I wondered for a long while what I should paint, and in the end I decided on a Madonna, or mother and child. I have turned my hole in the frozen mud into a studio. The space is too small for me to be able to see the picture properly, so I climb on to a stool and look down at it from above, to get the perspective right. Everything is repeatedly knocked over, and my pencils vanish into the mud. There is nothing to lean my big picture of the madonna against, except a sloping, home-made table past which I can just manage to squeeze. There are no proper materials and I have used a Russian map for paper. But I wish I could tell you how absorbed I have been painting my madonna, and how much it means to me."He added that he:
"The picture looks like this: the mother's head and the child's lean toward each other, and a large cloak enfolds them both. It is intended to symbolize 'security' and 'mother love.' I remembered the words of St.John: light, life, and love. What more can I add? I wanted to suggest these three things in the homely and common vision of a mother with her child and the security that they represent.
went to all the bunkers, brought my drawing to the men, and chatted with them. How they sat there! Like being in their dear homes with mother for the holiday.Later, Reuber hung the drawing in his bunker for his unit celebration, which he described as a moment of Christian devotion shared by all the soldiers in his command.
When according to ancient custom I opened the Christmas door, the slatted door of our bunker, and the comrades went in, they stood as if entranced, devout and too moved to speak in front of the picture on the clay wall...The entire celebration took place under the influence of the picture, and they thoughtfully read the words: light, life, love...Whether commander or simple soldier, the Madonna was always an object of outward and inward contemplation.
The Madonna was flown out of Stalingrad by a battalion commander of the 16th Panzer division on the last transport plane to leave the encircled German 6th Army. Reuber was not so fortunate. He was taken captive after the surrender of the 6th Army, and died in a Soviet prisoner of war camp in 1944. The Madonna and a number of letters from Reuber were delivered to his family. There they remained, until Axel Springer encouraged Reuber's surviving children to donate the work to the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church in Berlin. Springer, Reuber's three children and Prince Louis Ferdinand (in his role as chair of the Memorial Church board of trustees) attended the dedication ceremony in August 1983.
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