BACKGROUND: Artwork, as a propaganda tool, was widely used during the Third Reich and Hitler’s own humble artistic background also helped foster a general interest in German art. Many art exhibitions were held through-out German during the time period with the largest being held annually, ever summer from 1937 to 1944, at the Haus der Deutschen Kunst München, (House of German Art in Munich). As early as 1938 the OKW, Oberkommando der Wehrmacht, (High Command of the Armed Forces), actively began recruiting artists who were assigned to a units Propaganda Company along with photographers and journalists. By the end of the war almost two hundred war artists had served in the Wehrmacht, (Armed Forces), in all three branches of service. One of the most prolific, and as a result one of the best known German war artists was Feldwebel Wolfgang Willrich. Willrich a WWI veteran, had volunteer for military service prior to the outbreak of WWII but had been rejected on the basis of his age, (42), and was assigned to Landwehr I as a trained reserve. Through his personal friendship with Erwin Rommel, Willrich was able to secure a position in the OKH, Oberkommando des Heeres, (High Command of the Army), visual arts section of the Propaganda department. In this position Willrich painted and drew numerous personalities and regular soldiers in all branches of service through-out the war. Many pieces of his artwork were featured on assorted series of postcards developed by the "VDA, "Volksbund für das Deutschtum im Ausland", (National League for Germans Abroad), among others. The VDA was originally a pre-war organization formed to assist German nationals living in foreign countries and during the Third Reich era the VDA was taken over by the NSDAP Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei, (National Socialist German Worker’s Party), and placed under the jurisdiction of the SS, Schutz Staffel, (Protection Squad). Of Note: Born in Bottendorf on September 15TH 1913 Johannes, (Macki), Steinhoff originally joined the Kreigsmarine, (Navy), as an officer cadet in 1934 before transferring to the Luftwaffe, (Air-Force), in 1936 and training as a fighter pilot. In 1939 Steinhoff was appointed as Staffelkapitän of 10./ Jagdgeschwader 26, (10TH Squadron, 26TH Fighter Wing) before transferring to 4./JG52 in February 1940. During this time Steinhoff assisted Hauptmann Wolfgang Falck as Kommodore of Nachtjagdgeschwader 1, (1ST Night Fighter Wing), develop German night fighting tactics. Steinhoff participated in the Battle of Britain before transferring to the Russian front in June 1941. On August 18TH 1941 Steinhoff was awarded an Honor Goblet for Exceptional Achievement in the Air War and by August 30TH 1941 Steinhoff was credited with thirty-five aerial victories resulting in the award of a Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross. Still on the Russian front on September 2ND 1942 Steinhoff was awarded the Oak-Leaves to the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross, before transferring to Jagdgeschwader 77 as commander, serving in the Mediterranean in March 1943. After the Allied invasion of Italy in late 1943 Steinhoff was sent to France. Serving in France during the Allied D-Day invasion Steinhoff continued with his success being credited with one hundred sixty-seven aerial victories resulting in the award of the Swords to the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross on July 28TH 1944. In October 1944 Steinhoff, now an Oberst, was assigned to Kommando Nowotny which was established for testing and tactics training for the Me262, the first operational jet engine fighter aircraft. In December 1944 Steinhoff was appointed as commander of Jagdgeschwader 7 which utilized the Me262 until January 1945 when he was transferred to Jagdverband 44, (44TH Fighter Formation), the, "Squadron of Experts", which also utilized the Me262. During a take-off in an Me262 on April 18TH 1945 Steinhoff crashed and the airplane burst into flames resulting in him being hospitalized for the duration of the war with severe burns. After numerous reconstructive surgeries Steinhoff was released from the hospital in 1947. Through the course of his WWII career Steinhoff was shot down twelve times and was credited with one hundred seventy-six aerial victories, six in an Me262, resulting in him being one of the first jet aces and the twenty-third highest scoring German ace of the war. After the war Steinhoff helped rebuild the German Air-Force within NATO, (North Atlantic Treaty Organization), being promoted to the rank of Generalmajor and spent time in service as Chief of Staff of the NATO Air-Force, and Inspector of the Bundesluftwaffe before his retirement in 1974. Steinhoff died in a hospital in Bonn after suffering a heart attack in February 1994.

PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION: Roughly, 5 7/8" x 4 1/8", (4.8cm x 10.4cm), mid- weight card stock, full color artwork postcard features a close up profile of a night fighter wearing a flight helmet and flight suit with a bright yellow protective flight helmet cover and a bright yellow life jacket, in the foreground with Willrich’s unique "W" initial cypher interspersed with the date, "1940", and the subject’s name, "Joh. Steinhoff", in the background. Just visible is the "wing" and "bar" rank insignia on the flight suit sleeve which appears to indicate the rank of Oberleutnant. The reverse of the postcard has black printed Gothic script which includes the artist’s name, "W. Willrich:", and, "Männer der Luftwaffe Staffelkapitän einer Nachtjagdstaffel. (Men of the Air-Force Squadron Commander of a Night Fighter Squadron). The reverse also has additional printed script that includes, "Verlag: "Volksbund für das Deutschtum im Ausland", (Publisher: National League for Germans Abroad). The postcard was produced by the VDA, as number fifteen in the "P.3 R.6" series of fund raising postcards. The unused postcard is in overall very good condition with minimal age toning.

GRADE ****1/2                             PRICE $42.00

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