Growing up in Hamburg ... the 1920s

      Fritz's happy world came to an abrupt end in 1932 with the rise of Hitler. The liberal headmaster of his "Lichtwarkschule" was replaced with a national socialist tasked with rooting out and humiliating Jewish boys. Fritz had never thought of himself as Jewish (his father's religion, if anything, was Lutheran). Suddenly his good grades ended and the friendly attitude of the teachers changed. Although Fritz never faced the extremes of cruelty experienced by many Jews (he and his parents escaped to Great Britain) I believe the upheaval exacted a lasting psychological wound. Gone for ever was the "enchanted garden" of his early youth which these pictures portray.  
As far as I know Fritz never looked at the images again once in England. At least the family never saw any albums containing them. Did he bury these "happy memories" because they conflicted with his later unresolved antipathy towards Germany? If so I believe it is time they were seen once more so that the friendship and camaraderie of his early life can be celebrated again.
My father, Fritz Kestner, was born in Hamburg in 1916 and received his first camera as a child in 1925. When he died in 2007 I inherited all his photographs. Amongst these I found a small wallet containing box camera negatives. I had never seen them before and was truely amazed at the childhood they reveal.

He grew up in a warm and loving family with his three sisters, Lee, Fee and Heidi and photographed them with their many friends. Instead of the conventional snaps you might expect of a boy of 9 to 13, he arranged his sitters in imaginative and unusual poses (see image 33 “dancing harvesters” or 58 “boys gathering pebbles”). Clearly, there is a lot of thought behind his compositions and a strong rapport with his sitters (see 30 “girl in a hammock”).
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