1916 1917 1918 1919 1920

“Gott Stafe England! (May God Punish England!)”  
Shouted in the streets of Berlin in 1916
Shouted in the streets of Berlin in 1916

Helmut Herzfeld Became Heartfield, 1916. Change Predicting A Lifetime Of Artistic Rebellion.

1916 was the year Helmut Herzfeld became John Heartfield. Changing his German birth name to an English name foretold his life choices of dangerous political protest. Helmut Herzfeld, as a protest against the rampant anti-British and nationalistic sentiment in Berlin, wanted all of Berlin’s citizen to know he does not agree with their war fervor. Helmut changes his name to a sort of English translation – John Heartfield. Of course, this English version of his name is the one by which he is remembered.

The change is a symbolic political statement, not a legal action. During WWI, the German military propaganda has crowds in the streets shouting, “God Punish England [Gott stafe England]” It is also a popular patriotic song. The artists who would later publicly stand against Adolf Hitler’s brand of out-of-control nationalism is disgusted. If the crowd wants English blood, then he’ll provide his own.

It is not until 1964 that Helmut Herzfeld legally becomes John Heartfield.

herzfeld became heartfield in 1916. Slogan that caused Helmut Herzfeld to change name to John Heartfield

The 1916 slogan that caused Helmut Herzfeld to change his name to John Heartfield.


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.

Herzfeld to Heartfield. Dada Political Artist John Heartfield grandson, John Heartfield, Curator Official John Heartfield Exhibition