Home Story: an artist’s book about the Berghof
Home Story artist’s book draws its inspiration from the autobiography titled “I was Hilter’s Maid” written by Pauline Kohler and published by John Long, London in 1940. The American edition from the same year was called “The woman who lived in Hitler’s House”.
Kohler’s narrative is set in the Berghof building which was Hitler’s home in Berchtesgaden, a key site related to the Hitler story, and a place that achieved a mythic status in the minds of both the Germans and the Allies during World War Two. The John Long publication is the supposed biography of an ex-employee named ‘Pauline Kohler’ who apparently worked at the Berghof in the years leading up to the WWII and after it began. It combines fact with fantasy.
The book was originally published worldwide in at least seven different languages including Chinese, Finnish, Dutch, Spanish and Danish between 1940 and 1948. It was republished more recently in Indonesia in the 1960s as anti-Soeharto propaganda and in 2016 in the Urdu language in India.
The background to Home Story Artist Book
I came to this project after being invited to create a work for an exhibition in Melbourne based upon books censored in Australia from before the turn of the 20th to the beginning of the 21st century. I chose this title from a long list because it related to Munich where I was living at the time and gave me an opportunity to engage with the history of my new environment.
At the time of its publication book was censored in Australia due to its ‘sexual content’. This ruling was eventually overturned after a long court case between the British Government and the Australian censorship board.
During my research, I discovered this book was potentially developed by the British War Office as part of a black propaganda campaign supposedly giving an insider’s view on the life of the German dictator. In light of this suggestion, the question of who the “real” Pauline Kohler became another focus of my project.
Home Story seeks to reimagine the spaces in which numerous important international diplomatic meetings took place in the lead up to the Second World War and where Kohler’s pre-war story is set.
“I was Hitler’s Maid” has become the starting point of my conceptual journey through the architecture and spaces of the Third Reich.
This work was inspired by a censored book and was exhibited in the exhibition “Banned Books in Australia” exhibition at Melbourne University during 2010.
How the Home Story book idea developed
Berghof Project is an art project to revisioning Hitler’s Berghof in Obersalzberg. The catalyst for this project was when the Australian artist Penelope Richardson moved to Munich and found the city full of architecture built during the ‘Bewegung’ (Third Reich).
On being asked to participate in an artist book project in Melbourne focused on books censored by the Australian censorship board over the last 100 years Richardson chose the John Long publication from 1940 titled ‘I Was Hitler’s Maid’ written by Pauline Kohler. The 1939 publication is a jumping-off point the explore the architecture of the ‘Bewegung’ and the history of the building and its visitors before 1940. The book is a hypothetical journey back in time to the now destroyed Berghof building in Obersalzberg, Germany.
This project is the beginning of this ongoing artistic investigation which now includes the book ‘Looking Backwards’ which explores the Berghof site as it is today.
Statement about Home Story Artist Book
This 28-page hand-printed lithographic artist book takes Pauline Kohler’s banned 1940 publication ‘I was Hitler’s Maid’ as a departure point to make a conceptual journey of Hitler’s Berghof Berchtesgaden, Germany, a place that achieved mythic status in the minds of both the Germans and the Allies during World War II.
Using a concertina structure with a flow of drawn images in deep sepia tones across the inside and outside pages, the book seeks to imagine the spaces in which numerous important international diplomatic meetings took place in the lead-up to World War II and where Kohler’s pre-war story is set. The book has an architectural structure and can be displayed standing up.
List of banned books in Australia
The Banned Books in Australia exhibition publication
Home Story Artist Books Exhibition Steindruck München