SCISSORS AND GLUE – HIS ARMORY

Sometime ago we had the opportunity to visit the former summer refuge of John Heartfield (1891-1968). During the Third Reich this German political artist (graphic artist, stage designer and cartoonist) used to be no. 5 on Gestapo’s most wanted list.

This is the “happiness” that they bring! (from: AIZ, June 1938)

John Heartfield is considered the inventor of political photo montage, collages of text and imagery found in mass-produced media, revolutionary when viewed in terms of technique and aesthetics. His powerful and satirical works in the late 1920s und 1930s became real icons in the struggle against the Nazis.

The real meaning of the Hitler salute. The little man asks for big gifts.
I’ve got millions standing behind me. 
(from: AIZ, October 1932)

John Heartfield was also a pacifist, and he was deeply disgusted by the fierce and unrestrained nationalism leading finally to World War I.  Therefore in 1916 he anglizised his original German name Helmut Herzfeld as a sign of protest.  In order to escape the imminent military service, he feigned a mental illness and subsequently had to stay in a lunatic asylum for several weeks. By this unusual proceeding he avoided to be drafted to the man-eating frontlines of World War I.

War and corpses. The last hope of the rich. (from: AIZ, June 1932)

Heartfield himself has repeatedly referred to the key experience of World War I, above all to the unprecedented role of image propaganda in the war riot: it would have given impetus how people were lied to with photos. As a result, he was brought into internal opposition to these visual worlds and was tempted to use the corrupted propaganda instrument photography as an educational tool; also, of course, because the trivial mass medium of photography was not considered an artistic medium of expression at the time.

Self-portrait with police commissioner Zörgiebel, 1929

In 1916, on a May day, early in the morning at 5 o’clock, the photo montage is said to have been born as an artistic technique. Well that’s how George Grosz, who claims to have been there, later remembered when John Heartfield, the “Chief Johnny” from the Berlin Dada circles, invented it.

Advertisement design for George Grosz’ “Little Art Folder”

It was at least partly due to his relationship with George Grosz that John Heartfield arrived at the conclusion that the only art worth creating was that which depicted and commented on social and political issues. Hence he destroyed all of the art that he had created before World War I.  He joined the German Communist Party in 1918, in that same year he and George Grosz became founding members of the Berlin Dada Club. His engagement in this anti-art movement inspired him to working with new materials and an innovative approach concerning photography. 

Cover design for Kurt Tucholsky’s book
“Germany, Germany above all”

During the Weimar Republic after World War I, John Heartfield’s work was gaining a lot of exposure in Germany as he was a regular contributor to diverse journals and newspapers. His brother, author and companion Wieland Herzfelde founded and run Malik Verlag, a publishing house for books and satirical periodicals as well. Here he served as the in-house designer and advanced his skills as a book designer. During the 1920s John Heartfield worked also together with Erwin Piscator (founder and director of the Proletarian Theatre in Berlin), for him he designed diverse sets for plays in collaboration with playwright Bertold Brecht who became a real friend.

Cover design for Harry Sinclair Lewis’ book
“How you make dollars”

“If I were not Peter Panter, I would like to be a book cover at Malik publishing house. This John Heartfield is really a little wonder of the world. What enchanting things he does!” (Kurt Tucholsky, 1932)

 

Göring, hangman of the Third Reich (from: AIZ, September 1933)

His best-known works comprise the combative photomontages created for AIZ, Arbeiter Illustrierte Zeitung (Workers’ Illustrated Newspaper), a widely circulated left-wing German weekly that he worked for from 1927 to 1938. During this time he created more than 230 images with strong pointed political messages, often to be seen on the front or back cover.

His commentary was chiefly reserved for Nazi actions and party leaders. When the Nazis came to power in 1933, Heartfield and his anti-Nazi imagery were immediately targeted. With the Nazis on his heels,  he left Berlin on foot for Prague, where he continued to work for AIZ. In 1938, when the Nazi invasion of Czechoslovakia was imminent, he was forced to flee again, this time to London.

Reservations – Jews driven like cattle (December 1939)

While he succeeded in escaping the Gestapo (Nazi secret police) when in London the British secret service MI5 began to monitor him as a possible Soviet spy and communist. However, he continued to produce his biting photomontages on current political events being published in various British newspapers. Reservations (showing the ghettoisation of Jews in Poland) means his last published political work in the United Kingdom shortly before he got interned as an enemy alien in December 1939. After internment and long illness, he then primarily designed the covers of generally apolitical books for the Lindsay Drummond and Penguin Books publishing houses.

Stage set projection for Bertold Brecht’s “Mother Courage”, 1951

In 1950 after 17 years in exile he returned to his now communist homeland in East-Germany. Here he met his brother Wieland Herzfelde again who survived the Nazis in US American exile. After staying the first time in Leipzig, John Heartfield settled finally in East-Berlin, his hometown. His long years in London raised suspicions of treason among the East-German secret police named  Stasi. Renowned artists and friends like playwright Bertold Brecht and author Stephan Heym supported him and advocated for his kind of art. But only after Stalin’s death he got fully rehabilitated in 1956 by election to the East-German Academy of the Arts. In 1960 he became a professor there. 

The summer house of John Heartfield in Waldsieversdorf

The summer house was erected in 1957 from demolition wood of Strausberg Airport, a small forestial idyll with direct access to a beautiful lake. His friend Bertold Brecht urged him to this step for improving his poor health. As of 2009 the premises serves as a small museum, memorial and meeting  place visitable on weekends.

John Heartfield in the early 1950s

Since his death his work has been exhibited regularly throughout the United States and Europe, a current and comprehensive exhibition named Fotografie plus Dynamit can actually be seen at Academy of the Arts (Akademie der Künste) in Berlin (afterwards moving to London and Zwolle as well).

In light of strengthened right-wing radicalism and uprising chauvinist hatred, Heartfield’s work remains up to date till today.

 

PYONGYANG RAILWAY MUSEUM BY THE RAMBLING WOMBAT

Being a fan of all things railway I greatly looked forward to visiting this museum and, being in North Korea, I knew it would have that something extra. It did not disappoint.  …

The museum focuses on the country’s railway construction projects and how they were influenced/ directed by Kim Jong-il and, to a lesser extent, Kim Il-sung. …

####

Read the complete feature and learn more about the diverse mysteries of North-Corea just here:

https://ramblingwombat.wordpress.com/2019/07/07/pyongyang-railway-museum

 

A GERMAN LIFE – AGAINST ALL ODDS

“When I tell my story, it’s not about denouncing Germans and their history, it’s about using the past for the future, and I think I’m an example of building bridges, only then come closer to peace.”  (Bernd Wollschlaeger) 

Cover of book “A German Life” by Bernd Wollschlaeger, M.D., 2007

Many years ago, Bernd Wollschlaeger has written a book about his exciting life describing in detail how the son of a German Nazi and Holocaust denier became finally a Jew.  The author has a story that is anything but commonplace and that he kept for a long time. A native of Bamberg, born in 1958, catholic educated who spent his youth in Meckenheim, where he graduated from high school. His German past was long buried deep. One of the reasons was that his father had put him through a choice: either your parents or Judaism. And Bernd Wollschlaeger had decided for his Jewish belief.

“The East is Red” by Liu Ruowang, China
picked up at NordArt Exhibition 2018 in Germany

His family always had this dark secret. His father used to tell always the  same stories from the war, and he used to be proud of his country. He fought on every front: France, Poland, Russia. And in the stories he told his son, it was all about heroes and honor, Artur Wollschläger member of the German Wehrmacht elite. He served under general Heinz Wilhelm Guderian, the commander of large tank units – and father of the German blitzkrieg. But on the other side everybody talking about the Holocaust was just a communist, traitor and lier. His mother told him about the other face of the war, the pure horror and civilian victims. She had made quite different experiences as a Sudeten German, born in Carlsbad in the Czech Republic.

One day, through a teacher, he took part in a peace project involving young Israelis. That was in 1978. He became friends with some. They invited him to visit them in Israel. On the first day there he learned at dinner that his host father was a Holocaust survivor who showed him the tattooed number on his forearm.  The next day they drove to Yad Vashem what turned out to be a drastic emotional and mental experience changing his life. What impressed him most, that so many Jews could overcome their hatred after the Holocaust. So he wanted to find out more about this belief. He got in touch with a Jewish Community when back in Germany, and after a very long process converted finally to Orthodox Judaism.

In 1987 Bernd Wollschlaeger emigrates to Israel, six months later his father, who has long since broken up with him, dies. In Israel he first works in a hospital as a doctor, then is drafted into the Isralis army, the son of a Nazis. All the time in Israel he does not talk about his biography and puts the story in a box for a long time. After 7 years in Israel he immigrated to the USA with his family. There his son told the story about his famous Nazi grandpa in the Jewish school in Miami . So Bernd Wollschlaeger had to justify the behaviour of his son in a talk with the headmaster and the Rabbi. He told them his story how he became a Jew, and they urged him to do the same in the class.

The circle has closed, because afterwards he began talking about the secrets of his German past and Jewish belief in many lectures. And lateron he also wrote the book A German Life about his very astonishing development, his contribution for a dialogue between the different cultures of this world.

######

Under the following link you find a film with a lecture hold by the author:

https://www.chabad.org/multimedia/mediaplayer/flash_media_player_content.xml.asp?what=load&aid=2375263&iid=7774638&mtype=mp4

 

EUROPE AT THE CROSSROADS

After decades of a ruthless and deeply unsocial neo-liberalism on the back of the normal people making only the already rich still more richer, another malicious ghost is creeping again over the boulevards of Europe. It is the chauvinist spirit of simplified truths spread by self-proclaimed saviors of occident as a whole.

Postmodern demons emerging from the collective subconscious

The nationalist ideologies of 19th and 20th century are now on the verge to a powerful revival in many countries and as well in European parliament after the coming 23-26 May elections. The globalization of this retrogressive zeitgeist has opened new battlefields covered by a gloomy twilight of prefascist idols. Subsequently news of unilateral steps and national solo-efforts by individual states of the European Union now hunt us regularly like greedy and creepy ghosts of a dark age and past times.

The labyrinth of ego-trips

The radical nationalists in the diverse countries of Europe now want to put just back the clock finally while having already started a postmodern crucial witchhunt. Like unscrupulous pupils in magic they have lighted blazing totalitarian fires everywhere which need to be urgently extinguished again.

After the bloody fascism in the first half of 20th century we have enjoyed the longest period of peace in Europe without war and opened national borders of former enemies. This represents a real big progress and step in history which needs to be safeguarded and maintained for our common future.

 

 

HOUSING DREAMS OF THE SIXTIES AND TODAY

Monochrome look in newspapers, photos and television seem far away today but watching for example black/white television was really an amazing, new and big thing and experience in the early 60s of the last century for me when I was simply a quite young boy.

My brother, a friend from the neighbourhood and me (left to right), 1961

Those days living was so much different, and as a result of WW II the housing need was incredible big. So untll 1963 I used to live in a very small family house together with my grandmother, three aunts, one uncle, two cousins, my brother and my parents, alltogether twelve persons where today not more than six people would usually stay.

I do not know how my mother managed all this, as we had in fact only a small living-room being also the kitchen plus a room for sleeping. These were very confined space conditions, but without knowing anything else, I was happy with it. In the backyard of the house my uncle was running a small workshop for manufacturing and repairing upholstery, and there you would find also some chickens and a small garden with vegetables and some fruit trees. So it was a quite busy and never boring place overall on a rather little premises for so many people.

Scyscraper vision in the naive-modern style of the time

Due to great and extended social housing projects everywhere we fortunately got a bigger and much more modern appartment with a fair priced rent in 1963.

Actually in Europe each year 4 million people are constantly or temporarily without home, moreover the rents in a lot of cities are simply unaffordable for many people and/or housings are just missing. This is the prize of an unrestricted neo-liberalism in the EU since the 90s, so a different and social policy would be barely required now.

 

Monochrome Monday Challenge V

 

 

 

 

ALL HAIL THE GREAT EMPEROR

The USA under the actual embarrassing regime of a complete ballooned and blonde fake-personality however still have the intention to build a high and “nice” wall on its Southern borderline to Mexico. Hence, I have simply forgotten why this president is greedy for such fence, but this does not really matter because things like that do not constitute any future while the waves of history will just wash it away sooner or later like before the Roman Limes or the municipal Wall of Berlin – what a senseless waste of time, money and energy.

Superblonde in a typical actionist  fake-mode

In this respect US American policies – personified by their reactionary, megalomaniac and egodriven leader Donald Trump – reveal again a complete dissociative amnesia regarding past times and history. Now, therefore let’s only remember to the former US president Ronald Reagan and his prominent claim towards the Soviet-Union in West-Berlin, 12 June 1987: “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” When being said, this request sounded quite utopian but only around 2 years later this should become very true.

And now 30 years later, the same USA with another president wants to build a protective wall to Mexico in order to safeguard the bloody white American dream of freedom?! So without doubt the shooting slogan “America first” has become already a reality, but such a national-chauvinist strategy and thinking of the 19th century (getting critical also elsewhere in Russia, Turkey, Poland or Hungary) will not resolve any of the global challenging questions of today.

Already secretly recruited US-borderwall protector

 

 

 

 

 

 

MR. SEEHOFER, PLEASE RESIGN AS PROMISED SOME DAYS AGO!

The European Union’s fate could be decided by how it deals with the question of refugees and migration. In Germany, national-chauvinist politicians are pushing to close again the borders such destroying the Schengen Zone being a real progress on this continent. At the frontier from Germany to Poland you may observe actually only the usual sporadic controls by German or Polish customs officers. But at the border to Austria there are already federal police controls which shall be widened.

The German Interior Minister Seehofer is one of the many  radical-nationalist ghosthunters in this regard who had already promised to resign what he has not done so far. Instead of following up his other important tasks, such as taking care of urgently required new houses and affordable appartments, since many weeks he only promotes extremist steps against migration although only very few refugees do come to Europe at the moment. And on the recent EU summit nobody has discussed about the question why the people are forced to flee to Europe and what could be done so that they can stay and live furthermore in their homeland under acceptable conditions. This nationalist discourse sees the migrants not as human beings which simply need our help.

More than 100,000 people have already signed a petition asking the German Interior Minister to step back as promised. If you want to joint it, you can do so under the following link:

https://www.change.org/p/herr-seehofer-machen-sie-ihre-ank%C3%BCndigung-wahr-treten-sie-zur%C3%BCck?lang=en-GB

 

 

DARE NOT BE A SCHMOCK!

This story about Italian fascism, herewith related mental arsonists in the 20th century and nowadays’s implications has at least a partial good end – for sure not self-evident in this time era of crucial nationalist leaders creating a deadly and hazardous world. First of all a schmock is Yiddish and just means idiot or useless person, and in the picture here under you can obviously recognize one real sucker from Hollywood but I talk about no individual couching in bed, instead of Hal Roach, the film producer of the popular comedy duo Oliver Hardy and Stan Laurel, a smart looking guy hiding a yawning abyss.

Oliver Hardy, Stan Laurel & Hal Roach, ca. 1935

Shall we consider that all monsters have fur and fang? In his book Real Nazis the Polish artist Piotr Uklanski shows 203 historical photos and pictures of German Nazis in diverse uniforms (SS, Wehrmacht, NS-party) or without. A lot of them look so unobtrusive like friendly neighbors at the next corner, and this innocent seeming banality disturbs gravely and misleads a lot. The evil often hides behind facades of a boring normality like it is the case with psychopathic murders in our contemporary daily life.

In case of Hal Roach, being better known as a producer of silent movies like Our Gang (1922) or Safety Last! (1923) with Harold Llloyd, he was also a fervent devotee of the Italian fascist leader Benito Mussolini until the very end of his long lifetime. In 1927 Hal Roach brought together the goofy duo of Oliver Hardy  and Stan Laurel which as Laurel & Hardy have become the most famous comedy duo in cinematic history. In 1931 the duo was acting in its first full-length sound film Pardon us produced by Hal Roach. Now the Italian version of Pardon us  became also known to the dictator Benito Mussolini who admired this film very much.

Benito Mussolini in typical posture, ca. 1931

Hence, Hal Roach got invited to Rome by Benito Mussolini where he was treated like a guest of state. When being interviewed some years later he defiantly uttered: “Benito Mussolini is the only square politician I’ve ever seen.” So he praised him to be unique honest, an absolute deluded view of the world. And when visiting the international film festival Berlinale in 1992 shortly before his death, he would not like so much to speak with reporters about his former employees Laurel & Hardy but when the topic changed to Benito Mussolini he eventually spoke about Il Duce with great passion and glowing eyes, so he never changed his mind.

In 1937 — two years before the war — the dictator sent his son Vittorio to Hollywood. There, he struck a deal with Hal Roach because they founded  a film company called “R.A.M.” which stood for “Roach and Mussolini.” They were to make movies and comedies, but of course also promotional films about the fascist Italy. This business alliance with Mussolini finally led to an intervention of the Hollywood Anti-Nazi League and as well  by MGM, this forced Hal Roach to pay his way out of this venture. Therefore, Laurel & Hardy were really lucky as they subsequently never had to act amusingly for Il Duce, the original idea and intention of the dictator in this regard.

Hal Roach and Vittorio Mussolini at a Hollywood studio

Alessandra Mussolini, a direct descendant and granddaughter of Il Duce, is a leading promoter of neo-fascism today in Italy. Actually as a member of Forza Italia she also holds a seat at the European Parliament in Strasbourg. One of her well known remarks reads as follows: “Better to be a fascist than gay.” So the ghosts of the past are indeed lumbering amongst us again in the present and creating many tensions and fears. Only fundamental resistance will stop this ugly chauvinist zeitgeist now spreading everywhere on Earth.