From 1930-1938, many of John Heartfield’s most famous anti-fascist images appeared on front covers of the AIZ (Arbeiter-Illustrierte-Zeitung), a popular illustrated magazine published by left-wing publisher Willi Münzenberg. Heartfield’s montages openly appeared on street corner newsstands throughout Berlin as the Nazi Party rose to power. The AIZ magazine eventually enjoyed either the second or third largest circulation in Germany (300,000-500,000).
Several powerful antifascist and antiwar AIZ magazine covers were reproduced as John Heartfield posters. These anti-Nazi posters were pasted all over the walls of Berlin to combat Goebbel’s propaganda machine. Heartfield’s 1932 montage “Adolf, the Superman: Swallows Gold and Spouts Junk” could be thought of as a miracle of political alchemy. A fascist politician can turn gold into junk (tinny noise) for the public. Fascists will say anything if their financiers profit from their ugly words.
Hitler’s supporters were quick to respond to Heartfield, Berlin’s resident anti-fascist rebel artist. They publicly beat him and threw him from a streetcar. But Heartfield refused to leave Berlin until he was forced to become a fugitive after an SS assassination squad smashed down the door of his apartment on April 14, Easter Sunday, 1933.
Heartfield defiantly continued to produce anti-fascist anti-Nazi art in Prague until Hitler’s army invaded Czechoslovakia in 1938. The Gestapo had orders to arrest approximately 800 people who had offended The Third Reich. Only a few of those people survived. The Gestapo hunted John Heartfield. The artist activist was number-five on The Third Reich’s most-wanted list. But Heartfield managed once again to narrowly escape death.