"One of Kiefer's most powerful series of paintings was based upon Paul Celan's 1945 poem 'Death Fuge,' which was written in a Nazi concentration camp. The poem contrasted the Aryan blonde hair of Margarete and the dark 'ashen hair' of the Jewess Shulamite. In Your Golden Hair, Margarete (1981) a limp arc of bundled yellow straw is attached to a painting of one of Kiefer's devastated fields, as the Nazi blonde ideal was made grotesque. For Shulamite (1983) he painted a cavernous room based upon a Nazi memorial hall. The room appeared to be blackened with soot as a candelabrum burns in the back. This hellish, over-like environment was evocative of the Holocaust that consumed Shulamite. Fire, both as a destructive and redemptive force, was a common theme in Kiefer's art.
Kiefer was deeply interested in alchemy—the medieval folly of attempting to change such base materials as lead into precious gold. For Kiefer, the artist was an alchemist, converting raw materials such as paint and canvas into objects of great profundity. The aspirations and limits of art were symbolized by the motif of the winged palette that seems to be woefully earth bound."