Herbert Fiedler(Otto Herbert Fiedler)

Herbert Fiedler, painter
Herbert Fiedler, Self-portrait, signed 2. IX. 45
RKD, Rijksbureau voor Kunsthistorische Documentatie, Den Haag, Fotoabteilung,© Sabine Frank-Fiedler, Amsterdam 2014

Herbert Fiedler(Otto Herbert Fiedler)

So hängt man hier als Deutscher zwischen zwei Stühlen, kennt die Holländer, versteht ihre Opposition, aber versucht natürlich ebenso die deutsche Mentalität zu rechtfertigen.

[I sit on the fence here as a German, knowing the Dutch, understanding their opposition, but of course also trying to justify the German mentality. (ed. trans.)]

Herbert Fiedler, Journal, 1 March 1941

Bornon 17 September 1891 in Leipzig, Germany
Diedon 27 February 1962 in Amsterdam, Netherlands

Herbert Fiedler fled the Nazi tyranny from Berlin to Amsterdam with the Swiss painter, and his future wife, Amrey (Annemarie) Balsiger, at the end of 1934 which took him up to the invasion of the Netherlands on 10 May 1940.

Being German in a foreign country, artistic freedom, mental solitude in the bygone artist village of Laren from the beginning of February 1935 until he was forced to move to Amsterdam in early November 1940, was all expressed in his journal and letters to his friend from the Dresden Art Academy 1910-1912, George Grosz in New York.

In Amsterdam, Fiedler met Max Beckmann again and was introduced to the Kunstenaarsvereniging De Onafhangkelijken (The Independents - an artists’ association). He was able to exhibit some pieces, but in 1944 he was labeled a “cultural bolshevist.” To avoid being drafted into the German Armed Forces or even the SS, and for the sake of his wife who had lost her status of Swiss nationality through marriage, as well as to be able to protect and feed their daughter born in 1939, he took a job with the German Armed Forces at an office in the Central Station of Amsterdam in 1942.

Nevertheless, in July 1944, he was called up, fled in early May 1945 and was interned as a German in liberated Amsterdam although he was a stateless exile. Due to the interception of Dutch artists and resistance groups, he was released after a few weeks; but the military administration imposed a ban on any exhibitions in early July - which was only repealed on 1st January 1946 – due to the mistaken belief that Fiedler had been a member of the artists' associationDe Onafhangkelijken”, also the Culture Chamber.

Tireless work, often more than commissioned, followed the almostunemployed” years during the war. Travelling by invitation, especially to Germany, enabled Fiedler to confirm his identity as a German artist in exile, even after receiving Dutch citizenship in 1957. The greatest acknowledgment bestowed on Fiedler was awarded “in memoriam”, with a retrospective at the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam in the autumn of 1962. He suffered heart failure during preparations for the exhibition.

                                   Text: Ursula Langkau-Alex, International Institute of Social History, Amsterdam

Further reading:
Bormann, Beatrice von: Herbert Fiedler 1891-1962. Berlijn – Parijs – Amsterdam. In: Katalog zur Ausstellung im Singer Museum Laren, 15. Mai – 21. Juli 2001. Zwolle / Singer Museum, Laren 2001
Burkom, Frans van: „Herbert Fiedler (1891-1962) als monumentaal kunstenaar”. In: Jaarboek Amstelodamum, Jg. 104 (2012), S. 88-114