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Gelatin silver print
27.1 × 21.6 cm (10 11/16 × 8 1/2 in.)
J. Paul Getty Museum
© J. Paul Getty Trust, Object Number: 84.XM.126.245
(Curatorial description, 15 December 2021)
Influenced by political developments in Germany in the 1930s, August Sander added two portfolios to the original set of forty-five in his ambitious project “Citizens of the Twentieth Century”: the Nazi and the Jew.
“Citizens of the Twentieth Century” was to be a physiognomic portrait of the German people, a comprehensive cultural history and social analysis in pictures. Physiognomy, the study of systematic correspondence between a person’s facial features or body structure and his/her psychological character, gained in popularity in the nineteenth century and has served as disturbing justification for racial profiling, discrimination, and genocide in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.
Grafting the Nazi and Jew portfolios onto the existing body of work, Sander left intact the solid, orderly, and respectable society outlined in the previous sections. As art historian Ulrich Keller has observed, this rather simplistic juxtaposition of perpetrator and victim is a historic fallacy that implies that the rest of German society had little to do with the dramatic and unfortunate turn of events. Rather than acknowledging the deep social and cultural roots of National Socialism, Sander wrongly suggested that it was only skin-deep.
Sander and his family were sympathetic to the Jewish people. He and his wife, Anna (1878-1957), blatantly patronized Jewish merchants, even at a time when to do so carried serious risks. Many Jews, such as the man depicted in this photograph, came to Sander's studio to have their passport pictures taken, as they were trying to leave the country (see also: 84.XM.126.216, 84.XM.126.217, 84.XM.126.226, 84.XM.126.238, 84.XM.126.239, 84.XM.126.245, 84.XM.126.246, 84.XM.126.247). For the artist, these photographs served a dual function: they were commissioned portraits that he later used for his own typological purposes. In either case, they represent a solemn record of the impending victimization of the German Jews.