The famous Dada collages John Heartfield created as a member of Berlin Club Dada can be viewed as a foundation for Heartfield’s later work for Kurt Tucholsky’s irreverent picture-survey of 1929 Weimar Republic society Deutschland, Deutschland, über alles (Germany, Germany, Above All).
Heartfield’s 1916-1920 Dada pieces were never a random mix mixed media elements. Each piece of media was carefully chosen. Then they were placed in the whole to provide the viewer with a message in one visual jolt.
The images Heartfield created for the interior of Deutschland, Deutschland, über alles are satirical stories. They’re a perfect blend for Tucholsky’s satiric destruction of the German Weimar Republic mentality that helped Germany fall under the control of the authoritarian leader Adolf Hitler.
Heartfield’s montages take symbols and images of Weimar Republic society and use them to tell his story of how people look to a strong leader to solve problems while they ignore policies that lead to a fascist government.
Tucholsky’s words and Heartfield’s collages could apply just as easily to the rise of Benito Mussolini in Italy. Though Italy fought against Germany in World War I, many Italians, like Germans, felt slighted and victimized by the disastrous Treaty Of Versailles that ended the war. The same reasoning could apply to the victory of Donald Trump in the 2016 American presidential election. Many Americans were hurting and felt ignored. They turned to the authoritarian tone in the words of Trump. They supported him without caring about his racist, bigoted, and misogynist statements.
Deutschland, Deutschland, über alles was wildly successful when it was published by Neuer Deutscher Verlag in 1929. John Heartfield received lucrative offers from some of Berlin’s largest advertising agencies. He turned them all down. Perhaps he knew what was coming. He needed to be free to use his art “as a weapon.”
Heartfield’s stunning visuals were not simply an ideal partner Tuchosky’s devastating prose. They were the models for Heartfield’s famous anti-fascist and antiwar photo montages that attacked fascism, Adolf Hitler, and The Nazi Party. Montages that made Heartfield number-five on the Gestapo’s Most Wanted List.