“For anyone to understand a regime like the GDR, the stories of ordinary people must be told.
Not just the activists or the famous writers.
You have to look at how normal people manage with such things in their pasts.”
Anna Funder, Stasiland: Stories from Behind the Berlin Wall

“When we came to the GDR, and the brothers tried to continue working together on an artistic basis, it was impracticable. The years of emigration, with diverse kinds of experiences on both sides in different countries, had formed different people. […] Johnny was very unhappy and desperate about the situation, but he couldn’t change it. He had become another person. […]"
1972 Letter From Jonny's Third Wife, Gertrud Heartfield

By 1949, John Heartfield was running out of options. Documents and letters make it clear he did not want to return to East Germany (GDR).

He had proven himself to be a valuable outspoken public figure against the Third Reich. However, once the war was won, countries that had good reasons to welcome him denied him sanctuary.

In 1950, he felt he had no choice but to return to East Germany.

Upon his arrival, his youthful dreams of Utopian Communism were quickly shattered. He was under suspicion by the Stasi because of the length of his stay in England. Certainly, his documented pleas to remain in England were noted.

He and his brother, Wieland, were labeled traitors to the GDR. They narrowly escaped prosecution.

For six years, he was denied membership in the communist party. This meant he was denied proper health care. He suffered heart attacks. His ability to work was limited. Only the efforts of Bertolt Brecht and Stefan Heym finally led to recognition by the GDR in 1956.

The Chronology section will always grow. Please check the Exhibition's Networking Sites such as - Facebook, Twitter, Exhibition Blog - for updates.

1949: Resists Return To East Berlin
1950: Under Stasi Suspicion
1951: Traitor To East Germany (GDR)
1952: The Eternal Pacifist
1954: Disappearing Behind The Berlin Wall
1956: Brecht And Heym Intervene

NOTE: Visitors are encouraged to write to the curator with suggestions for additions or modifications to the Chronology.

Write To John Heartfield

John Heartfield’s grandson, John J Heartfield, is the curator of the Official John Heartfield Exhibition and Archive.

Curated By Heartfield's Grandson, John J Heartfield