Winterhilfswerke (Winter Relief Fund) - Werke von Richard Wagner (The works of Richard Wagner), Mi. Nr. 499-507

Overview

One of the most attractive sets from the Third Reich era, the Wagner operas series is probably the favourite of the majority of collectors of the period. Marking the fiftieth anniversary of the death of the operatic composer Richard Wagner, the stamps were issued for the Winterhilfswerk or WHW (Winter Relief Fund), an annual campaign organised by the Nationalsozialistische Volkswohlfahrt (National Socialist People’s Welfare Organisation) to fund charitible events to assist less well-off Germans during the winter months. Contributions were made when purchasing stamps – for example the denomination “6+4” meant that while the cost for postage would be 6 Rpf., the contribution to the WHW would be 4 Rpf., with the total cost of the stamp being 10 Rpf.

The Wagner series is one of the most sought-after Third Reich period sets, and carries a catalogue value of over two-thousand Euros – which means that ther are a number of “mint never hinged” items that may have been doctored or regummed in circulation. It is therefore recommended that higher values be proofed or certified by an accredited agency such as the BPP.

Design and Features

Consisting of nine unique etched designs featuring Wagner’s most famous works by the artist Alois Kolb, the stamps convey both a beauty and precision that is unmatched by any other design from the pre-war era. Each stamp has the Hakenkreuz (“swastika”) watermark, which replaced the previous Waffeln design.

There were two perforation variations, which are in the Michel specialist catalogue suffixed A and B. Series A had a perforation measurement of 14:13 (20 perforation holes along the horizontal, 15 along the vertical) while series B had a perforation measurement of 14:14 (20:16 perforation holes).

3+2 Rpf., Tannhäuser

Mi. Nr. 499A

Mi. Nr. 499A

Mi. Nr.: 499A
Value: 3+2 Rpf.
Colour: Dunkelgelbbraun (dark yellowish-brown)
Design: Tannhäuser: Tannhäuser with lyre
Designer/Artist: Alois Kolb
Watermark: Hakenkreuz (Wz. 4)
Perf: K14:13
Issue Date: 1st November 1933
Valid Until: 30th September 1934


First performed in Dresden in 1845, Tannhäuser is the story of a minstrel knight who turns his back on purity – choosing instead to seek the pleasures offered by Venus. Tiring of the goddess he asks to leave, only for her to promise him a life of misery. Tannhäuser finds himself near the Wartburg castle, where he meets a group minstrel knights led by old friend Wolfram von Eschenbach; he is reluctant to join them, but on hearing Wolfram mention the name of Elisabeth – a pure maiden and Tannhäuser’s former love – he returns to the Wartburg to participate in the song contest, which is dedicated to the subject of love.

While the other minstrels perform lyrical and chaste ballads, Tannhäuser – his soul still in thrall to Venus – shocks the audience by singing of earthly pleasures. Elisabeth protects him from the mob, and he vows to seek forgiveness from the Pope in Rome. When she fails to see him with the returning pilgrims, Elisabeth concedes that all is lost, and returns to the Wartburg to die in the hope that Tannhäuser may yet be saved. Having been told that he will never receive redemption until the Pope’s staff bursts into bloom, Tannhäuser considers one last meeting with Venus. Seeing Elisabeth’s body being taken away, Tannhäuser begs her spirit to pray for him, at which a group of pilgrims passes by with evidence of a new miracle: the Pope’s staff in full bloom, signifying Tannhäuser’s redemption.

This first stamp in the set carries a value of 3+2 Rpf., and features an illustration of the title character playing his lyre.

4+2 Rpf., Der Fliegende Holländer

Mi. Nr. 500A

Mi. Nr. 500A

Mi. Nr.: 500A / 500B
Value: 4+2 Rpf.
Colour: Dunkelblau (dark blue)
Design: Der Fliegender Holländer: The Dutchman
Designer/Artist: Alois Kolb
Watermark: Hakenkreuz (Wz. 4)
Perf: K14:13 / K14
Issue Date: 1st November 1933
Valid Until: 30th September 1934


Der Fliegende Holländer – in English, “The Flying Dutchman” – is one of Wagner’s most well-known works. Premiering at the Semper Oper in Dresden in 1843, it was written as an unbroken piece yet today it is often performed in three acts. Set off the coast of Norway, Wagner’s operatic tale is based on the story of the legendary ghost ship fated to sail the oceans forever, with its captain – the “Dutchman” – redeemable only through love and sacrifice.

The 4+2 Rpf. stamp features the Dutchman at the helm as his vessel crashes through the waves.

5+2 Rpf., Das Rheingold

Mi. Nr. 501A

Mi. Nr. 501A

Mi. Nr.: 501A
Value: 5+2 Rpf.
Colour: Grün (green)
Design: Das Rheingold: The Rhinemaidens and Alberich
Designer/Artist: Alois Kolb
Watermark: Hakenkreuz (Wz. 4)
Perf: K14:13
Issue Date: 1st November 1933
Valid Until: 30th September 1934


First performed in September 1869, the first chapter of the epic four-part Ring cycle – Das Rheingold (“The Rhinegold”) – tells the tale of the dwarf Alberich who conspires to steal the gold from the Rhinemaidens and with it forge a ring that would grant him ultimate power. Unfortunately for Alberich the Rhinemaidens gift the gold – and the ring – with a curse that spells doom for anyone who wears it, setting off a chain of events that will culminate in the final part of the cycle, Götterdämmerung.

The 5+2 Rpf. stamp features the three Rheinmaidens, with a desperate Alberich grasping for the gold in the background.

6+4 Rpf., Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg

Mi. Nr. 502A

Mi. Nr. 502A

Mi. Nr.: 502A / 502B
Value: 6+4 Rpf.
Colour: Dunkelgrün (dark green)
Design: Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg: Walther von Stolzing writing
Designer/Artist: Alois Kolb
Watermark: Hakenkreuz (Wz. 4)
Perf: K14:13 / K14
Issue Date: 1st November 1933
Valid Until: 30th September 1934


Set in the city of Nuremberg during the sixteenth century, Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg (“The Master Singers of Nuremberg”) revolves around the cobbler and poet Hans Sachs and the guild of mastersingers – a group of traditional poets, singers and minstrels. Local goldsmith’s daughter Eva and a visiting knight, Walther von Stolzing, fall in love – only to discover that Eva’s father has promised her to the winner of the forthcoming song contest. Needing to quickly learn the mastersinger’s art to claim his bride and fight off the challenge from the town clerk Beckmesser, Walther turns to the cobbler and mastersinger Sachs for help and guidance: he goes onto to become a mastersinger, claim his bride, and leave the loudmouthed Beckmesser humiliated.

Die Meistersinger is the one major Wagnerian work not related to a myth or legend, and also the one work that can be described as a comedy. It is based on the story of the actual mastersingers of Nuremberg, of whom the real Hans Sachs was a leading member. The work saw its first performance in Munich in June 1868; the illustration on the 6+4 Rpf. stamp sees Hans Sachs at his workbench.

8+4 Rpf., Die Walküre

Mi. Nr. 503A

Mi. Nr. 503A

Mi. Nr.: 503A / 503B
Value: 8+4 Rpf.
Colour: Lebhaftorangerot (bright orange-red)
Design: Die Walküre: Wotan and Brünnhilde
Designer/Artist: Alois Kolb
Watermark: Hakenkreuz (Wz. 4)
Perf: K14:13 / K14
Issue Date: 1st November 1933
Valid Until: 30th September 1934




Die Walküre (“The Valkyrie”) is the second part of the famous Ring cycle, and tells the developing tale of Alberich’s powerful yet destructive ring and its involvement in the fate of the gods. The three-act opera culminates in the god Wotan’s sacrifice of his daughter Brünnhilde – the Valkyrie of the title – which is portrayed in the wonderful illustration on the 8+4 Rpf. stamp.

The first performance of Die Walküre took place in Munich in 1870 at the insistence of King Ludwig II of Bavaria, who was one of Wagner’s biggest supporters and patrons.

12+3 Rpf., Siegfried

Mi. Nr. 504A

Mi. Nr. 504A

Mi. Nr.: 504A / 504B
Value: 12+3 Rpf.
Colour: Lebhaftrot (bright red)
Design: Siegfried: Siegfried slaying Fafner
Designer/Artist: Alois Kolb
Watermark: Hakenkreuz (Wz. 4)
Perf: K14:13 / K14
Issue Date: 1st November 1933
Valid Until: 30th September 1934


The third part of the Ring cycle tells the story of the eponymous hero Siegfried, and his being unwittingly drawn into the quest for the ring. The story that unfolds over three acts sees Siegfried discover both himself and the sword Nothung – with which he slays the dragon Fafner in the scene illustrated on the 12+3 Rpf. stamp. Having claimed the ring from Fafner’s hoard Siegfried makes his way to Brünnhilde’s rock, where he breaks Wotan’s spear and braves the fire to awaken the stricken Valkyrie from her slumber.

Siegfried saw its first performance at the Bayreuth Festspielhaus in 1876.

20+10 Rpf., Tristan und Isolde

Mi. Nr. 505B

Mi. Nr. 505B

Mi. Nr.: 505A / 505B
Value: 20+10 Rpf.
Colour: Grünlichblau (greenish-blue)
Design: Tristan und Isolde: Tristan and Isolde
Designer/Artist: Alois Kolb
Watermark: Hakenkreuz (Wz. 4)
Perf: K14:13 / K14
Issue Date: 1st November 1933
Valid Until: 30th September 1934


Probably the most famous love story set to music, Tristan und Isolde (“Tristal and Isolde”) is the three-act tale of the passionate and ultimately tragic relationship between the Breton nobleman Tristan and the Irish princess Isolde – who happens to be bethrothed to the King of Cornwall, to whom Tristan is heir.

First performed in June 1865 in Munich with the support of Ludwig II, the score of Tristan was later seen as a significant landmark in the development of Western classical music and has proved to be one of Wagner’s most popular works. In the scene depicted on the 20+10 Rpf. stamp, Tristan is seen receiving the love potion from Isolde.

25+15 Rpf., Lohengrin

Mi. Nr. 506A

Mi. Nr. 506A

Mi. Nr.: 506A
Value: 25+15 Rpf.
Colour: Violetultramarin (violet-ultramarine)
Design: Lohengrin: Lohengrin and the swan
Designer/Artist: Alois Kolb
Watermark: Hakenkreuz (Wz. 4)
Perf: K14:13
Issue Date: 1st November 1933
Valid Until: 30th September 1934


Based on the medieval legend of the Swan Knight, Lohengrin tells the tale of Elsa, daughter of the late Duke of Brabant, who when falsely accused of the murder of her brother Gottfried finds her champion in the form of an unknown knight who arrives in a boat drawn by a swan. The knight promises his allegiance, though only if she never asks his name or where he is from. Enraptured by the knight – of whom she has dreamed – Elsa makes the promise and subsquently becomes his bride. Both the fates and her enemies – among them the witch Ortrud – conspire against Elsa who finds herself having to ask the name of the knight who reveals himself as Lohengrin, son of King Parsifal and Knight of the Holy Grail. The swan is also revealed to be Elsa’s long-lost brother Gottfried, who had been cursed by Ortrud: her innocence is now beyond doubt. His name now known, Lohengrin has to leave his bride: consumed by grief, Elsa collapses into her brother’s arms and dies.

After premiering in Weimar in 1850 the work proved to be one of Wagner’s most popular, not least with Bavarian king Ludwig II who created his own legend around the story of the Swan Knight. The King’s personal emblem was a swan, and his most famous castle Neuschwanstein was dedicated to the legend. The 25+15 Rpf. stamp shows Lohengrin, and in the background the swan Gottfried.

40+35 Rpf., Parsifal

Mi. Nr. 507A

Mi. Nr. 507A

Mi. Nr.: 507A
Value: 40+35 Rpf.
Colour: Dunkellila (dark lilac)
Design: Parsifal: Parsifal with the Holy Grail
Designer/Artist: Alois Kolb
Watermark: Hakenkreuz (Wz. 4)
Perf: K14:13
Issue Date: 1st November 1933
Valid Until: 30th September 1934


Described by Wagner as a Stage Dedication Festival Play (Bühenweihfestspiel) in three acts, Parsifal – an essentially Christian tale of heroism, redemption and salvation – was loosely based on Wolfram von Eschenbach’s thirteenth-century poem on the Arthurian knight Parzival.

Parsifal was Wagner’s final completed work and was premiered at Bayreuth’s Festspielhaus in July 1882, less than a year before the composer’s death. Wagner had intended for the opera to only be staged at Bayreuth, and this remained the case in 1914 when the ban on other staged performances was finally lifted.

The striking 40+35 Rpf. stamp shows the knight Parsifal holding the Holy Grail, his head bathed in light from a shining cross.

The Subject: Richard Wagner (1813-1883)

Text

The Artist: Alois Kolb (1875-1942)

Alois Kolb was a son of a German painter and a Viennese woman. He spent his childhood in the Austrian city of Graz, and after one year of army service entered the Art School of F. Fehr and L. Schmid-Reutte in Munich. Afterwards, Kolb became a student of the Munich Academy under Karl Raupp and Ludwig von Loeffitz.

From 1905, Kolb became active as an art teacher at the Art School of Magdeburg, and, from 1907, held the same position at the Leipziger Academy. He served as an officer of the Austrian Army during the First World War.

Kolb was especially known as an etcher and graphic artist, as well as an illustrator collaborating with the Munich magazine Jugend. Today, his drawings and etchings belong to most important German and Austrian museum collections.

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