“Hardly anybody nowadays will deny that Heartfield was a great artist - although I think there are only a few who could say why. That has always been a very difficult question. Seen from a distance, Heartfield was a simple person; at close range, a complicated person - or better still - a person with an immense span. He was a wise man and a child. An awful, hairsplitting pedant and a very successful artist. He was someone who loved and someone who hated. […] The world and our lives seem very complicated. Heartfield made them transparent."
From 1957 to 1968, life in the GDR was easier for John Heartfield. However, years of Stasi persecution and government neglect had taken their toll. He was never again as prolific as he was during the war years.
He did remained a vital outspoken intelligent man of the people.
He was able to travel outside the GDR on “temporary visas.” This allowed him to spend time with his family.
In 1968, Heartfield was scheduled to attend an exhibition in Czechoslovakia on a temporary visa. The morning he left the GDR, Jonny dictated and signed a short will, leaving everything to his third wife, Gertrud. There was no mention of his children, Tom George Heartfield or Eva Sondermeijer. There was also no mention of Jonny’s beloved brother, Wieland Herzfelde. Wieland can reasonably be considered to be responsible for Heartfield’s entire career.
Tom Heartfield had supported Jonny both financially and emotionally throughout his life. In letter, Gertrud later apologized that because of “the state,” Tom could not be mentioned in the will.
Shortly after signing this will, John Heartfield passed away in April of 1968 in East Berlin. He is buried near the home of Bertolt Brecht.