102529 | GERMANY & FRANCE. The Palatinate's Gessler Hat cast bronze Medal.
102529 | GERMANY & FRANCE. The Palatinate's Gessler Hat cast bronze Medal. Dated 1920 "Der Gesslerhut in der Pfalz"—on the supposed sexual crimes against German women by Franco-African soldiers (59mm, 67.91 g, 12h). By K. Goetz in München.
DER GESSLER HUT IN DER / PFALZ, large fasces (ancient Etruscan symbol of power) surmounted by French colonial soldier's helmet (an allusion to Gessler's hat in Swiss lore); to left, two Franco-African soldiers—with overt, caricatured ethnic features—pursuing German women; to right, French soldier accompanies two German prisoners—one of whom is vomiting—through the melee // IM JAHRE DES HEILS, huge arm (representing French overreach) emerging from the ground, holding captive a nude Germania; in foreground, one Franco-African soldier teases her with a branch, while other colonial soldiers watch from the background; to right, a French soldier thumbs his nose at the spectacle. Edge: A few light marks as made, otherwise plain.
Kienast 265. Mint State. Olive-darker brown surfaces, with a slight matte nature.
Following Germany's defeat in World War I, French and British troops occupied portions of Germany to ensure that reparations would be paid. In some areas, such as the Rhineland, France utilized colonial troops from North Africa for patrolling and occupying—possibly serving as an act of further humiliation—making the local Germans be subject to those who were, in turn, subject to a colonial power. Within Germany, however, sentiments became overtly racialized, with anti-African propaganda found everywhere in the print media, and with caricatures and stereotypes endlessly employed. This biased and unfounded campaign even found its way into numismatics, with many medals featuring iconography that reveals these feelings. At the forefront was the belief that African troops, racially portrayed as oversexed and primal, were ravaging German women. Though this campaign subsided in the early 1930's, it wasn't the first appearance of this form of racism, and certainly wouldn't be the last.
In particular, this example alludes to Gessler, a legendary 14th century official within the Habsburg-dominated Holy Roman Empire, who was administering order in Altdorf. In order to convey his brutal power, he had his hat placed atop a pole in the city square, commanding all to bow before it. William Tell, an expert marksman, refused, and he was given the option of execution or shooting an apple off the top of his son's head. Tell chose the latter, splitting the apple perfectly. Tell eventually got the better of Gessler, killing him with a single arrow during an ambush. This tale points to the legendary founding of the Old Swiss Confederation, and is one which Goetz draws a fanciful comparison in the hope that Germany would rise up against what he saw as similar oppression.
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