The Final Years

WWIenterBXL
The German Army enters Brussels at the beginning of World War One.

The 1914 German attack on the Western Front began with an invasion through neutral Belgium. The German army swept into neutral Belgium.

They were the assured that nothing would happen to the Belgian people if they would give up all acts of violence towards the Germans. And so, they accepted their fate.

Taken from an Article entitled, “The Germans Enter Brussels” By Richard Harding Davis:

“… After they had passed for three hours in one unbroken steel-gray column were bored.But when hour after hour passed and there was no halt, no breathing time, no open spaces in the ranks, the thing became uncanny, inhuman. You returned to watch it, fascinated. It held the mystery and menace of fog rolling toward you across the sea…..”

The Occupying German army in the Royal Gardens in Brussels
The Occupying German army in the Royal Gardens in Brussels

Fortunately the majority of the Hucklenbroich family were either too young or too old to suffer the horrors of the war being fought on their doorstep. Despite not facing bombs, they faced starvation. A small notebook of recipes hand written by Henri’s niece, Marie-Louise, describes several methods of preparing tulips for meals, and alternatives to cooking fats such as motor oil.

Sept 1921
Jospeh & Adele Hucklenbroich Sept 1921

The First World War cost some 20 percent of the Belgium’s wealth through loss or destruction. The industrial decline, which had already started before World War I, continued its downward path from which it would never fully recover.

Joseph, now in his 70s, had already retired, but still maintained his industrial relations. The energy and vigor he had injected to most of his life had made him a successful man, but he was now a man without a trade, still supporting his son, Henri.

On the 3rd of June, 1923, Henri’s father Joseph, died peacefully in his chair.

TATI
The only portrait of Joseph Hucklenbroich by Henri, features the red velour high back chair in which he passed away.

 

The house in Molenbeek St Jean was sold, and the remaining Hucklenbroich family moved into a house in Koekelberg, not far away.

Although there is no clear account of the amount of contact maintained with Henri’s divorced wife,Milly Margreittier, we are aware that she passed away at the 26 February, 1931.

Later in the autumn of 1931, Henri’s mother, Adele passed away on the 9th Sep.

It is unknown as to the whereabouts of Henri at this time, but it assumed that he lived alone. He did frequent Edouard his brother, and their family in Koekelberg.On the 8 December 1934, Henri’s brother, Charles Hucklenbroich, committed suicide at the age of 63 for reasons unknown.

Edouard Hucklenbrouch and his family -1935
Edouard Hucklenbroich and his family -1935

Edouard Hucklenbroich, Henri’s brother, saw his family flourish, as seen in this photo taken in 1935. Sitting on the grass in the front was Leon Hucklenbroich, Henri’s nephew, who had spent his childhood at his uncles side listening to stories of travel, art, and culture. Leon was young student at the time practices to learn medicine.

World War Two ravaged Europe. Germans occupying Belgium, the Netherlands and France kept the population under strict rations, making the elderly susceptible to illness. The Hucklenbroich family was well off, so there were no immediate concerns.

EDOUARDEATH-03
Newspaper clipping of of Edouard’s death in 1942

On the 22 Jan 1942,Edouard Hucklenbroich, Henri’s brother, slipped off the back of a tram, and cracked his head open on the rails. He died instantly.

 

deathOn the 19th of November 1942, Henri Hucklenbroich died of pneumonia at 15:30 at the age of 71. His nephew, Leon Hucklenbroich was at his side.

The cause of death was stated as pneumonia des vieillards(“pneumonia of the elderly”)-also known as pneumonie lobaire aiguë – pneumococcal pneumonia, the most common type of pneumonia.

Henri’s daughters kept a low profile during the Second World War, and yet Henri’s son, Christian, showed the same passionate vigor against authority that his father had expressed. His work for the underground resistance during the war would lead to his capture and death. As part of the resistance, he become a victim of one Hitler’s projects for extermination.

NUN-BCK
A prisoner’s coat marked “N N” (Nacht und Nebel)

Nacht und Nebel (German for “Night and Fog”) was a directive of Adolf Hitler in 1941 to engage in the kidnapping and disappearance of many political activists and resistance ‘helpers’ throughout Nazi Germany’s occupied territories

NUN-DGWThe Night and Fog prisoners were mostly from France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Norway. Until April 1944, at least 6,639 persons were captured under the Nacht und Nebel orders.

Christian Hucklenbroich, Henri’s son, was one of them.

Map of Gros Rosen Concentration Camp
Map of Gros Rosen Concentration Camp

They were usually arrested in the middle of the night and quickly taken to prisons hundreds of miles away for questioning, eventually arriving at concentration camps such as Natzweiler or Gross-Rosen. Gross-Rosen was previously sub camp of Sachsenhausen.

The Sheds of Gros Rosen
The Sheds of Gros Rosen

On October 1944, the first convoys of Belgians and French arrived at Gross-Rosen concentration camp. The Belgians were interned with the French in shed 9. The sheds of the Belgians experienced heavy epidemics of dysentery, pneumonia and diphtheria. In less than 15 days, 350 men died from exhaustion.

heromartyrsThese Belgian night and fog prisoners would have disappeared from the face of the Earth if it had not been for Dr. Ephrem Van Den Eede, a fellow inmate, who managed to tally up 280 of the Belgian prisoners deaths.
Christian was one of those named on the lists. He died on the 2nd Dec 1944.

Henriette and Elisabeth survived the war, and evidence showed that Elisabeth and her cousins, Leon Hucklenbroich & Marie Louise Baudrihaye (nee Hucklenbroich) maintained contact, sharing knowledge of Henri and his art. Most of Henri’s paintings had already been sold or discarded, and the remaining colleciton ended up in the possession of his niece, Marie Louise Baudrihaye (neé Hucklenbroich)& Leon his nephew.

Henriette Hucklenbroich died on the 2nd of November 1972. Judging by the lack of other family members present in the announcement, her sister Elisabeth and other close family members such as Léon(cousin and nephew to Henri Huklenbrok) may have been present.

mlh
Marie-Louise Hucklenbroich

Henri’s niece, Marie-Louise passed away on the 30 Oct 1989 at the age of 87. The Huklenbrok collection in her possession was passed down to her 5 daughters. Roseanne Baudrihaye-Westerman obtained the majority of the collection, adding to the collection that she had obtained from Leon Hucklenbroich.

envelopeOn 3 Oct 1994, Elizabeth Hucklenbroich, Henri’s last daughter, peacefully passed away at the age of 92. She did engage in correspondence with Roseanne, although it is unknown if there was any sigficant further information on Henri’s life shared between them. It is unknown if he was a good father, or whether he painted much later in his life. Many of his works were sold on, or perhaps passed down to Roseanne.

Following the passing of Roseanne Westerman (neé Baudrihaye) in May 1998, the collection was further passed down to me. The whereabouts of many of the Huklenbrok paintings are unknown, most likely in the hands of private collectors. The collection as featured here shows only a portion of Henri’s works.

HUKSIGNATURE

I am the great-grandnephew of the artist in question, and I have managed to compile this report through photocopies, the granduncle Léon’s notes, and my mother’s notes. I possess possibly the only photographs known in existence of this obscure artist, and hope that the exposure of Henri Huklenbrok (neé Hucklenbroich) will bring light to the re-appearance of his works in the form of joint exhibition.

Please feel free to contact me if you have any interesting leads that may help us develop a better idea of this artist’s life.