5 Finger hat die Hand(5 Fingers Has The Hand)

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5 Fingers Has The Hand


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John Heartfield Poster Open Hand Reminder: Voting Matters!
By Andrea Hofmann and John J Heartfield

John Heartfield produced 5 Fingers Has the Hand for the newspaper Red Flag (Rote Fahne) in 1928. It was a call to vote for the KPD (Communist Party of Germany) in the upcoming Reichstag election. The KPD was a major political party opposing Adolf Hitler and his party. It had vote ticket “Number 5.” Heartfield’s caption features that number: “5 Fingers Has the Hand! With 5 You Seize The Enemy! [5 Finger hat die Hand! Mit 5 packst Du den Feind!]”

The left-wing KPD was popular among workers because it promoted labor unions, social welfare programs and progressive taxation. It stood in strong opposition to anti-Semitism and racism. The party had a powerful feminist agenda, supporting equality and better economic conditions and opportunities for women. It was the only German political party of that era that had prominent woman leaders, such as Clara Zetkin. It is notable that the KPD had the most women candidates for office.

Heartfield’s 5 Fingers Has the Hand has had many incarnations throughout history. The hand was a 1928 German election poster. A newspaper featured it on its front page. It appeared on album covers for popular bands such as System Of A Down. The hand became an exhibition poster and appeared as a tattoo on the Internet.

The Tale Of The Art

John Heartfield usually worked on assignment. But would have had a clear vision of what he wanted. His nimble visual mind would come up with several ideas for consideration. However, his process for this piece was much different. The five fingers of a hand reaching out to grab voters’ attention was a vision so powerful, Heartfield jumped up and rushed off the moment the image took shape in his mind.

Heartfield’s son, Tom, described how his father stood outside a factory and encouraged exiting workers to hold up their hand as a photographer shot photo after photo of workers’ hands. Heartfield studied all the photographs and chose the most powerful image: the smudged hand of a worker reaching for something.

Techniques To Remember The “Number 5”

John Heartfield’s goal was to make potential voters remember the KPD vote ticket “Number 5.” And, he knew the techniques to accomplish that. He had trained in advertising design and studied with Ernst Neumann, one of Germany’s leading advertising designers. Neumann held Germany’s only chair for advertising design.

Heartfield applied a key strategy of advertising: repetition. He repeats the number “5” three times in the piece, twice as a number and once as a body part. Making the number a part of the human body made it personal. This technique targeted a voter’s subconscious. It helped them remember the party’s ballot position.

Our hands are important to us and we assign a great deal of meaning to them. Using them is part of our body language. Because hands are so expressive, we learn to read gestures and hand expressions very early.

The John Heartfield Poster Open Hand Image

What we see in Heartfield’s montage is an open worker’s hand about to grip something. We reach for something when we want it. There is also a German proverb, “Take matters into your own hands.” The hand encouraged voters to take action, vote for the KPD, seize the enemy, and make things happen!

The Hand Remains A Warning

The KPD was 4th in the 1928 Reichstag election. It polled over 3 million votes and won 54 seats. This amounted to 10.6% of the vote. Hitler’s Nazi party only won twelve seats. However, power relations can change quickly. Only five years later, in 1933, voters gave the Nazis 43.9% in the election where Nazi propaganda blamed their political opposition for the Reichstag fire. By joining with a minor party (there was no shortage of political parties in Germany), Hitler took control of the government. Hitler’s political party was not named the “Nazi Party.” His followers did not not call themselves “Nazis.” The name of Adolf Hitler’s political party was the National Socialist German Workers Party. The term “German Workers” is usually dropped when referring to the Third Reich’s political party. However, Hitler rose to power by promising a better economy and an end to widespread unemployment after a humiliating WWI peace agreement imposed crippling fines and economic hardship on Germany. Such conditions likely contributed to an acceptance of Hitler’s simple slogans “Only I Can Fix It!” and “Make Germany Great Again!” However, as history often shows, when a strongman takes the reins, a regime of terror and war follows.

The John Heartfield poster open hand image is a timeless warning to act while we still can. Every vote counts. Never waste that opportunity.