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‘Bücherverbrennung’ (‘Book Burning’)
Depicted is the public book burning at the Opernplatz in Berlin on 10 May 1933. This drawing by Elk Eber was published on a full page in the ‘Illustrierter Beobachter’ on 27 May 1933 (Folge 21, page 563).

Left: ‘Bücherverbrennung’ by Elk Eber, depicted on a full page of the ‘Illustrierter Beobachter’, 27 May 1933, Folge 21, page 563.
The text below the picture reads: ‘Die Scheiterhaufen für Hetz- und Schundliteratur, -wurden von den deutschen Studenten am 10. Mai errichtet und verbrennt’. Zeichnung Elk Eber (‘Pyre meant for provocative and junk books, -created and burned by German students on 10 May. Drawing by Elk Eber’).
Right: ‘Bücherverbrennung’ by Elk Eber, depicted in ‘Wider den undeutschen Geist, -Bücherverbrennung 1933‘, Werner Tress, 2003.
The swords held in the air by the students is a symbolic scene which goes back to the Wartburg Book Burning of 1817.
  

 

Book Burning
Beginning on May 10, 1933, Nazi-dominated student groups carried out public burnings of books they claimed were ‘un-German’. The book burnings took place in 34 university towns and cities. Works of prominent Jewish, liberal, and leftist writers ended up in the bonfires. The book burnings stood as a powerful symbol of Nazi intolerance and censorship. At the meeting places, students threw the pillaged and ‘unwanted’ books onto bonfires with great ceremony, band-playing, and so-called fire oaths. In Berlin, some 40,000 persons gathered in the Opernplatz to hear Joseph Goebbels deliver a fiery address: ‘No to decadence and moral corruption! Goebbels enjoined the crowd. ‘Yes to decency and morality in family and state! I consign to the flames the writings of Heinrich Mann, Ernst Gläser, Erich Kästner.’
The burning of books under the Nazi regime on May 10, 1933, is perhaps the most famous book burning in history. Book burning has a long and dark history. The May 1933 book burning in Nazi Germany had a precedent in nineteenth century Germany. In 1817, German student associations (Burschenschaften) chose the 300th anniversary of Luther’s 95 Theses to hold a festival at the Wartburg, a castle in Thuringia where Luther had sought sanctuary after his excommunication. The students, demonstrating for a unified country -Germany was then a patchwork of states- burned anti-national and reactionary texts and literature which the students viewed as ‘Un-German.’

The Wartburg Festival of 1817
‘On 18 October 1817 a group of German university students with liberal and national tendencies, many of whom were veterans of the Wars of Liberation, assembled at the Wartburg Castle in Eisenach. United under the mantra of ‘Honor, Freedom, Fatherland’, the students agitated for a reform of German colleges, demanded a liberal constitution for Prussia, and envisaged a unification of the German states. The occasion for the Wartburg Festival itself was heavy with national sentiments. The date 18 October was in fact the fourth anniversary of the Battle of Leipzig, a decisive Prussian victory over Napoleon. The year 1817 was also the tercentennial of the Protestant Reformation, and the student’s political demands and the Castle itself were steeped in memories of Martin Luther and the Reformation.  The celebrants of the festival sang the Lutheran hymn ‘A Mighty Fortress is Our God’ along with other patriotic songs, and in a ritual that recalled Luther’s burning of the papal bull that excommunicated him, they burned books written by conservative and antidemocratic authors’ ( Archaeologies of Confession: Writing the German Reformation, 1517-2017’, 2017).

The Wartburg Book Burning in 1817, depicted in ‘Wider den undeutschen Geist, -Bücherverbrennung 1933‘, Werner Tress, 2003.

– condition : II
– size : 64 x 50 cm
– signed  : left, below
– type : mixed techniques, on painting board

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BIOGRAPHY: ELK EBER

GDK 1937 room 1
Left: Elk Eber, ‘Die Letzte Handgranate’ (‘The last Hand Granate‘), 1936. GDK 1937 room 1. Size 105 x 81 cm. In possession of the German Historical Museum. Until 1983 in the possession of the US Army Centre of Military History.
Right: ‘Appell am 23. Februar 1933‘ (‘Appeal of 23 February 1933‘), 1937. GDK 1937 room 1. In the possession of the US Army Centre of Military History. Size 130 x 94 cm.
In the middle a portrait of Hitler by Heinrich Knirr.

Left: Elk Eber, ‘Die letzte Handgranate’ (‘The Last Hand Grenade’). In the possession of the German Historical Museum.
Right: Elk Eber, ‘Appell am 23. Februar 1933‘ (‘Roll call on the 23 February 1933’). In the possession of the US Army Centre of Military History.
   

Elk Eber, detail of ‘Appell am 23. Februar 1933‘, depicted on the cover of ‘Der SA.-Führer, Zeitschrift der SA.-Führer der NSDAP‘, September 1936.

Elk Eber, ‘Ein Meldegänger’ (‘Dispatch Rider’), 1938. Displayed at the GDK 1939 room 13. Bought by Hitler for 10,200 Reichsmark. Size 180 x 150 cm. In the possession of the German Historical Museum in Berlin.

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 transfer 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.

Left: Elk Eber, ‘Kampf im Warschau-Vorstadt’ (‘Battle in the suburbs of Warsaw’). Displayed at the GDK 1940 room 13. Bought by Hitler for 11.000 Reichsmark. Depicted under the name ‘Kampf um eine Stadt im Osten’ in ‘Velhagen & Klasings Monatshefte’, February 1942.
Right: Elk Eber, ‘SA Mann mit Blutfahne‘ (‘SA Man with Blood Order‘), 1939. Postcard. 

Left: Elk Eber, ‘Skagerrak’. The drawing refers to the Battle of the Skagerrak, also called Battle of Jutland (31 May – 1 June 1916), the only major encounter between the main British and German battle fleets in World War I, fought near the Skagerrak, an arm of the North Sea, north of Jutland (Denmark). Depicted in ‘Nationalsozialistische Monatshefte’, Heft 108, 1939, and in ‘Krieg und Kunst’, Wilhelm Westecker, 1944.
Right: Elk Eber, ‘Aus Modlin Oktober 1939’. Displayed at the GDK 1940 room 28. Bought by Hitler for 1.800 Reichsmark. Also displayed at the exhibition ‘Polenfeldzug und U-Boot Krieg in Bildern und Bildnissen’, 25 January – 25 February 1940 , Künstlerhaus in Berlin; depicted in the exhibition catalog.
The watercolour refers to the The Battle of Modlin which took place during the 1939 German invasion of Poland at the beginning of the Second World War. Modlin Fortress was initially the headquarters of the Modlin Army until its retreat eastwards. From 13 September to 29 September 1939 it served as a defensive citadel for Polish forces under the command of General Wiktor Thommée against assaulting German units. This fighting was closely linked with the strategic situation of the Battle of Warsaw. Fortress Modlin capitulated on 29 September, one of the last to lay down its arms in the campaign, surrendering 24,000 troops.
   

Left: Elk Eber, ‘Sie Kommen’ (‘They Come’). Depicted in ‘Nationalsozialistische Monatshefte’, Heft 108, 1939, and in ‘Krieg und Kunst’, by Wilhelm Westecker, 1944.
Right: Elk Eber, ‘Der historische Fackelzug der SA in Berlin am Montag dem 30. Januar 1933’ (‘Torchlight Procession of the SA in Berlin on the historic evening of January 30, 1933’. Depicted in ‘Kunst in Deutschland 1933-1945, Mortimer G. Davidson’). 
 

Elk Eber, ‘Sie Trommeln’ (‘They Drum’, -heavy barrage fire by the enemy’) GDK 1941 room 1. Bought by Hitler for 20.000 Reichsmark. In the possession of the US Army Centre of Military History. Written left, below, on the front of the painting: ‘Die Vaeter mussten erleiden in grosser not den Kries’ (‘Our Fathers have experienced Great Sufferings’).

Elk Eber, ‘Bildnis Major V. einer MG.-Abteilung’ (‘Portrait of Major Vogler, -Machinengewehr abteilung)’. Signed ‘Elk Eber VII 36’. Size 170 x 100 cm. Displayed at the ‘Münchener Kunstausstellung’, Maximilianeum, 1938. Depicted in the exhibition catalog. Sold by a German auction house in 2017. The photo right shows the exhibition sticker at the back.
   

Elk Eber, ‘So war SA’ (‘That’s how SA was’). GDK 1938 room 15. Bought by Hitler for 12.000 Reichsmark, destinated for the Reichskanzlei. Notice on the background the letters ‘KPD’, at that time the Communist Party of Germany.

Left: Elk Eber, ‘Abmarsch durch die Nowi-Swiat in Warschau nach dem Grossen Zapfenstreich’ (‘Marching through Nowi-Swiat in Warsaw after the Grand Tattoo’). Displayed at the GDK 1940 room 28. Watercolour, 85 x 67 cm. Bought by Hitler for 1,800 Reichsmark. Also displayed at the exhibition ‘Polenfeldzug und U-Bootkrieg in Bildern und Bildnissen’ held in the Berlin Künstlerhaus, January-February 1940.
Right: Elk Eber, ‘Einzug der Deutschen Truppen in Warschau am 2. Oktober 1939’ (‘German Troops entering Warsaw at 2 October 1939’). Displayed at the GDK 1940 room 28. Bougt by Hitler for 2,000 Reichsmark. Also displayed at the exhibition ‘Polenfeldzug und U-Bootkrieg in Bildern und Bildnissen’ held in the Berlin Künstlerhaus, January-February 1940; depicted in the exhibition catalog.
    

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.

Left: Elk Eber, ‘Der Sieg wird Unser Sein!’ (‘Victory will be Ours!’). Propaganda poster.
Right: Elk Eber, ‘Und Ihr habt doch gesiegt’!’ (‘And yet you were Victorious!’). Propaganda postcard. Depicted on the backsite is the Feldherrnhalle, scene of the Hitler Putsch in 1923.
   

Left: Elk Eber, ‘Einstürzender Gasometer’ (‘Collapsing Gasholder’). Displayed at the GDK 1940 room 28. Bought by Hitler for 18.000 Reichsmark. Also displayed at the exhibition ‘Polenfeldzug und U-Boot Krieg in Bildern und Bildnissen’, 25 January – 25 February 1940 , Künstlerhaus in Berlin. Depicted in ‘Die Kunst im Deutschen Reich’, 1940.

Left: Elk Eber, ‘Gegenstoss Verdun 1916’ (‘Counterattack Verdun 1916’). Displayed at the exhibition ‘Münchener Kunstausstellung’ held in Danzig, November-December 1941 (a few months after the death of Elk Eber). Depicted in the exhibition catalog. 
Right: Elk Eber, ‘Über’n Schützengraben’ (‘Jumping over Trench’), watercolor. Size 50 x 36 cm. Depicted in ‘Brückmanns Lexicon der Münchner Kunst’, Fünfter Band, 1993, and published in color on postcards. Printed below the photo: ‘SA.-Obersturmführer Professor Elk Eber’ (‘Senior Storm Leader’).
   

Elke Eber, ‘HJ.-Gruppe’ (‘Hitler Youth Group’). Depicted in ‘Kunst und Volk’, 1937.

After 1938 a series of 6 postcards ‘Frontbilder 1918, -nach Original-Lithographien von Prof. Elk Eber, München’ were issued.
Left: Elk Eber, ‘Front 1918’, postcard. Also depicted in ‘Nationalsozialistische Monatshefte’, Heft 108, 1939.
Right: Elk Eber, ‘Die letzte Handgranate’ (‘The Last Handgranade’), postcard. Also depicted in the ‘Nationalsozialistische Monatshefte’, Heft 108, 1939, and in ‘Krieg und Kunst’, by Wilhelm Westecker, 1944.
   

Left: Elk Eber, ‘Vor dem Sturm’ (‘Before the Storm’), postcard. Also depicted in ‘Nationalsozialistische Monatshefte’, Heft 108, 1939.
Right: Elk Eber, ‘Handgranatenangrif’ (‘Hand Granade Attack’). Postcard.
 

Left: Elk Eber, ‘Stosstrupp greift an’ (‘Storm Troops attacking’), postcard.
Right: Elk Eber, ‘Sie Kommen’ (‘They Come’), postcard. Also depicted in ‘Nationalsozialistische Monatshefte’, Heft 108, 1939, and in ‘Krieg und Kunst’, by Wilhelm Westecker, 1944.
 

 

Elk Eber, several published depictions of World War I scenes:
Left: Elk Eber, ‘Aus den Vogezenkämpfen: Erbeutung eines Machinengewehres’ (‘Battle of Vosges: the capture of a machine gun’). Signed 1915.
Right: Elk Eber, ‘Bajonettangriff der Bayern’ (‘Bayonet Attack by the Bavarians’).
 

Left: Elk Eber, ‘Aus den letzten Stunden der  Verteidigung Przemnsls: Österreichisch-ungarische schwere Artillerie beim schnellen Batterie-feuern in einer Aussenstellung’ (‘From the last hours of the defense of Fortress Przemysl: Austro-Hungarian heavy artillery firing rapidly’). Signed 1915.
Drawing published in ‘Die Wochenschau’. 
Right: Elk Eber, ‘Schwere haubitze im Granatfeuer vorgehend’ (‘Heavy Howitzer advancing in Grenade Fire’).
Drawing published in ‘Die Wochenschau’.
 

Left: Elk Eber’, ‘Fliegerkampf über Paris’ (‘Air Battle over Paris’).
Right: Elke Eber, ‘Tod des französischen General Bataille, der auf dem Vogezenkamme Besichtigung abhielt und durch einen Haubitzenschuss von Schnierlach aus mit Auto und Gefolge buchstäblich in Fetzen gerissen wurde’ (‘Death of the French General Bataille. During his inspection of the Vosges Mountains, he was literally blown to pieces by a shot of a howitzer fired from Schnierlach’).
 

Elk Eber, ‘Sturmangriff auf den Ringbahndamm bei Mülhausen in der Nacht vom 9. auf den 10. August 1914’ (‘Storm-attack on the Ringbahn-barrage near Mülhausen in the night of 9. to 10 August 1914’).
‘Nach einer am Ort und Stelle aufgenommen Zeichnung von Emil Eber’.

Elk Eber, ‘Kartoffelsupp-Kartoffelsupp! Sturm bayerischer Infanterie auf ein von Franzosen bezetztes Gehölz bei La Baffée im Neuschnee’ (‘Potato Soup-Potato Soup! Bavarian Infantery storming French position in the snowy wood near La Baffée’).
‘Kartoffelsupp-Kartoffelsupp’ was the attack signal of the German infantery.  
Depicted in ‘Die Wochenschau’, 1914. 

Elk Eber, ‘Von allen Seiten liefen die Franzossen auf mich zu, immer noch schiessend’ (‘From all sides shooting French soldiers approached me’).
Signed 1915.

Elk Eber, ‘Geschütz wird in den Vogezen auf schwierige Gelande in Stelling gebracht’ (‘Artillery brought into position, in very heavy terrain in the Vosges’). Signed 1915.

Elk Eber, ‘Nächtliche Bajonettkämpfe am Bahndamm Goldap-Stallupönen, -August 1914, Ost Preussen (‘Night time Bayonet Battles at embankment Goldap-Stallupönen, -August 1914, East-Prussia). Watercolour, published in a German magazine in 1915.
The text below the picture reads: ‘Mann hörte noch, wie einige der Führer keuchend anfeuernde Worte riefen, und dann schlugen die Bajonette im furchtbare Doppelstoss zusammen‘ (‘One could hear how some of the commanders, panting heavily, fired up their men, before bayonets clashed against bayonets‘).

Elk Eber, ‘Gefangennahme der mit einem Militärzug ankommende Engländer auf dem Bahnhof in Montmedy’ (‘The capture of an Englishman, arriving with a military train, at the railway station in Montmedy’).
Signed 1915.

Left: Elk Eber, ‘Ein Britischer Löwe’ (‘A British Lion’), cartoon-postcard, 1914.
Right: Elk Eber, ‘Mit Sturmgepäck und Stahlhelm’ (‘With Assault Pack and Steel Helmet’). Depicted on the cover of the magazine ‘Jugend’, 1917, Nr. 4.
 

From 1925 onwards Elk Eber also became interested in American-Indian culture, and he changed his first name into ‘Elk’. In 1925 he portrayed the 105 year old Native American Chief ‘Black Wolf’; a painting still in the possession of the Karl May Museum in Radebeul. Eber painted ‘General Cutler’s Last Battle’ (‘The Battle of the Little Bighorn River, June 1876’) a work which was displayed at the re-opening of the Karl May Museum in 1937 (still in the possession of the museum). ‘Cutler’s last Battle’, executed in very accurate detail (based on information Eber got from a Sioux woman, eyewitness of the battle, who left America’s Wild West to be married in Germany) was depicted in the American magazine Life, 21 Juni 1948.

Left: ‘Cutler’s letzte Schlacht’, in the possession of the Karl May museum, Radebeul.
Right: ‘Cutler’s last Battle’, depicted in the American Magazine ‘LIfe’, 21 June 1948.  

Hitler, Elk Eber and the Indians
‘If Karl May influenced Hitler’s image of America, Wilhelm Emil Eber, commonly called ‘Elk Eber’, probably helped shape his visual image of the American West. Eber was a German painter who had spent some time in the United States, where he became a passioned admirer of Indian culture. In 1929 Eber was initiated into the Sioux tribe, adopting the name of Hehaka Ska, the Lakota name for elk. Like Hitler, Eber was a Karl May enthusiast, and he admired the bravery of American Indians. Hitler was impressed by Eber for several reasons. Eber had been an early follower of the Nazi movement, participating in the 1923 coup against the Bavarian government. Hitler prized Eber’s artistic talents and the subject matter of his paintings and drawings. Most of Eber’s work deal with either Indian- or war related subjects. During World War I, Eber had been a war propagandist (Kriegsmaler) who depicted the heroic deeds of German soldiers. Hitler acquired several of these war paintings, one of them called ‘The Last Handgranate’, which depicted a fatigued but determined German soldier who is about to toss his last grenade at the enemy. But Hitler also liked Eber’s Indian paintings, especially the most famous of them, called ‘Custer’s Last Battle’, which can now be found in the Karl May museum in Radebeul near Dresden. Eber may have slightly romanticized the Indians, but his technical depiction of them was true of life, as his knowledge of Indians mores and artifacts was extensive. Hitler did not like the Indians as much as Eber did; he thought they were racially inferior to the Germans. What he did like about them was their tribal solidarity, warlike nature, and bravery in battle. In this sense, Eber visually reinforced Hitler’s image of the American frontier that he had derived from Karl May…’ (‘Hitler & America’, Klaus P. Fisher, 2011).

Left: Elk Eber in his atelier, 1941.
Right: Elk Eber, 2 February 1938 (photo ‘Munich Stadtsarchiv’).
 

 

Elk Eber
Elk Eber, war painter in two world wars
Wilhelm Emil ‘Elk’ Eber (1892-1941), son of a vintner, was a German painter and graphic artist. In 1910 he went to the Ludwig Maximillian University in München where he studied History of Art and Anatomy. In 1911 he changed over to the Königliche Kunstgewerbeschule and from 1912 to 1918 he studied, with interruptions because of WWI, at the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich. He followed courses of the professors Peter Halm (Drawing), Adolf Hempler, Hengeler and Franz von Stuck. Elk Eber volunteered for military service in 1914. He took part in several battles, was serious wounded, and returned to the front as war painter. Elk Eber was a war painter with the troops; he painted in trenches and other positions within the first frontlines. After WWI -in which he lost most of the hearing in one ear- he restarted his civil artistic career. He painted portraits of comrades, arms- and war scenes, soldiers and SA-men, and also some caricatures. Many of his works were later published as postcards and lithographs. In the same period he took part in several marches and battles of the Freikorps Werdenfels and the Bund Oberland. Eber joint the NSDAP (No. 10.013) and the SA already in 1923 (he had the rank of ‘SA.-Obersturmführer’). He became a member of the Cultural Circle of the SA (‘Kulturkreis der SA’) and on 9 November he took part in the March on the Feldherrnhall in Munich, the Hitler-Putsch. Later, in 1934, he received the Blood Order (Blutorden), the Decoration in Memory of the Munich putsch of 9 November 1923, one of the most prestigious decorations in the Nazi Party.
As a member of the Münchener Kunstgenossenschaft, Eber took part in several Glaspalast exhibitions, inter alia in 1926, 1928, 1930 and 1932. Later he participated also in the Münchener Kunstausstellung in the Maximilianeum (1939 and 1938).
From 1925 onwards Eber became also interested in American-Indian culture, and he changed his first name into ‘Elk’. In 1925 he portrayed the 105 year old Native American Chief ‘Black Wolf’; a painting still in the possession of the Karl May Museum in Radebeul. Eber painted ‘General Cutler’s Last Battle’ (‘The Battle of the Little Bighorn River, June 1876’) a work which was displayed at the re-opening of the Karl May Museum in 1937 (still in the possession of the museum). ‘Cutler’s last Battle’, executed in very accurate detail (based on information Eber got from a Sioux woman, eyewitness of the battle, who left America’s Wild West to be married in Germany) was depicted in the American magazine Life on 21 June 1948. 

Hitler, Elk Eber and the Indians
‘If Karl May influenced Hitler’s image of America, Wilhelm Emil Eber, commonly called ‘Elk Eber’, probably helped shape his visual image of the American West. Eber was a German painter who had spent some time in the United States, where he became a passioned admirer of Indian culture. In 1929 Eber was initiated into the Sioux tribe, adopting the name of Hehaka Ska, the Lakota name for elk. Like Hitler, Eber was a Karl May enthusiast, and he admired the bravery of American Indians. Hitler was impressed by Eber for several reasons. Eber had been an early follower of the Nazi movement, participating in the 1923 coup against the Bavarian government. Hitler prized Eber’s artistic talents and the subject matter of his paintings and drawings. Most of Eber’s work deal with either Indian- or war related subjects. During World War I, Eber had been a war propagandist (Kriegsmaler) who depicted the heroic deeds of German soldiers. Hitler acquired several of these war paintings, one of them called ‘The Last Handgranate’, which depicted a fatigued but determined German soldier who is about to toss his last grenade at the enemy. But Hitler also liked Eber’s Indian paintings, especially the most famous of them, called ‘Custer’s Last Battle’, which can now be found in the Karl May museum in Radebeul near Dresden. Eber may have slightly romanticized the Indians, but his technical depiction of them was true of life, as his knowledge of Indians mores and artifacts was extensive. Hitler did not like the Indians as much as Eber did; he thought they were racially inferior to the Germans. What he did like about them was their tribal solidarity, warlike nature, and bravery in battle. In this sense, Eber visually reinforced Hitler’s image of the American frontier that he had derived from Karl May…’ (‘Hitler & America’, Klaus P. Fisher, 2011).

Eber was already during the ‘Kampfzeit’ (1919-1933) one of the earliest contributors to the NSDAP Publishing House (Franz Eher Nachf.); until 1941 he created numerous drawings for the ‘Völkische Beobachter’, the ‘Illustrierte Beobachter’ and the ‘Der SA-Mann’.
In 1935 the Munich ‘Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus’ bought 40 drawings by Eber, depicting scenes of World War I and the Hitler Putsch of 1923. In June 1936, Eber displayed 10 works at the exhibition ‘Heroïsche Kunst’, NS-Kulturgemeinde, Munich, including ‘Die letzte Handgranate’, ‘Sie Kommen’, ‘Vor dem Sturm‘, ‘Stosstruppe greift an‘, and ‘Front 1918‘. According to the exhibition catalog all works were in the possession of the ‘Städtische Galerie München’. In January 1938 Hitler awarded Eber the title of professor. In the same year, at the occasion of the ‘Gaukulturwoche der Saarpfalz in Ludwigshafen’, he was awarded the ‘Westmarkpreis’ (previously called the ‘Albert Weisgerber Preis für Bildende Kunst’), and in February 1940 he received the ‘Art Price of the SA’.
In 1939, at the beginning of World War II, Elk Eber again volunteered for military service. As war painter he participated in the conquering of Poland, assigned in the same propaganda company as Franz Eichhorst. 19 of his works created during the battle with Poland were displayed at the exhibition ‘Polenfeldzug und U-Bootkrieg in Bildern und Bildnissen’ held in the Berlin Künstlerhaus, January-February 1940. 11 of these works were later displayed at the Great German Art Exhibitions, among them: ’Gruppe Polnischer Gefangener vor der Kommandantur in Warschau’ (‘Group of Polish prisoners in front of the garrison headquarters in Warsaw’), ‘Einzug der Deutschen Truppen in Warschau am 2. Oktober 1939’ (‘German Troops entering Warsaw at 2 October 1939’), ‘Einstürzende Gasometer’ (‘Collapsing Gasholder’) and ‘Brennendes Warschau von der Wola aus gesehen’ (‘Burning Warsaw, seen from the borough Wola’).
At the Great German Art Exhibitions Eber was represented with 16 works, which were sold for prices of up to 20.000 Reichsmark. Rudolf Hess bought ‘Brennendes Warschau von der Wola aus gesehen’ (GDK 1940), and Hitler bought the following 10 works: ‘So war SA’ (‘That’s how SA was’, GDK 1938, destinated for the Reichskanzlei); ‘Ein Meldegänger’ (‘Dispatch Rider’, GDK 1939); ‘Kampf im Warschau-Vorstadt’ (‘Battle in the suburbs of Warsaw’, GDK 1940); ‘Einzug der Deutschen Truppen in Warschau am 2. Oktober 1939’ (GDK 1940); ‘Abmarsch durch die Nowi-Swiat in Warschau nach dem Grossen Zapfenstreich’ (‘Marching through Nowi-Swiat in Warsaw after the Grand Tattoo’, GDK 1940); ’Gruppe Polnischer Gefangener vor der Kommandantur in Warschau’ (GDK 1940); ‘Amerikanische Flak auf der Zitadelle vor Warschau’, (‘American Flak at the Warsaw Citadel’, GDK 1940); ‘Einstürzender Gasometer’ (GDK 1940); ‘Aus Modlin Oktober 1939’ (‘From Modlin October 1939’, GDK 1940); and ‘Sie Trommeln’ (‘They Drum’, GDK 1941).
Elk Eber died at 12 August 1941 in Garmisch-Partenkirchen.
Shortly later, from November to December 1941, seven of his works were displayed at the exhibition ‘Münchener Kunstausstellung in Danzig’. In June 1942 an exhibition in honour of Elk Eber was organized in Munich by the ‘Kunstverein München’. Ebers propaganda posters and depictions were used until the end of the war.
In November 1944 the son of Eber fell in the war, -19 years old.
Apparently some frescoes created by Eber in public buildings in Bavaria are still existing. The US Army Centre of Military History owns ‘Appell am 23. Februar 1933‘ (‘Roll call on the 23 February 1933’, GDK 1937) and ‘Sie Trommeln’. The German Historical museum owns ‘Die letzte Handgranate’ (‘The Last Hand Grenade’, GDK 1937) and ‘Ein Meldegänger’. ‘Die letzte Handgranate’ was 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).