ONE of Germany’s official war artists, Roman Zenzinger, who has long remained in the shadows because of his apparent hatred of the Nazis, is now having his works bought to light.
The family of the Austrian artist have taken the tentative first
step in opening up his archive of works, which range from the
depiction of ordinary German soldiers to the destruction and
despair of Berlin in the closing days of the Second World War.
Germany had up to 80 official war artists and Zenzinger, a
fellow Austrian, was retained by the German military's Division of
Visual Arts to record aspects of the war. The family archive
contains the catalogue from an exhibition by war artists during the
conflict that lists five works by Zenzinger.
On April 19, three drawings by Zenzinger go under the hammer at
Ludlow, Shropshire auctioneers Mullock's.
"Zenzinger was not a Nazi, and he was so appalled by what he
witnessed during the Third Reich and the consequences of Hitler's
actions that he attempted to erase his existence from history,"
explained Richard Westwood-Brookes, historical documents expert for
"He systematically went through the files removing any reference
to his activities, and then locked up his entire collection of
sketches, drawings and finished oil paintings in a warehouse in
Austria, forbidding any but close friends and family from seeing
"He almost succeeded in his quest for anonymity, but a few
references remained, largely in printed catalogues for Nazi art
exhibitions staged during the War."
When the war ended, Zenzinger worked anonymously as a commercial
artist in Vienna - his acquaintances were unaware of his wartime
He left his entire collection to his family who have continued
to keep it concealed until now.
"In the hope that his achievements as a war artist will finally
be recognised and the wartime record put straight, his surviving
family have agreed to allow us to offer the first of what we hope
will be many examples of his wartime art," explained Mr
"As I say, Zenzinger was no Nazi - in fact far from it. As a
result, he concentrated on depicting the war from the perspective
of the ordinary German soldier - he even ensured that in his
pictures the Nazi emblems and regalia were concealed as much as he
possibly could. As a result, in stark contrast to the sort of art
which is often associated with the Nazi regime - of an idealised
Aryan super race who were conquering the world under Hitler's evil
doctrines - Zenzinger portrayed the ordinary soldiers going about
their tasks under orders in much the same way as any soldier from
Allied nations - and probably hating the War just as much."
Evidence of Zenzinger's personal animosity towards the Nazis
emerged in the latter stages of the War, his art showing in stark
reality what they had achieved - millions dead, destroyed cities
and decimated population.
"I have seen some of the images from this later work and
hopefully the family will feel able to release it on the market at
a later date, as Zenzinger's pictures certainly stand as historical
documents from a different perspective to those we are used to,"
said Mr Westwood-Brookes.
Mullock's initial offering is three pencil drawings by
Zenzinger, each showing ordinary German soldiers in the midst of
war. The first shows a soldier trying to fix his motor cycle side
car in an alpine location, the second shows a soldier full length,
with a stick grenade slung in his belt, while the third, pictured
here, shows a grenade thrower about to launch his missile into the
"This will provide a unique opportunity to obtain work by a
hitherto unknown artist whose importance will doubtless grow as
more information emerges about him," added Mr Westwood-Brookes.
Each drawing is expected to make £3000.
By Ivan Macquisten