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Image: AP

He fled while he could. He had been working mostly out of Zossen on the outskirts of Berlin as a photographer and amateur filmmaker, employed by the Wermacht as they fell in step with the socialists to help mislead the populace into a false exhilaration, glorifying the national imperative with thunderous newsreels of brave soldiers beating back the invading armies.

He photographed young men in training, doing pull-ups, boxing, loading artillery shells and tossing grenades at the behest of smiling unter kommandanten in leather trench coats. He photographed cavalry marksmen standing on obedient horses and steel-eyed infantry soldiers who posed for the cover of Die Wermacht pamphlets, ‘Immer Siegreich in Allen Fronten‘. ‘Victory on All Fronts’ was more than just a rallying cry, it was for quite a long time, a fact.

Her father, Jürgen Voigt, sold his few family heirlooms, a silver tea set and most of his photographic equipment as surreptitiously as possible to afford his family passage across the Atlantic.

As the Luftwaffe’s Condor Legion prepared to test their obliteration tactics with an assail on Guernica, Agatha Voigt shivered under her father’s overcoat while the small family, determined yet uncertain, climbed into a northbound freight train with three other families. Already on board were two men in the corner darkness, confidants, men who would be marked for labor camps as unzuverlässige elemente, undesirables. Together the families and the whispering men rode through the night from Cologne to Rotterdam. There they met with an ex-pat who, for a tolerable fee, helped them secure steerage on a steamship bound for New York.

Once he left he never looked back, even after the fall of the Reich. His father and the land of his father, dead.

Agatha was eight years old when she arrived in New York under the greyest of all possible skies but her father was intent on moving as far west of Germany as possible. Sixteen days and three trains later they arrived in Los Angeles, where her father found work in a studio under Fritz Lang.

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