1891 1899 1905 1908 1912 1913

“My brother, who was five years older, 
experienced the full impact of the loss 
(of his parents). For four days and nights 
he was alone with younger siblings in the 
isolated hut. The eight-year-old never thought 
of going down into the village. Frightened and 
helpless, despairing more completely with each 
passing hour and day, he ran into the woods 
again and again to call just one word: ‘mother.’” 
Wieland Herzfelde
Wieland Herzfelde

Heartfield Childhood. He Learned To Despise Cruelty & Injustice By 1899.

Helmut Herzfeld and his siblings are abandoned in the woods by his mentally disturbed parents in 1899. Their father simply left one night and didn’t return. Heartfield’s mother left them alone soon afterwards.

After waiting for days, Helmut led his brother, Wieland (future writer, publisher, and director of Malik-Verlag Publishing [Malik Publishing Company]) and his sisters, Charlotte (Lotte) and Hertha, to “Uncle Ignaz” (Varnschein), the Protestant mayor of Aigen, near Salzberg.

Ignaz gave the children shelter. He had them baptized in the Protestant church. However, the young Helmut (John Heartfield) proved to be a rebellious child. Ignaz tried to keep the children together, but he couldn’t deal with all of them.

Helmut was sent to a Catholic home for children. Catholic nuns often beat him for his bad behavior. Before helping with mass every morning, Helmut secretly prayed to his Protestant God to forgive him for accepting his role in a Catholic service.


The Varschein Family

Helmut Herzfeld's Foster Parents
Ignaz Varnschein with Herzfeld foster children Wieland Herzfelde and his sister, Hertha.

Ignaz Varnschein with Herzfeld foster children Wieland and Hertha.)

The Varschein Family

Professor John J Heartfield is John Heartfield’s paternal grandson. Professor Heartfield presented Art & Politics, Politics & Art at the DADA WORLD FAIR in San Francisco. Please write to him about his live presentation regarding the relevance of his grandfather’s life and work to current events.

Dada Political Artist John Heartfield grandson, John Heartfield, Curator Official John Heartfield Exhibition