“We can tell from a facial expression the work someone does or does not do, if they are happy or troubled, for life leaves its trail there unavoidably. A well-known poem says that every person’s story is written plainly on their face, although not everyone can read it.”* – August Sander
From March 8 to November 15, The Shoah Memorial is holding a major exhibition dedicated to a series of portraits taken during the 3rd Reich by one of German photography’s leading figures, August Sander (1876- 1964). Internationally recognized as one of the founding fathers of the documentary style, August Sander is the man behind many iconic 20th century photographs.
Towards the end of the First World War, while working from his studio in Cologne, August Sander began what would become his life’s work: a photographic portrait of German society under the Weimar Republic.
He called this endeavor “People of the 20th Century”. While his first publication was banned from sale in 1936 by the National Socialist government, in around 1938 Sander began to take numerous identity photographs for persecuted Jews. Later, during the Second World War, he photographed migrant workers. August Sander included these images, and some taken by his son Erich from the prison where he would die in 1944, in “People of the 20th Century”, along with portraits of national socialists taken before and during the war. Sander was unable to publish his monumental work during his lifetime, but his descendants still champion his vision to this day.
These photographs are exhibited here together for the first time, along with contact prints, letters and details about the lives of those photographed. They are portraits of dignified men and women, victims of an ideology, taking their rightful place as ”People of the 20th Century” in defiance of Nazi efforts to ostracize them.
The exhibition is organized with the assistance of the August Sander Stiftung and the NS-Documentation Center of the City of Cologne, the largest commemorative site for the victims of Nazism in Germany, founded in 1988.
People of the 20th Century
8 March – 15 November 2018