100650 | GERMANY. Totentanz satirical cast iron Medal.
100650 | GERMANY. Satirical cast iron Medal. Issued 1916. Totentanz (Dance of Death) series: SS Tubantia (69mm, 78.89 g, 12). By W. Eberbach.
• ENGLANDS • GRUSS • AN • DIE • NEUTRALE • TUBANTIA • (England's greeting to the neutral Tubantia), Death seated, with back facing, holding bomb and torpedo; in background, the Tubantia sailing right / Legend in six lines: ES • KANN • DER / BESTE • NICHT • IM / FRIEDEN • LEBEN / • WENN • ES • DEM / BÖSEN • NACHBAR / NICHT • GEFÄLLT (even the best cannot live in peace if that does not please his evil neighbor); 1916 below; all within serrated polylobe. Edge: Some light marks as cast, otherwise plain.
The Art of Devastation, p. 147, fig. 10 & p. 261, no. 57; Frankenhuis 1496. Choice Mint State. Attractive charcoal gray surfaces.
Similar to the satirical medallic issues of Karl Goetz, Walther Eberbach was inspired by the events of World War I to create a series of rather morbid medals to propagandize the German war effort. The theme upon which he decided to focus was the Totentanz, or "Dance of Death." This series of issues, a divergence from the ephemeral topic of vanitas, portrayed Death as a skeleton, quite gleefully taking joy in the demise of his enemies—the allied powers—rather than a subtle reflection upon life and death. This frank morbidity is expressed by Eberbach himself in a letter to Julius Menadier, in which he writes "...I want whoever holds the pieces in their hands years later to be overcome by the shudder grimness." It's safe to say that, in this desire, Eberbach was astoundingly successful.
The SS Tubantia was a neutral Royal Holland Liner which was torpedoed in March 1916 by a German U-Boat. The Germans initially denied their involvement, attempting to direct fault unto Great Britain. Irrefutable evidence was eventually discovered, however, and the Germans accepted responsibility, though Eberbach continues to lay blame at the feet of the British with this medal. Of numismatic interest, the ship was reputed to be transporting millions of German gold coins which were to be consigned to foreign banks.