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Fritz Wegner

Discussion in 'WWII Era Obituaries (non-military service)' started by GRW, Apr 3, 2015.

  1. GRW

    GRW Pillboxologist WW2|ORG Editor

    Oct 26, 2003
    Likes Received:
    Stirling, Scotland
    "Fritz Wegner, who has died aged 90, arrived in Britain as a refugee from the Nazis in 1938 and went on to become a highly respected illustrator of children’s books; his delicate, playful, beautifully crafted drawings enlivened several works by Allan Ahlberg and (among others) a 1968 edition of André Maurois’s pacifist fable, Fattypuffs and Thinifers, and Michael Rosen’s version of the Till Eulenspiegel stories, The Wicked Tricks of Till Owlyglass (1989).
    A meticulous artist who preferred to draw in ink with a fine nib and, when using colour, added watercolour washes afterwards, Wegner was twice shortlisted for the Kurt Maschler award (for a “work of imagination for children, in which text and illustration are integrated so that each enhances and balances the other”), the first time for his illustrations for Till Owlyglass, and secondly for his work for Brian Alderson’s retelling of The Tale of the Turnip (1999).
    The cultural heritage of Wegner’s upbringing in Vienna was often visible in his work. As well as illustrated German fairy stories, he was influenced by the work of Walter Trier, the illustrator of Erich Kästner’s Emil and the Detectives, who had himself fled to Britain in 1936. But he also loved the work of British book illustrators of the Victorian era . His human figures are always comic, but they are individuals rather than caricatures.
    Fritz Wegner was born in Vienna on September 15 1924 into a family of assimilated Jews, and it was his childhood love of drawing that first made him aware of his own Jewishness. Following the Anschluss, a drawing he made of Adolf Hitler to amuse his classmates was shown to a Nazi-supporting teacher at his school. As a result he suffered a terrible beating.
    Alarmed by the way things were going, his mother warned her husband, who was on business in France at the time, not to return to Vienna. So he travelled to London and sought a sponsor for his son. Fritz’s mother then queued for the necessary papers, enabling 13-year old Fritz to leave Austria, alone, in August 1938. His mother and other family members followed later, but his grandparents lost their lives in the Holocaust.
    Life in England was hard to begin with. Wegner did not speak English and his father had financial difficulties. But, on a strength of a sketch of a man drawn from memory, he was offered a scholarship to St Martin’s School of Art at the remarkably young age of 14, together with accommodation in Hampstead Garden Suburb with the family of one of his tutors, George Mansell, who also taught him English. Wegner paid his way by helping in Mansell’s studio.
    In 1942 he was classified as a “friendly enemy alien” and assigned to war work on the land, but managed to wangle an appointment as poster artist for the Buckinghamshire War Agricultural Committee. He also submitted cartoons to the Evening Star and later became a lodger with the editor of the paper’s diary column."

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