Four Scholars of Königsberg

In 1927, William Ehrich worked under Stanislaus Cauer, the senior professor of sculpture at the Art Academy (Kunstakademie) in Königsberg. Although Königsberg at the time was the focal point of art and culture in East Prussia, the hyperinflation that began in 1922 and the massive need for reconstruction resources made financial support for art difficult to obtain. Since Cauer was such a dominant force at the time, he received numerous commissions. In order to support himself and his new bride, Ruth, Ehrich worked for Cauer and executed some of his projects. Among those works were the sculpted heads of Copernicus, Kant, Herder, and Corinth which were placed above the main entrance to the Neue Burgschule on Lehndorfstraße, which was completed in November of 1927.

After the final destruction of Königsberg and the Russian conquest in April, 1945, the Russian occupiers wished to remove all traces of German identity, but many buildings and some art survived. The Neue Burgschule survives today as Gimnasium No. 1 in Kaliningrad, but the heads were destroyed in 1945. Incredibly, Die Zeit reports that at the end of September, 1945, a Russian colonel visited the school and demanded that the director destroy the heads. A student named Jurij Nikolaiewitsch Iwanow recalls how he held the ladder as the heads were destroyed and discarded in a bomb crater. Nobody knew the artists or the intellectuals whose likenesses were lost that day.