The Adelegg range, which lies between the towns of Isny and Kempten forms the dark heart of the Allgäu. A cross-shaped valley cuts through the mountain range. At the cross point of the four valleys which make up the Kreuztal is the small town of Kreuztal-Eisenbach. The district of Kreuztal is situated in Bavaria, and Eisenbach in Baden-Wurttemberg. The village’s most important building is the small hunting lodge Haus Tanne. There is also the time-honoured Gasthof zum Kreuz and the architecturally unique church which is completely covered in wooden shingles.
The village is characterised by lumberjacks, glassmakers and miners. It is the dark heart of the Allgäu. Today, it is inhabited by horse whisperers, shamans and nature lovers alongside its local population. It is one of the few places in Germany where there is still no mobile phone reception. At the time, it was only accessible via country road. The first tarred road came in the 1970s into the valley. It is a surreal region with an unusual history, which inspired many artists and writers.
Therefore, it may come as no surprise that the protagonists from the “Back House” colony in Solingen retreated to this piece of wilderness to find safe refuge from the war. First Erna Heinen-Steinhoff came to the valley with her daughters Gabriele and Bettina and was visited several times by her husband Hanns Heinen, who stayed there towards the end of the war until he was eventually wanted with an arrest warrant, and then from 1943 onwards by Erwin Bowien, whose adventurous flight across Germany after escaping the Gestapo in Augsburg came to an end there. Hidden by the local policeman Ottmar Meer, the small colony survived the difficult days of WW2.
It was there that Bowien discovered the young Bettina’s particular artistic talents. From then on, he would slowly begin training her in the ways of the arts. In the dark forests of the region, he painted numerous pictures of daily life in the valley, despite not having enough paint, and wrote his French-language diary “Les Heures Perdus du Matin”.
Hanns Heinen also wrote several poems there. He also began his greatest work “The road of thirty years” there. The author and journalist, Rudi Holzberger, carried out research on the artist colony in Adelegg and documented it in his book published in 2013 “The Fascination with Adelegg - the Escape to the Allgäu”. The book describes many of the locations tied to the artist’s colony, in particular Haus Wiesner, where Bowien and the Heinen family resided. Kreuztal Eisenbach represents a very important stage in the artist Bettina Heinen-Ayech’s life. It was only here, where the master Erwin Bowien had the time for Bettina to show him her immense artistic talent. It was here that he came to the decision to do all in his power to train her to become an artist. It was not until 2011 that Bettina Heinen-Ayech returned to Kreuztal for the first time since 1945. A team from the broadcaster Bayerischer Rundfunk filmed a documentary about her return to the region. For both Hanns Heinen and indeed for Erwin Bowien and Bettina Heinen-Ayech, the years in Kreuztal are a fundamental stage in their creative journey.
On Erwin Bowien's stay in Kreuzthal:: www.petertreiber.de