Research Unit Politics

Departure towards Tomorrow. Biographical Sketches of the Jewish Painter Lea Grundig (1906–1977)


Lea Grundig was born to a family of Jewish immigrants in Dresden. She was a painter and graphic artist who turned towards communism in the late 1920s and was persecuted, arrested, and convicted after the assumption of power by the National Socialists. Her family were able to buy her freedom in late 1939 and to finance her emigration to Palestine. There, she quickly learned Hebrew, established herself as a successful children’s book illustrator, and integrated herself relatively quickly into a society that was preparing itself for statehood. Considering her political activity and artistic recognition in Palestine, Grundig’s return to Dresden in 1948 may come as a surprise. She herself cited as the reason for her return her husband Hans Grundig, who had survived the Nazi regime in various concentration camps and lived in Dresden. Like other returnees from Western emigration, she was at first confronted with hostility in the German Democratic Republic. Yet she found work as a college professor, later becoming a member of the Academy of Fine Arts of the GDR and, from 1964 to 1970, served as the first president of the Verband Bildender Künstler (Association of Fine Artists).

The project »Departure towards Tomorrow. Biographical Sketches of the Jewish Painter Lea Grundig (1906–1977)« aims to approach this woman, Jew, and artist in biographical sketches in order to understand how she managed to assert herself as a woman and as a Jew in both Palestine and the GDR. It will thus investigate the role of Jewishness that Lea Grundig claimed to have cast aside in the 1920s but reappropriated in the years following her emigration. It moreover aims to discover whether and how she was able to safeguard this newfound sense of Jewishness against the communist claims of the GDR as represented by the SED. The answers to these questions will allow for new insights into Jewish life under communist rule in general and about Jewish life in the GDR in particular.