House full of paintings. with records. letters. memoirs. When 21-year-old Katharina Hoegel began showing off her lifelong grandfather’s work to the public, she also got better access to it. Perhaps for the first time.
It seems opposites couldn’t be greater: a former World War II marine and a young Munich woman who wants to study integrated design. Katharina Hoegel followed in her grandfather’s footsteps. A man who lived a life that could not be different from hers. But they have one thing in common – their love for art.
George Hoegel, a handsome man with a mottled gray hairpin and large semi-circular glasses, died in 2014 – Katharina was only 13 years old at the time. So she didn’t have much time to really get to know him. But he left a lot to her and her family – he worked all his life, in the form of paintings, sketches, diaries, letters and notes. Katharina makes this accessible to strangers. But the audience gets acquainted not only with the artist, but also with Katharina. “Being busy day in and day out with someone else’s life’s work does something for you. Our relationship has never been really deep during his life. I can’t say that anymore,” says the young woman.
Interview with Katharina via Zoom – due to the quarantine situation. She wears her short bleached hair in a braid tied back and wears a defined shirt. She laughs a lot and seems balanced and in a good mood. In the background, you can see neatly organized shelves and pinboards with maps and pictures on the walls. But how can a 21-year-old dedicate herself to her grandfather’s legacy?
Summer 2018 – Catarina has just successfully completed her university entrance qualification and applied for a technical degree. But things went differently, she received a rejection from the university and was now at a point where she had to think about how to move forward. “I had to shorten the time before I could start my second application attempt. My grandmother’s apartment was waiting to be cleaned. Half of my grandfather’s art was there. So I decided to take care of it because unfortunately my family didn’t have one I had time for that too. Without this rejection I probably wouldn’t have been able to handle all this on a large scale.”
When you hear Katharina talk about her project, you can’t believe it stemmed from some kind of contingency plan. She appears full of passion and enthusiasm when she talks about her work. She laughs a lot and tells how she initially approached and overwhelmed this task without a plan, and how she developed an intention and, above all, a deeper relationship with her grandfather over the years.
“My relationship with my grandfather was difficult during my childhood, which is why it was always difficult for me to evaluate him. I remember he was always in the process of creating something. He was very critical of himself and others.” Georg Högel preferred to paint the English garden, especially the Monopteros and the people in the garden. He went for walks there and was always getting new inspiration.
Even in the years before his death, he was not able to abandon the creative process. He continued writing his memoirs and recording his thoughts and experiences. “He has been very ill for the last five years of his life, you can also follow his health through diary entries. His handwriting has become more and more fragile and illegible over the years.”
Katrina didn’t know much about her grandfather, only what others had told her. He was aloof and rarely talked about his past. Katharina later learns that the reason for this is guilt and guilt about his wartime past.
Georg Huegel joined the Navy in 1937. Among other things, he served as chief radio officer for the U30, a former German submarine that was responsible for the sinking of the passenger ship “Athena”. From 1941 to 1946 he was a prisoner of war in Canada. During this time he painted 315 portraits that are still on display at the Thunder Bay Military Museum.
While archiving and digitizing the heritage, Catarina also found letters and notes that she read afterwards. She got a new photo from her grandfather. It bothered him to be a part of this wartime past, and his guilt was colossal. In George’s autobiography “Between Greenland and Gibraltar” he wrote, among other things: “If anyone is interested in knowing how many ships have sunk, I want to make it clear right away that we wanted to sink the cargo, but not the people!”
Katharina’s mother stated that Georg Hoegel often regretted that he did not have the opportunity to receive and help more drowned people. They would do this occasionally, but as is known, there is little space on the submarine, which is why this was only possible to a limited extent.
In the meantime, Katrina has set up a website with an online store as well as a digital gallery and social media channels on behalf of her grandfather. An exhibition is scheduled to be held at “KKV Hansa Haus” in September.
Katharina only got help from her best friend. “Basically, I do everything on my own, but my girlfriend has been a great help to me with the exhibition, sorting out the warehouse and digitizing work.”
Not giving up in difficult situations is the hardest thing for Katharina. Her work is often very lonely and confusing, especially since she is also bound by many legal requirements by running and selling artwork. “Of course, sometimes I ask myself the question: Who am I doing all this for? But then I stand in my camp and know that these pictures and stories of war shouldn’t be visible to my family forever.”