To us it was a great honor to create the layout for the book Julius Guugenheimer: Fotograf, accompanying the same titled exhibition at the MEWO Kunsthalle Memmingen. Next to the book we created the exhibition signature, invitations and posters.

Axel Lapp [director of MEWO Kunsthalle] wrote:

For over 70 years the photographs taken by Julius Guggenheimer (Memmingen, 18 February 1885 — Sobibór, 4 June 1943) in the Benedictine monastery of Ottobeuren have not been seen. In the early 1930s, Guggenheimer took a series of pictures of the monks in the monastery as well as of Franciscan nuns who, for a time, looked after the girls in the orphanage and took care of the monastery’s kitchen. Few people knew that these photographs even existed. Lorle Michaelis, the daughter of Julius Guggenheimer, had once told a researcher about “his studies of light and shade in the monastery of Ottobeuren”, but they never surfaced and were presumed lost, like so many other documents and art objects of their time.

Julius Guggenheimer had taken the glass negatives with him when exiled to Amsterdam. They were prized possessions that reminded him of ‘home’ but also functioned as proof of his abilities as a photographer. Very few of these images were published in photo magazines.  Before he was deported to Westerbork and later murdered in Sobibór, Julius Guggenheimer had left the glass negatives with Paul A. J. Wijnhoff, who in 1941 and 1942 had worked as his assistant in Amsterdam and who later became a documentary filmmaker. Wijnhoff looked after them, and when he died, the glass plates found their way first to the Stadsarchief Amsterdam and from there to the Nederlands Fotomuseum in Rotterdam.

After so many years, this is an extraordinary find, as these photographs are a vivid testimony to the artistic personality of Julius Guggenheimer. His photographs of picturesque streets and canals in his home town of Memmingen, which are in part in the collection of the city’s municipal
archive, have long established his reputation and are testament to his skill. But these studies of monastic life go far beyond that. They are no longer single images but form a photographic, artistic project.

They also allow for some interesting observations with regards to the interaction between people of differing religious beliefs in the urban and rural community. Here we do not just have a Jewish photographer who took pictures with an outside view in a monastery. The Catholic monks and priests, as well as the nuns, worked with him together on these images. They modelled their life and they played different roles. While Fr. Philip Zaunberger, who was a carpenter, and Fr. Pontian Pressel, who was a bookbinder, (fig. p. 209, 211) were depicted at their actual places of work, the two monks, who are seen in the library studying a book (fig. p. 208), were not usually found there, but in the gardens. Through the discovery of the photos in Rotterdam, a few negatives of Guggenheimer could subsequently also be identified in the archives of the Benedictine Monastery. These images all show the then parish priest of Ottobeuren, P. Wolfgang Fella OSB (Hundsfeld, 16 April 1876 – Ottobeuren, 1 March 1932) and suggest that this collaboration was the result of an exchange between him and Julius Guggenheimer.

A certain closeness of cooperation can be read from these images, as Guggenheimer photographed Fella not only in various semi- and public spaces of the monastery, but also documented his cell, Fella’s very private retreat within the monastery, and ends the series with an image of the Father’s deathbed and his Grave. 

The œuvre of Julius Guggenheimer still contains many mysteries.  So far we only know it in parts. We do not know what he photographed in Amsterdam. He had quite a bit of work, as he was able to employ an assistant for two to three days a week. Perhaps one day we're lucky and another window into the past opens some other time in another. Perhaps we can even explain the mystery of his photographs from Tripoli.