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08Feb

Kurt Schwitters’ unknown portrait sitter identified as wartime German spy

Historian finds that one of the subjects the artist painted while he was detained by the British alongside other refugees who had fled the Nazis was Ludwig Warschauer, who later confessed to espionage

The previously unknown subject of a Kurt Schwitters painting has been identified as Ludwig Warschauer, the subject of one of MI5’s very first anti-spy operations, who was sent to Britain to spy for the Gestapo.

Simon Parkin made the discovery while researching his book The Island of Extraordinary Captives, a history of Hutchinson Camp, a second world war prison camp on the Isle of Man. Opened on 13 July 1940, the camp was home to around 1,200 Germans and Austrians who had fled to Britain to escape Nazism when war broke out. Its creation was part of the British government’s policy of mass internment of the so-called “enemy aliens” they had previously welcomed to the country – with prisoners including Schwitters, the celebrated German Dadaist, along with a host of other artists.

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