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Two Leipzig Bookplates

The Background:

Every bookplate has a story to tell; but not many of those stories will recount the horrendous series of tragedies represented by the two examples shown here. They were created as presents from my grandfather, Geheimrat Dr. Henri Hinrichsen, to my grandmother, Martha Hinrichsen and to their third son, my uncle, Hans-Joachim Hinrichsen. The huge cumulative sorrow, which these bookplates carry, is a small part of the much greater tragedy, which we all know of as the Holocaust.

Henri Hinrichsen (born in Hamburg in 1868) was the proprietor of the famous music publishing company of C.F. Peters, Leipzig (founded in December 1800). He had entered the company, which belonged to his uncle, Dr. Max Abraham, in 1887 at the age of 19, becoming his uncle’s partner in 1894. On Dr. Abraham’s death in 1900, my grandfather became sole proprietor. The business thrived and prospered under his careful guidance. With the profits, he became a most generous benefactor to many Leipzig institutions, musicians and individuals. He was a respected member of the town council and on the committees of several worthy institutions, as well as supporting many other organizations. In 1911, he became the founding benefactor of the first All Women’s College in Germany – the Henriette Goldschmidt Schule – which he continued to fund for over twenty years. He carried all the financial costs of staffing and of new acquisitions for the Peters Music Library, which Dr. Abraham had presented to Leipzig in 1894. He himself donated the collection of 2,600 musical instruments, which formed the Musical Instruments Museum, to Leipzig in 1926. For all his generous benefactions in the cause of education and for the promotion of German music, my grandfather was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Leipzig University in 1929

Meanwhile, in 1898 he had married Martha Bendix from Berlin. This happy marriage produced seven children over the course of the next twenty years – five sons and two daughters. In due course, the three eldest sons: Max (who eventually became my father), Walter and the aforementioned Hans-Joachim joined the business. Apart from being a music publisher, Henri Hinrichsen was a great book-lover. He was one of the founding members of the Leipzig Bibliophiles Association in 1904, a group of 99 gentlemen (no ladies admitted) who called themselves “the Ninetyniners”. They were all connected with the book and printing trades; amongst their members were book publishers, music publishers, printers, book designers, graphic artists, paper merchants, book dealers, writers, editors, etc. Many of these were amongst my grandfather’s closest friends. One of these, the graphic artist Professor Hugo Steiner-Prag, was always a welcome guest in my grandparents’ home; it was he whom my grandfather commissioned to design a bookplate for my grandmother’s 50th birthday, in 1929.


The Design of Martha Hinrichsen’s bookplate
The bookplate is engraved and printed in redish-sepia colour on good quality, heavy cream coloured paper. Size: 10cms x 14.5cms. Signed in pencil by the artist. The design is very allegorical, but sadly there is nobody alive to tell me exactly what it means. I think that the trees bending towards each refer to the great love between my grandparents. The seven intertwining branches of the trees probably signify that their union produced seven children. The Janus-effect portraits do not depict Martha and Henri Hinrichsen.



The Designer: Hugo Steiner-Prag
Hugo Steiner-Prag was a famous graphic artist, book illustrator and stage designer during the first half of the 20th century. Born in Prague, Czechoslovakia in 1880 as Hugo Steiner, he added the “Prag” to his name later. From 1907 onwards he taught at the Academy for Graphic Arts and Book Design in Leipzig, where he became Professor in 1910. He worked for many publishers and was the Art Director of the Propyläen Publishing Company and organizer of the IBA (International Book Artists) Exhibition in 1927. He also organized the exhibition for the centenary of Goethe’s death: “Goethe in the Book Art of the World” in 1932. As a Jew, Hugo Steiner-Prag was dismissed from his post when the Nazis came to power in 1933. He returned home to Czechoslovakia, but when the Germans invaded his country he fled to the USA. He never returned to Europe, dying in New York in 1945.


The Design of Dr Hans-Joachim Hinrichsen’s Bookplate

This was probably created in 1930, for Hans-Joachim’s 21st birthday. It is a reproduction of a photograph taken around 1915, printed in sepia on cream coloured paper. Size: 10cms x 7cms. It shows the house: 10 Tal Strasse in Leipzig, which was the business premises of the Music Publishing Company – Musikverlag C.F. Peters, and also the home of the Hinrichsen family. Otto Brückewald, the architect who also designed Wagner’s Festspielhaus in Bayreuth, designed the house. Commissioned by Dr. Max Abraham in 1873 the company moved in, in August 1874. In 1905 Henri Hinrichsen added an elegant looking new warehouse (the two-story building on the left), designed by another fine architect, Clemens Thieme. The flat roof became a beautiful roof garden. At that time the house was also modernized and refurbished, when central heating was installed (electric light having been in place since 1896).


The Tragedy

When the Nazis came to power in 1933, Hugo Steiner-Prag was not the only one to be affected. The Hinrichsen family was also Jewish. Descended from Sephardic Jews, my grandfather had always been proud of his family having been German citizens for almost 300 years. As an important citizen of Leipzig he did not think that the horrors perpetrated by his fatherland would be directed against himself and his family. In 1938 the music publishing business was confiscated and “aryanized” – sold to a suitably qualified non-Jew; grandfather never received a penny. The house was also confiscated from him and he had to give up his keys. His entire family was persecuted; fourteen close members were transported and died in various concentration camps. My grandparents managed to escape to Brussels in 1940, where Hans-Joachim joined them some six weeks later. When the Germans invaded Belgium my elderly grandparents had nowhere else to go and were awaiting a visa to immigrate to the USA. Hans-Joachim escaped to France, where the Gestapo caught him and imprisoned him in Perpignan; he died there a few weeks later, aged 31. My grandmother, who suffered from Diabetes, was dependent upon insulin; as a Jew, she was not permitted to have any. She died in Brussels in 1941. It was probably a blessing, because in 1942 my 74 year-old grandfather, Dr. Henri Hinrichsen, was transported to Auschwitz where, on arrival, he was taken on a lorry with all others over 50, to be gassed in Birkenau. In 1943 my grandparents’ younger son, my uncle Paul, was also gassed in Auschwitz. Like Hans-Joachim, he was 31. The same fate awaited their daughter, my aunt Ilse’s family – her husband, Dr. Ludwig Frankenthal along with their two little sons were gassed, whilst Ilse, incredibly survived the horrors of five concentration camps.


The Aftermath

The house and business were restored to the Hinrichsen family in 1945, only to be confiscated once again, by the Russians, a few weeks later. They went into State Ownership (VEB) by the new German Democratic Republic. Finally restored again to the family in 1992, the house, which had not been repaired or refurbished for over 70 years, was in a terrible condition. I saw it for the first time in 1991, when parts of it were still habitable and in use by the company of C.F. Peters. It was sold to an investor – an Egyptian plastic surgeon living in Munich, who then neglected it for a further 10 years, during which time it was also vandalized. It is (in 2002) empty, boarded up and almost totally dilapidated. It will hopefully be restored soon.


Discovering the Bookplates

I first became aware of the existence of the bookplates in 1993, following a communication from the State and University Library of Bremen. The Librarian had become aware of the fact that there were many stolen books in their library. These had come into their possession in 1941. My grandparents had been permitted – on payment of huge taxes – to pack their non-valuable possessions for dispatch overseas – all valuables had been confiscated. The ten large packing cases, containing all that they had left in the world, were in the dockyards in Bremen. In 1941 the Gestapo confiscated them and put all the contents up for sale in a “Juden Auktion” – “Jews Auction” for the benefit of the State coffers; amongst the contents were about 200 books. The Bremen Library acquired some of these. After 50 years 30 books could be positively identified as having belonged to Martha and Henri Hinrichsen and their son Hans-Joachim; a few of these contained the bookplates described above. The books are now in my possession. (If anybody ever acquires any book embellished with either of these bookplates, the books are stolen property and rightfully belong to my family.)


The History

For those interested, I would recommend my book, which has had excellent reviews:

MUSIC PUBLISHING AND PATRONAGE – C.F. Peters: 1800 to the Holocaust. Written by Irene Lawford-Hinrichsen, the Foreword is by Yehudi Menuhin. This is not a dry company history, but a wealth of real life, never before published, stories of musicians, music publishing, musical taste and the social and political scene. Please see my web site for full details:

Published by Edition Press in 2000. ISBN 0-9536112-0-5. Price £25.00 (€43.00) (US $50.00) it is available post-free for £ sterling or Euro cheques in favour of I. Lawford, or US $ bills (not checks). From: I. Lawford, 22, Bouverie Gardens, Kenton, Middx. HA3 ORQ, England.

Copyright © Irene Lawford-Hinrichsen 2002.