KG13 – The Watch on the Rhine / The Black Shame (Die Wachte am Rhein / Die Schwarze Schmach), Struck Bronze Satirical Medal, 21.73g., 36mm, by Karl Goetz, 1921, a grotesque carcarciture of a French colonial black African soldier, helmeted head right, DIE WACHT AM RHEIN (the watch on the Rhine), the motto of the French republic below, rev., a naked female tied to a realistic erect phallus, surmounted by a French helmet, inscribed UM HOHN DER DEUTSCHEN FRAU (to the scorn of the German woman), an infant below, DIE SCHWARZE SCHMACH (the black disgrace), all beneath the all seeing eye, (Kienast 262), extremely fine, rare type with realistic phallus. $395 SOLD
The very evocative imagery employed on this medal, with it’s crude caricature of the French colonial soldier and it’s allusion to rape and sexual violence is one of Goetz’s most graphic. Under the terms of the Armistice following the end of World War I the western allied powers occupied the Rhineland. Many of the troops garrisoned there were colonial troops from France’s colonial empire in Africa. German indignation at the occupation was further exasperated by the presence of these black troops on German territory. Rumors quickly spread that these troops were committing rape, mutilation and murder against the local population and most particularly German women. These accusations were false and were for the most part the creation of the German press and local prejudices. Some German women did however marry French African soldiers, the product of their unions being labeled the “Rhineland Bastards”, their very existence adding further shame in eyes of some Germans to their defeat and occupation. Specifically referred to by Hitler in Mein Kampf, the mixed race children of these unions were arrested and sterilized as adults when the Nuremberg race laws were introduced in 1935
Goetz created this medal in protest to the post-war occupation of the Rhine territory by black colonial French troops, probably intended to humiliate Germany. Rumours of rapes and sexual excesses circulated (although these fears were shown to be unfounded, and rapes exceptional rather than common).
Caricature of a French colonial soldier’s face. The helmeted soldier’s African features are exaggerated. Text around reads: ‘DIE WACHT AM RHEIN !!’ (The Watch on the Rhine!!); text behind and below reads: ‘1920 / LIBERTE / EGALITE / FRATERNI / TE’.
Naked female with her arms tied to a military helmet-capped penis behind her back; before her, a lyre with broken strings; above, an eye watching from a radiate triangle; around, text reads: ‘DIE SCHWARZE SCHANDE’ (the Black Dishonor). Artist’s initials ‘K.G.’ below the figure.
Purchase from Spink (Australia), 17 Aug 1990
Obverse inscription: “DIE WACHT AM RHEIN !! / 1920 / LIBERTE / EGALITE / FRATERNI / TE” (The Watch on the Rhine!! / 1920 / To Freedom / Equality / Brotherhood). Reverse inscription: “DIE SCHWARZE SCHANDE” (the Black Dishonor).
Type of item
57 mm (Outside Diameter), 64.984 g (Weight)
References: [Link 1]Information on the background to the medal from KarlGoetz.com, a ‘Museum’ website, accessed 20/8/2013.
[Catalogue] Jones, Mark. 1979. The Dance of Death: Medallic Art of the First World War., 31 Pages
[Book] Kienast, G. W. The Medals of Karl Goetz., 262 Pages