Sunday, 15 October 2017

Walli Peretz-Brutzkus: revisited

Before starting a new series of postings with some spectacular and rare prints from historic Hamburg I'ld like to share all the assembled bits and pieces of this  biographic puzzle of one of my favorite but enigmatic printmaking ladies. It has been three years since I posted an article about Walli Peretz. I'ld like to thank co-researcher Hannelore who recently found several new clues possibly giving new direction to answering this question: 

Who was Walli Peretz....? 

It is also a renewed attempt finding and acquiring a copy of this print: "Poppies in a blue vase". New examples of work are also very welcomed.    

Peretz-Brutzkus (Bruskus), Walli (“Frau Wulli”) (Moscow 01-10-1884 - last mentioned in Dresslers Kunsthandbuch 1930).

Painter, printmaker and sculptor, said to have come to Germany from Russia (Moscow) in 1918. Studied with Franz Skarbina (1849-1910) (who taught anatomical drawing in Berlin “Kunstgewerbe Museum”) and with classical historian Otto Seeck* (1850-1921). She is known (to me) by 4 woodblock prints of which three are floral still-life: Sunflowers, Physalis (Chinese lantern), Poppies all prints in a modernist style and one showing a Russian farm. “Walli” is the German equivalent for  the name Valeria, “Valya” the Russian equivalent. The flower prints are all signed “Walli Peretz”.
* Otto Seeck is known for his 6 Volume:  “Geschichte des Untergangs der antiken Welt” (History of the Decline of the Ancient World).

Dresslers KHB 1930: “Frau Wulli Peretz-Bruskus”: Berlin NO, Greifswalderstraße 89a. Member RvbK.

According to Thieme-Becker Algemeine Künstler Lexicon an illustration by
Walli Peretz appeared in color on the title page of:
"Zeitschrift DAHEIM"
Nr. 8: 19 november 1927 and probably featured in an article with an interview.

Genealogy of a Palanga-Moscow Brutzkus family:

Brothers David Brutzkus (1845-1906) and Yosef Brutzkus in 1878 moved from Palanga (Polangen) Kurland (Courland, Russian governorate in Russian Empire, now Lithuania) to Moscow running a business in amber (fossilized resin, “Bernstein”) and later in leather. I could find no offspring of Yosef while David fathered 8 children. 

It could well be the brothers were active in both Palanga, where amber was found and products locally manufactured by Jewish artisans, and Moscow because we find a son Yoel Brutzkus born in 1885 in Palanga, not in Moscow. From 1882 when the “May-Laws” were instituted and effective for 30 years, tens of thousands of Russian Jews were expelled from Russia many of them moving to Berlin. The Brutzkus family was banished from Moscow by Grand Duke Sergei Aleksandrovich in 1891 and were forced to move to Warsaw although children were often allowed to study in the Academies of Moscow and St. Petersburg.

Palanga or Polangen is a small sea-side resort and village in the Baltic (now Lithuania, then under the law of the Russian Empire). It was with Königsberg a centre of the amber trade (fossilized resin used in jewelry, decoration and articles like pipe-stems) along the “Amber Road”, since ancient times the trade route between finding and production places to markets in Scandinavia, the South of Europe, Venice, Turkey and the Middle East to Persia. 

From the mid 19th century Russia became the largest market for amber and its products. In the 18th century the Baltic area had became a safe heaven for Europenan and Russian Jews. Palanga and the Amber trade and related crafts were decribed in the travel account of a 1827 journey made to St. Petersburg by Italian-British physician, writer and traveler Augustus Bozzi Granville (1783-1872): Palanga counted 1400 inhabitants of which 600 were Jews. Most of them prosperous. It was also a popular sea side resort for all Lithuanian and Baltic Jews. 

Amber was in use as jewelry, smoking pipes and in a rough variety as basis for varnish. It is/was found on the beaches of the southern Baltic Sea after strong westerly winds and also in superficial strata as well as in coal pitts: Up to 150-200 tons per year was produced, amber having a very low density of 1.10 (= exceptionally light) allowing it to float in salt water.

- Moritz Behr Brutzkus (b. around 1850): trader in amber in Berlin and Königsberg: see below. He could be related with David and Yosef Brutzkus. In 1845 a David Behr Brutzkus (aged 54, b. around 1791) lived in Palanga, probably the son of Behr Rachmiel Brutzkus (b. 1751). They are listed in the 1845 “8th Rekrutenverpflichtung” listing all male inhabitants with their age for taxing reasons.
-  Abraham Naum Kahn, amber trader from Palanga living in Moscow 1885
- David and Yosef Brutzkus, brothers and amber traders from Palanga living in Moscow since 1878.

Sergei Aleksandrovich Romanov (1857-1905) was the 5th son of Tsar Alexander-II and younger brother of Tsar Alexander-III who preceded Nicolas-II. He was in service as the impopular and hated Governor-General of Moscow responsible for the expulsion of 20.000 Moscow Jews and murdered by bombing in 1905.

May-Laws: Temporary regulations regarding the Jews (also known as May Laws) were proposed by minister of internal affairs Nikolai Ignayev and enacted on 15 May 1882 by the Emperor Alexander III. Originally, regulations of May 1882 were intended only as temporary measures until the revision of the laws concerning the Jews, but remained in effect for more than thirty years

Berlin-Charlottengrad: Expelled and banished during WW-I and after the 1917 revolution some 63.500 Russian Jews settled in Berlin mostly around the Kurfurstendam, Berlin-Charlottenburg bringing their businesses, shops, schools, universities  etc…  . With the rize of the Nazi regime from 1933 many later travelled to Paris, New-York and Palestine. A century later this part of Berlin houses 200-300.000 Russian speaking inhabitants and again is knicknamed Charlottengrad.

David Brutzkus (1845-1906) trader in amber married 1868 in Palanga (Kurland) Pessia Kohn. According to genealogical information they had 8 children of which I so far have been able to trace 7 in my research: Julius (1870), Boris (1874), Sergius (-), Margalit (-), Elena (1887), Yoel (1885), Sophia (-). A possible 8th child: Walli (Valeria/Valya) (Moscow 1884).

1) Dr. Julius Davidovich Yehuda Brutzkus (Palanga 1870-1952 Israel). Historian, scolar and politician. In 1923 he served as Minister for Jewish Affairs in the Lithuanian Parliament and was elected to the Lithuanian Parliament in November 1923.
Brutzkus was an ardent Zioninst and encouraged Jews to engage in political action and self-defense.
2) Prof. Dr. Boris Davidovich (Dov Ber) Brutzkus (Palanga 1874 – 1938 Jerusalem). Economist and professor 1907-1922 in St. Petersburg and Leningrad and at Jerusalem Hebrew University his wife Emilia Osipova-Brutzkus (1873-1952) and their three sons were expelled from Russia in 1922 then moved to Berlin, in 1933 fleeing Nazi Germany to Paris and from there emigrated 1935 to Israel. Two of his sons became leading architects in Israel like his brother in law Shlomo Gepstein (married to his sister Margalit). 
3) Dr. Yoel Davidovich Brutzkus (Palanga/Polangan- Kurland 1885 - 1948(?) Tara (Omsk/Siberia Russia). Mentioned born in Palanga while his father is mentioned to have moved/started  business to Moscow in 1878. Lithuanian Hebrew teacher. Studied mathematics and physics at Moskou University and was as a student actively involved as a Zionist. During WW-I active in Yakupo center helping Jewish refugees from Russia. Taught 1928-1940 physics and mathematics in Kaunas (Kovno) Hebrew Schwabe Gymnasium. Zionist and member of Lithuania cultural centre “Tarbut” and of the central Zionist committee.  Married 1927 Anne Pieseliewicz who taught German language, since 1922, at Schwabe Gymnasium. After the occupation of Lithuania and closure of the Kaunas Gymnasium he taught at Kaunas “Shalom Aleichem” Yiddish Gymnasium, but soon after in 1942 arrested and transported to Siberia where he perished in 1948.
4) Margalit Brutzkus (d.1952) married to architect Shlomo Gepstein (Ukraine 1882 – 1962 Tel-Aviv) who was trained at St. Petersburg Art Academy.
5) Sergius Brutzkus, emigrated at some point (well before 1922) to New-York, America.
6) Elena Brutzkus (Moscow 24-08-1887 – USA ?) married Moscow 14-06-1917 Leo Lazarovitsch Posner (1888 – 1946 USA). “Shortly thereafter they went on their honeymoon. They took the Trans-Siberian Railroad from Moscow to Vladivostok, then they took a ship, such as the Iki Maru, one of Japan’s international ferries, across the Sea of Japan to Yokohama, Japan. Because of the Bolshevik Revolution, Leo and Elena were never able to return to Russia. They lived in Yokohama for five years. On April 1, 1922, they and their 2 1/2 year old son, David (b. 1919), boarded a Chinese steamship, the S.S. Nanking, bound for San Francisco. Seventeen days later, on April 17, they landed at the Angel Island Immigration Station in San Francisco Bay. Soon after, they boarded a train to the East Coast. They settled in Brooklyn, New York, to be near Elena’s brother, Sergius Brutzkus who sponsored them so that they could become Americans”.
7) Sophia Brutzkus.

(8 ?) Walli (Valeria/Valya) Brutzkus (Moscow 1884). For registration in Dresslers Kunsthandbuch 1930 she would herself have given specifics like place and date of birth.

A possible clue: 
From the Yad Vashem archive: Valya Peretz, “dr. of Davyd” lived prior to WW-II in Vitebsk, Belorussia (USSR). During the war she was in Dergachi (USSR) according to a list of residents and evacuated persons in 1942 and the Central Database of Shoah Victims. She could be identical with Wulli Peretz-Brutzkus.

In Vitebsk well known Jewish Lithuanian painter Joeri (Jehoeda) Pen (1854-1937) since 1896 ran a private Jewish Art School (“Zeichenschule”) acting as Russias centre of Jewish art education and that was allowed to function even after the 1917 Revolution and still active until 1937 when Pen was murdered in his home. Marc Chagall, Ossip Zadkine, El Lissitsky and many others later famous artists studied here.


Rosa Wolbe-Brutzkus in Berlin:

Moritz Behr Brutzkus married Jenny Aronsohn. He is mentioned an official in the “Königliche Bernsteinwerke” (Royal Amber Company) in Königsberg the family living alternatively in Königsberg (1902) and Berlin Charlottenburg (1913) as a tradesman (in amber and products).
- Rosa Brutzkus (Königsberg 20-07-1882 – 15-08-1942 murdered Riga) married Berlin professor Dr. Eugen Wolbe (Berlin 06-04-1873 – 22-09-1938 Berlin-Tiergarten), a gymnasium teacher since 1904, publicist and autograph-collector. He was from a Berlin Jewish family and was forced to resign and stop working by the Nazi’s in 1933. In Berlin Tiergarten in 2003 a memorial plague was placed commemorating him and his colleagues from the “Fichte Realschule”. 

- Bianca Hedwig Brutzkus (Berlin 25-01-1878 – 18-07-1920 Berlin) married Berlin-Charlottenburg 14-10-1902 Bernhard Saenger (19-07-1861 Sagar – d. before 18-07-1920) attorney at law in Berlin-Charlottenburg (1902). He was the son of Elias Davids Saenger (Retowo 1833 – 22-05-1916 Berlin-Charlottenburg) cantor in Charlottenburg (1902) and Cäecilie Kohn.

Another member of the Brutzkus family from Palanga:

Berta Brutzkus (Palanga/Polangen 01-05-1887 – 12-08-1965) married German-Russian Communist Jakob Reich (his first marriage) (1886-1955 New-York). She studied medicin from 1904 in Switzerland (promotion in 1912). Exiled in Zürich their daughter Hanna (08-04-1914 –  17-03-1992) was born. Until 1915 she worked as pediatrician in Zurich University Clinic and 1915-1918 in a refugee camp in Austria. 1920-31 as physcian in Berlin, and from 1924 with the Russian Trade commitee. In 1929 she joined the KPD and worked as a specialist in the Sovjet Union from 1931, since 1943 in the Ministry of Health. In 1949 she returned to Germany. 

All help identifying Walli Peretz-Brutzkus is welcomed. For the reader that can  help me find and and acquire a Poppies print I can be very generous.

All pictures borrowed freely from the Internet for friendly, educational and non commercial use only.   

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