John is a Berlin resident until 1933. His stunning anti-Nazi anti-fascist political collage art (known as photomontage) is brazenly displayed all over Berlin on AIZ magazine covers sold at street corner newsstands. His sarcastic satiric collage art is reproduced as posters and then pasted all over Berlin walls.
Heartfield’s photomontages openly mock Adolf Hitler, Hermann Goering, and the entire militaristic Nazi philosophy. John Heartfield is five-foot-two inches tall, with blue eyes, and he weighs perhaps slightly over one hundred pounds. This frail man literally dares German fascists to respond. And they do. His teeth are kicked in. He’s thrown from the top floor of a streetcar. He’s savagely beaten in a movie theatre because he swears at a fascist much more than twice his size and weight.
Adolf Hitler and The National Socialist (Nazi Party) seize complete control of Germany’s Parliament (Reichstag) in March, 1933. On Easter Sunday, April 14, 1933, Hitler’s SS smashes down the door of Heartfield’s apartment. They aim to kill him and destroy his collage art, known as photomontage, against Hitler and The Third Reich.
His escape through the French doors of his modest apartment is almost theatrical. He is able to avoid capture by hiding in a small bin in alley near his apartment. He waits for hours as the SS shout his name and ransack his home, destroying everything they find. Finally, he is able to escape Nazi Germany by walking across the Sudeten Mountains.
He continues to create and distribute his world famous WWII collages (photomontages) in Czechoslovakia.
By 1938, Heartfield’s “art as a weapon” has made him number five on the Gestapo’s most wanted list.
From 1930-1938, John Heartfield, a fugitive from fascism under a death sentence, produced a staggering total of nearly 240 full-page photomontages for the AIZ.
David King of The Tate Modern in his book, John Heartfield, The Devastating Power Of Laughter wrote, “These [John Heartfield]AIZ covers were the most illuminating blow-by-blow visual critique ever made of the rise of the Nazis. Heartfield worked night after night, year after year for the AIZ, combining his skill in handcrafted montage with his intelligent grasp of the rot causes that brought about the often horrific subject matter that he had to deal with, and pushing political satire to new extremes.”
These political collages against ignorance, bigotry, racism, and fascism would become known as Heartfield’s world famous “Photomontages Of The Nazi Period.”