Monday, 29 December 2014

Gertrud Fabian: revisiting and an attempt to identify.

Gertrud Fabian

German printmaker from Neuwedell

Gertrud Fabian was the last and 7th child that was born and baptised in Neuwedell August 10th 1885 to (rag and bone) merchant Meir Fabian (1842-1904) and Hermine Rosenberg (1854-1936). Neuwedell is a small provincial village (now called Drawno) situated near a small lake in what was then West-Prussia and is now Poland. Some 150 km. east of Berlin.

The Jewish Fabian and Rosenberg families descending in generations before from Jewish communities in Neuwedell (Drawno) and nearby Kallies (Kallisz) in this part of West-Prussia from the mid 18th century. Jewish life flourished in the 19th century in Prussia, many left however for the West in the second half and beginning of the 20th century to be erased almost completely by the Nazis before the end of the WWII. 

In 1883 Meir Fabian’s younger brother and also merchant Oscar Fabian (1850-1942) after working for the founders took over in Berlin the established firm of Cohn & Caro dealing in ”Posamentier und Kurzwaaren” (a drapery shop). He was then living in the Gutenbergstrasse in Charlottenburg
Berlin Charlottenburg around 1900
Business flourished because five years later in 1889 brother Albert Fabian (1856-1925) joined while Meir Fabian had also moved his family to Berlin around 1886/87. In Berlin Meir Fabian's family grew with another 4 or 5 mouths to feed. The brothers widowed mother Johanna Salinger (b.1818), Gertrud's grand-mother, also came to Berlin, she died there in 1891 and it could well be more Fabian family members had moved to Berlin. Meir Fabian died in 1904 in Grosse Frankfurterstrasse 122. Maybe this was the location of his business that will have looked similar to his son Martin Fabian's (b.1889) shop in Hamburg on Steindamm 102 before he fled to England (below).

According to Alexander Watson, Meir Fabian's great-grandson (through Gertrud’s elder sister Heika (1880-1951) and now living near Lyon in France, Gertrud Fabian and her younger sister Margarethe Fabian (b.1891) until around 1918 lived in the Pestalozzistraße in Berlin Charlottenburg, by 1935 they were living in the Brettschneiderstraße nr. 9, where their mother Hermine died in 1936 (aged 82): she did not have to witness the atrocities her family would have to endure. 
Mother Hermine Fabian-Rosenberg with Gertrud and brothers Hans (fled to London) and Bruno (died in exile in  Shanghai 1943).
In the first 2 years of the war and persecution the sisters were possibly expelled from their flat to live in Mommenstraße 44. Eventually on march 1th 1943 the Nazis knocked on their door and they were deported the same day with “Osttransport no.31” (the Nazis meticulously kept book of their perverted system of efficiently solving the “Juden-Problem”). The women were probably murdered on arrival in Auschwitz.

With Gertrud and Margarethe many Fabian family members were murdered in the Holocaust, but some managed to survive by fleeing in time to England, Australia and Argentina. Oldest brother Max Fabian's wife and two sons perished and brother Bruno Fabian the first child to be born in Berlin, died in in exile in 1943 in Shanghai (read here*) of disease. The faith of brothers Siegfried Fabian (born 1878) and Georg Fabian (born 1883) until this day remains unknown and is of great concern to descendent Alexander Watson who with a nephew is trying desperately to reconstruct the Fabians of Neuwedell genealogy.

The printmaker signing Gertrud Fabian could very well be identical with the Gertrud Fabian described above, but without records to prove this is just an assumption. Berlin was a very large city and there were more Fabian families living at the time but so far only three Gertrud Fabian are “known”, the other two were married and known by  their husbands family or married name.

The story about this particular print is worth mentioning too. It is the only example I know of by an artist signing Gertrud Fabian. It appeared in German Ebay in 2013 and it went to a lucky, and more persistent, bidder in England. However: it is now in my humble collection and it could not be in a better place. Thanks to reader Shaun who agreed on a friendly exchange of prints improving collections on both sides of the British Channel. Last year I did a posting with this print and was amazed by the similarities with painter and teacher Walter Leistikow's (1865-1908) summerhouse in Denmark (above) and compared it with prints by Hélène Mass (b. 1871) about we also know so little. But both were also born in Prussia by the way.

Gertrud Fabian is not mentioned in the archives of the "Verein der Berliner Künstlerinnen (VdBK)" but I’m convinced she attended Emil Orliks classes and she defenitely deserves renewed attention and an attempt to create something of a biography and recognition. 

As said: in Berlin at the time of Gertrud’s life were living more, several Fabian families in Berlin. Among them was painter and graphic artist Max Fabian (1873-1926) who besides being an active artist and working in the times and circles of the great Max Liebermann also ran a private painting school in Berlin and taught at the painting school of the Verein der Berliner Künstlerinnen (VdBK).

"An der Spree" in Berlin.

He married a student (not known by name) and their son Erwin Fabian (b.1915) became an artist too: in England and later in Australia. He and his mother in time had fled to England. The irony is that garding her husbands  work and bringing it with her to London all was lost in a German bombing in 1941/42.

To all who find, stumble upon and read this posting I ask on behalve of Alexander to send in all information on Gertrud Fabian and all the other members of the Berlin-Neuwedell Fabian family.

All facts concerning the Fabian family are published here with permission of Alexander Watson


  1. Gertrud Fabian's print of the little cottage is quite nice. I hope you are able to locate more of her works and more information about her. I think I saw on the internet a mention that her work was included in a 1943 exhibition in Garmisch-Partenkirchen. Tom/Boston

    1. Thanks for your help Tom. Where there's so little all clues are very welcome. I missed it and will get into it asap.