European Prospects
Exploring European Identity through Photography

Kaunas Gallery are delighted to announce that Claudia Heinermann has been selected for the Kaunas Photography Gallery art residency to continue her project Wolf Children.

Kaunas Photography Gallery Residency Artist Announced

Residencies | 07 October 2014
© Claudia Heinermann © Claudia Heinermann © Claudia Heinermann © Claudia Heinermann © Claudia Heinermann
© Claudia Heinermann

Kaunas Gallery are delighted to announce that Claudia Heinermann has been selected for the Kaunas Photography Gallery art residency to continue her project Wolf Children.

 

Short Bio

Claudia Heinermann was born in 1967 in Iserlohn and grew up in Germany. When she was 18 years old she moved to the Netherlands and studied art at the AKI (Academy of Fine Arts) in Enschede. She started to work in mixed media with photography at its core. Over time Heinermann became more interested in documentary photography and went on to study at the Fotoacademie Amsterdam from 2004 to 2006. Ever since she is engaged in long-term observational documentary projects with an emphasis on 20th century historical topics and the consequences of war.

 

Project: Wolfskinder/ ‘Wolf Children’ / Vilko vaikai

From 1944, thousands of German children in East Prussia were separated from their families – many for good. They fought a battle of life and death against hunger, the cold and the arbitrariness of the Soviet world. Rescued by Lithuanian farmers, they remained behind the iron curtain under false identities. For the first time, after decades of silence, they now describe the terrors of their past and how they adapted to a new life without their loved ones.

At the end of the Second World War, hundreds of thousands of Germans fled the advance of the Red Army out of East Prussia and Königsberg (today’s Kaliningrad region). Along the way, many children were lost, or experienced the murder of their families. Others watched helplessly as their siblings died of hunger, their grandparents of infirmity, or as their mother succumbed to an epidemic. Left alone, these children survived in the forests of the Baltic region. They were nicknamed the “wolf children”.

Seventy-seven wolf children are still alive today in Lithuania. They kept their roots secret until the beginning of the 1990s. Sometimes even their husbands, wives or children were not aware that they were Germans or how they came to Lithuania.

In the meantime some of them found family members in Germany, others didn’t.

The wolf children are fairly old now. Their stories are heart-wrenching, most of which have never been told before. With age and years, the memories of their traumatic childhood resurfaced.

Since 2011, the Dutch photographer Claudia Heinermann and the Finnish journalist Sonya Winterberg visit the last witnesses to record their memories and document their lives including their childhood and teenage years in the small Soviet republic of Lithuania, their feelings of captivity and their lifelong solitude. But also, after the fall of communism, their battle against the Federal Republic of Germany’s bureaucracy and the recognition of their German roots.

Claudia Heinermann makes portraits of the protagonists themselves and photos of their homes and the surrounding area. She also makes landscape photos in different seasons of the areas where they had to survive as young children similar to a journey into the landscape of their memories.

Claudia: “We have already interviewed 42 wolf children. During these interviews it was not always possible to make a perfect portrait, because sometimes an interview had such an impact on a protagonist that there was no more concentration for a portrait.  To complete the project I need to go at least one more time to Lithuanina for the final portraits, stills of their living area and landscape photo’s. Therefore I would like to stay in the Kaunas Photography Gallery Art Residency. Kaunas is very central and good location to make day trips to the countryside and the border and also to visit the protagonists.”

 

In 2015 the photo’s will be published in a photo book  including the interviews conducted by Sonya Winterberg.