Hugo Lederer - A Czech?
History should not be adding anything ... as nice as it may even be!
by Gerold Preiß
Admittedly, one thinks that the time has long passed, in which one was still interested in this topic. Only some stick-in-the-mud people find this still interesting. Hugo Lederer left Znojmo when he was nineteen years old. The reason for leaving home might be that he disliked the struggles over the nationalities. At least it can be interpreted in this way. His father was German-born from southern Moravia and Lower Austria. This is detectable until 1580. Whether his mother was of Czech descent is hard to investigate. The family name indicates the Czech descent. The family also comes from an area north of Znojmo, where many Czechs lived. But all the first names of the family Balik, known until 1830, are written in the church books in German. Of course, it is interesting to examine the inevitable mixture of German and Czech families in this context. It can not be denied that in 1945 the Czechs expelled a considerable number of children of their own. Unfortunately, there is no awareness of this in the Czech Republic. In any case, the name of Hugos grandmother was Barbara Kurzweil; undoubtedly a German name. The family Balik is known to me until 1846 and was certainly Moravian. Moravia was at that time a very cosmopolitan homeland of the Habsburg crown. Here progressive policy was made and not infrequently tried what one would like to introduce in the whole empire. That is why they were, above all things, international and tolerant to religions. Nowhere else where that many different believers as in Moravia, which also meant immigrants of other nationalities. However, this changed at the end of the 19th century here as well.
Hugo Lederer himself never wanted to return from Germany, not even to Austria. For example, he did not accept the offer of a professorship in Vienna. Nevertheless, he loved his hometown very much and maintained close contact with his mother and family. For instance, he was the godfather and best man of my mother, his niece. It is certainly not wrong to judge him as a National Liberal, who has close ties to merchants and industrialists, but also has friends - mostly literati and musicians - who are socialists. Therefore, Goebbels dropped him early, he receives no more orders, which puts a heavy burden on him economically. This is not to deny that he was positive about the Nazi ideology. Nevertheless there are nowadays strong arguments and many studies in Germany about him, whose assessment of his attitudes in my opinion is not always really close to its actual. Unfortunately, this is very difficult to prove because there are no sources. It is always emphasized that he was a great artist of the early 20th century and came from southern Moravia. Sadly, the assessors I know, mostly art historians, quickly move on to more societal (thus political) criteria; the work as such is rarely named. Considerable doubts are justified as to whether anyone ever really bothered to examine all the existing sculptures. It was up to us - the family -, especially his brother Karl, my grandfather, to complete this. It seems that you can not judge a work regardless of its origin and environment. This is certainly not unimportant! In addition to his large sculptures like Fechter and Bismarck, however, there are such outstanding others as Die Kauernde, Richard Strauss or Pfitzner or the Figuren der Jahreszeiten (figures of the seasons), to name only a tiny part of his more than 300 known works. His numerous female sculptures disprove the oft-voiced opinion that he "could not sculpt women" and the animal sculptures, a considerable part of his works, do not play any role in the critics' assessment!
If the Znojmo's adapt Hugo Lederer today, that's certainly a sign of the appreciation for him. He was born there and his work received room in the museum. But he was certainly never Czech! And the fact that it is there where his work is maintained today is caused by the war and the fact that his family never dreamed that Germans would no longer have a home in this city.
Why are there still people in the cultural life in the 21st century who believe it is important that someone who is recognized for his artistry is also the same nation? It is precisely the concern of the European idea that one can be proud of one's own culture and respect one's neighbors. What you like, may well come from another culture. To emphasize this is a mission of the 21st century, in the knowledge of the dreadful results of other thinking in the 19th and 20th centuries.
Let us use the work of Hugo Lederer as an intermediary, it is ideally suited for this!