Special Collections and University Archives, W.E.B. Du Bois Library, University of Massachusetts Amherst
Siegfried Ebert Collection
Scope and Contents of the Collection
An eclectic assemblage of artwork, correspondence, and legal papers, the Siegfried Ebert Collection documents the life of a significant East German graphic designer who worked in early television and in animated film. What survives of a personal nature hints at the outlines of Ebert's life and work during the early years of the DDR. In addition to a series of handbills (small posters) for films released in East Germany during the late 1950s, the collection includes original artwork and photographs of some of Ebert's work in television and film, animation cels and stills, and samples of his commercial work in graphic design.
From animation stills and original drawings for use in various contexts on television and film, from signoff cards to letterhead for children's television to commercial work of various sorts, Ebert's artwork forms the core of the collection. The original drawings, storyboards, cels, logos, and other design work provide a sense of Ebert's range as a commercial artist and his aesthetic sense, which reflects various currents in illustration of the 1950s and 1960s.
The collection is richest in documenting Ebert's collaboration with Andrew Thorndike on the film Die Alte und Neue Welt (1977), including a script, some original artwork, animation cels, ephemera, and some newsclippings. There is also a script for a trickfilm on which Ebert presumably worked, Sozialismus im Vormarsch.
Glimpses of Ebert's wartime experience can be found in a series of documents pertaining to his imprisonment in England and his medical care during and after the war. The two surviving letters home are not particularly revealing: they are upbeat, despite the imprisonment and hospitalization, and one captures a moment when Ebert was considering a career as an artist. There is also a sample of Ebert's drawings for a graphic prisoners' newsletter along with a pencil self-portrait.
Although the collection is not particularly rich in correspondence, a few letters survive to document turning points in Ebert's career and awards he received. Fortunately, on at least four occasions, Ebert was asked to provide a capsule history of his life which, along with an essay on the meaning of art in his life and a eulogy read at his funeral, make it possible to reconstruct his life course. Less eloquent, but more poignant is a questionnaire from the Landesregierung Sachsen in 1949 probing into Ebert's past, his wartime military service, family connections, and any association with the Nazi Party or its offshoots. Coinciding with the birth of the East German state, the Fragebogen provides quiet testimony to a new nation struggling with the horrific history of its recent past. Of minor note in the collection are a series of documents that hint at life in early East Germany: Ebert's dues books for membership in the Gesellschaft für Deutsch-Sowjetische Freundschaft, Verband Bildender Künstler Deustchlands, and the Freie Deutsche Jugend.