Alfred Krupp, 1963

By exaggerating or minimizing his subjects’ surroundings, Arnold Newman crafted environmental portraits, like this demonic one of arms manufacturer Alfred Krupp, whose family firm used concentration camp labor to manufacture arms for the Nazis.


“By exaggerating or minimizing his subjects’ surroundings, [Arnold Newman] crafted impressionistic gems… that suggested his sitters’ personalities,” wrote TIME magazine.

One such photo was that of arms manufacturer Alfred Krupp, whose family firm used concentration camp labor to manufacture arms for the Nazis.

The Krupps were an illustrious dynasty: they had survived the Black Death (prospering by buying out the property of families who fled the epidemic), the Thirty Years’ War, the German Unification and Franco-Prussian War, and both World Wars. Krupp steel was a byword for industrial excellence (Hitler frequently exulted young Germans to be as strong as Krupp steel). The Nuremberg trials sentenced Alfred Krupp to 12 years in prison (but he served only three).

Newsweek asked Newman for the portrait of the famed German in 1963. Upon finding out that Newman was a Jew, Krupp refused to let him make the photograph. Newman insisted to have Krupp look at his portfolio before making a final decision and after seeing Newman’s portfolio Krupp accepted. So on July 6, 1963, the industrialist and the auteur went into a rail carriage factory in Essen which belonged to Krupp.

Newman remembers:

I wanted to put a knife in his back. I could go on for hours saying about how they try to stop me once they looked at me and realized I was Jewish.

Maybe you know he used slave labor. Mostly Jews and underfed them and shoot them off – which was every two weeks. And he looked like a very nice handsome man, you know, an industrialist. He had been to jail as a war criminal and they for some reason let him out, gave his money back and everything else and they try to stop me and everything else but I insisted. His vice president said it’s off, and I said to show him my pictures. He thought they were wonderful.

He didn’t realize. I got him up on my platform they built from me but with my cameras with a day of factories going on behind him building heavy machinery and things like trolley cars or railway cars and it was almost working.

I didn’t do the obvious you know. Lit him from the bottom. That would have been too obvious. I just had on the two sides. We’re just working. I said, ‘Oh would you kindly just lean forward and he went like this and suddenly the lights warped, and my hair stood up and I pulled a Polaroid, put it in my box I carried, my carrying case, the hard case. I put it in that case and I took several pictures in black and white and in color. In those days we would bracket like mad

It turned out to be and one of my best photographs. It was my impression of a Nazi who managed to survive yet killed millions of people, not all were Jews. They were doctors, they were laborers that were offensive to the Nazis. And I consider that one of my more important pictures.”

When Krupp first saw the portrait he was livid. Newman was more tongue-in-cheek:  “As a Jew, it’s my own little moment of revenge.”

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