Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Born Today In 1906: Photographer Albrecht Becker, Imprisoned by Nazis

Albrecht Becker was born today, November 14, in 1906 in Thale Germany. He was a production designer, photographer, and actor, who was imprisoned by the Nazi regime for the charge of homosexuality.

Brecker trained as a teacher and at age 18 he began a relationship with an older man that lasted 10 years. He was an actor and production designer. His partner was the Director of the State Archive in Würzburg. Through this contact he met an array of influential and artistic people. He traveled around the world and developed a sense of culture and sophistication.

He devoted himself completely to photography. While living in Freiburg and Vienna, Austria, he showed his first exhibitions and earned his first commissions. He supplemented his income by providing photographs for newspapers and magazines.

His photographs celebrated life, as well as mourned it at the same time. He sought to simply remember and preserve. He was remembered as an awkward figure on the artistic landscape. He was committed to a search for truthfulness in his art work.

Würzburg is a small town in the southern state of Bavaria. Living in Würzburg in the 1930s was a Jewish wine merchant by the name of Dr. Leopold Obermayer. Obermayer apparently complained to the local police department that his mail was being opened. The complaint was investigated by the Gestapo, who took the liberty to search Obermayer's home and discovered a number of photographs of young men in his safe. One of these photographs was of Albrecht Becker. Becker was brought in for questioning in 1935 on suspicion of violating Paragraph 175, the German law against homosexuality. Becker reportedly declared: "Everybody knows I'm a homosexual." 

Both Obermayer and Becker were put on trial. Becker was sentenced to 3 years in prison at Nürnberg. Obermayer was also convicted of violating Paragraph 175, but as a Jew was sent to Dachau concentration camp. He was tortured there and sent to Mauthausen-Gusen concentration camp, where he died.

Toward the end of the war, as the need to replace losses increased, Becker was released in order to serve in the Wehrmacht. He served on the Russian front until 1944. Becker spoke of his experiences during the war in the 2000 documentary Paragraph 175.

During the 1970s Becker's photography encompassed an eclectic range of subjects, including ushers at the Vienna Opera, monks in an Augustinian monastery, Berlin gravediggers and the ruins of Küstrin. At the center of his work was the human body. He would photograph it either as a whole or part.

He died in Hamburg, Germany, on April 22, 2002.