Out of the Display Case:
The Buchenwald Chair by Franz Ehrlich

// Object Talk
Thu, 16 Feb 2023, 6 pm
Bauhaus Museum Dessau
Open Stage

Because of his commitment as an anti-Fascist, Bauhaus member Franz Ehrlich (1907-1984) was imprisoned in the Buchenwald concentration camp. Here, in the site office, he was ordered to design utility objects and furniture for the SS, acting there in the grey area between resistance and collaboration. After his release from the concentration camp, Ehrlich was employed in the SS as an architect, at first in Buchenwald, later in Berlin.

One of Ehrlich’s chairs from this time is on display in the museum exhibition. What can this chair tell us about the correlation of Bauhaus and Buchenwald, these symbols of two utterly disparate formations of the modern era? Launching out from the chair as impetus, the design theorists Friedrich von Borries (HFBK Hamburg) and the historian Jens-Uwe Fischer (HFBK Hamburg) will address Ehrich’s problematical history, discuss the connection between modern design and Nazi politics and pose the quite fundamental question: “What can we learn from Ehrich’s path through life, for us, for our time and for our society?”

Prof. Dr. Friedrich von Borries and Jens-Uwe Fischer MA researched at the Hamburg University of Fine Arts the biography and works of the architect and designer Franz Ehrlich. Results of the research project are published inter alia in the biographical essay “Gefangen in der Titotalitätsmaschine (“Imprisoned in the ‘Titotality’ Machine” and the audio-walk “Der Bauhäusler Franz Ehrlich in Buchenwald”.