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Fuchs, Eduard

Born on 31.01.1870, Göppinger was the son of a merchant who was constantly bankrupt and who moved to Stuttgart in 1871 to make his "fortune" there. Already at the age of 14, Eduard Fuchs became involved with free thinkers, anarchists and the then banned social democrats, whom he joined at the age of 16. He became one of the leading heads of a rebellious youth scene. The merchant's apprentice had to go to prison twice: he was sentenced to 5 months in prison because he had described Kaiser Wilhelm as a "Prussian mass murderer" in a leaflet in 1888 and was given another 5 months as a courier of forbidden social democratic writings. After his parents died early, social democrat Jakob Stern and editor Clara Zetkin took care of the orphan.

He began his professional career as a publishing manager in Munich, where he was to set up a powerful newspaper group for the "Münchner Post". As "Krankenvertretung" he produced the May number of the satirical magazine "Süddeutscher Postillon" so successfully that he became the responsible editor. His cheeky and disrespectful letter brought him numerous trials, most of which ended in acquittals, but in 1899 he was again sentenced to ten months' imprisonment for wearing majestic clothes. He used his time in prison to prepare the "History of the European Caricature". Fuchs discovered the caricature as a historical source and was the first in Germany to recognize the significance of Honoré Daumier. Early active in the Munich art scene, he was involved in the world premiere of Büchner's play "Leonce and Lena" or the founding of the Munich Volksbühne. He found caricaturists for Lenin's illegal magazine "Iskra" and was one of the few who had a friendly relationship with him.

On the search for new caricaturists he discovered Bruno Paul, Josef Benedikt Engl, Sascha Schneider and developed a close friendship with the painter Max Slevogt, from whose studio he received numerous works as gifts. Mostly in exchange for fox books or thumb lithographs. As a result of his political attitude and the costly trials he was dismissed as an editor in Munich and moved to Berlin in 1901. There Eduard Fuchs worked in social democratic publishing houses and as a freelance writer. The "Illustrierte Sittengeschichte", written by him in 1909, became a bestseller of the pre-war period, which gave him the name "Sitten-Fuchs" and an income of millions as an author. Especially for the illustration of his books he needed his huge collection of paintings, drawings, graphics and posters.

In 1909 Fuchs already owned 3,800 lithographs by Daumier as the basis of the collection. At the end of the 1920s he owned 6,000 prints by the Frenchman and in 1927 he owned 21 paintings and 16 drawings by the great French artist. However, the most personal part of the collection consisted of 44 paintings and at least 10 watercolours by Max Slevogt, a large part of which came directly from the studio of the painter friend. A highlight of this long friendship was the joint trip to Egypt at the beginning of 1914. Max Liebermann was also represented in the collection with 19 paintings. Also worth mentioning are his holdings of arts and crafts objects made of majolica and porcelain as well as the extensive East Asian collection. With 120 objects, Fuchs owned the largest collection of Chinese roof riders at the time. The collection of more than twenty thousand drawings, prints, leaflets and posters in the history of morals was of extraordinary importance for his own scientific work.

In the early 1920s Fuchs acquired a villa in Berlin-Zehlendorf built by Mies van der Rohe in 1901 for five Liebermann paintings by the art dealer Hugo Perls, where he established his collection. The garden was designed as a Japanese garden by Karl Förster, a Potsdam shrub breeder and garden philosopher. 

Politically, Fuchs remained active, but mostly behind the scenes. After the Social Democrats agreed to war credits, he left the party and became one of the main actors of the still small peace movement. As a founding member of the Spartacus League, he conducted conspiratorial negotiations with the Bolsheviks in Stockholm and, legitimized by Rosa Luxemburg, went to Lenin in early 1919 to discuss strategies and organize financial support for the German Revolution. But the money came too late, Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht had already been murdered. The revolutionary monument dedicated to them in Friedrichshain goes back directly to Fuchs.

With Stalin and Thälmann, Fuchs lost influence in the party, although as chairman of the "Society of Friends of the New Russia" he had an excellent network with Bukharin, Pieck and Zetkin as well as bourgeois intellectuals, especially of the Jewish cultural scene. In 1928 he spectacularly resigned from the KPD after a broad-based alliance policy and cooperation with trade unions were made impossible by wrong political decisions. He then supported the KPD (opposition) without assuming political functions.

Together with Dr. Felix Weil, Fuchs initiated the founding of the Frankfurt Institute for Social Research in 1922, and in 1924 he founded an archive for social research in Berlin to collect material on fascism in Europe, anti-Semitism and the national liberation movements. The famous essay by Walter Benjamin on "Eduard Fuchs, der Sammler und der Historiker" (1937), commissioned by the Institute for Social Research, paid tribute to him as a "pioneer of the materialistic view of art" and put this into concrete terms: "As a collector, Fuchs is above all a pioneer: the founder of a single archive devoted to the history of caricature, erotic art and the moral image". 

In the mid-twenties, Eduard and Margarete Fuchs (daughter of the Jewish department store owner "Gebrüder Alsberg") decided to bequeath his extensive collection, his Mies van der Rode Villa, which had been extended in 1928 by the star architect by a collection extension in Bauhaus style, to the city of Berlin as a collector's museum with an endowment fund. This was prevented by the National Socialists' assumption of power.

Almost 4 weeks after the "seizure of power", specifically on the day of the Reichstag fire, Eduard Fuchs barely escaped his arrest at the end of February 1933. He fled with his wife Margarete Fuchs via Schaffhausen, Strasbourg and Geneva into exile in Paris. Since Fuchs had taken the danger posed by the National Socialists very seriously, he was able to bring important parts of his collection (Daumier paintings) to safety before 1933.

On 25 March 1933, the Gestapo carried out a large-scale operation in the Villa Fuchs, allegedly to secure "communist evidence". On October 25, 1933, the Fuchs Collection was officially confiscated, the rooms sealed, and books, posters, and pamphlets removed. On 26 October 1933, the furniture and the remaining works of art were taken into custody by the Zehlendorf Tax Office to secure the claim to Reich Flight Tax. Fuchs' books were banned, confiscated and partly burned. This deprived the author of his income.

Behind the scenes, the Gestapo chiefs Diels, Himmler and Heydrich had fierce arguments about the Fuchs case. Fuchs had initiated proceedings with a London law firm against the Gestapo and the tax office which did not fit into the concept in the run-up to the 1936 Olympic Games. Fuchs even succeeded in overturning the Reich Flight Tax imposed on him and the tax profile with an order of the Munich Higher Fiscal Court. The "Miracle of Zehlendorf" (Max Horkheimer) was due to the secret resistance of museum directors such as Hanfstaengl (Berlin National Gallery), the artist couple Vetter and also French ministers and professors who had vehemently committed themselves to the preservation and return of the Fuchs Collection.

By decree of February 1934, the Fuchs Art Collection was then released on the condition that Fuchs would return to Germany. Fuchs also managed to overcome this hurdle, which would have meant his certain death, with the help of medical reports. On 19.09.1935, the Gestapo released all confiscated objects and the villa even without Fuchs' return. Now it was left to the tax authorities, by collecting the tax debts, to liquidate the collection. A tactical move that soon brought the desired success: in order to pay the tax debts, his daughter Gertraud had to have the collection auctioned off in consultation with her father. The catalogue descriptions she wrote together with her lawyer and the object photos are today the most important source for the reconstruction of the collection.

From 1937/1938 the collection was finally liquidated at various auctions:

Rudolph Lepke´s Kunst-Auctions-Haus, Berlin - Auktionskatalog 2114 vom 16./17.06.1937

Rudolph Lepke´s Kunst-Auctions-Haus, Berlin - Auktionskatalog 2115 vom 15./16.10.1937

Rudolph Lepke´s Kunst-Auctions-Haus, Berlin - Auktionskatalog 2116 vom 4./5.11.1937, S. 21

Kunstantiquariat C.G. Boerner, Leipzig - Auktionskatalog 197 vom 23./24.05.1938.

Of all the auctions there are annotated Lepke catalogues in the library of the Kunsthistorisches Institut Den Haag and at Boerner there is also the annotated original catalogue. In addition, the exiled estate of Eduard Fuchs, now at Stanford University (Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace, Nicolaevsky Collection Series N°264), is a unique source as well as the extensive Fuchs files of the Ministry of Finance in the Geheimes Staatsarchiv Preußischer Kulturbesitz in Berlin and at the Landesarchiv Berlin, Potsdam.

Shortly before the invasion of the German troops, on 26.01.1940 Eduard Fuchs died in Paris. He was buried on the cemetery Pére Lachaise. His wife was taken to the camp Gurs in the Pyrenees and from there she managed to emigrate to New York.

© Melder


Dr. Dipl. Journ. Ulrich Weitz
Agentur für Kunstvermittlung
Phone:  +49 (0) 711 7657184

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