Jula Isenburger 1997
I want to hold on to the fading images of a time long past.
Fragments of a life.
To remember how we left Berlin for Paris and how we came to live in Nice until our departure 1941 for the United States.
I should start with Berlin 1931.
We did not live in Berlin very long. We moved there after Eric made an inheritance and decided to build an ambitious studio. As for me I continued my education in the School of Mary Wigman, which was under the direction of Margarethe Wallmann, who made me a part of her dancing group and we performed at the Salzburg Festival several summers.
Our studio was designed by the architect Joseph Neufeld. He was famous after building several workers’ cities in Siberia and an hospital in Israel. He thought it would be amuzing for him to design a studio and furnitures for a painter friend. It took a year to finish the studio with his demands for special finishes of wood and woven textiles and we barely had time to enjoy it with the ascendance of Hitler and the symbolic burning of the Reichstag.
At first, things went on the surface as usual and people did not think that anything frightening would happen but ominous signs were appearing. About this unquiet times Eric had a one-man show at the Gallery of Wolfgang Gurlitt who discovered him in a general art exhibition. All reviews in the Berlin newspapers were favorable to enthusiastic.
In our seemingly normal life we were made aware that a vicious antisemitic article against Eric was published in an influential Nazi review, pointing out, that his paintings were a perfect example of degenerated sick art, that had to be eliminated. At that time Eric painted on a very dark background figures and objects with thin lines scratched out into the background. Also, in those days Eric was very enthusiastic about American Jazz. While he painted he liked to listen to the records of Duke Ellington and Cab Calloway and his subjects were very often black dancers. After reading the vehement article, Gurlitt urged us to go for a short trip out of the country and wait and see how things develop.
As he was a personal friend of the French Consul in Berlin, our visas were granted in a few days, but our fright (was big) when I discovered, that I did not have a passport. Miraculously it was solved by a friend from my dancing class, an unusual Berlin type of a witty brush young woman, very arien, whose uncle was a Captain of the police in our section of town. I still remember the evening when the door’s bell rang and the Captain saluted and gave me the passport saying only: “I hope you have a good vacation.”
Our departure from Berlin was viewed by many of our Arien friends as not really urgent. Nobody believed, that Hitler would last and they came to the station with such exclamation as “Say hello to Paris, see you soon back.” All those at the departure of the train were surrounded by watchfull Nazis, uniformed men. Some of them were in the train. We thought, how careless of our friends, and we smiled with clenched teeth. In the end it might have been a good strategy, because the uniformed Nazis were observing us, but never asked questions for papers. It was an uneasy ride until we entered France.
We left Berlin for Paris with two suitcases and little money and gave the key of the studio with everything in it to a good natured dancer, that I knew as a good and decent person. Besides the key and everything of our possession in the appartment, I seemed to be missing Eric’s socks and asked her to send them to Paris.
We never heard from her or knew what happened.
Only after the war we were told that the building was bombed out.
~ Jula Isenburger, New York, 28th of September 1997
from “Eric Isenburger 1902-1994 Ausgewählte Werke Städtische Galerie im Rathausfletz Neuburg an der Donau 2. Mai – 13.Juni 1999” (Neuburg 1999), pp 22-25