Welcome to WAM Updates

WAM Updates are short, informal posts that put the spotlight on small, but exciting, Museum-related projects, such as the addition of a new painting or sculpture to a gallery. They also serve as updates on staff, new services or programs, and other WAM news.

We hope you like reading the Updates! If you are interested in learning about something specific, or have a suggestion for a WAM Update, please update us at wamupdates@worcesterart.org

Tuesday, August 2, 2022

Bringing Emotion to the Art You Make

People like to ask writers and artists: Please describe your daily routine. Author Andre Dubus III once replied: I sit down and do nothing. I just hold still for a while. He works in a small, basement room. No windows. No art on the walls. Whatever comes, it comes from within.

Scott Nelson: photo courtesy
Worcester Art Museum
He was talking about some of the hardest work an artist does. He connects with himself, his vulnerabilities, and, ultimately, his artist’s voice. Author Steve Almond won’t answer that question directly. Instead, he insists: I’ve found my own way and you have to find yours. Be alone with yourself. That’s where you’ll find your singular offerings, the ones that matter.

Illustrator, author and art teacher at the Worcester Art Museum Scott Nelson has the same idea. “The work starts to get good when it becomes individualized.”

Creative expression is about communicating sometimes complex and emotional messages in ways that resonate with audiences. It’s not easy, this kind of opening up, digging deeper. Being expressive means igniting that connection between head and heart, and then making sense of whatever emotional material spews out. It takes courage to dig deep, to tap the emotional vein. And it takes a lot of practice to work with feelings — the stuff that shapes the clay.

 Photo courtesy of Worcester Art Museum

My friend Rod Philbrick wrote 15 novels before he heard the words, “They like it, kid. You’re in.” Practically from birth, he dreamed of being a famous novelist and, wow, did he persevere. That 28-year-old who could make a boat or a song or a painting, he finally got it right on his 15th try. For all his talent, he had only one identity that mattered to him: writer. 

“I lived in NH at the time, and on every license plate it said, ‘Live Free or Die.’ In my mind, I always amended that to ‘Publish Soon or Die.’ That was the reality of my every waking moment.” And that’s how one writer finally found his most affecting storytelling voice, a voice that took 15 years and 15 books to fledge.

How can a writer pull life from a block of Helvetica type? Or a painter make a Starry Night from pigment?

“You need to make a strong connection with your audience. You do that through emotion,” says Scott Nelson, whose classes include illustration and bookmaking in WAM’s studio arts program. “I tell my students they can make these emotional connections through the eyes, through facial expression and body language. Young children, especially, make connections through eye-to-eye contact. Think of how babies look right into the eyes of their caregivers.”

 Photo courtesy of Worcester Art Museum

The book, “Van Gogh: The Passionate Eye,” by Pascal Bonafoux, introduces readers to the artist with a series of self-portraits. What greets me are Van Gogh’s eyes, the fire around which the rest of him is arranged — both the artist and the subject. He is so skilled, alive, honest and so variable. The eyes under the brim of a straw hat seem curious, while in another portrait he feels slyly wise. In another he is clearly guarded. I get the feeling something just happened. And in “Self-Portrait with Gray Felt Hat, Paris, 1887,” he confronts me straight on, though I am unsure where this encounter will lead. If I just watch and wait, more will happen.

When Scott Nelson teaches his students about illustrating characters in children’s books, his first lessons involve the eyes. From there he moves to an artist’s use of body language with emphasis on the word language. He says he likes to draw his own characters as if they were macaroni people — loose and free, very natural. “Body language can be as simple as the slump of a shoulder, the arc of a spine, the way a person leans on one leg. All these little nuances, no matter how subtle, are things kids can read. Despite their young ages, they already understand body language.” 

Van Gogh only painted for about nine years, beginning in 1881. He started expressing his passionate point of view by keying in on body language. “For a long time,” wrote Bonafoux, “Vincent did not paint portraits but painted only what he called ‘figures’: men and women who did not pose for their features but for a gesture, an attitude, most often associated with work. Old Man with His Head in His Hands, 1882, is a portrait not of a man but of his despair.” 


 Photo courtesy of Worcester Art Museum

 Photo courtesy of Worcester Art Museum

When an artist can tap into that place where feelings reside and bring them out through their brush strokes, their fingerpicking, their interpretation of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah,” then they are on their way to communicating with their audience.

Again, it’s such hard work. Sometimes, when I’m teaching or editing someone’s work, I’ll say, “You need to go deeper.” A lot happens when rewriting and revising. Writer George Saunders dug deep when he wrote “Lincoln in the Bardo.” While reading that complex, astonishing book I felt like I was right there, in the gloom and miasma of President Lincoln’s all-consuming grief at the loss of his young son. I can summon it, still.

Saunders tells his writing students: “We can’t believe a story if we don’t see it and feel it.” Rod Philbrick’s most widely read book, “Freak the Mighty,” feels joyful at times, heartbreaking at other times. “That’s why I write in first person. I can tell the story heart to heart,” he says.

 Photo courtesy of Worcester Art Museum
Oprah Winfrey said she was so angry reading Dubus’s novel, “House of Sand and Fog,” that she threw the book across the room. One of Rod’s young readers, Tanyana B., wrote: “Dear Mr. Philbrick, your book, ‘Freak the Mighty,’ made our teacher Mrs. Troxell cry at the end, which the whole class thought was funny. Thanks.” Okay, plenty of emotion, not all of it expected!

Scott Nelson produced more than 2,000 greeting cards before he moved on to writing and illustrating children’s books. He’s very focused on the customer and this orientation has served him well. “Be passionate,” he says, “but don’t be precious. Whatever story you have inside, let’s make it the best it can be.”

Nelson, a cartoonist by trade, leans toward funny stories. “I like to laugh. It’s my thing. I also write about bullying, or, to be precise, no bullying. That’s my well. In my classes, we process our stories through the storyboarding. That’s where we go deeper. And that’s where it happens, and students are always surprised. ‘I see it,’ they’ll say. ‘It’s happening.’ The story is coming to life.”

 

For more information:

Register for Scott Nelson’s summer class for adults on illustrating and developing stories for children’s books:

https://bit.ly/3Hkgxt5

Listening to Kids with Rodman Philbrick:

https://amzn.to/3tx2FWK

Van Gogh: The Passionate Eye

https://amzn.to/3NPEcE6

George Saunders’ Substack writing class — Story Club:

https://georgesaunders.substack.com/p/welcome-to-story-club?s=r 

Thursday, June 23, 2022

WAM x University

What does it take to be able to see a painting in your mind’s eye as you listen to a discussion of it? Maybe it helps to hear an animated account of its colors and composition. Maybe it helps to hear about the life of the artist, and their struggles to figure out what kind of art they wanted to make. Can an audio recording help foster an aesthetic appreciation of a challenging work of art?

Last fall, students in my Art History seminar confronted these and many other questions as they embarked on an exciting, if challenging project, to develop a podcast that introduced WAM’s amazing collection of Abstract Expressionist paintings to the public. The students—who were sophomores, juniors, and seniors, mostly Art History majors and minors—were enrolled in a course titled “Art, the Public, and Worcester’s Cultural Institutions.” This course is designed to give students the opportunity to put their Art History skills in the service of public scholarship.  At Clark, we run this course every year, although the specific public project that students are involved with varies from year to year (WAM visitors may recall the exhibition Women at WAM from 2019, which was also the product of this course, when taught by my colleague, Prof. John Garton). For the Fall 2021 semester, the students and I worked with then-Associate Curator of American Art Erin Corrales-Diaz to develop a season of podcast episodes that would introduce the public to WAM’s extraordinarily deep and vibrant collection of mid-twentieth-century Abstract Expressionist paintings.

The Abstract Expressionist (or “AbEx” – as you will hear many of the students call it in their podcast episodes) collection includes important works by artists like Joan Mitchell, Grace Hartigan, Franz Kline, and Norman Lewis. Yet many people—my students included—often feel frustrated and even intimidated when looking at these paintings. Most of them are quite large, and they feature dynamic brushwork, layers of paint, vibrant colors—and no recognizable images. How is a viewer supposed to respond? 

Over the course of the semester, students learned about the AbEx movement, its foundational ideas, and its key critics. They spent hours looking at the individual painting they were assigned to work on, thinking about how best to describe it. How do you translate a vibrant visual object into words? It’s not very easy! Then they had the opportunity to do deep research in the archives here at WAM and extensive reading in WAM’s library. They learned about the careers of the artists behind these passionate paintings, about their ambitions, their triumphs, and their inspirations. After weeks of research and reading, the students drafted their scripts, peer reviewed each other’s work, and finally sat down to record the episodes you can hear now.

While at first you may have thought these paintings were nothing more than “beautiful nonsense,” as Jonathan Hoff admits in the first episode of the season, by the conclusion, in Margret Lambert’s words, “the light is revealed.” The listener of the season’s episodes will have a layered, thoughtful, and—yes—joyful experience learning about them. Tune in!


Kristina Wilson, Professor of Art History, Clark University








Thursday, May 5, 2022

Express Yourself!

I grew up in Santa Barbara, where beautiful beaches were within walking distance and where half my childhood, it seemed, took place on a beach towel or in the surf. If my mother was with me, she sat on a towel and sketched — tidepools, shore birds, couples walking hand-in-hand, driftwood, even me, when I wasn’t looking. She had a degree in fine arts, but I never heard her say the words en plein air.

For her, sketching while outdoors was how she expressed her love of nature. Her father, trained as a cabinetmaker in Switzerland, “whittled” or carved little animals and tiny cages in which to hold his diminutive sculptures. In that way he preserved what caught his fancy when in the Sierras, camping. Meanwhile I glommed onto the John Muir model — ecstatic written expression. My sketchbook had lines and strings of words. A multi-media family, you might say, with much to express.

With spring finally here, students of all ages taking studio art classes at the Worcester Art Museum may be moved to step outside and linger for a while. You may think you are in search of a broader view than winter’s confines may have provided. You may simply want some deep breaths of sun-infused air or the thrilling song of mating birds. Or you might just want to take your senses out for some long overdue exercise. But, surprise, you might be moved to make some art outdoors as your senses rejuvenate.

Adult Studio Classes, Photo Credit Worcester Art Museum.

Thursday, November 4, 2021

Love From Worcester, Massachusetts

Esther Howland (American, 1828–1904), Valentine, 1847–1879, Collage of papers with embossment, gold leaf, chromolithograph, and letterpress,
courtesy Worcester Historical Museum

 Ask people what the city of Worcester is known for, and responses will likely run the gamut, from Harvey Ball’s yellow Smiley, to the city’s music scene, to its industrial roots. In the mid-19th century, the city also emerged as a manufacturing hub for commercial valentines, beginning with the entrepreneurial initiative of Esther Howland (1828-1904), the Mount Holyoke College-educated daughter of a local stationer.

      Howland is a storied figure, and verified accounts of her life can be difficult to extract from local lore. Various stories agree that she saw imported lace valentines from England in the 1840s, and through her father’s business, was able to fabricate her own valentines using imported lace, lithographed decals, and other products. The valentines that she assembled were intricate and quickly became popular.

Jotham W. Taft (American, 1816–1909), Valentine, about 1860s–1879,
collage of paperswith embossment, gold leaf, paint, and
chromolithograph, courtesy Worcester Historical Museum

      Howland was an innovative valentine-maker, who used paper “springs” to create three-dimensional layered valentines that she referred to as “lift-ups.” She also inserted colorful paper “wafers” under the lace top, to add pops of bright color. What is perhaps most remarkable is that Howland implemented an assembly system, in which the women who worked for her each tackled one task in the multi-step production of her elegant valentines. 

      Worcester proudly claims Howland as the first maker of commercial valentines in the area, although Grafton, Worcester’s next-door neighbor, boasts that their own commercial valentine-maker, Jotham W. Taft (1816-1909). Taft’s valentines can be more difficult to identify than Howland’s, because his Quaker parents disapproved of signing one’s own work. Howland and Taft’s accomplishments were roughly simultaneous, and in 1879, Howland formed the New England Valentine Company with Edward Taft, Jotham’s son.

New England Valentine Company (American, 1879–1881), Valentine, 1879–81,
collage of papers with embossment, gold leaf, chromolithograph,
and paint, Courtesy Worcester Historical Museum

Whitney Valentine Company (American, 1863–1942), Postcard Valentine, early 20th century, relief print and halftone on paper, courtesy 
Worcester Historical Museum

    Another legendary Worcester valentine manufacturer was the Whitney Valentine Company, founded when George C. Whitney (1842-1915) joined his family’s stationary business in 1863. This family-run business grew by leaps and bounds in the late 19th century, with Whitney buying out smaller greeting card manufacturers and their stock from around the east coast. In 1881, they absorbed Howland and Taft’s New England Valentine Company. The Whitney Company also began to print their own base designs (rather than assembling valentines from sourced materials as Howland and Taft had done), which greatly increased their scale of production. 20th-century Whitney valentines are recognizable through the style of children featured on them, which collectors refer to as “Campbell’s Soup Kids” due to their stylistic similarity to the advertising mascots designed by Grace Drayton in 1904, and they can be positively identified through the “Whitney Made” logo that was stamped on the back.

     In preparation for the exhibition LoveStories from the National Portrait Gallery, London (November 13, 2021 – March 13, 2022), the curatorial staff at the Worcester Art Museum realized that we wanted to incorporate this important local history into the gallery of great British portraits and famous love stories. While there are no Worcester valentines in the WAM’s collection, a generous loan from the Worcester Historical Museum allows us to host two rotations of historic valentines in a special case within the exhibition. There you will see beautiful examples of valentines by Howland, Taft, the New England Valentine Company, and the Whitney Valentine Company—love, from the Heart of the Commonwealth.




 By Olivia J. Stone, Curatorial Assistant



Sources

  1. Kerr, Joan P. “The Amorous Art of Esther Howland.” American Heritage Magazine. February 1982.
  2. Kreider, Katherine. Valentines With Values. Atglen, PA: Schiffer Publishing Ltd., 1996.
  3. Lee, Ruth Webb. A History of Valentines. New York, NY and London: The Studio Publications, Inc. in association with Thomas Y. Crowell Company, 1952.
  4. Nutt, Charles. History of Worcester and Its People. Volume 3. New York, NY: Lewis Historical Publishing Company, 1919.

Special thanks for the expertise of the Worcester Historical Museum, especially Wendy Essery, Library and Archive Manager, and William D. Wallace, Executive Director, and for the teaching resources they so graciously provided.


Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Jack Gallagher Finds Himself at WAM

Tucked away in a corner of the Chinese jade gallery is a small, unassuming bowl decorated with a charming goldfish design. Covered Tea Bowl with Design of Swimming Goldfish (Chinese, 1821 – 1850) is elegant and expertly crafted, but there is a whimsy in the colors and design that make it feel relatable and almost contemporary. The stylized fish, the delicate texture of the scalloped waves that shimmer under the light, the soft teal contrasting with orange—it’s all so satisfying.

For me this little bowl represents an evolution in both my understanding of art and my relationship with the Museum. As a kid growing up in Worcester I mostly paid attention to the huge, dramatic paintings in the European galleries (basically the bigger the better!). Then in college at Holy Cross I had the opportunity to take art history courses that frequently held lectures at the Museum. These formative WAM visits helped me develop a roster of favorite artists, periods, and styles.

After college I began another phase in my relationship with the Museum when I was lucky enough to start working here. Beginning as a gallery attendant and spending so much more time in the Museum, I learned to appreciate works I might previously have rushed past. Ceramics, furniture, and other decorative arts that previously held little appeal suddenly became fascinating to me. Finding such a love for this little porcelain bowl, amongst so much else at WAM, has changed my perspective on how I appreciate art and experience museums.

View this image and others through the Worcester Art Museum Online Catalogue https://worcester.emuseum.com/objects/3653/covered-tea-bowl-with-design-of-swimming-goldfish

Pictured above: Covered Tea Bowl with Design of Swimming Goldfish, Chinese, Jingdezhen, in Jiangxi province, Daoguang period (1821 – 1850) of the Qing dynasty (1644 – 1911), porcelain with enamel decoration and incised ground over transparent glaze, Gift of Helen M. Fernald, 2008.51

Jack Gallagher lives in Worcester and is WAM’s Marketing Coordinator. He previously worked as a Gallery Attendant and Guest Services Representative.

Wednesday, June 2, 2021

Flight from France: The Final Journey 4/4

Previously in this WAM Update series, Dr. Richard Neumann and his wife, with the help of their guide "Mr. P." successfully smuggled themselves out of Nazi-occupied Paris and crossed the border into unoccupied Vichy France. However, they were soon arrested, and found to have entered the territory without official leave. They must await their trial to learn whether they will be handed over to the German authorities or allowed to continue into Spain.

Dr. Neumann and his art collection are the subject of WAM's ongoing exhibition, "What the Nazis Stole from Richard Neumann (and the Search to Get it Back)," on view through January 2022. This narrative was written by Dr. Neumann, and shared with the permission of his family.

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[With the help of Mr. P., the Neumanns were allowed to await their trial in the town of M., where a guest house was available. They had to regularly report to the police station in M., where their documents were held.]


A map of Europe, showing a journey from Vienna to Paris, south through Vichy to Bilbao, Spain, then across the ocean to Cuba.
The Neumanns' journey from Vienna, Austria to Havana, Cuba
 

Unfortunately Mr. P. also imparted the news that we had been robbed, and that the 22,000 French francs were missing from the briefcase. Luckily, the $200 was still there. We were appropriately horrified, but already so tired and worn out that we were glad to know that at least the dollar amount had been saved…

Now began for us a somewhat boring, but for our nerves a much needed rest and rehabilitation…

[The Neumanns requested permission to leave France, in light of their danger. The police ultimately declared they had to stay until after their trial was settled, and that at best they should expect a fine—at worst, being turned over to German authorities.] 

We awaited the 26th of September with great concern, at which time the court proceedings were to take place in the State capital. The trip […] would require a journey of two days. Fortunately, we had a visit from the policeman from the town where we were originally arrested, who had shown himself to be somewhat sympathetic to our situation. We explained our concerns to him, and told him that the local policeman insisted that we return once more after the judicial process, and that he would—depending on the ruling of the Court—then decide whether or not to issue the travel permit. Since we had meanwhile already missed connections with one ship, any further delay, even by a day, was extremely uncomfortable for us. Thus we were extremely happy when our friend declared himself ready to issue us a safe-conduct for travel, so that, in the event of our being freed by the court, we could immediately depart.

On the 24th we got under way to the Courthouse and took with us, just in case, the few belongings left to us. On the 26th, at noon in a beautiful old courthouse, the formal proceedings took place…

The very friendly and sympathetic judge posed just a single question, the answer to which was already on the tip of my tongue: “…did you feel endangered in Paris?...” Since I was able to reply in the affirmative, based on the German racial regulations, he declared—after a brief advisory discussion with his colleagues, and to our indescribable joy, since we had expected at least a fine—that we could go free on the grounds of unavoidable danger. Our safe-conduct permit was good until October 10th. On September 27th we finally arrived in B. where we recovered our luggage except for two pieces, which could not be immediately found, cleared our accounts with Mr. P. and after a short stay traveled onward to Toulouse.

[Once in Toulouse, Neumann sought permission to take the remaining $200 out of the country. On October 8th, he got the required proof from the National Bank of France, stating that he had received it at the official exchange rate.] 


A large crowd of people stand on the dock, watching passengers descend the stairs from an ocean liner. Black and white.
The Italian ship "Conte Verde" brings Jewish refugees to Shanghai, 1938
(United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of
National Archives and Records Administration, College Park)
 

…Since we now only had two days remaining on our safe-conduct, we could no longer await the promised delivery of our two missing pieces of luggage, so we asked our friends to send them along later, and left on October 9th for Barcelona. Passage through the customs control was relatively easy, but upon arrival in Barcelona we were advised that all the passenger ships were completely sold out until the following January. Through a coincidence we found a friend who had close connections with the founder of a shipping line, who took us to him, and there we were promised that, if the full fare to Havana were promptly remitted, we would receive the first available tickets. We telegraphed immediately to effect payment for the ship tickets, and traveled on to Bilbao. There we were told again that there were absolutely no tickets to be had.

In the meantime, a regulation was promulgated that the Transatlantic Shipping Company would no longer be permitted to transport non-Aryan persons. Our visa read “Visa without arrest,” [i.e. the Neumanns could pass through Spain but not take up residence] and we were threatened with the possibility that, if we did not make it on the next boat, we would be deported. The big question was: where to? France would naturally not allow us to enter, and again the German concentration camps threatened in the background.

At that point we asked ourselves whether the big adventure, the huge monetary sacrifice and all that effort would, at the last moment, all have been in vain. We now went daily to the shipping line offices and after two days we heard that those persons, whose tickets had already been paid for, could still be taken on board, and the definite prohibition (against non-Aryans) would only take effect on the following voyage. We were told, however, that our payment had not been made, nor were the tickets on hand.


Richard and Alice Neumann standing in a garden, smiling. Black and white.
Richard and Alice Neumann in the garden
of their house in Havana

The nerve-wracking situation continued until three days before the sailing date of the ship, when we were suddenly notified by telephone that the tickets had already been paid for in Havana on September 28th (the last day for acceptance of payment). We received two tourist class tickets, and finally left old Europe on November 10th, putting a temporary end to our Odyssey in Cuba.

--

Upon reaching Havana, Dr. Neumann and his wife were safe; once again, he found work in the textile industry and became a leading figure in the local art community, giving lectures on European and Cuban art to a wide audience. He was named honorary President of the “Patronato del Arte,” a group founded to create a modern art museum in Havana. This museum, the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes de La Habana (National Museum of Fine Arts of Havana, pictured below), was recognized by UNESCO, and is still a major cultural attraction today.

After the war, Dr. Neumann and Alice traveled to New York City, reuniting with their daughters.


The courtyard of a modern-looking building with relief sculpture on parts of the walls. The courtyard has a large grassy area and a fountain with a sculpture.
The Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes de La Habana
(National Museum of Fine Arts of Havana)


Richard and Alice Neumann, looking somewhat older, stand with two young women in their home. Everyone is well-dressed. Black and white.
Richard and Alice Neumann with their daughters
Dora and Lili, New York, early 1950s

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Flight from France: Arrested! (3/4)

Today's WAM Update is part three of a series based on Dr. Richard Neumann's account of his journey escaping Nazi-occupied France in 1943. In the previous sections, he and his wife, Alice, left Paris and crossed France with the help of their guide, "Mr. P." They are now in the unoccupied territory of Vichy France, but the drive towards the Spanish border almost immediately goes wrong.

Dr. Neumann and his art collection are the subject of our ongoing exhibition, "What the Nazis Stole from Richard Neumann (and the Search to get it Back)," on view through January 2022. This narrative is shared with the permission of Dr. Neumann's family.

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After about 20 minutes, a rather old, not very trustworthy-looking automobile arrived, filled with the baskets of chickens, geese, etc. as well as with our hand luggage. The driver who now took over was unfriendly right from the start, cursing under his breath. It was clear that he undertook this drive very reluctantly.


An outdoor cafe, small round tables facing a street with heavy foot traffic. Two uniformed German soldiers sit at the nearest, watching people pass. Black and white.
German Luftwaffe soldiers at a Paris cafe, 1941
(German Federal Archives)

After six kilometers, he stopped in a larger town in front of a bakery, and declared that he could not drive any further until he had something to eat. We remained seated in the auto, impatient to hear something from our pilot, and above all, anxious to continue our drive toward our destination. As we were waiting, two local civilians came upon the driver—who was eating—and made angry accusations that he had refused to give them a ride earlier, and now had in fact taken two passengers on board.

At this moment, Mr. P. arrived at the auto […] Both the civilians spoke harshly to him, showing papers identifying themselves as members of the special border police, and asked for his documents. He was able to show that he was a French citizen, and also that his military discharge papers were in order. However, this did not satisfy them and they then also asked for our identification papers, from which they could see right away that we had crossed the border without “laissez-passer” (legal permission). Whereupon they declared us under arrest and I had to follow them to the Police Station, while my wife was allowed to stay with the automobile and our possessions.

Once at the police station, both of the Inspectors told me “…you will be turned over to the German Authorities…” I became very much afraid. All my protestations, that I was a Czech citizen, 62 years old, and had sufficient funds for my subsistence, were useless.


Three German soldiers are arresting a young man, handcuffing him. At least five more are lined up facing the buildings behind them.
German soldiers and prisoners, July 1944
(German Federal Archive)

[…] I was taken back to the automobile, and my wife gave me 18,000 French francs, which I showed them. In her great fright, as I was led back to the police station, my wife took the money out of the briefcase and placed it in the travel-bag of Mr. P., without having the opportunity to tell him that she was doing so. Shortly thereafter, she was also taken to the police station and advised of what lay before her, e.g. “…being turned over to the German authorities, etc.” My wife, who had until now showed herself remarkably courageous and able, burst into tears.

All seemed to no avail and made absolutely no impression on the supervising policeman. We were officially processed, asked about a lot of irrelevant matters, and the writing of a long complaint was begun. I continually protested that we had been in an untenable and dangerous situation and as Czech citizens were deserving of special consideration. One of the policemen present seemed to not totally ignore my arguments, and tried to find among the various regulations a paragraph which might help us.

We were sitting on a light wooden bench without a back support, and as I rose in order to show the Police inspector my passport, the bench tipped over and my wife fell to the ground. This, as well as our totally distraught appearance, seemed finally to awaken some small amount of pity.

[After about 7 hours in custody, the police decided that in view of the facts Neumann argued above, the police decided to submit the case to a French tribunal, who would determine if they should be delivered to German authorities or permitted to leave. It was now about 5pm.] 

[…] After this decision about our future, we […] were given permission to look around for private quarters, with the obligation to present ourselves at the police station twice daily, and to not leave the vicinity.

Thereupon we went with the friendly police inspector on a search for a place to stay […] No room was to be found in the entire town and after a very long search the police inspector finally declared that he was not responsible for finding a room for us, and that, if we were unable to find a place, he would simply take us to jail. At this last moment, my wife addressed a woman who had been leaning out of her window and who appeared to be somewhat sympathetic, and asked if there was not anywhere that she could find a room for us. The woman softened, and while declaring that she had neither room nor bed available […] she could let us spend the night sitting on two chairs. We were glad even with this result, and advised the Police Station accordingly.

[They also found that during their time at the station, the automobile, their luggage, Mr. P. and the woman who had helped him had all boarded a train for the Neumanns’ intended destination in B. Mr. P. promised to return in the morning with news of their luggage and money.] 


Richard and Alice Neumann in black coats and hats stand on a sidewalk by a wroght iron fence.
Undated photograph of Richard and Alice Neumann,
taken in France
 

We were dead tired and hungry, but there was little to eat…a piece of cheese and a little bread was the substance of our dinner…and we then took possession of our night’s lodging on the two chairs in the kitchen of the good Frenchwoman, where it was at least somewhat dry and warm. Despite the frequent, and not altogether quiet passage of the other guests past our room, we fell asleep surprisingly quickly, tired and stressed as we were, and passed the night.

There could be no thought of washing, or other forms of toilet, and our appearance, covered as we were with layers of mud and dirt, wet and bedraggled gave no hint that we might be persons of culture and refinement.

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For the moment, the Neumanns were safe--but still before them still lay the tribunal, and the crossing into Spain. In addition, due to pressure from Germany, it was becoming increasingly difficult for "non-Aryans" to book passage on ships out of Europe. Learn the resolution of these difficulties in the final installment of this WAM Update series.

(German Federal Archive photographs licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Germany license.)

Bundesarchiv, Bild 101I-247-0775-38 / Langhaus / CC-BY-SA 3.0

Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-J27289 / Koll / CC-BY-SA 3.0

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