German Artists who Resisted Adolf Hitler: Primary and Secondary Sources
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(1) Louis Aragon, Commune Magazine (May 1935)
John Heartfield is one of those who expressed the strongest doubts about painting, especially its technical aspects. He is one of those who recognized the historical evanescence of that kind of oil-painting which has only been in existence for a few centuries and seems to us to be painting per se, but which can abdicate at any time to a technique which is new and more in accord with contemporary life, with mankind today. As we know, Cubism was a reaction of painters to the invention of photography. The photograph and the cinema made it seem childish to them to strive for verisimilitude. By means of these new technical accomplishments they created a conception of art which led some to attack naturalism and others to a new definition of reality. With Leger it led to decorative art, with Mondrian to abstraction, with Picabia to the organization of mundane evening entertainment.
But toward the end of the war, several men in Germany (Grosz, Heartfield, Ernst) were led through the critique of painting to a spirit which was quite different from the Cubists, who pasted a piece of newspaper on a matchbox in the middle of the picture to give them a foothold in reality. For them the photograph stood as a challenge to painting and was released from its imitative function and used for their own poetic purpose....
John Heartfield today knows how to salute beauty. He knows how to create those images which are the very beauty of our age since they represent the cry of the people-the representation of the people's struggle against the brown hangman with his craw crammed with gold pieces. He knows how to create these realistic images of our life and struggle arresting and gripping for millions of people who themselves are a part of that life and struggle. His art is art in Lenin's sense for it is a weapon in the revolutionary struggle of the proletariat.
John Heartfield today knows how to salute beauty. Because he speaks for the countless oppressed people throughout the world, and this without depreciating for a moment the magnificent tone of his voice, without debasing the majestic poetry of his tremendous imagination. Without diminishing the quality of his work. Master of a technique entirely of his own invention, a technique which uses for its palette the whole range of impressions from the world of actuality; never imposing a rein on his spirit, blending his figures at will, he knows no signpost other than dialectical materialism, none other than the reality of the historical process, which he, filled with the anger of battle, translates into black and white.
(2) George Grosz interviewed by Erwin Piscator (1928)
When John Heartfield and I invented photomontage in my South End studio at five o'clock on a May morning in 1916, neither of us had any inkling of its great possibilities, nor of the thorny yet successful road it was to take. As so often happens in life, we had stumbled across a vein of gold without knowing it.
(3) Bertolt Brecht, discussing the origins of photomontage in 1949.
John Heartfield is one of the most important European artists. He works in a field that he created himself, the field of photomontage. Through this new form of art he exercises social criticism. Steadfastly on the side of the working class, he unmasked the forces of the Weimar Republic driving toward war; driven into exile he fought against Hitler. The works of this great artist, which mainly appeared in the workers' press, are regarded as classics by many, including the author of these lines.
(4) George Grosz, The Autobiography of George Grosz (1955)
He (Wieland Herzfelde) was small of stature, just like his brother John Heartfield. During the First World War, Wieland published a literary journal, Die Neue Jugend - work on which was repeatedly interrupted by bouts of military service. The journal carried poems by Wieland's friends and some of my drawings.
When Wieland was called to the front once again, a new man joined the editorial board: the boisterous poet Franz Jung. Die Neue Jugend at once assumed a new face: it became aggressive. Its new format was based on that of American journals, and Heartfield used collages and bolder type to develop a new style.
Wieland, unlike most of us, was an optimist at heart. He believed that the masses - not only himself - would make a stand, for he imagined that everyone was endowed with his own trusting and noble nature. He devoted more and more of his time to politics, wrote fewer poems, left Dada to its own devices and founded a publishing house he called the Malik Verlag.
All that stopped, of course, when Hitler came to power. Wieland became a refugee like a hundred thousand others.
(5) Anthony Coles, John Heartfield: 1891-1968 (1975)
One must examine the way in which Heartfield's montages worked and in some way assess their reception and success. Put at its simplest, either Heartfield was preaching to the converted or he was preaching in order to convert - for he was definitely preaching. Modern art, created in the belief of art for art's sake, does the former. Those who believe in a necessary spiritual detachment of art from other human activities have their beliefs understandably reinforced by works of art produced, either consciously or by default, precisely for that purpose. The only level on which Heartfield can be said to be preaching to the converted is that of reinforcement or confirmation of ideology either by direct criticism of ideologies contrary to his, or by the presentation of aspects of the ideology to which he subscribed as praiseworthy.
This process of ideological reinforcement is an essential one in art and operates in two ways. Firstly, the image is used to confirm an existing belief. Viewers have their beliefs reinforced by being able to bask in reflected glory. Secondly, ideological back-sliders are reminded of the consequences of their back-sliding. In this case some theoretical expertise on the part of the audience can be assumed and the picture can therefore be made to operate on a relatively sophisticated level without quantities of explanatory material. This is the reason for the continuing comprehensability of Heartfield's work, which is usually shown with the original explanatory material missing.
However, the main purpose of Heartfield's work is preaching to convert, and there are a number of ways in which he did this extremely successfully. Firstly, he used photographs and the technique of photomontage -.a technique of which he was one of the more skilful proponents. The democratic nature of photography was recognised very early.... The relative cheapness of the photograph and resulting printed images makes wide distribution possible and thus photography became the most important tool of information distribution before television, which is in itself
only an extension of photography. Equally early arose the myth that the camera does not lie and thus photographs came to have a documentary power. Even when it is known that a picture is posed or faked it is still regarded as an accurate record. Thus Heartfield could produce the most intellectually convoluted images by montage and still the final product would retain its power as a photographic image. It has rightly been pointed out that many of Heartfield's montages would have looked ludicrous had they been just drawn or painted.
(6) John Heartfield, The Mothers to their Sons in Franco's Service (December, 1936)
I bore you under the palm trees of Morocco...
I sent you to school in Hamburg...
I hugged you, my child, in Rome...
You speak in foreign tongues,
Cannot ask one another,
For what you were hired,
Whom you are hounding.
So permit us mothers to tell you:
We grieve for you, young ones.
No, we did not raise you to murder.
You are allowing yourselves to be abused. You have been betrayed!
The enemies against whom you have been sent
Are enemies of the poverty that also troubles us,
Are enemies of the war that threatens the world.
You risk your lives. Risk more! Dare to think!
Refuse to execute your brothers!
Damned be your obedience, your false courage!
Don't you know what you are doing?
Our blood sticks to your weapon.
(7) Heiri Strub, An Art for the Revolutionary Struggle (1972)
Heartfield always considered his photomontages as artistic achievements. He took in stride the fact that he was not recognized by contemporary art critics. The works he created for dissemination in huge editions had no value in the art market. Directing his political charges at the masses, he could scarcely count on a sympathetic reaction from bourgeois art collectors. The worker, however, for whom he intended his photomontages, understood their revolutionary content, but assigned no artistic value judgment to them.
Why, then, did he take such great care with each work? Why this strong sense of artistic responsibility for ephemeral political propaganda? Artistic quality, for Heartfield, was identical with the clear solution of a concept, with the purposeful accomplishment of the substance and form of an idea. The graphic means, the distribution of space, the proportions, the choice of lettering, the tonal quality or the color of the photograph were subordinated to this. Every detail was a part of the expression.
(8) George Grosz, The Autobiography of George Grosz (1955)
What can I say about the First World War, a war in which I served as an infantryman, a war I hated at the start and to which I never warmed as it proceeded? I had grown up in a humanist atmosphere, and war to me was never anything but horror, mutilation and senseless destruction, and I knew that many great and wise people felt the same way about it.
I don't even like to talk about it. I hated being a number and not merely because I was a very small one. I let them bellow at me for just as long as it took me to find enough pluck to bellow back at them. I stood up as best I could to their disgusting stupidity and brutality, but I did not, of course, manage to beat them at their own game. It was a fight to the bitter end, one in which I was not defending ideals or beliefs but simply my own self.
(9) George Grosz, The Autobiography of George Grosz (1955)
In 1916 I was discharged from military service, or rather, given a sort of leave of absence on the understanding that I might be recalled within a few months. And so I was a free man, at least for a while. The collapse of Germany was only a matter of time. All the fine phrases were now no more than stale, rank printer's in on brown substitute paper. I watched it all from my studio in Sudende, living and drawing in a world of my own.
I drew soldiers without noses; war cripples with crab-like limbs of steel; two medical orderlies tying a violent infantryman up in a horse blanket; a one-armed soldier using his good hand to salute a heavily bemedalled lady who had just passed him a biscuit; a colonel, his fly wide open, embracing a nurse; a hospital orderly emptying a bucket full of pieces of human flesh down a pit.
(10) George Grosz, interviewed by Erwin Piscator (1928)
When John Heartfield and I invented photomontage in my South End studio at five o'clock on a May morning in 1916, neither of us had any inkling of its great possibilities, nor of the thorny yet successful road it was to take. As so often happens in life, we had stumbled across a vein of gold without knowing it.
(11) George Grosz, The Autobiography of George Grosz (1955)
I was recalled (to the German Army) in the middle of 1917. My new duties were to train recruits and to transport and guard prisoners of war. But I had enough and one night they found me semi-conscious, head-first in the latrine. I spent some time in hospitals after that.
Whenever I had a moment to spare I would vent my spleen in sketches of everything about me that I hated, either in my notebook or on sheets of writing paper; the brutal faces of my comrades, badly mutilated war cripples, arrogant officers, lascivious nurses.
(12) George Grosz, The Autobiography of George Grosz (1955)
One day, I gathered that I was to be shot for desertion. Luckily Count Kessler heard about it as well, and interceded on my behalf. In the end, they pardoned me and packed me off to a home for the shell-shocked. Shortly before the end of the war, I was discharged a second time, once again with the observation that I was subject to recall at any time.
(13) George Grosz, The Autobiography of George Grosz (1955)
I thought the war would never end. And perhaps it never did, either. Peace was declared, but not all of us were drunk with joy or stricken blind. Very little changed fundamentally, except that the proud German soldier had turned into a defeated bundle of misery and the great German army had disintegrated.
I was disappointed, not because we had lost the war but because our people had allowed it to go on for so many years, instead of heeding the few voices of protest against all that mass insanity and slaughter.
(14) George Grosz, The Autobiography of George Grosz (1955)
In those days (after the First World War) we were all Dadaists. If the word meant anything at all, it meant seething discontent, dissatisfaction and cynicism. Defeat and political ferment always give rise to that sort of movement.
We held Dadaist meetings, charged a few marks admission and did nothing but tell people the truth, that is, abuse them. The news spread quickly and soon our meetings were sold out, crammed with people wanting to be scandalized or just after fun.
Between insults we performed "art", but the performances were as a rule interrupted. Thus hardly would Walter Mehring begin to rattle away at his typewriter while reciting some piece or other of his own composition, when Heartfield or Hausmann would come out from behind the stage and yell: "Stop! You're not trying to bamboozle that feeble-minded lot down there, are you?"
(15) Mary M. Lane, Time Magazine (18th September, 2019)
Hitler knew that to conquer the wounded hearts of a broken citizenry, he must first conquer culture itself. Dozens of artists faced his persecution when he pushed “Degenerate Art” out of museums and into a derisive exhibition in 1937, but very few tried to warn against it through their work.
One notable exception was George Grosz, a spirited rabble-rouser who risked his career, family, physical safety and mental health to sound the alarm as early as 1923, parodying Hitler’s view of aggressive nationalism in “Hitler the Savior,” a work that mocks Hitler as a Teutonic warrior in a one-shoulder tunic. In his 1926 painting “Pillars of Society,” the then-33-year-old artist warned his fellow Germans that, if petty government sniping and extremist Christianity were not nipped in the bud, Hitler’s rise would be the likely consequence. Grosz further warned against radical far-right religious views in 1927’s “Shut Up and Do Your Duty,” a work that shows Jesus Christ nailed to the cross wearing combat boots and a gas mask - a criticism of politicizing Christianity that drew praise from pacifist Quakers in the United States.
Yet most Germans dismissed Grosz’s anti-Nazi work as hyperbolic and offensive to Christianity, a feeling that far-right activists exploited to distract from what he was saying. Then the death threats began. One night in the early 1930s, Grosz discovered an iron pipe at his front door with a note attached. “This is for you, you old Jew-Pig, if you keep going with what you’re doing.” The artist knew that the reality that he was not Jewish would make scant difference to violent extremists.
After it became clear that the Nazis would be victorious after Hitler was sworn into power in January of 1933, with elections called for two months later, Grosz and his wife Eva fled as persecuted activists to New York, with their two sons, sailing separately to avoid suspicion. He worked tirelessly to integrate and successfully learned both English and the culture of his new country. Yet Grosz still struggled to convince Americans that Hitler’s cultural clampdown was an obvious precursor to stamping out civil rights first for women, minorities and the press—before finally eradicating them for all Germans.
In his 1934 work “Peace,” Grosz foretold that powerful countries would appease Hitler, leading to a Second World War. In the striking black-and-white piece, three cars race down a road, bearing the flags of Imperial Japan, Italy and the Second Spanish Republic. Egging them on is a car brazened with a Swastika.
Grosz created the work a full two years before the Spanish Civil War, three years before the Second Sino-Japanese War, and five years before World War II. It seemed too preposterous to be prophetic, and American culture critics dismissed the piece.
By the time Americans realized Grosz had been right, it was too late.
Decades later, in the spring of 1959, Grosz and his wife Eva moved back to Germany. Eva had been perpetually homesick, and Grosz was seeking emotional closure after years of exhibiting clear signs of trauma. Yet reentry in Berlin was difficult: Grosz had access to even fewer mental health resources than in the U.S.; the art world was in shambles, many of his friends were dead and political chaos continued in Germany with the looming Cold War. Then, on July 6, 1959, after a night out with friends, the inebriated artist slipped on the stairs of his apartment, dying in the hallway from the injuries. With him died his failed dream of warning the world of dictatorship.
So why is Grosz’s heroic story not better known?
In Germany, the reasons are twofold. For most Germans, lauding the risks that Grosz took also involves acknowledging that others - perhaps their parents, grandparents or great-grandparents - enabled Hitler’s rise by not speaking out as the artist did. Secondly, while Grosz was able to escape with some documents that facilitate research, the Nazis destroyed copious works and documents left in Berlin.
Americans, on the other hand, have an uneasy, centuries-old relationship with failure. Millions grew up with the fairytale that if an individual is fighting for what is right, that individual will certainly win and be rewarded for it.
Yet it is critical that we heed Grosz’s warning in our own time: the dismantling of civil rights is portended by the dismantling of culture. It is critical that members of a society recognize that there are times when risking our careers, and even our safety, may be necessary to protect that society’s future.
When others take those risks, the rest of us should pay attention.
(16) In 1963 Otto Dix explained why he had joined the German Army on the outbreak of the First World War in 1914.
I had to experience how someone beside me suddenly falls over and is dead and the bullet has hit him squarely. I had to experience that quite directly. I wanted it. I'm therefore not a pacifist at all - or am I? - perhaps I was an inquisitive person. I had to see all that for myself. I'm such a realist, you know, that I have to see everything with my own eyes in order to confirm that it's like that. I have to experience all the ghastly, bottomless depths for life for myself; it's for that reason that I went to war, and for that reason I volunteered.
(17) Otto Dix, interviewed by Maria Wetzel (1963)
As a young man you don't notice at all that you were, after all, badly affected. For years afterwards, at least ten years, I kept getting these dreams, in which I had to crawl through ruined houses, along passages I could hardly get through.
Not that painting would have been a release. The reason for doing it is the desire to create. I've got to do it! I've seen that, I can still remember it, I've got to paint it.
(18) Otto Dix, Neues Deutschland (December, 1964)
The painting (Trench Warfare) began life ten years after the First World War. During this time I had made a lot of studies, so that I could give artistic expression to my war experiences. In 1928 I felt ready to tackle the big subject. At this time there were a lot of books in the Weimar Republic once again peddling the notions of the hero and heroism, which had long been rendered absurd in the trenches of the First World War. People were already beginning to forget, what horrible suffering the war had brought them. I did not want to cause fear and panic, but to let people know how dreadful war is and so to stimulate people's powers of resistance.
(19) Julius Meier-Graefe reviewed Otto Dix's painting, Trench Warfare, in July, 1924.
The trench is not only badly, but disgracefully painted, with a penetrating delight in detail, not I hasten to add, in sensuous detail but in matter-of-fact detail. Brains, blood and entrails can be painted in a way which make's one's mouth water. This Dix - forgive the crude expression - makes you want to throw up.
(20) Otto Dix's painting, Flanders, was inspired by a passage from Under Fire, a First World War novel written by the French soldier, Henri Barbusse.
In the same place, where we had thrown ourselves down in the night, we wait for daybreak. Half dosing, half sleeping, continually opening and closing our eyes, paralyzed, shattered and freezing, we stare in disbelief at the return of the light. Painfully and swaying like an invalid, I raise myself up and look around. The oppressive weight of my wet greatcoat pulls me down. Next to me lie three completely disfigured shapes.
(21) Hilton Kramer, The Observer (29th May, 2008)
Given the horrific history of Germany in the modern era, it was not to be expected that German art from the period would have much to do with scenarios of sweetness and light. A culture of violence and intolerance was bound to produce an art dominated by violent emotions and a sense of dislocation and loss. Exactly how individual talents respond to such extreme situations depends, however, not only on their artistic gifts but on the moral compass that each brings to such a daunting challenge.
It’s one of the many virtues of War/Hell: Master Prints by Otto Dix and Max Beckmann, the new exhibition at the Neue Galerie, that it gives us such vivid accounts of the way two tough-minded artists confronted this challenge without in any way minimizing its gravity or otherwise avoiding its tragic implications. Both artists had the misfortune of having had firsthand experience of trench warfare in the First World War - Beckmann as a medical orderly who suffered a nervous breakdown, Dix as a foot soldier in the trenches whose vision of life remained permanently defined (and permanently impaired) by his encounter with battlefield carnage.
Yet in their art, they brought very different sensibilities to the depiction of the horrors that shaped them. Otto Dix (1891-1969) was essentially a draftsman and caricaturist, even in his paintings, whereas Max Beckmann (1884-1950) was a humanist of heroic stature—an artist for whom the highest aspirations of the Old Masters continued to serve as an inspiration, even in the face of the catastrophe he felt compelled to deal with in his art.
As its title indicates, the exhibition is primarily devoted to the artists’ prints: the series of 12 large-format lithographs by Beckmann entitled Die Hölle (Hell), printed in 1919, and the portfolio of 50 prints by Otto Dix entitled Der Krieg (War), published in 1924. The total effect of these images of violence, suffering and death is so grim and so powerful that it’s likely to leave more tender-hearted visitors to the exhibition reeling from the experience. Even though we read about similar horrors in the newspapers every day, owing to the wars in Iraq and elsewhere, such graphic depictions of violent death remain far more disturbing than the printed word.
It has to be said, however, that it’s only in the high-intensity subject matter of these print portfolios that Dix and Beckmann can be thought to occupy common artistic ground. Elsewhere in their respective oeuvres, the scale and quality of their accomplishments are significantly unequal. As a painter, Max Beckmann occupies a place among the giants of 20th-century art. His series of heroic triptychs constitutes an achievement that, in my judgment, rivals even that of Picasso’s Guernica for first place among the masterworks of modern art. Otto Dix, however, remains a figure of secondary importance—an artist who invested the whole weight of his talent in the facile distortions of caricature. There is in Dix’s oeuvre a coarseness and vulgarity that denote a second-rate mind.
We’re given glimpses of these differences in the first room of the exhibition at the Neue Galerie, where a few paintings by Dix and Beckmann are installed. Among them are two self-portraits by Beckmann, Self-Portrait in Front of Red Curtain (1923) and Self-Portrait with Horn (1938), both of which address us as icons of unassailable self-possession: They command respect not only as aesthetic achievements but as documents of human nature. The paintings by Dix are also portraits. One of them is a picture of a semi-nude woman that’s yet another reminder of Dix’s innate vulgarity; the others are all exercises in pictorial caricature. For this viewer, anyway, the effect is to close the door on Otto Dix forever.
(22) Martha Kearns, Käthe Kollwitz (1976)
Käthe's first university professor, Swiss-born Karl Stauffer-Bern, was a jack-of-all-arts; at twenty-seven, he had already displayed talents as a poet, painter, sculptor, and etcher, and was a perceptive teacher as well. Stauffer-Bern had little respect for the sort of work favored by the Academy in 1885 - enormous, academic canvases of battlefields. He apparently had not much more respect for his own work, which had brought him great success; he pronounced his admirers "blind." During this time he wrote to a friend that "among Berlin's one-and-a-half-million inhabitants, there isn't anyone of my own age who I feel is a kindred spirit in the world of art, so here I am, with no one to turn to for companionship, it's the very devil."
Käthe herself fared better in finding companionship. At her first meeting with a sister student, Beate (or Emma) Jeep, the two became fast friends.... Eagerly Jeep and Schmidt shared their portfolios with one another. Then Käthe presented hers - consisting largely of anecdotes, and illustrations to poems - to Stauffer-Bern. At first he thought her work typical of her locale, for the subjects were Slavic and Russian peasants drawn in a realistic style. But when he saw The Emigrants, he exclaimed, "But this is just like a Klinger!"
She had never heard of Max Klinger, Prussia's most skilled artist of the then popular naturalism, a school of thought which deemed people to be predetermined victims in a bitter struggle for survival. As an art form, naturalism emphasized photo like images of actual persons, scenes, and conditions, often in the most minute, even microscopic detail. Unlike artists working in other styles, naturalist artists featured women as subjects as frequently as men. The Emigrants convinced Stauffer-Bern that Käthe could excel in the graphic arts of etching and lithography, requiring expert, subtle drawing skill, in which Klinger had perfected his naturalist techniques. Although Käthe objected when he urged her to follow in Klinger's path, "Stauffer-Bern's instruction was extremely valuable for my development. I wanted to paint, but he kept telling me to stick to drawing."
(23) Käthe Kollwitz, diary entry (30th September, 1914)
Nothing is real but the frightfulness of this state, which we almost grow used to. In such times it seems so stupid that the boys must go to war. The whole thing is so ghastly and insane. Occasionally there comes that foolish thought: how can they possibly take part in such madness? And at once the cold shower: they must, must!
(24) Käthe Kollwitz, diary entry (30th December, 1914)
My Peter, I intend to try to be faithful.... What does that mean? To love my country in my own way as you loved it in your way. And to make this love work. To look at the young people and be faithful to them. Besides that I shall do my work, the same work, my child, which you were denied. I want to honor God in my work, too, which means I want to be honest, true, and sincere.... When I try to be like that, dear Peter, I ask you then to be around me, help me, show yourself to me. I know you are there, but I see you only vaguely, as if you were shrouded in mist. Stay with me.... my love is different from the one which cries and worries and yearns.... But I pray that I can feel you so close to me that I will be able to make your spirit.
(25) Käthe Kollwitz, diary entry (13th June, 1916)
I have never been without your love, and because of it we are now so firmly linked after twenty-five years. Karl, my dear, thank you. I have so rarely told you in words what you have been and are to me. Today I want to do so, this once. I thank you for all you have given me out of your love and kindness. The tree of our marriage has grown slowly, somewhat crookedly, often with difficulty. But it has not perished. The slender seedling has become a tree after all, and it is healthy at the core. It bore two lovely, supremely beautiful fruits.
From the bottom of my heart I am thankful to the fate which gave us our children and in them such inexpressible happiness.
(26) Käthe Kollwitz, letter to Vorwarts (October, 1918)
In the Vorwaerts of October 22 Richard Dehmel published a manifesto entitled Sole Salvation. He appeals to all fit men to volunteer. If the highest defense authorities issued a call, he thinks, after the elimination of the "poltroons" a small and therefore more select band of men ready for death would volunteer, and this band could save Germany's honor.
I herewith wish to take issue with Richard Dehmel's statement. I agree with his assumption that such an appeal to honor would probably rally together a select band. And once more, as in the fall of 1914, it would consist mainly of Germany's youth - what is left of them. The result would most probably be that these young men who are ready for sacrifice would in fact be sacrificed. We have had four years of daily bloodletting - all that is needed is for one more group to offer itself up, and Germany will be bled to death. All the country would have left would be, by Dehmel's own admission, men who are no longer the flower of Germany. For the best men would lie dead on the battlefields. In my opinion such a loss would be worse and more irreplaceable for Germany than the loss of whole provinces.
We have learned many new things in these four years. It seems to me that we have also learned something about the concept of honor. We did not feel that Russia had lost her honor when she agreed to the incredibly harsh peace of Brest-Litovsk. She did so out of a sense of obligation to save what strength she had left for internal reconstruction. Neither does Germany need to feel dishonored if the Entente refuses a just peace and she must consent to an imposed and unjust peace. Then Germany must be proudly and calmly conscious that in so consenting she no more loses her honor than an individual man loses his because he submits to superior force. Germany must make it a point of honor to profit by her hard destiny, to derive inner strength from her defeat, and to face resolutely the tremendous labors that lie before her.
I respect the act of Richard Dehmel in once more volunteering for the front, just as I respect his having volunteered in the fall of 1914. But it must not be forgotten that Dehmel has already lived the best part of his life. What he had to give - things of great beauty and worth - he has given. A world war did not drain his blood when he was twenty.
But what about the countless thousands who also had much to give-other things beside their bare young lives? That these young men whose lives were just beginning should be thrown into the war to die by legions - can this really be justified?
(27) Agnes Smedley, Germany's Artist of the Masses (September, 1925)
She is now fifty-eight years of age, and remains unimpressed by attentions, medals, books, or professorships. Her ceaseless physical activity would lead one to believe she is no more than forty. Her life is as simple as that of an ordinary working woman, and she still lives in the workers' section of North Berlin. Her gaze is direct and her voice startlingly strong, and she sees far beyond those who bring her superficial, external tributes or who try to use her for their own propaganda purposes. She is a silent person, but when she speaks it is with great directness, without trimmings to suit the prejudices of her hearers. Many people, before meeting her, expect to see a bitter woman. But they see, instead, a kind - very kind - woman to whom love - strong, love, however - is the rule of life.
(28) Martha Kearns, Käthe Kollwitz (1976)
The influence of her mother upon Käthe's character and work had been profound. Like her mother - and like herself - the women Kollwitz portrayed are loving and strong. It is the women in her work-most often mothers - who carry the drama. With few exceptions, men participate in Kollwitz' emotional scene as adjuncts, as fathers and husbands in the background. It is the women who confront the crises head on: they brave war, poverty, homelessness, their husband's unemployment, servitude, widowhood, sexual abuse, and their children's hunger. In the darkest despair, the women continue to support the life of others. Kollwitz's women are subjected but not humiliated, victimized by force but not weak; they have the power - through strong love - to face and endure their trials. Her women are heroic in the epic of every day.
(29) Käthe Kollwitz, journal entry (June, 1926)
The cemetery is close to the highway.... The entrance is nothing but an opening in the hedge that surrounds the entire field. It was blocked by barbed wire which a friendly young man bent aside for us; then he left us alone. What an impression: cross upon cross.... on most of the graves there were low, yellow wooden crosses. A small metal plaque in the center gives the name and number. So we found our grave.... We cut three tiny roses from a flowering wild briar and placed them on the ground beside the cross. All that is left of him lies there in a row-grave. None of the mounds are separated; there are only the same little crosses placed quite close together.... and almost everywhere is the naked, yellow soil.... at least half the graves bear the inscription unknown German...
We considered where my figures might be placed... What we both thought best was to have the figures just across from the entrance, along the hedge.... Then the kneeling figures would have the whole cemetery before them... Fortunately no decorative figures have been placed in the cemetery, none at all. The general effect is of simple planes and solitude... Everything is quiet, but the larks sing gladly.
As we went on, we probably passed the very place where he fell, but here everything has been rebuilt... Everywhere there are traces of the war.... the ground is hollowed out by countless shellholes... In this place alone the Germans are said to have lost 200,000 men in the course of the four years. Their trenches and the Belgian trenches were sometimes separated by only twenty, even ten yards. They have been closed up now and life goes on; only the Belgian dugouts and trenches, those bowels of death as they call them, have been preserved and are a sort of place of pilgrimage for the Belgians...
The British and Belgian cemeteries seem brighter, in a certain sense more cheerful and cosy, more familiar than the German cemeteries. I prefer the German ones. The war was not a pleasant affair; it isn't seemly to prettify with flowers the mass deaths of all these young men. A war cemetery ought to be somber.
(30) Käthe Kollwitz, Arbeiters International Zeitung (October, 1927)
This is not the place for us to discuss why I am not a Communist. But it is the place for me to state that, as far as I am concerned, what has happened in Russia during the last ten years seems to be an event which both in stature and significance is comparable only with that of the great French Revolution. An old world, sapped by four years of war and undermined by the work of revolutionaries, fell to pieces in November 1917. The broad outline of a new world was hammered together. In an essay written during the early days of the Soviet Republic, Maksim Gorki speaks of "flying with one's soles turned upwards." I believe that I too can sense such flying in the gale inside Russia. For this flying of theirs, for the fervour of their beliefs, I have often envied the Communists.