Felix Nussbaum

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Self-Portrait (1940)

Felix Nussbaum (born on 11. December 1904 in Osnabrück , died after the 20th September 1944 in the Auschwitz concentration camp ) was a German painter of the New Objectivity . In 1932 he lost a large part of his works due to arson . In 1933 he left Germany because of the beginning of the persecution of Jews in the Nazi era . From 1940 he hid in Brussels . There he was, after a denunciation with 562 other Jews with one of the last transports to Auschwitz deported , where he and his wife on August 2, 1944 arrived. He was listed as a camp prisoner and probably died before the camp was liberated (January 27, 1945).


The studio of the young Felix Nussbaum was located on the top floor of the Nussbaum Villa in Osnabrück, built by Rahel and Philipp Nussbaum in 1922

Felix Nussbaum grew up as the second son of the businessman Philipp Nussbaum (1872–1944) and his wife Rahel, née. van Dijk (1873–1944), in Osnabrück. He had an older brother Justus Nussbaum (1901–1944). The family was part of Reform Judaism . The father, a hobby painter, promoted and encouraged his son to study painting. After attending the Jewish elementary school and secondary school, he began studying art at the Hamburg School of Applied Arts in 1922/23 and continued his education until 1930 at the Berlin Lewin-Funke School and at the United State Schools for Free and Applied Arts in Berlin as a student of Paul Plontke and César Klein , from 1928 continued as master students with Hans Meid .

In Berlin in 1927 Felix Nussbaum met his partner and future wife, the painter Felka Platek , who was born in Warsaw in 1899 .

In the years around 1930 he had great successes in exhibitions in Berlin. He had his first solo exhibitions in 1927 in a bookshop in Osnabrück and in 1928 in the Casper gallery in Berlin. In the footsteps of Van Gogh , he traveled to France and after his return in 1929 he set up his own studio in Berlin. His artistic breakthrough came in 1931 with the painting “The great Pariser Platz”. He ironized the dignity of the Department of Fine Arts of the Berlin Prussian Academy with its President Max Liebermann . From October 1932 to May 1933 he was a student at the Villa Massimo in Rome. He had to leave the academy early after a dispute with the painter Hanns Hubertus Graf von Merveldt .

Emigration and death

"Group of Three", 1944

With the beginning of National Socialist rule (January 30, 1933) Nussbaum lived with Felka Platek in exile in Italy, France and, from 1937, in Brussels . The painter couple married in Brussels in 1937. Two days after the invasion of German troops on May 8, 1940, Felix Nussbaum was arrested by the Belgian authorities and taken to the Saint-Cyprien internment camp in southern France (Pyrénées-Orientales) . Under the impression of the camp, he asked the French camp management to return them to Germany; on the way in Bordeaux he was able to flee.

He returned to Brussels, where Felka Platek had stayed. Both went into hiding with an art dealer friend. After a denunciation in June 1944, the Nussbaums were arrested by the Wehrmacht and taken from the Mechelen assembly camp to the Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination camp on the last deportation train .

Previous assumptions, according to which both were murdered in the gas chambers there on August 2, 1944 when the transport arrived in Auschwitz, could be refuted in 2014: According to a file from the surgical department of the camp hospital from Block 21 of the main camp Auschwitz, discovered in the Russian State Archives in Moscow Felix Nussbaum was listed as a prisoner with the number B-3594 and was treated on September 20, 1944 for a blister on the index finger of his left hand. Accordingly, he was one of the 361 Jews on his transport who were classified as fit for work and were not immediately gassed. There is no evidence that he was transferred to another camp after November 26, 1944, as happened in many cases. Nor was he one of the survivors of Auschwitz liberated on January 27, 1945. Hence, it is believed that he perished in Auschwitz between September 20, 1944 and January 27, 1945.

Works (selection)

Alassio Railway Station (1933)
The Triumph of Death (The skeletons play to dance) , 1944; is considered Nussbaum's last painting and artistic testament

Nussbaum created his main work in the last years of his life, which he spent in hiding in Brussels until his arrest on June 20, 1944. Like hardly any other artist of his generation, Felix Nussbaum has artistically processed the Holocaust in Europe in these pictures . In the life-threatening and hopeless situation in hiding, painting became an act of resistance for him, as it preserved his human dignity and the right to self-determination. The catalog raisonné lists 456 works and 21 occasional works.

Belgian friends saved his pictures from the time of his exile. While his works received little attention until the 1980s, a key painting fetched 1.7 million euros (converted) at auction in 1997.

  • The secret. November 1939, oil on canvas, 61 × 74.5 cm, private ownership, Osnabrück.
  • The refugee 1. 1939, in the Felix-Nussbaum-Haus Osnabrück.
  • Jaqui on the street. 1944, in the Felix-Nussbaum-Haus Osnabrück.
  • Triumph of death. 1944, in the Felix-Nussbaum-Haus Osnabrück.

Children's book

In 1936, Felix Nussbaum and his friend Michael Loewen conceived a children's story for a cartoon. The cartoon with the characters Pit and Peggs, however, never came about. However, 29 black and white photographs of the original drawings have been preserved. From this, the Berliner Schaltzeit Verlag developed the children's book in collaboration with the author Dörte Grimm and the Münster draftsman Frank Hoppmann :

  • The adventures of Pit and Peggs - The journey to the flower parade , Schaltzeit Verlag, Berlin 2015, ISBN 978-3-941362-66-6 .


  • 1929: Large art exhibition, Kunstverein Kassel
  • May 6–26. August 1990: Osnabrück Cultural History Museum: Felix Nussbaum. Ostracized art - exile art - resistance art .
  • 2004: Jewish Museum Rendsburg : Felix Nussbaum .
  • September 22, 2010-23. January 2011: Musée d'art et d'histoire du Judaïsme (Museum of Jewish Art and History) in Paris: Felix Nussbaum 1904–1944 .
  • 2012/2013: Felix Nussbaum in the mirror of his time, Cappenberg Castle
  • 2014/2015: Nussbaum's World of Things, still life by Felix Nussbaum and guests, Felix-Nussbaum-Haus, Osnabrück


Felix Nussbaum House Osnabrück

Felix Nussbaum Haus (right) in the museum complex of Osnabrück, in the middle of the Cultural and Historical Museum, left the excise -House

On July 16, 1998, the Felix Nussbaum House was opened in Osnabrück, which houses the painter's largest collection with more than 200 works. The building was built according to the plans of the American-Jewish architect Daniel Libeskind , who closely links the architecture with the tragic life of the artist and his death in Auschwitz.

The Felix Nussbaum Society e. V. in Osnabrück promotes research into and publicity for Nussbaum's oeuvre.

For the 100th birthday in 2004, the Deutsche Post issued a special stamp with the motif of the painting The Secret as part of the series “German Painting of the 20th Century” .

The work and life story of Felix Nussbaum are received by artists to this day. Nussbaum was a mainstay of the "Album of Remembrance" by Cyrus Overbeck 2019 in Duisburg's Cubus Kunsthalle . In 2020, Grigory Berstein showed the Nussbaum exhibition “The saving thing grows - the short life of Felix Nussbaum” in the NS Documentation Center of the City of Cologne . It was already on view as a room installation in the Felix-Nussbaum-Haus in 2014.

Stumbling blocks

In front of the Nussbaum Villa, Schloßstraße 11, three stumbling blocks in Osnabrück remind us that Felix Nussbaum and his parents lived there.

Another stumbling block in Brussels, 22 rue Archimède, reminds of him and his wife. This house was her last place of residence before the deportation.


On January 30, 2010, the premiere of the play Felix Nussbaum by Christoph Klimke took place in the Theater am Domhof in Osnabrück .


In the Sonnenhügel district of the Peace City of Osnabrück, around 280 pupils attend the Felix Nussbaum School in the Sonnenhügel school center . The secondary school , which has been an all-day school since 2003 , has been part of the municipal school center since 1981.


  • Eva Berger u. a .: Felix Nussbaum. Ostracized art, exile art, resistance art. Completely revised and expanded 4th edition of the catalog book for the exhibition of the same name in the Museum of Cultural History in Osnabrück 1990, Rasch, Bramsche 2007. ISBN 978-3-89946-089-6
  • Inge Jaehner:  Nussbaum, Felix. In: New German Biography (NDB). Volume 19, Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 1999, ISBN 3-428-00200-8 , p. 377 f. ( Digitized version ).
  • Peter Junk, Wendelin room: Felix Nussbaum. The biography. Change of location, vanishing points. Edited by of the Lower Saxony Sparkassenstiftung in cooperation with the Felix Nussbaum Foundation, Rasch, Bramsche 2009. ISBN 978-3-89946-115-2
  • Rosamunde Neugebauer (ed.): Time in view. Felix Nussbaum and the modern age. Catalog for the exhibition of the same name in the Felix-Nussbaum-Haus Osnabrück 2004, Rasch, Bramsche 2004. ISBN 3-89946-043-X
  • Claus Stephani : The image of the Jew in modern painting. An introduction / Imaginea evreului în pictura modernă. Introductiv study. Bilingual edition (Romanian / German). Editura Hasefer: Bucharest 2005. ISBN 973-630-091-9
  • Deborah Schultz, Edward Timms : Pictorial Narrative in the Nazi Period: Felix Nussbaum, Charlotte Salomon and Arnold Daghani. Routledge, London [u. a.] 2009. ISBN 978-0-415-49095-5
  • Jürgen Kaumkötter: Death doesn't have the last word. Art in the Catastrophe 1933–1945. Verlag Galiani, Berlin 2015. ISBN 978-3-86971-103-4
  • Mark Schaevers: Organ Man . Felix Nussbaum - a painter's life , Galiani, Berlin 2016. ISBN 978-3-86971-135-5 (Title of the original edition: Orgelman. Felix Nussbaum - een schildersleven . Translated from the Dutch by Marlene Müller-Haas )
  • Saadia Isakov : Zion preaches. Poem. Netanya / Israel and Berlin 2017. ISBN 978-3-945187-85-2
  • Hans Joachim Schädlich : Felix and Felka . Reinbek: Rowohlt 2018

Web links

Commons : Felix Nussbaum  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Jobst C. Knigge: The Villa Massimo in Rome 1933–1943. Struggle for artistic independence. Humboldt University Berlin 2013 (open access), p. 22 ff.
  2. Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung, August 2, 2014: The circumstances of death are still unclear: Nussbaum was Auschwitz inmate B-3594
  3. ^ Felix Nussbaum catalog raisonné
  4. ^ Volksbund Deutsche Kriegsgräberfürsorge e. V. (Ed.): “Don't let my pictures die”. Artist portraits. Kassel 2010, pp. 28-29
  5. List of auctioned pictures of Felix Nussbaum
  6. Dr. Stefan Lüddemann: SERIES: PICTURES AND THEIR STORY: “Triumph of Death”: The triumph of Felix Nussbaum . In: Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung from January 27, 2016.
  7. ^ Berliner Abendblatt: Children's book by Nussbaum .
  8. Eva Berger, Inge Jaehner, Peter Junk, Karl Georg Kaster, Manfred Meinz , Wendelin Zimmer: Felix Nussbaum. Ostracized art - exile art - resistance art. The 100 most important works . In: Kulturgeschichtliches Museum und Museums- und Kunstverein Osnabrück (ed.): Osnabrücker Kulturdenkmäler - Contributions to the art and cultural history of the city of Osnabrück . tape 3 . Rasch Verlag, Bramsche 1990.
  9. ^ Anette Schneider: Existential need and deadly fear - The painter Felix Nussbaum ( Memento from October 15, 2008 in the Internet Archive ) ( Deutschlandradio )
  10. (fr) Felix Nussbaum's exhibition in the Musée d'Art et d'Histoire du Judaïsme in Paris.
  11. Felix Nussbaum Foundation, Current Issues , accessed June 21, 2015
  12. ^ Nussbaums Welt der Dinge, NDR Kultur, November 20, 2014 ( Memento from December 7, 2014 in the Internet Archive ), accessed June 21, 2015
  13. ^ Felix Nussbaum House
  14. ^ Felix-Nussbaum-Gesellschaft e. V. in Osnabrück
  15. Peter Klucken: In the album of memories. In: Rheinische Post Online. April 17, 2019, accessed August 1, 2020 .
  16. Michael Kohler: Love has won . In: Kölner Stadtanzeiger . 4th July 2020.
  17. "That which saves grows - The short life of Felix Nussbaum". Art exhibition by Grigory Berstein. In: museenkoeln.de , accessed on August 2, 2020.
  18. Stephan Eppinger: NS-Doc: Works of art as resistance in the Nazi era. In: report-k.de . June 3, 2020, accessed August 2, 2020.
  19. Heiko Ostendorf: Panic, disgust, disgust. In: nachtkritik.de. January 30, 2010, accessed August 2, 2020 .
  20. deutschlandfunk.de , Büchermarkt , Biography , November 1, 2016, Paul Stoop: In the footsteps of the painter Felix Nussbaum (November 1, 2016)