“I can’t believe it!”
“I can’t believe it!”
After Berlin Wall comes down in 1989, John Heartfield’s paternal grandson, John J Heartfield, arranges to visit The Heartfield Archiv, Akademie der Künste, in the former GDR (East Berlin), now reunited with Germany.
There is a marked difference in the physical condition of buildings between what was East and West Germany. Beyond the Berlin Wall, Heartfield’s grandson walks through run-down streets to find the Heartfield Archiv at 10-Robert-Koch-Platz. At first glance, he thinks the building is a schoolhouse, not an archive for a major artist.
Michael Kresja, a long-time member of the archive staff, proves to be an excellent guide. Michael’s English is excellent. After three days together, John J Heartfield feels that Michael has become a friend. As with most of the current archive staff, Michael Kresja has worked at the Heartfield Archiv during the period it was under the control of East Germany.
During his three-day visit to 10-Robert-Koch-Platz, the amount and variety of his grandfather’s art stored in the Heartfield Archiv astonishes John Heartfield’s grandson.
There are approximately 64 surviving maquettes. These are the original pieces of art from which Heartfield’s AIZ Magazine covers and political posters were reproduced. The AIZ magazine covers appeared all over Hitler’s Germany. They made John Heartfield a target in Berlin of Hitler’s soldiers and supporters. The maquettes contain details and textures that are not visible in printed reproductions. They are priceless pieces of historic art.
In addition to the maquettes, there’s a large collection of stage models, stage sets, sketches, and much more.
There is enough John Heartfield art in the Heartfield Archiv to fill a gallery in any major museum.
Heartfield’s grandson believes it is a great injustice that the public cannot view this amazing collection of John Heartfield art. His grandfather risked his life so that as many people as possible could see his warnings concerning the rise of fascism. One of John Heartfield collages has the caption Never Again!. A country can never again accepts the principles of fascism that inevitably lead to war and suffering.
At the end of his visit, Heartfield’s grandson is escorted into the office of Walter Trautwein, the archive director who managed the unification of the East German Heartfield Archive into West Germany’s Akademie der Künste. The director tells him, in no uncertain terms, that the Heartfield Archive “owns all of Heartfield’s art and the copyrights to Heartfield’s art.” For several years, the Akademie der Künste has been granting copyright permissions for John Heartfield’s art and collecting copyright fees.
When John J Heartfield returns to the United States, he and his sister, Catherine, hire a New York law firm with connections in Berlin. By 1993, it is established the Walter Trautwein’s statement to John J Heartfield’s regarding John Heartfield’s copyrights was false. In a 1993 letter to John J Heartfield and his sister, Herr Walter Trautwein states that, contrary to what he told Heartfield’s grandson in 1992, the copyrights do belong to The John Heartfield Community Of Heirs. By European Law, Heartfield copyright permissions have always belonged to The John Heartfield Community Of Heirs.
Please refer to the expanding section of this exhibition entitled Hidden Genius to understand the full history of the Heartfield Archiv, Akademie Der Künste, Berlin.