Hitler: Germania, S.A.


Lawrence Russell

§§ In response to the charges that I, Wolf Bradford, a musician with the rock band Valkyrie, tried to sell a number of paintings ascribed to Adolf Hitler through Christie's auction house in London earlier this year, and that these said paintings were forgeries that I created, I offer the following statement for the press, the police, the public prosecutor and, of course, my fans.

The charge is bollocks, another stitch-up by Her Majesty's loyal gestapo who have been persecuting Valkyrie for years. I have never hidden the fact that my mother, Lady Munsie Bradford, was a member of the British Fascist Party in the 1930s and was a personal friend of Adolf Hitler. Some of you know my father Max von Neubring was a Zeppelin pilot on the Rio to Akron route before being drafted into the Luftwaffe for WW 2, and that he was Hitler's personal pilot for long distance flights. This is a matter of the public record and history. I was not born in Germany, and I was not born in England; I was born in 1941 in Brazil. To be specific, Fordlandia, which was a German-American rubber extraction plant on the Amazon, funded by Henry Ford, designed by Albert Speer. Ford was a Nazi sympathizer but dropped out of the picture when the German government took over the whole project in 1938. My father took my mother there for safety during the war and for other reasons that will become clear. Fordlandia was in fact the code name for Germania, the south American twin of Hitler's dream city.

The accusation is that because some of these Hitler paintings -- these Hitler "forgeries" -- are of tropical landscapes, therefore simply can't be his, is easily refuted. I know the provenance of these works and I can prove it. One of my earliest memories (and I must have been four at the time) is of sitting in the carrier seat behind my mother when she rode her bicycle to the aerodrome which was beside the big river. As she rode along the access road I could see a number of crashed aircraft near the runway, most of them painted with military camouflage, as were the planes parked outside the hangar. I didn't know what was going on, except we were looking for my father, whom we hadn't seen in a while. I remember the roar of the big four-engine plane that suddenly appeared, banking over the river as it lowered its undercarriage and came in for its landing. A Fock-Wulf 400 Condor, straight from Berlin via Spain and someplace in West Africa. It taxied up to the hangar where we were waiting, and an old man with a beard and a statuesque woman emerged, following a dog which ran down the stairs. I remember the dog because it seemed to seek me out. There were a few people there, men and women who immediately threw up their hands in the Nazi salute.

My dad was the pilot.

That's one memory. The wrecked German aircraft at the jungle airstrip form the basis of my painting that was used for Valkyrie's first album. I freely admit that. I paint, and learned to paint as a boy in Germania, before my father tried to kill my mother and she and I were repatriated back to England, where she died in 1950. Before all this ugly business my childhood in Germania was quite idyllic. It was a town of absolute symmetries -- it was all laid out on a grid, with wooden bungalows for the Europeans and bunkhouses for the workers, mostly Brazilian mestizos. The workers weren't allowed any booze, cigarettes or women, in keeping with the hypocritical Nazi credo, but there was an island out there on the river where they could go by boat, get all the sin they wanted. Germania, S.A. Some people called it a concentration camp but for me, it was paradise.

My parents were friends with the old gent and his wife and dog who came off the Condor. They called him Wolf, sometimes Votan, and I guess I was named after him. He had the only really modern house in town, near the airfield. It was made of concrete, the walls were fourteen feet thick and painted so as to blend in with the jungle. He liked me, and liked showing me the room where he had the model buildings for the future Germania set up. It was really something. He added cars and trucks, military vehicles, soldiers and even little people. I have a drawing somewhere, not sure if it's his or mine. His dog was a German shepherd called Blondi, so you can see where I'm going with this. Adolf Hitler didn't commit suicide in his bunker at the Reich Chancellory on April 30, 1945; his death was faked and he escaped with Eva Braun to South America. If my father was still alive, he could confirm this.

To me, Votan was just an old friendly guy, worn down by life but somehow the boss of everything around there. He had guards with MP 40 sub-machine guns outside his place, even an anti-aircraft battery which I used to play on, as it was seldom manned. He liked to paint, and it was from him that I learned to paint. He saw that I liked to draw weapons, guns, tanks, aircraft and he told me that's how he started out, showed me some of his sketches. He was good. He used the grid to pull everything into perspective without actually using one, like he had bug eyes, saw everything as cubism, although Votan was no cubist. His eyes were blue, and if he wanted, he could see right through anything.

I'll give you an example. One day I was jockeying the flak gun at some phantom attackers in the sky, making explosive sounds the way kids do. He hobbled out of his bunker, pointed with his stick at the trees, snarled Achtung! and a small stunt plane suddenly appeared, roared overhead before going into a steep climb, looping the loop, then gliding in and landing a short distance away. The pilot appeared, a woman in a close-fitting silver flying suit. As she walked quickly towards us, she removed her helmet, shook her blonde hair free. She gave the salute, and even I, little boy that I was, gave one back. Mien Fuhrer, she said, handing Votan a large envelope or diplomatic pouch. Votan immediately passed it to his bodyguard, the mean guy with the 40 hanging from his right shoulder. Reni, Reni, purred Votan, mien schyn kurier. Reni smiled, ruffled my hair with her free hand. I still remember the electric sensation to this day, as if I'd been caressed by a goddess.

If I told you she was wearing the Iron Cross Hitler had given her, you wouldn't believe me. In my painting, she's wearing it just as if she was that day in 1947 or 48 in Germania. It glitters, not because I was trying to be psychedelic, but because that's the way it was. Hitler had it specially made with diamonds. Of course I didn't know who she was or anything about her at that time. I remember she left almost immediately, saluting us with a low, fast run, before disappearing towards the river. I jumped in the saddle, tried to track her with the flak gun, much to Votan's amusement. She's gestorben, Wolfie, he said. She died in 1945. Meaningless to me, and he was kidding, of course. She wasn't dead. I can still smell her smell today, that one of a kind blend of machine and perfect woman.

Stuff like this was going on all the time. Votan usually let others handle it, as he hated the heat, preferred to stay in his study. Germania wasn't a dangerous place, despite being on the Amazon. Klaus the bodyguard shot a caiman one day when Votan and I were working on a painting at the lagoon. It surprised us by lying low in an aerial root cluster in the water and coming at us from the blind side. Klaus was holding the big sun-brella, was slow in reacting. Luckily he had his sub-machine gun, emptied the whole magazine into it. It was going after Blondi, of course, and Votan nearly went out of his mind. As crocs go, it was average, perhaps 12 feet. I just had to include it in the picture... although I confess I did this later. So let's call this one mine, and you'll note that I didn't try to sell it through Christie's as an Adolf Hitler original.

I don't always paint from memory. Sometimes the work is the memory -- get it? So you tell me who's a forger and who isn't.

Here's another memory: there was a meeting at the hall that served as a cinema and we were there, my mother and father and me, up in the balcony and a man started speaking to the audience from the stage. It seemed a long, long way away and the man was awfully small, and something about it all made me afraid, and I cried out, and the man stopped speaking. My mother tried to hush me, but every time the little man started speaking, I cried out, so we had to leave. My father was enraged, and he and my mother had a fight outside. My fear was uncontrollable. I don't know if this was before Votan arrived in Germania or after. Anyway, I have a painting based on the experience. Some people say the little man looks like Hitler, although that wasn't my intention. Somehow I feel this incident led to the break up of my parents.

Otherwise life was pleasant, at least in the German community. There was something special between my mother and Votan, so he was always pleased to see us. He liked to walk his dog near the runway, or sometimes on one of the trails through the jungle that led to the lagoon. There were small railways too that ran through the jungle to the various rubber plantations. Sometimes I had my sketch book with me, so he would tell me what to draw, and how to draw it. He had the shakes, so he couldn't do it himself, although sometimes he would apply the finishing touches. That's why his signature is on the early stuff in my Brazilian portfolio. They're not fakes, they're not forgeries. There's nothing devious about any of it, despite what that art prick from the Courtland Institute said or continues to say.

My father would be away for long periods at a time, usually flying the Condor. Ostensibly he was moving rubber cargo to West Africa and other countries in South America. Years later I realized this was all a front for the Odessa ratline network, as all sorts of Germans in suits were passing through Germania. It was like a resort for Nazis and my mother, for one, was in seventh heaven. She was always a believer. 1938, Vienna, the Anschluss -- she was there with Hitler, part of his entourage. Bayreuth, the Wagner Festival, she was there... Nuremberg... Hitler was at her wedding. Max was SS, so I expect it was a set-up, some sort of trophy award. If you look at the photos, you can see Munsie was pretty hot for those days. Now she'd be a groupie. I have no illusions about my mother; we were never close, although I do resent some of the stuff the British tabloids had to say about her. Possibly, way back in Brazil, in Germania, I called her mum, although she wasn't really the mothering type. As for my supposed father, Max, I can count the times I saw him on one hand.

One night it was very hot, one of those Amazonian sweat troughs, and I couldn't sleep, so I got up, wandered through the moonlit bungalow, came across them having sex on the veranda. I thought he was trying to kill her. I kept quiet, just watched from the shadows. Yeah... that's where I got the idea for "Nazi Bitch Tango", our second album. The cover art pretty well sums it up. I made Max a black dude, not for any racial motive, but for pure visual symbolism. An animal from the jungle night, a black panther in a Nazi uniform shagging this long hot bitch in a glittering cocktail dress. Freudian, right? Call it what you like. I don't always paint from memory -- sometimes the work is the memory.

What led to the situation where Max shot Munsie? Maybe it was something Votan told him to do or followed something someone in the German community said. The place was full of gossip and petty politics, some of it not so petty. The situation was murky, still is. The family blames it on the worker revolt, some of which I remember very vaguely. Most of the workers were illiterate Brazilian peasants, mestizos, and some of them were full-blooded Amazonian Indians, so far out of it they still ate their ancestors and you could only communicate with them by drawing a picture in the dirt with the butt of a rifle. They wore these cotton uniforms with the symbol "G" on them, so they looked like concentration camp inmates and were treated as such. So the revolt was a slave revolt -- no booze, no cigarettes, no women. They were paid next to nothing, maybe 50 centavos a day, and a work day in Germania S.A. in 1948 was, say, 12 hours regardless of the fact that neither man nor beast could work in the mid-afternoon equatorial sun. They were pissed and had good reason to be, so they went on a rampage. They killed the German bosses, went after their families. They hung Eva Braun when she and some other Europeans tried to hide in the jungle. She was drunk, Klaus told me. Klaus is still alive and living in Munich... I won't say where. He read about me and the band, contacted me at the hotel in Frankfurt. He also wanted to talk about the aircraft wreckage that was recently found in the Matto Grosso, and I'll get to this... because, you want provenance? I'll give you provenance.

The Brazilian government of the time played dumb about Germania. It was a long way away from Sao Paulo, and in fact the old dictator Vargas was probably getting kickbacks. They sent a warship up the river with some marines, who went after the revolutionaries, shot some while the others just melted back to their jungle villages and got lost.

You know, it's an odd thing, this business about the Hitler paintings. It's brought back one or two memories that had been lost. Like, I did a bad thing once. I was in Votan's rec room, the place where he had his model of Germania S.A. set up. He wasn't around and somehow I was in there all alone, looking at the model, the buildings, the little people, and a voice came into my head, said, destroy it. I have no idea why, or who or what the voice was. So I set fire to it with the Zippo lighter Klaus said he liberated from a dead G.I. in the war. It burned fast and easily, just like the rubber factory when the revolt went down. I sneaked outside, stood near the anti-aircraft gun, watched to see what would happen. It was a thrill, I'll admit that. No motivation, just a voice in my head, a command from the unknown.

The fire was a big deal in the German community. The natives were blamed, and I think a few of them were shot. This is what probably led to the revolt. I'm not sure, as I repressed the memory. I was just a kid with no grid to work from. Fear and silence gripped me, and I became mute like a dog, watched the chaos unfold. I was sitting below a table, listening to the heated conversations and the hissing of the lawn sprinklers, smelling the cigars and the coffee, the rum, the whiskey. It was the smell of sweat, rust and doom. Then my mother was in hospital, following the shooting. My father was nowhere to be seen, and when my mother returned, she was an elegant invalid. Then the workers were running in the streets, screaming, howling to a chorus of gunfire. I was glad when Klaus appeared and removed us by speedboat to the Isle of the Dead, where we stayed a few days in a floating hotel that was really a brothel. The so-called "Isle of the Dead" was a party town out on the river where the traders and the Amazon riff-raff did their business. The rubber workers from Germania often paddled out here for some illegal R & R, so it wasn't necessarily the best place to be. The memory is blurred in the sweep of the river, the persistent drumming, the drunken singing, the low-flying frigate birds, the whole melody of El Dorado as Hell.

Somehow we made it to the coast, got a steamer and came back to the family estate in England -- England, where I'd never been before, and English, that I spoke with a German accent, sometimes Portuguese. You all know the rest. Nazi bitch repatriated with Hitler's love child. It was a tabloid feeding frenzy. I wasn't reading the papers at the time, so it was the family that took the slander. Munsie was dead within a year, the bullet still embedded somewhere in her head. Public school for me, the penitentiary for the unwanted aristocracy.

When was the last time I saw Votan? All I can see is his dog Blondi loping down a trail into the jungle, old and slow, trying to keep up with the way it was. Maybe Votan was ahead, somewhere, maybe not. Maybe Blondi was all alone, Eva dead, Votan dead or gone to Paraguay or somewhere else where old Nazis gather. I just see the dog, abandoned and alone, disappearing into the jungle. I don't have a painting of it yet, but I will.

When I talked with old Klaus recently in Frankfurt it was just after the Valkyrie concert in Berlin where I came on stage wearing a Zeppelin officer's uniform, the complete couture, tunic, breeches, boots, and cap, and of course some people thought it was SS, very daring and all. The fans were blown away. I stepped out onto the apron, let fly with the old guitar, gave to them, man, the old style dressed as the new. This wasn't verboten Wagner, this was heavy metal rock and roll. A lot of press, a lot of photos, a lot of black juice, bad old Wolf Bradford banishing German guilt with one powerful piece of bad ass theatre. Yes, some called me a Nazi, but what's in a name? Money... but you know, I'm not in it for the money.

It flushed out Klaus, who read about it in the papers. At first I didn't know who he was; then he mentioned Votan, said he had something important to pass along. He was old, completely bald, using a walker. He said, that was Max's uniform you were wearing. Yeah, I said, my dad's old Zeppelin gear. After some small talk, some general reminiscing, he said, they found the plane... you read about that? I had no idea what he was referring to. Some oil company surveyors working in the Matto Grosso, he said. It looks like Votan's Condor to me. Etcetera. Apparently the Brazilians were still trying to figure out the how and the wherefore of the ancient mystery wreckage, which was scattered over a wide area. Bodies? Possibly, said Klaus, but unlikely. Anything that survived would've been eaten and scattered in the Grosso. Interesting, I said. So what does this mean other than my old man is dead and what the hell. He looked surprised. Wolfie, he said, you know who your dad really was, don't you? This pissed me off, as I knew right away what he was suggesting. Don't get mad, he said. Listen, there's money in this. I told him I had plenty of money, was selling lots of records, and was going to have an art show in London and Berlin. Soon.

What it came to was this: he had several Hitler paintings, early stuff from the Fuhrer's Vienna days, and maybe I would be interested in buying them. When I asked him why he hadn't sold them before, he stated flatly that he would've been killed by the Odessa network, anxious to keep Hitler's fate and whereabouts secret. He was living under a new name, not so new anymore, of course, and he had to be very cool about this. He had family. They needed money. Don't be mad, he said. I thought of you, Wolfie, Wolfie would want these pictures.... Yes, indeed. He was dead right about that. Wolfie would want them and if he didn't, he would know how to sell them.

You see? While it should be nobody's business but mine, I was just doing an old bloke a favour. This is the provenance.

As is well-known, my band Valkyrie first made it in the Berlin art scene. Some critics have tried to dismiss us as a group of untalented lebenskunstlers. They put it around that we'd do anything for publicity, even shit on stage if it would do the trick, sell records, get gigs. This is pure malicious bollocks. We're artists, we're all about art, myself especially.

I understand there was a fire here in London last night, the Courtland Institute, where all those art experts like to tell us what is real and what is not. Hope my Hitlers weren't damaged. Better not be.

Hear this: I don't rent costumes, and I don't do forgeries. I don't need to.

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