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Stephan Schlesinger (1896-1944)

Stephan Schlesinger was born in Vienna on January 14, 1896. After graduating, Schlesinger went to the technical college to study architecture. Because he was called for duty during the First World War, Schlesinger could not complete this study.

On February 27, 1924, the Jewish Schlesinger married the Dutch Anna (Be) Kerdijk (1882-1944) in Vienna. According to Wikipedia, Kerdijk was half Jewish, other sources say she was not Jewish. Due to the growing anti-Semitism in Vienna, the couple moved to the Netherlands a year after their marriage. Schlesinger provided graphic work for old and new clients in his new country.
Besides graphic design, Schlesinger proved to be a designer in several areas. He designed furniture, fonts and packaging. Moreover, not all of his work was commercial. I came across his name because he designed covers of books of N.V. Maçonnieke Uitgevers Maatschappij (and I suspect also the logo) such as those of the book Mysteriën En Inwijdingen In De Oudheid (‘Mysteries and Initiations in Antiquity’) by B.J. van der Zuylen (F.E. Farwerck). Schlesinger also designed various Ex Libris, such as Farwerck’s Masonic Ex Libris.

Schlesinger and his wife were members of Le Droit Humain in Austria. Schlesinger was involved in the founding of the first mixed gender lodge in Austria: Vertrauen in 1922. It seems that there he was initiated, passed and raised on the same day. Schlesinger also designed the furniture and lighting for this lodge. Somewhat interesting in this regard is that at the time another Schlesinger was Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Austria and he fiercely battled against first women in Freemasonry and then against Le Droit Humain.

Once in the Netherlands, Schlesinger continued the Masonic work in Amsterdam. The couple were involved in the founding of the lodge Van Volmaking in 1925. Two years later, the couple would again be involved in a new lodge, Ars Regia, a lodge that only existed for a short time (1927-1934). Schlesinger was (at least in 1927) Worshipful Master, his wife Chaplain. Kerdijk was also editor of the Official Bulletin of Le Droit Humain Nederland. The decrease in the number of members of Ars Regia and the subsequent closure of the lodge, would (partly) be the reason that Schlesinger left the order in 1932.

Schlesinger is relatively well known, at least some of his works are well known. For example, he created the logo of the chocolate factory Van Houten. What is also nice to see is that he used Masonic symbolism in a Safe Traffic campaign for the government, such as the eye in the triangle you see below and an hourglass with a scythe on another poster.

Schlesinger was known well enough to have a book published about him, more than one in fact. A nice edition with many images and a lot of information is the book Stefan Schlesinger, atelier voor reclame by Peter van Dam and Philip van Praag from 1977 which was re-published in 1997.
In terms of style, some of Schlesinger’s work has something of Art Nouveau and he liked to work with the combination of text and image. The book provides a nice overview of the diversity of Schlesinger’s work.

As mentioned, Schlesinger was a Jew who fled the growing anti-Semitism in his hometown. His flight to the Netherlands did not help him. Schlesinger and his wife died in Auschwitz in October 1944.

For more work of Schlesinger, including several Ex Libris, see here.

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