed|
Claus Bergen, ‘Kette deutscher Flugzeuge über den Wolken’ (‘German planes above the clouds’). Art print*. Depicted in ‘Velhagen & Klasings’, Monatshefte’, 1937.
Left: Claus Bergen, postcard, ‘Against England’. GDK 1940, room 1.
Right: Claus Bergen, postcard*. ‘Im Atlantik’, GDK 1942, room 1. Bought by Robert Ley for 25.000 RM. In the possession of the Deutsches Historisches Museum, Berlin. Size 320 x 180 cm.
Wall painting ‘Gegen England” in the Todt-bunker at Cap Gris Nez, near Calais.
(photo Arthur van Beveren, www.arthurvanbeveren.com)
Left: Claus Bergen, postcard. ‘Unter Kriegsflagge’ (‘Under the war flag’). German propaganda postcard of 1915 aimed to support a fund raising campaign for the submarine warfare.
Right: ‘Das rettingsboot Fürstin Bismarck, vor Wangerooge’. Postcard after a painting by Claus Bergen.
‘Im Dienste der Menschheit: das Rettungsboot “Fürstin Bismarck“ der Rettungsstation Wangerooge der Deutschen Gesellschaft zur Rettung Schiffbrüchiger leistet einem gestrandeten Segler bei schwerem Wetter die erste Hilfe.’
‘In service of mankind. The lifeboat ‘Fürstin Bismarck’ at the rescue point Wangerooge of the German Martime Search and Rescue Services, providing assistance to a ship in distress.’
Claus Bergen, ‘Beschiessung der Westerplatte’ (‘Shelling of the Westerplatte’), postcard. GDK 1940, room 27; depicted in the exhibition catalogue. Bought by Hitler for 5.000 RM. Also displayed at the ‘Münchner Kunstausstellung Danzig‘, 1941; depicted in the exhibition catalogue.
The first shots of WWII were fired in Danzig by the battleship Schleswig-Holstein, built in 1906 and used against a Polish fortress in the harbor on September 1, 1939. Though old -the Schleswig-Holstein fought in both World Wars- she still overpowered the garrison and achieved some noteriety throughout the Third Reich after her victory.
Claus Bergen, postcard. ‘Von Feindfahrt zurück’ (‘Returrning from the enemy’). GDK 1941, room 9. Bought by Hilter for 15.000 RM. In the possession of the Deutsches Historisches Museum, Berlin. Size 320 x 180 cm.
German War Art in the Pentagon
‘Very good, outstanding and brilliant in conception…’
House of Representatives, Committee on Armed Services, Investigation Subcommittee, Washington, D.C. , September 23, 1981
At September 23, 1981, the House of Representatives discussed the return to Germany of 6.337 pieces of war art that were seized from the German Government by the United States Army in March 1947. Below some remarkable quotes from the discussion.
George William Whitehurst (Member of the U.S. House of Representatives, journalist, professor) about the 6.337 pieces of German war art:
‘They are similar to the military works of art hanging on our own committee and subcommittee rooms. Part of the German collection is on display in the Pentagon…. This is war art, showing the life of German military personnel under the best and the worst conditions, as indeed soldiers, sailors, and airmen of all nations experienced it… ‘Asked by the Chairman about the value of the art: ‘Some of it is very, very good. The large canvas in my office is an outstanding work of art’.
Marylou Gjernes, Army Art Curator, U.S. Army Center of Military History, Department of the Army:
‘..The Air Force similarly favors retention of German war art integral to its museum operations at Wright Patterson Air Force Base, and a small exhibit of paintings that they have in the Pentagon.’…. ‘Some of the paintings and drawings are brilliant in conception and execution. They show by their artistry, color and mood, the spirit of combat, and the desolation, destruction and tragedy of war. There are illustrations of the despair and boredom of the troops…They are a testament to the sensitivity of the artist regardless of nationality. The collection ..is utilized in ongoing exhibition programs and displays to provide a unique view of World War II that supplements and supports the written history of the conflict..’
Extreme scarce work of art
Art works considered as overt propaganda were massively destroyed
As described below, in accordance with the Potsdam Agreement of August 1945, the Allied Control Council laws and military government regulations, all collections of works of art related or dedicated to the perpetuation of German militarism or Nazism, were destroyed. Thousands of paintings were considered of ‘no value’ and burned. Around 8,722 artworks were shipped to military deposits in the U.S. In 1986 the largest part was returned to Germany, with the exception of 200 paintings which were considered as overt propaganda: depictions of German Soldiers, war sceneries, swastika’s and portraits of Nazi leaders.
‘Nei paesi della guerra – sull’Atlantico’
Left: Claus Bergen, postcard. ‘Im Kampfgebiet des Atlantiks’ (‘The Atlantic Battlefield’). Displayed at the GDK 1941 room 9; depicted in the exhibition catalogue. Again displayed under the name ‘Nei paesi della guerra – sull’Atlantico’ at the ‘XXIII Esposizione Biennale Internazionale d’Arte’, 1942. Bought by Hitler for 12.000 RM; currently owned by Deutsches Historische Museum, Berlin. Again displayed ath the exhibition ‘Geschichten im Konflikt‘, 2012/ 13, held in the Haus der Kunst, Munich. Size 320 x 180 cm. Also displayed at the exhibition ‘Artige Kunst, Kunst und Politik im Nationalsozialismus‘ (‘Compliant Art, Art and Politics in the National Socialist era’) held at Museum Situation Kunst, Bochum (November 2016 – April 2017), Kunsthalle Rostock, Rostock (April – June 2017) and at Kunstforum Ostdeutsche Galerie, Regensburg (July/ October 2017).
Right: ‘Im Kampfgebiet des Atlantiks’ was one of the 8.700 paintings which were, as part of the ‘German War Art Collection’, shipped to the USA in 1947. In the 1970s it hung in the officers’ mess of the USA Navy base in Norfolk.
‘Nei paesi della guerra – sull’Atlantico’, ‘XXIII Esposizione Biennale Internazionale d’Arte’, 1942.
‘Im Kampfgebiet des Atlantiks’, hanging in a room of the Venice Biennale, 1942. Photo taken at June 23, 1942.
Left from Bergen’s painting: ‘Luftlandetruppe, -Panzerjäger H.M.’ (‘Airborn Forces, -Tank-hunter H.M., or ‘Truppe Aerotrasportate , -Cacciatore di Carri Armati H.M.’) by Ferdinand Spiegel.
Right from Bergens painting: ‘Luftlandetruppe, Panzerjäger H.‘ (‘Airborne Forces, Tank-hunter H.’, or ‘Truppe Aerotrasportate , -Cacciatore di Carri Armati H.’ by Ferdinand Spiegel.
The extreme scarcity of National Socialistic art
Massive, systematic destruction of Nazi art since 1945: the Potsdam-Agreement
From 1933 to 1949 Germany experienced two massive art purges. Both the National Socialist government and OMGUS (the U.S. Military Government in Germany) were highly concerned with controlling what people saw and how they saw it. The Nazis eliminated what they called ‘Degenerate art’, erasing the pictorial traces of turmoil and heterogeneity that they associated with modern art. The Western Allies in turn eradicated ‘Nazi art’ and forbade all artworks military subjects or themes that could have military and/or chauvinist symbolism from pictorial representation. Both the Third Reich and OMGUS utilized the visual arts as instruments for the construction of new German cultural heritages.
The Potsdam Agreement of 2 August 1945, subparagraph 3, Part III, Section A stated that one purpose of the occupation of Germany was ‘to destroy the National Socialistic Party and its affiliated and supervised organizations and to dissolve all Nazi and militaristic activity or propaganda.’ In accordance with Allied Control Council laws and military government regulations, all documents and objects which might tend to revitalize the Nazi spirit or German militarism would be confiscated or destroyed. For example, Title 18, Military Government Regulation, OMGUS stated that: ‘all collections of works of art related or dedicated to the perpetuation of German militarism or Nazism will be closed permanently and taken into custody.’ As a consequence, thousands of paintings –portraits of Nazi-leaders, paintings containing a swastika or depicting military/war sceneries– were considered ‘of no value’ and destroyed. With knives, fires and hammers, they smashed countless sculptures and burned thousands of paintings. Around 8,722 artworks were shipped to military deposits in the U.S.
OMGUS regulated and censored the art world. The Information Control Division (ICD, the key structure in the political control of post-war German culture in the American zone) was in fact a non-violent version of the Reichskulturkammer (Reich Chamber of Culture). With its seven subdivisions (i.e. press, literature, radio, film, theatre, music, and art), the ICD neatly replaced the Reich Chamber of Culture. The ICD established through its various sections a system of licensed activity, with screening and vetting by Intelligence to exclude all politically undesirable people.
‘Free’ German artists producing ‘free German art’ after 1945
In the ideology of OMGUS, painting was conceived of as a strategic element in the campaign to politically re-educate the German people for a new democratic internationalism. Modern art allowed for the establishment of an easy continuity with the pre-Nazi modernist past, and it could serve as a springboard for the international projection of Germany as a new country interacting with its new Western partners.
‘Free’ artists producing ‘free art’ was one of the most powerful symbols of the new Germany, the answer to the politically controlled art of the Third Reich. Modern art linked Western Germany to Western Europe – separating the new West German aesthetic and politics from that of the Nazi era, the U.S.S.R., and East Germany – and suggested an ‘authentically’ German identity.
Claus Bergen, postcard, ‘Ein heimkehrende U-Boot grüsst ein auslaufendes Kreuzergeschwader’, Wilhelmshafen, 1915 (‘Returning U-boat greats a departing cruiser squadron’, Wilhelmshafen, 1915). The original painting (97,5 x 25%,5 cm) was sold at a German Auction in 2015.
Left: Claus Bergen, postcard, ‘Deutsche Wacht in der Nordsee’ (‘German Guard at the Northsea’). GDK 1940, room 1. Painting of 270 x 150 cm, bought by Hitler for 8.000 RM. In the possession of Deutsches Historisches Museum, Berlin. Also depicted in ‘Velhagen & Klasings Monatshefte’ 1941, under the name ‘Deutsche Zerstörer auf der Wacht in der Nordsee’.
Right: ‘Deutsche Wacht in der Nordsee’, in the possession of the Deutsches Historisches museum.
Claus Bergen, ‘Helgoland in Sicht’ (‘Helgoland in sight’). Postcard. The text at the back reads: ‘Long distance trip of U-boat; 12 orignal paintings, based on personal experience of Claus Bergen’.
Claus Bergen, ‘Ran an den Feind’ (‘Attacking the Enemy’). GDK 1941 room 31. Sold for 10.000 Reichsmark. Depicted under the name ‘Angriff auf feindlichen Geleitzug’ (‘Attack on Convoy’) in the book ‘Feuer und Farbe, -155 Bilder vom Kreige’, 1943.
Claus Bergen, ‘Begegnung im Atlantik’ (‘Encounter in the Atlantic’). Depicted in ‘Feuer und Farbe, -155 Bilder vom Kreige’, 1943.
Claus Bergen, ‘U-Boot beschiesst feindliche Dampfer’ (‘U-Boat firing at hostile ship’). Art-print. Displayed at the Grosse Berliner Kunstausstellung 1940. Depicted in ‘Nationalsozialistische Monatshefte’, 1941, Heft 131.
Claus Bergen, ‘Battle of the Denmark Strait, 24 May 1941’. GDK 1944 room 9. Bought by Hitler for 25.000 Reichsmark. Depicted are the heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen (center) and the battleship Bismarck (left, distance) firing on British warships Hood and Prince of Wales (the Hood was destroyed). Owned by the US Army Centre of Military History; given back to Germany in 1986. Nowadays in the possession of the German Historical Museum.
Exhibition of German War Art at the Städel Museum, Frankfurt, 6 December 1946.
At the War Art exhibition in the Städelmuseum, organized by U.S. Army Captain Gordon W. Gilkey, 103 German art works were shown. These 103 works were selected by Gilkey from the art collection he had found in:
– Schloss Ringberg near Tegernsee (works from the Luftgaukommando VI in Münster);
– the Salt plant in Bad Aussee (and St. Agatha, Austria);
– Schloss Oberfrauenau (in basement and in woodcutters hut);
– the Haus der Deutschen Kunst;
– the Führerbau basement;
– the Kelmheim Befreiungshalle (works from the exhibition ‘Deutsche Künstler und die SS’):
– the Reichs Chancellery.
General Joseph T. McNarney reviewing the exhibition of German War Art at the Städel Museum in Frankfurt on 6 December 1946. McNarney standing in front of Bergen’s work: ‘Battle of the Denmark Strait, 24 May 1941’ (GDK 1944).
Claus Bergen ‘Torpedoboote beim Evolutionieren’ (‘Intersquadron movements of Torpedo Boats’). Created in the 1930s. Size 70 x 50 cm. Depicted in ‘J.M. Hormann/ E. Kliem, Claus Bergen. Marinemaler über vier Epochen’, Hamburg, 2002, page 116. Sold by a German auction house in 2019.
Claus Bergen, ‘Wiedererstanden, U26‘, GDK 1937, room 13. Heinrich Hoffmann (left), Adolf Hitler and architect Prof. Leonhard Gall visiting the GDK 1937. The painting was bought for 4.000 Reichsmark by the New Reich Chancellery, but the location where it was hung is unknown.
Hermann Göring Collection
Hermann Görings entire art collection comprised some 4,263 paintings, sculptures and tapestries. He planned to display them in the ‘Norddeutsche Galerie’, an art gallery which should be created after the war. The Norddeutsche Gallery was to be erected as an annex to Karinhall in the big forest of the Schorfheide, near Berlin. According to the website of the German Historical Museum, the work ‘Die Wikinger’ (‘The Viking’) by Claus Bergen was part of the collection. It was given by Claus Bergen as a present to Göring on 10 April 1935.
Exhibition catalog of the ‘Exhibition of Marine Paintings, by Claus Bergen’, organised by the Gainsborough Gallleries in May 1929, New York.
Claus Friedrich Bergen (1885 – 1964) was a German illustrator and painter, who was best known for his depictions of naval warfare in both World Wars. From 1904 onwards he attended private lessons in the Munich area with Moritz Weinhold, Otto Strützel, Peter Paul Müller and Hans von Bartels. Finally, in 1909, he went to the Munich Art Academy where he studied under Professor Carl von Marr. In the first three decades of the century, Claus Bergen was numerous times represented at the Munich exhibitions in the Glaspalast. He was awarded in 1911 a Gold Medal Second Class from the Yearly International Exhibition in the Glaspalast and a Silver Medal from the VI International Art Exhibition in Barcelona, in 1912 the Medal of Honor from the Art Exhibition in Amsterdam and in 1923 he received (again) the Gold Medal from the Yearly International Exhibition in the Glaspalast.
In 1914 he was appointed Marine Painter to Kaiser Wilhelm II. After the Battle of Jutland in 1916 there was enormous demand for depictions of this battle, both from the public and from the captains of ships that had participated. In 1917 Bergen took the unprecedented step of joining the crew of the submarine U-53, under Kapitänleutnant Hans Rose, on an Atlantic combat patrol. The paintings that resulted from this are often considered to be among his finest work. In 1918 a presentation of his Skagerak-battles and U-boats took place in the Glaspalast; for this successful exhibition, visited by King Ludwig III at the opening, he was awarded the title of ‘Königliche Bayerischen Professor’.
In the inter-war period he painted numerous officially-commissioned large-scale land- and seascapes, as well as Atlantic ocean-liners, while his friendship with commanders such as Erich Raeder and Karl Dönitz continuously brought him work from the German Navy. Bergen’s brother Otto was an aviator in the Great War. As children, Claus and Otto were friends with Ernst Udet, one of Germany’s top fighter pilots. These associations led to Bergen painting many aviation scenes and receiving commissions from within Germany’s aviation industry. Claus Bergen joined the NSDAP in 1922. From 1926 to 1931 he joint the crue of many navy ships and U-boats. In the same period, until 1928, Bergen created 12 enormous works depicting the history of the Navy. The works, of which two were destroyed during World War II, were destinated for the ‘Shipping Hall’ in the Deutsches Museum in Munich. In May 1929 Claus Bergen displayed his works in New York were the Gainsborough Gallleries organised the ‘Exhibition of Marine Paintings, by Claus Bergen’. In 1937 Bergen moved from Munich to Lenggries, Upper-Bavaria.
Fifteen of his works appeared in the Great German Art Exhibitions, which were held annually at the House of German Art in Munich from 1937 to 1944. For example: ‘Im Atlantik’ (1938), ‘U-53 im Atlantik’ (1939), ‘Deutsche Wacht in der Nordsee’ (1940), ‘Gegen England’ (1940), ‘Beschiessung der Westerplatte’ (1940), ‘Ran an der Feind’ (1940), ‘Von Feindfahrt zurück’ (1941), ‘Im Kampfgebiet des Atlantiks’ (1941), ‘Erfolgreiche Rückkehr’ (1942), ‘Wiedererstanden U-26’ (1937) and ‘Schwerer Kreuzer Prinz Eugen im Gefecht in der Dänemarkstrasse’ (1940). Nine of these works were bought by Adolf Hitler, one by Robert Ley (Head of German Labour Front) and one by the City Berchtesgaden for prices of up to 25.000 RM.
‘Im Kampfgebiet des Atlantiks’ (‘The Atlantic Battlefield’) was also displayed under the name ‘Nei paesi della guerra – sull’Atlantico’ at the ‘XXIII Esposizione Biennale Internazionale d’Arte’, 1942.
During the Second World War Claus Bergen’s name was on the ‘Führerliste’, an extended version of the Gotbegnadeten liste. Those listed as ‘God-gifted artists’, who performed jobs vital to the country and the war effort, were exempt and even forbidden from military service. They worked as ‘Künstler im Kriegseinsatz’.
The work ‘Die Wikinger’ (‘The Viking’) was part of the art collection of Hermann Göring and destinated for the ‘Norddeutsche Gallery’.
In December 1946 U.S. Army Captain Gordon W. Gilkey organised the ‘German War Art’ exhibition in the Städelmuseum in Frankfurt. A total of 103 art works were shown, including Claus Bergen’s ‘Battle of the Denmark Strait, 24 May 1941’ (GDK 1944).
Claus Bergen died in 1964 in Lenggries from paint poisoning.
In 1978 the U.S. House of Representatives, Committee on Armed Services, Investigation Subcommittee, Washington, D.C., discussed the return to Germany of 10 paintings by Claus Bergen -depicting the German navy- that were seized from the German Government by the United States Army in March 1947. In 1979 these 10 works by Bergen were handed over to the Deutsches Schiffahrtsmuseum in Bremerhaven (two years later, in September 1981, the House of Representatives discussed the transfer to Germany of all the pieces of war art (6.337) that were seized from the German Government).
Deutsche Historische Museum currently owns ‘U53 im Atlantik’ (GDK 1939), ‘Den U-Boot-Helden zum Gedenken’, ‘Das Ritterkreuz’, ‘Im Atlantik’, ‘Einsamkeit’, ‘Gegen England’, ‘Deutsche Wacht in der Nordsee’, ‘Von Feindfahrt zurück’, ‘Im Kampfgebiet des Atlantiks’ and ‘Schwerer Kreuzer Prinz Eugen im Gefecht in der Dänemarktstrasse’. A work named ‘Segelschiff’ is in the possession of the Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen. In 2012/ 13 the painting ‘Im Kampfgebiet des Atlantiks’ (GDK 1941, room 9) was displayed at the exhibition ‘Geschichten im Konflikt‘, held in the Haus der Kunst, Munich. ‘Im Kampfgebiet des Atlantiks’ was also displayed at the exhibition ‘Artige Kunst, Kunst und Politik im Nationalsozialismus‘ (‘Compliant Art, Art and Politics in the National Socialist era’) held at Museum Situation Kunst, Bochum (November 2016 – April 2017), Kunsthalle Rostock, Rostock (April – June 2017) and at Kunstforum Ostdeutsche Galerie, Regensburg (July – October 2017).
* As also stated in our General Terms and Conditions, German Art Gallery offers the depicted postcards and art prints for sale. Prices on request.