Myth of Joseph Beuys being saved by the Tartars after a plane crash  

From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia

Jump to: navigation, search

"Had it not been for the Tartars I would not be alive today ... [they] found me days later. [...] They covered my body in fat to help it regenerate warmth, and wrapped it in felt as an insulator to keep warmth in." --Myth of Joseph Beuys being saved by the Tartars after a plane crash

Related e

Google
Wikipedia
Wiktionary
Wiki Commons
Wikiquote
Wikisource
YouTube
Shop


Featured:
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Enlarge
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

In 1941, Joseph Beuys volunteered for the Luftwaffe.

He began his military training as an aircraft radio operator in 1941, under the tutelage of Heinz Sielmann in Posen (now Poznań) and they both attended lectures in Biology and Zoology at the University of Posen, at that time a Germanized University. It is also during this time that he began to seriously consider a career as an artist.

In 1942, Beuys was stationed in the Crimea and was a member of various combat bomber units. From 1943 on he was deployed as rear-gunner in the Ju 87 "Stuka" dive-bomber, initially stationed in Königgrätz, later in the eastern Adriatic region. Drawings and sketches from that time have been preserved and already show his characteristic style.

On 16 March 1944, Beuys's plane crashed on the Crimean Front close to Znamianka, (then "Freiberg"). From this incident, Beuys fashioned the myth that he was rescued from the crash by nomadic Tatar tribesmen, who had wrapped his broken body in animal fat and felt and nursed him back to health:

"Had it not been for the Tartars I would not be alive today. They were the nomads of the Crimea, in what was then no man's land between the Russian and German fronts, and favoured neither side. I had already struck up a good relationship with them, and often wandered off to sit with them. ‘Du nix njemcky’ they would say, ‘du Tartar,’ and try to persuade me to join their clan. Their nomadic ways attracted me of course, although by that time their movements had been restricted. Yet, it was they who discovered me in the snow after the crash, when the German search parties had given up. I was still unconscious then and only came round completely after twelve days or so, and by then I was back in a German field hospital. So the memories I have of that time are images that penetrated my consciousness. The last thing I remember was that it was too late to jump, too late for the parachutes to open. That must have been a couple of seconds before hitting the ground. Luckily I was not strapped in – I always preferred free movement to safety belts… My friend was strapped in and he was atomized on impact – there was almost nothing to be found of him afterwards. But I must have shot through the windscreen as it flew back at the same speed as the plane hit the ground and that saved me, though I had bad skull and jaw injuries. Then the tail flipped over and I was completely buried in the snow. That's how the Tartars found me days later. I remember voices saying ‘Voda’ (Water), then the felt of their tents, and the dense pungent smell of cheese, fat and milk. They covered my body in fat to help it regenerate warmth, and wrapped it in felt as an insulator to keep warmth in." --Beuys in Caroline Tisdall: Joseph Beuys (Guggenheim, 1979), pp. 16–17.

Records state that Beuys was conscious, recovered by a German search commando, and there were no Tatars in the village at that time. Beuys was brought to a military hospital where he stayed for three weeks from 17 March to 7 April. It is not inconsistent with Beuys' work that his biography would have been subject to his own reinterpretation; this particular story has served as a powerful myth of origins for Beuys's artistic identity, as well as providing an initial interpretive key to his use of unconventional materials, amongst which felt and fat were central.

Despite prior injuries, he was deployed to the Western Front in August 1944, into a poorly equipped and trained paratrooper unit. He received the German Wound Badge in gold for being wounded in action more than five times. On the day after the German unconditional surrender on 8 May 1945, Beuys was taken prisoner in Cuxhaven and brought to a British internment camp from which he was released 5 August of that year. He returned to his parents who had moved to a suburb of Kleve.




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Myth of Joseph Beuys being saved by the Tartars after a plane crash" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

Personal tools