Portrait of Hitler envoy's daughter to be auctioned

 

A PORTRAIT of the daughter of Hitler’s envoy to Ireland has unexpectedly turned up in Dublin after 70 years and is to be sold at auction in March.

Whyte’s, the art auctioneers, said the picture dates from 1939 and shows a four-year-old girl, Liv Hempel, in front of the house on Sloperton Road, Dún Laoghaire, which was the official residence of her father, Dr Eduard Hempel.

Dr Hempel had headed the German legation to Ireland during the second World War.

Then taoiseach Éamon de Valera famously called to the house to express the Free State’s condolences following Hitler’s death in 1945.

The picture, consigned for sale by an unnamed art collector in Germany, was a puzzle because Liv Hempel had been “forgotten”. An Irish Timesreport about her father’s death in 1972 noted he was “survived by his wife and two sons, Andreas and Constantin (Costa)”. In fact, Dr Hempel had five children, two of whom were born in Dublin during his term as “Envoy Extraordinary and Minister plenipotentiary of the German Reich” from 1937 to 1945.

Whyte’s managed to track down Liv Hempel, now aged 75. She confirmed her identity after seeing an e-mailed image of the portrait. Ms Hempel spoke to The Irish Timesthis week by telephone from her home in New York and said she “vividly” remembered the pastel portrait hanging on the wall at home in Dublin during her childhood. By Cork-born artist Patrick Hennessy, it was apparently commissioned by Dr Hempel.

The family left Ireland and moved back to Germany in 1950. After her father’s death, Ms Hempel said there was a clearance of the house in Freiburg and the contents – including the paintings – were sold. She said the family “disposed of everything” and she never expected to see her portrait again.

Although she thought it “fascinating” the picture had turned up again in Dublin, she was “not interested in buying it” as she was “at an age when I’m trying to divest” possessions. She confirmed other portraits – of her father, mother and another brother Berthold – had been painted by Patrick Hennessy. These have now been traced to various art auctions in Germany, but their current whereabouts are unknown.

Ian Whyte, managing director of the Molesworth Street-based auction house, said Portrait of Liv Hempelwould be sold at auction in the RDS on March 14th next and had been assigned a preliminary valuation of €2,000-€3,000.

Ms Hempel was born in Germany in 1935 and came to Dublin with her family two years later. She lived in Dún Laoghaire for 15 years and said she had been educated “by a private tutor until the end of the war”. At Loreto Convent in Foxrock she “did the Inter Cert, and was then sent to Ring College for a year”.

In 1945, after the collapse of the Nazi regime, Dr Hempel resigned his diplomatic post and the family was granted asylum in Ireland. Ms Hempel said “by agreement with the Allies he was not allowed to work”. Her mother Eva started a bakery called “Olga Cakes” in the basement of the house and sold the produce to local people in Dún Laoghaire. She said her younger brother Berthold, who was born in Ireland, died in Dublin in 1948.

Two years later, Dr Hempel returned to Germany and helped set up a diplomatic service for the new Federal Republic. He was accompanied by his wife, daughter Liv and another daughter Agnes, who was also born in Ireland and today lives near Frankfurt.

Dr Hempel’s sons Andreas and Constantin (Costa) remained in Ireland. Andreas studied medicine at Trinity College, became an ophthalmologist in London and is now retired in England. Costa worked as a journalist on the Carlow Nationalistand The Irish Times. In 1950 he filed reports for the latter’s Times Pictorial section on conditions in post-war Germany.

He later emigrated to England where he became a property developer. In London he married New Zealand-born actor Anne Geissler. Their marriage was short-lived as Costa Hempel died in 1973 after a traffic incident.

Liv Hempel emigrated to the US in 1957. She has visited Ireland on a number of occasions – most recently in 2002. She said the Dún Laoghaire family home, “Gortleitragh”, “was burned down by arson” after they left.

In a separate e-mailed message, Ms Hempel wrote: “I have always loved Ireland and to this day I still feel Irish, as I did when I left in 1950.

It was very good to us.

I still have a number of friends there and have been thinking I would like to see them again before we all leave this world.”