Oda Schottmüller

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Oda Schottmüller
Oda Schottmüller.png
Portrait of Oda Schottmüller 1928
Born9 February 1905 (1905-02-09)
Died5 August 1943(1943-08-05) (aged 38)
Cause of deathGuillotine
EducationOdenwald school, Berlin School of Modern Artistic Dance
OccupationExpressive dancer, sculptor and mask maker

Oda Schottmüller (9 February 1905 in Posen – 5 August 1943 in Charlottenburg-Nord, Berlin) was an expressive dancer, mask maker and sculptor.[1] Schottmüller was most notable as a resistance fighter[2] and for being an symbolically important member of the Berlin-based anti-fascist resistance group that would later be named by the Gestapo as the Red Orchestra.[3][4]


Schottmüller was the daughter of archivist Kurt Schottmüller and Dorothea Schottmüller, née Stenzler.[5] Schottmüller was the granddaughter of the historian Konrad Schottmüller[4] and niece of art historian Frida Schottmüller.[1]

In 1906, Kurt Schottmüller moved his family to Danzig to work in the state archives. A year later, when Oda was two, Schottmüller's mother suffered a severe nervous ailment that meant she had to stay in a sanatorium for a substantial period to recover. Dorothea Schottmüller never returned until 1912 and instead of going home to Gdańsk she returned to her parental home in Berlin.[3] This left Schottmüller to be brought up by her father in Gdańsk with constrained family income as he was paying his wife maintenance.[5] In August 1919 Kurt Schottmüller, severely emaciated after the first world war, died when Oda was fourteen.[5][6] Her aunt Professor Frida Schottmüller, who was a custodian at the Kaiser-Friedrich Museum[2] and a specialist in quattrocento sculptor[7] applied to be her guardian and being successful meant that Schottmüller had to move back to Berlin.[3] She lived with her aunt until 1922.[3]

Perhaps due to the war and her bad family life Schottmüller was considered unstable and had a laissez-faire attitude to life and work that belied her age.[3] Her guardian realised that spending any more time spent in the state school would have been a waste of time, so she asked Gerda Schottmüller, the aunt of Oda Schottmüller, who worked at the Odenwald school in Heppenheim to arrange an interview between the headmaster, Paul Geheeb and her to determine if Schottmüller could be admitted to the school.[3] From 1922 to 1924 she attended the school to prepare for her Abitur.[2] At Odenwald she met and became lifelong friends with Klaus Mann who would later become a well-known writer.[2] Geheeb considered Schottmüller to be unstable during the whole period she attended Odenwald School but she still managed to pass her Abitur in 1924.[3]

Between 1924 and 1927 Schottmüller completed an arts and crafts education in goldsmithing, pottery and enamel in Pforzheim and Frankfurt.[8] Her family would not support her in becoming a sculptor and dancer, something she had practised at the Odenwald School.[5] When she was of legal age to decide her own future, which was in 1928, she began to study dance at the Berlin School of Modern Artistic Dance with the German dance teacher and choreographer Vera Skoronel who held her audition and the Swiss dance teacher Berthe Trümpy.[1] At the dance studio she met Fritz Cremer the sculptor who acted as occasional headmaster for the school and who would later become part of the collegial discussion group that was lead by Harro Schulze-Boysen.[3]

At the same time she began studying sculpture with Milly Steger[1] at the Association of Berlin Artists.


Oda Schottmüller masked in the alraune dance performance with the Mandrake mask, circa 1941

In 1931 after passing the physical fitness examination that consisted of physical education and gymnastics she joined the Volksbühne theatre as a dancer. At the same time she had a sculpture studio was in the same building as the studio of Johannes Itten in Berlin.[5] In the early 1930's she began to design her own costumes and wooden masks in the studio that she would incorporate into her performances.[5] Here she lived a life of artistic freedom, inspired life as an artist among artists.[2]

In 15 January 1933 Adolf Hitler becomes Chancellor of Germany and the fascists came to power in Germany. From September 1933 all dancers in Germany were informed that they to register with the Reich Chamber of Culture. From that point on the type of expressive and experimental dance that Schottmüller performed in the Weimar Republic was to no longer show. Schottmüller ignored them and decided not to register and never came to notice of the Ministry.[3]

Her first solo dance performance was organised in March 1934 at the theatre at Kurfürstendamm.[1] Her style of dance was eccentric, reflecting the expressionist dance or Ausdruckstanz of the 1920's and combining masks and costumes to suit the mood, transforming into mythological creatures.[3] The names of the performances reflected the eccentric nature of the performances, with such names as Wizard, The Hanged, Strange Hour and Witch. Throughout the interwar period of the 30's, Schottmüller received favourable press reviews. Her sculpture which followed the tenets of expressionism was also positively reviewed. Her sculpture the bronze dancer was reproduced in the German newspaper, the Deutsche Allgemeine Zeitung.[1] In 1940 a reviewer called Nohara wrote highly of Schottmüller, commenting on the dual nature of her dance and sculpture that enabled her to modulate the body and, vice versa, shape her sculpture according to living rhythms and impulses.[1] Only a few weeks before her arrest in 1940, a full page spread about Schottmüller's work appeared in the Die junge Dame (The Young Lady) magazine that was full of praise and noted that Schottmüller had went on an Army tour to cheer up the troops.[1]

In 1935 Schottmüller rented a studio on Charlottenburg's Reichsstrasse 106. During this period her dances continued to evolve. Instead of creatures from myth she changed to figures and the underlying structure and themes of her dance changed as well. The nomenclature of her dance names also changed and were now called, e.g. Erring Soul Angel of Outrage or Tragedy. These reflected how she felt about the social and political reality that she found herself in as the Nazi state advanced. In August 1936 she undertook her first group performance as a dancer in the 1936 Summer Olympics as part of the accompanying program of the Olympic Games.[3] She danced in the movement choir for a performance of Heracles. This was a piece that had won the medal in a competition explicitly created for the games, in which 70000 people entered, to find a performace, song or composition fit for the Olympics.[9] The performance was conducted by the Berlin Philharmonic in the 20000seater open-ait Dietrich Eckart theatre, now called the Waldbühne.[9] She was paid for this performance which gave her a veneer of National Socialist respectability.[3]

In October 1937 the Reich Chamber of Culture finally located Schottmüller and she was forced to complete an application and complete a course in German dance. She refused this, instead sending in reviews of her work to the Ministry which they seemed to accept.[3] In February 1938 she was offered an opportunity to dance in the Volksbühne theatre in the Hour of the Dance which was a performance to showcase young and new dancers performing the German Dance. To satisfy the Nazis she renamed her masks the German Suite and performance dances with names like e.g. Angel of Consolation and The Stranger.[3]

In the autumn of 1938, Schottmüller met the German composer Kurt Schwaen.[10] Schwaen worked with Schottmüller to develop new dances in which he composed new music too.[10]

On 11 November 1941 Schottmüller gave her last public performance in a prestigious concert hall, Beethovensaal on Köthener Straße[3] that was formerly used by the Berlin Philharmonic orchestra until it was destroyed by British bombers on 30 January 1944.[11] During the evening she gave a performance of her dance, The Last. Reviews of the act stated it was an incarnation of plastic ideas, to which she visually transforms her own physicality. On 6 December 1941 she spent three months of a tour of the Netherlands and France for the Wehrmacht and for the rest of 1942 she continued to tour before being arrested and murdered.[3]

Red Orchestra[edit]

In 1935 Schottmüller met the sculptor Kurt Schumacher in the studio of Fritz Cremer which was located close to hers.[12] Schottmüller entered into a love affair with Schumacher and at the time she did not know Schumacher was married. They shared a common bond that led to friendship driven in their opposition to National Socialism and their common interest in sculptural design.[13]

A Stolperstein or stumbling block memorial to Oda Schottmüller that is located at Reichsstraße 106, Berlin-Westend, Germany


On 16 September 1942 while she was at studio on the Reichsstrasse, Schottmüller was arrested and sent to holding cell in the prison on Alexanderplatz. She was accused of using her studio to host a radio set,[2] which she denied.[14]On January 1943, she was sentenced to death by the Reichskriegsgericht for aiding and abetting the preparation of a treasonable enterprise and enemy favouritism.[3] Due to the number of executions that were being conducted, Schottmüller had to spend two months in solitary confinement. In March 1943 Schottmüller was sent to Plötzensee Prison for six weeks before being sent to the Women's Prison on Barnimstrasse. While in the women's prison she petitioned Hitler for a pardon which was rejected on 21 July 1943. On 5 August she was executed [3] in Plötzensee Prison.[15]


The police records of Schottmüller arrest did not survive and the only material that did survive is the letters that she sent from prison.[1] It is doubtful that she was honest in her writing, confessing that she did not know half the people that the Gestapo had said she did, nor the fact some of them were Communists. In a letter to her father she states: I was so glad of my stupidity + cluelessness about political things ... I'm entirely unaware of these things.[1] Even if she did not take part in anti-Nazi activities, she was certainly a member of the bohemian circle around Libertas Schulze-Boysen and Harro Schulze-Boysen. It was resistance that led to her death, not her art.[1]


In November 2014, the Schottmuellerstrasse in Eppendorf was renamed after Schottmüller.[16] The street was formerly named after the bacteriologist Hugo Schottmüller but after intervention by the aristocratic Pallandt family was renamed in honour of Schottmüller. On 23 September 2016, a Stolperstein for Schottmüller was laid in front of the 106 Reichsstraße in Charlottenburg.[2] On 25 August 2019, a memorial stone was unveiled on St. Matthew's Cemetery in Schöneberg in Berlin.

Tributes and exhibitions[edit]

The first tribute to Schottmüller was in 1946 by German theatre critic Paul Fechter who reported on the first art exhibition after the war that spoke about Schottmüller and Schumacher.[17] There have been many more.

Geertje Andresen formerly a research associate at the Memorial to the German Resistance who in cooperation with the German Dance Archives in Cologne conducted an analysis of the estate of Schottmüller. This resulted in the publication of a book[18] and an exhibition that was created in cooperation with Hans Coppi. This was held on 16 November 2006 at the German Resistance Memorial Center.[19] It is Andresen's work that brings to light the futile and vindictive murder by the Nazi state of a German women who was only tangentially linked to the Rote Kapelle and whose membership of the group constituted resistance.


  • Andresen, Geertje (February 2006). "Oda Schottmüller. Der Justizmord an einer Tänzerin im Nationalsozialismus". Ballet Intern. 1. 72 (29): 2–5.
  • Geertje Andresen (2007), "Oda Schottmüller", Neue Deutsche Biographie (NDB) (in German), 23, Berlin: Duncker & Humblot, pp. 503–504; (full text online)
  • Andresen, Geertje (2011). Wer war Oda Schottmüller? : zwei Versionen ihrer Biographie und deren Rezeption in der alten Bundesrepublik und in der DDR (Phd Thesis). Studien und Dokumente zu Alltag, Verfolgung und Widerstand im Nationalsozialismus, Bd. 3. (in German). Lukas Verlag. ISBN 9783867321259. OCLC 817538690.
  • Benz, Wolfgang; Pehle, Walter H (1994). Lexikon des deutschen Widerstandes (in German). Frankfurt: S. Fischer. p. 392. ISBN 3-10-005702-3.
  • Griebel, Regina; Coburger, Marlies; Scheel, Heinrich (1992). Erfasst? : das Gestapo - Album zur Roten Kapelle : eine Foto - Dokumentation. Halle (Saale): Audioscop.
  • Kuckhoff, Greta (1986). Vom Rosenkranz zur Roten Kapelle e. Lebensbericht (in German). Berlin: Verlag Neues Leben. OCLC 74777195.
  • Elfriede, Paul; Küchenmeister, Wera (1987). Ein Sprechzimmer der Roten Kapelle (in German) (3. Aufl ed.). Berlin: Militärverlag der Deutschen Demokratischen Republik. ISBN 9783327004210.
  • Trepper, Leopold (1978). Die Wahrheit. Autobiographie des „Grand Chef“ der Roten Kapelle (in German). Munich: Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag. pp. 152–377. ISBN 9783423013871.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Deborah Ascher Barnstone; Elizabeth Otto (1 November 2018). Art and Resistance in Germany. Bloomsbury Publishing. p. 58. ISBN 978-1-5013-4487-9. Retrieved 2 July 2019.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g "Oda Schottmüller". Koordinierungsstelle Stolpersteine Berlin (in German). Berlin: AG Stolpersteine Reinickendorf. Retrieved 2 July 2019.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r Andresen, Geertje. "Tänzerin, Bildhauerin und Nazigegnerin". Deutsches Tanzarchiv Köln (in German). Die "Rote Kapelle": SK Stiftung Kultur der Sparkasse KölnBonn. Retrieved 2 July 2019.
  4. ^ a b Geertje Andresen (1 November 2005). Oda Schottmüller: Die Tänzerin, Bildhauerin und Nazigegnerin Oda Schottmüller (1905–1943). Lukas Verlag. ISBN 978-3-936872-58-3. Retrieved 2 July 2019.
  5. ^ a b c d e f Bake, Rita. "Ein Gedächtnis der StadtNach Frauen und Männern benannte Straßen, Plätze, Brücken in Hamburg" (pdf). Hamburg. hamburg.de GmbH & Co. KG. p. 376. Retrieved 2 July 2019.
  6. ^ "Widerstand gegen den Nationalsozialismus in Berlin" (pdf). Berliner Geschichtswerkstatt e.V. (in German). Berliner Geschichtswerkstatt e. V. p. 23. Retrieved 2 July 2019.
  7. ^ Nützmann, Hannelore (1997). "Ein Berufsleben : Frida Schottmüller". Mitteilungen des Kunsthistorischen Institutes in Florenz (in German). Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz, Max-Planck-Institut. 40: 236–244. ISSN 0342-1201. OCLC 886865066.
  8. ^ Gisela Notz (September 2018). Wegbereiterinnen: Berühmte, bekannte und zu Unrecht vergessene Frauen aus der Geschichte (in German). AG SPAK Bücher. pp. 303–304. ISBN 978-3-945959-27-5. Retrieved 17 July 2019.
  9. ^ a b John R. Gold; Margaret M. Gold (6 September 2010). Olympic Cities: City Agendas, Planning, and the World’s Games, 1896 – 2016. Routledge. p. 89. ISBN 978-1-136-89373-5. Retrieved 3 August 2019.
  10. ^ a b Geertje Andresen (2012). Wer war Oda Schottmüller?: zwei Versionen ihrer Biographie und deren Rezeption in der alten Bundesrepublik und in der DDR (in German). Note 202: Lukas Verlag. p. 93. ISBN 978-3-86732-125-9. Retrieved 12 July 2019.
  11. ^ Aster, Misha (2010). The Reich's Orchestra: The Berlin Philharmonic 1933–1945. Souvenir Press. p. 149. ISBN 978-0-285-63893-8
  12. ^ Geertje Andresen (1 November 2005). Oda Schottmüller: Die Tänzerin, Bildhauerin und Nazigegnerin Oda Schottmüller (1905–1943). Lukas Verlag. p. 65. ISBN 978-3-936872-58-3. Retrieved 11 July 2019.
  13. ^ Geertje Andresen (1 November 2005). Oda Schottmüller: Die Tänzerin, Bildhauerin und Nazigegnerin Oda Schottmüller (1905–1943) (in German). Lukas Verlag. p. 149. ISBN 978-3-936872-58-3. Retrieved 31 July 2019.
  14. ^ Geertje Andresen (1 November 2005). Oda Schottmüller: Die Tänzerin, Bildhauerin und Nazigegnerin Oda Schottmüller (1905–1943) (in German). Lukas Verlag. p. 274. ISBN 978-3-936872-58-3. Retrieved 31 July 2019.
  15. ^ Reinhard Rürup (1996). 1936, die Olympischen Spiele und der Nationalsozialismus: eine Dokumentation (in German). Argon. p. 123. ISBN 978-3-87024-350-0. Retrieved 24 July 2019.
  16. ^ "hamburg: Schottmüller – korrigiert". Hamburger Wochenblatt (in German). WBV Wochenblatt Verlag GmbH. Archived from the original on 2 December 2014.
  17. ^ Geertje Andresen (2012). Wer war Oda Schottmüller?: zwei Versionen ihrer Biographie und deren Rezeption in der alten Bundesrepublik und in der DDR. Lukas Verlag. p. 32. ISBN 978-3-86732-125-9. Retrieved 31 August 2019.
  18. ^ Andresen, Geertje (2005). Die Tänzerin, Bildhauerin und Nazigegnerin Oda Schottmüller : 1905-1943 ; [zugleich Begleitbuch zur Oda-Schottmüller-Ausstellung des Deutschen Tanzarchivs Köln und der Gedenkstätte Deutscher Widerstand, Berlin] [The dancer, sculptor and Nazi opponent Oda Schottmüller] (in German) (Erstausg., 1. Aufl ed.). Berlin: Lukas-Verlag. ISBN 3-936872-58-9.
  19. ^ "Oda Schottmüller – Tänzerin, Bildhauerin, Nazigegnerin". Gedenkstätte Deutscher Widerstand. German Resistance Memorial Center. Retrieved 31 August 2019.