Thorak, Josef, born on 07-02-1889 in Salzburg, two months before Adolf Hitler, as son of the East Prussian-born potter Josef Thorak and the Salzburg bookbinder Mathilde Emig. Immediately after the birth, his mother – the parents only married seven years later – moved with him from Vienna to their home town of Salzburg. He was brought up for education in a Salzburg monastery, orphaned at an early age, and spent his childhood and early youth in homes. In his father’s shop, Thorak learned ceramics and pottery. At the age of 23 years he studies at the Academy of Art in Vienna. He studied until 1914; In 1913 he received a gold medal for his artistic work. In 1915 he finally goes to Berlin, in order to continue there his art studies. From 1918 on Thorak earns his living as an independent sculptor. “Mainly works from wax were created by him at this time, because Thorak had no money to have them cast in bronze”. “A sculptor, who–in connection with the building architecture–wants to make monumental sculptures needs clients who can finance the bronze sculptures, as well as the equally expensive works in stone.
Thorak found these clients at first in the public sphere. One of his model’s was the Fallschirmjäger, box champion Max Schmeling.
Ultimately, they were the monumental commissions in the NS times, which were awarded by Hitler’s architect Albert Speer.
He also made portaits from Rudolf Hess
Fritz Todt Minister for armament and munitions.
and an intimate of Adolf Hitler, Ernst Hanfstaengl,
Thorak’s reputation was established in 1922 when he created “Der sterbende Krieger” “The Dying Warrior, a statue memorializing the dead of “World War I in Stolpmünde. Thorak created monuments for public buildings, autobahns and horses for the New Reich Chancellery. Yet already in 1928 he received a state prize of the Prussian Academy of Arts for his work. He married for the first time in 1917. From 1920 he lived with his wife Herta and their sons Siegfried and Klaus in Bad Saarow near Berlin. Now he could already afford his own house with a studio. In 1926 he got divorced. In the 1920s he made a name for himself primarily with sculptures in wax, so that in 1928 he was awarded the State Prize of the Prussian Academy of the Arts. Now he was so well known that a film was made about him and the art historian Wilhelm von Bode wrote a book about him. After the death of his first wife, Josef Thorak married Hilda Lubowski from Berlin in 1929 (born May 16, 1897 Bad Wilfersdorf). Portrait of the wife Hilda of sculptor Josef Thorak on the terace of their residence Hartmannsberg castle wearing a raditional dirndl, Germany 1930er Jahre.
When the Nazi’s took power: the Machtergreifung, in 1933 it marks a reversal in Thorak’s life. His work has since been devoted to National Socialism. He divorced his Jewish wife Hilda, who left for England with their son Peter. After the war she had no appetite to come back. In 1949 he married Erna Hönig, who was 25 years his junior.As Hitler came to power in 1933, Thorak stood, at the age of 44 years, “in the bloom of my manly strength”. He is described by eyewitnesses as a down-to-earth, rustic and erotic man. It gave him pure joy, according to his own admission, to use up his strength on the stone. Yet the budding optimism created by the allocations from Speer was temporarily damped down. In 1933, Thorak joined Arno Breker as one of the two “official sculptors” of the Third Reich. In 1935 Thorak came up against opposition in Berlin. The jury for the artistic composition of the Reich Sport Field at the Olympia Stadium refuses to take into consideration the works of the Austrian. Only on the notice from the NSDAP, that Hitler valued the works of the sculptor, was the attitude changed.
After that, Thorak rise was assured with numerous commissions. In his government-approved studio outside Munich, Thorak worked on statues intended to represent the folk-life of Germany under Nazi leadership; these works tended to be heroic in scale, up to 65 feet (20 meters) in height. His official works from this period included a number of sculptures at the Berlin Olympic Stadium of 1936.
Albert Speer referred to Thorak as “more or less my sculptor, who frequently designed statues and reliefs for my buildings” and “who created the group of figures for the German pavilion at the Paris World’s Fair. His statue Comradeship stood outside the pavilion, depicting two enormous nude males, clasping hands and standing defiantly side by side, in a pose of racial camaraderie. Because of his preference for muscular neo-classical nude sculpture, Thorak was known among some as “Professor Thorax”. Some expressionist influences can be noticed in his generally neoclassical style. He made a name for himself also internationally. He created reliefs for the Kemal Atatürk Monument in Ankara, where the “father of modern Turkey” has his mausoleum.
In 1944 Thorak took part in the exhibition “German Artists and the SS” in Salzburg, where he also presented his bust of Hitler.
Reich Chancellery’s striding horses.
On 20-05-2015, two of Thorak’s sculptures, a pair of colossal “striding horses”
that had once stood outside the Reich Chancellery built by Albert Speer in Berlin, turned up during a police raid on a storehouse in Bad Dürkheim, along with other Nazi art. The horses had disappeared in 1989 from a barracks ground in Eberswalde northeast of Berlin, where they had sat since sometime after the Second World War.
Death and burial ground of Thorak, Josef.
Josef Thorak died at the age of 63 on 26-02-1952 in Schloss Hartmannsberg and is buried in the grave of his mother on the Saint Peter’s Churchyard Cemetery, Salzburg. His widow survived him for 52 years and was buried at a cemetery in Chiemgau. None of his wives – Thorak married third Erna Hönig on 01-01-1952, who died in Bavaria in June 2004 at the age of 90 – are not buried in this crypt.