Georg Althaus Photographs (including Hanns Weltzel Papers and Photographs)

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

The Georg Althaus collection comprises negatives, slides and photographs taken by Hanns Weltzel during the 1930s and 1940s, of the Sinti and aspects of Sinti life, mainly in Germany but also eastern Europe. It includes papers collected or written by Hanns Weltzel relating to the Sinti, their language and geneaology. The predominant Gyspy tribes that are represented are Lòwàra, Kelderara, Láleri and Ungri (note: Althaus' spelling of these names varies throughout). There are further photographs of Gypsies, taken by different photographers in most parts of Europe, ranging from 1907-1960s  though the bulk are from 1930s onwards. There are also photographs of the Gypsy mission in the 1940s-1960s.

Administrative / Biographical History

Georg Althaus

Hermann Martin Georg Althaus was born in Mamba, German East Africa, in 1898. His father was a missionary working on behalf of the (Lutheran) Leipzig Mission. Althaus attended university in Göttingen and Leipzig, and his interest in Sinti and Roma dates from his student days. When he became minister to the parish in Timmerlah, near Braunschweig, he had occasion to meet and help local Sinti, and began to study their language and culture. Under the Nazi regime, Althaus lost contact with Sinti, but he distinguished himself by using his ministry to demonstrate his disapproval of the persecution of the Jews. As a result, in 1936 he was sentenced to six months' imprisonment and suspended from his ministry.

Althaus' activities after 1945 were shaped by his experience under National Socialism, and had two emphases. He became nationally known for his campaign to expose the members of the Lutheran church hierarchy who had collaborated with the Nazi regime. He also revived his interest in the Sinti, after making contact with a group of families settled in Hildesheim in 1952. He established a ministry to 'Israel and the Gypsies', which was officially approved by the church authorities in 1957. Conceived as an act of atonement for the crimes committed between 1933 and 1945, the ministry developed into a service exclusively to Sinti. Between 1957 and 1963 Althaus was in more or less permanent conflict with the regional church authorities as a result both of his political activities and of his efforts to ensure that his ministry received adequate financial and administrative support. In fact, Althaus ran the ministry out of the apartment which housed his large family and drew on his personal resources to support it. Althaus carried on an intensive correspondence with most of the principal German gypsiologists, as well as with Dora Yates. He also engaged in press exchanges with Eva Justin, one of the leading Nazi race scientists still active after the war, and provided testimony for her (unsuccessful) prosecution. Althaus retired from the ministry in 1963. He died in Braunschweig in 1974.

Althaus became aware of Hanns Weltzel in the early 1950s, as a result of an altercation with members of the Hildesheim Sinti who had been among Weltzel's subjects. Through the mediation of Dora Yates, Althaus contacted Weltzel's widow, Klara, who was still living in Roßlau. In return for regular gifts of food (and possibly cash), Klara Weltzel gradually handed over the bulk of Weltzel's remaining papers and photographs to Althaus. The current order of the Weltzel photographs - catalogued, numbered, and bound in albums - may date from the autumn of 1963, when Althaus travelled to the University of Halle; at a conference organised by Prof. Heinz Mode, Althaus lectured on Sinti life, using Weltzel's pictures. On that occasion he also visited Klara Weltzel for the first and only time.

Hanns Weltzel

Johannes Otto Luis (Hanns) Weltzel, was born in Breslau, the son of a commercial employee, but the family moved to Leipzig in 1910. After his father's death (probably during the First World War) Hanns and his mother settled with his maternal grandmother in Roßlau, an industrial suburb of Dessau. After finishing secondary school there, Weltzel went on to train for work in the lumber business. he worked for various firms in Roßlau in the 1920s, suffered unemployment in the depression, and developed his literary and scientific interests into a small-scale journalistic career. By his own account, he began publishing in the Anhalter Anzeiger (Dessau) in 1932, and throughout the late thirties he regularly published vignettes of Roßlau life and history in its daily pages and full-page features in the weekend supplement. He also published occasional pieces of literary criticism, but the principal emphasis of his journalism alongside local history was natural history, and particularly the study of snakes. From 1934 onwards, he regularly gave radio talks on natural science, and his first book was a popular study of the qualities and habits of snakes published in the same year. Two further volumes followed, Erk Alberger (1936), a family saga set in and around Roßlau, and Der Vormittagsreiter (1941), an essayistic study of equestrainism. In November 1935 Weltzel married Klara Czychowski, four years his junior, whose family owned a men's outfitting shop in Roßlau; the marriage was childless. Weltzel's interest in the Sinti people around Roßlau, and his earliest photographs of Romani subjects, appear to date from the early 1930s. Weltzel's interest in philology and dialectology led him to learn and record the language of the Sinti as well as observing their way of life. By 1936 he had gathered sufficient data to be invited to submit an article to the Journal of the Gypsy Lore Society (JGLS) (see Weltzel's letters to Dora Yates 1936-1938 in the GLS Archive GLS IX 49-54). Weltzel formed a particularly close relationship with the Sinto Lamperli, whose father was the "puru", or authoritative elder of a group of interconnected families. Lamperli was one of the few members of his extended family to survive the Nazi persecution of Romanies. Weltzel also survived the war, and returned to Roßlau. He was arrested in April 1952 under the charge of espionage and anti-Soviet activities and executed the following September. His widow, Klara, died in Roßlau in 1964, the year after Lamperli; in her last years she eked out her income by selling Weltzel's photographs to Georg Althaus.

Arrangement

  • GA 1 : Weltzel photographic archive
  • GA 2 : Weltzel papers
  • GA 3 : Althaus photographic archive

Conditions Governing Access

Access is open to bona fide researchers

Acquisition Information

Given by Dorothee Althaus-Pultke, daughter of Georg Althaus, via Eve Rosenhaft, November 2001 .

Alternative Form Available

Many of the Hanns Weltzel photographs (GA 3) correspond to numbered photographic negatives (GA 1/1) and photographic slides (GA 1/2), also in the archive

Separated Material

Personal papers in the possession of Dorothee Althaus-Pultke (Braunschweig) (for deposit in public archives).

Papers relating to Althaus' ministry and relations with the church hierarchy: Landeskirchliches Archiv Braunschweig.

Conditions Governing Use

Reproduction and licensing rules available on request

Related Material

Letters, photographs and typescripts from Hanns Weltzel (1930s-1940s) and from Georg Althaus (1950s-1970s) to Dora Yates in the Gypsy Lore Society Archive and Scott Macfie Manuscripts.

Bibliography

Jochimsen, Lukrezia. Zigeuner heute : Untersuchung einer Außenseitergruppe in einer deutschen Mittelstadt. Stuttgart : F. Enke, 1963. (an anonymous study of the Sinti families to whom Althaus ministered)

Rosenhaft, Eve.A Photographer and His "Victims" 1934-1964: Reconstructing a Shared Experience of the Romani Holocaust.

Kuessner, Dietrich.  'Bekennen und Vergeben in der Nachkriegszeit. Ein Beitrag zum Verständnis der Auseinandersetzung von Landesbischof D. Martin Erdmann mit Max Witte und Georg Althaus', in K.E. Pollmann (ed.), Der schwierige Weg in die Nachkriegszeit. Die Evangelisch-lutherische Landeskirche in Braunschweig 1945-1950, Götteingen: Vandenhoeck and Ruprecht, 1995. Kuessner, Dietrich. Geschichte der Braunschweigischen Landeskirche 1930-1947 im Überblick, Buddenstedt: Rhin,1981. Margalit, Gilad. 'Großer Gott, ich danke Dir, daß Du kleine schwarze Kinder gemacht hast', WerkstattGeschichte 25 (2000), pp. 59-73.