<< HEARTFIELD CHRONOLOGY – ALL YEARS1949 1950 1951 1952 1954 1956

“[…] abnormal circumstances caused by Germany’s division […]” 
Letter from Johnny's brother, Wieland Herzfelde, to John Heartfield, 1950
Letter from Johnny's brother, Wieland Herzfelde, to John Heartfield, 1950

East Berlin Suspicion. Art & Artists In East Germany. German Democratic Republic, 1950

In 1950, East Berlin suspicion of artists who have spent time in democracies is intense. East German officials are especially suspicious of émigrés who return “late” from exile in the West. John Heartfield spent too many years enjoying English freedom. He wrote letters pleading to remain in London for his “health and work.”

This East German Government’s attitude complicates the famous anti-fascist artist’s return to East Berlin.

Heartfield immediately draws the attention of the Stasi, the East German secret police. He must endure a detailed interrogation. The Stasi collect evidence against Heartfield. His dentist is under East Berlin suspicion of activity against the state.

On August 31, 1950, John Heartfield and his third wife, the former Gertrud Fietz, a German émigré, return to Leipzig.

Heartfield will not be admitted to the East German Akademie der Künste for six years. This severely limits his ability to work as an artist. Because he is neither a party member of a member of the Akademie, he’s denied health benefits when he suffers multiple heart attacks.

Heartfield and his brother, Wieland, are able to work together on some GDR theatre productions. Heartfield also finds work for publishing in Werkstatt: H & H.

Professor John J Heartfield is John Heartfield’s paternal grandson. He gives live interactive presentations around the world that focus on his grandfather’s life and work and modern political art. Please write to him to request his presence at your event or ask any question. He is always pleased to hear from exhibition visitors.

East Berlin suspicion documented by John Heartfield grandson, John Heartfield, Curator Official John Heartfield Exhibition