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As we gaze upon images of the neo-classical buildings and stadia of the Third Reich one cannot help but be impressed by the great stone-carved heroic figures displayed. These figures, many of which are colossal in size, depict or are symbolic of the German soul, the folk community.
Here you find significant sized sculptures of the swastika, motherhood and fatherhood, military and racial comradeship, Olympian sports busts, and great stone monuments of homage to the many great German figures across the nation’s history. Many of these great sculptures reach as high as 20 metres and more call to mind earlier great European civilisations.
There was an amusing occasion when, a visitor to the studios of Reich sculptor Arno Breker asked where he might find the famous sculptor. ‘He is up in the horse’s left ear,’ he was informed.
The work of Professor Josef Thorak and Arno Breker, two of the Reich’s great artists in achievement, grandeur and scope, rivalled anything of centuries past. Had these two great sculptors not served the German Reich but the Greek or Roman epochs they would today be recognised and revered throughout the world.
Many of these great statues, the nude figures depicting the art form preferred by the National Socialist government and its cultural and art depositories were destroyed by the allies. These two artists’ creations, if discovered today realise enormous sums of money.
It is difficult to imagine newsreel of the period in which these sculptors and others like them art forms are not highly visible and recognisable. The works can be seen at great theatres, art galleries and sports stadium of the period. If you wish to be better aware of their monumental achievements purchase a copy of Olympia, the official film of the 1936 Berlin Olympics.
Josef Thorak and Adolf Hitler’s 1889 dates of birth were separated by only seven weeks. Both were Austrian. The celebrated sculptor was born in Salzburg. This beautiful Mozart city on the River Salz is a short drive from the small town of Braunau am Inn where the future leader of Germany was born.
Josef Thorak first came to public notice in 1922 when he created Der sterbende Krieger. This master-work is a monumental granite statue in memory of the dead of World War One of Stolpmunde.
It was perfectly natural that he should later become better acquainted with his peer Arno Breker and the two were soon to become the official sculptors of the Third Reich. The two men’s artistic merits were highly regarded by Adolf Hitler and Albert Speer The latter was responsible for the architectural triumphs of the aeon. Albert Speer was known to refer to Josef Thorak as ‘my sculptor.’
Worthy of mention was Thorak’s second wife, Erna Thorak. 25-years his junior she was devoted to him throughout her long life. Erna Thorak outlived her husband by 52 years and passed on as recently as 2004 at the age of 90 years.
Her devotion and loyalty to her husband and his works through the very troubled period following the war was officially recognised.
The Josef Thorak Archives in Berlin honoured the deceased artist with a proclamation. ‘Erna Thorak was a courageous and strong woman.
She has endured with honour and patience all attacks against Josef Thorak, who, after 1945 and until his death in 1952, became a target of evil defamations by the official art world and many politicians, due to his work as artist during the Third Reich for Adolf Hitler and his architect Albert Speer.
Albert Speer, architect, with Adolf Hitler
‘Instead of trying to defend the creative period of her husband during the National Socialist era, Frau Thorak took care of the remaining artistic heritage of the sculptor, who lost all his rights in Germany and Austria after the war. She lived and worked withdrawn from the public spotlight.
‘She herself avoided all public appearances in the media and thus kept misfortune away from the family. All, who knew this conscious, self-willed and charming lady, will keep her in their fond memories. The Thorak Archive is aware of its mission after the departure of Erna Thorak to keep alive a worthy remembrance about this significant artist of the 20th century.’ This incredible giant of classical sculpture, who created such timeless heroic figures, had clearly married one such heroic figure.
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Sculptures of the Third Reich: Arno Breker and Reich Sculptors (The Art of the German Sculpture 20th Century)
Sculptures of the Third Reich: Josef Thorak and Reich Sculptors (The Art of the German Sculpture 20th Century)
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