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HomeContentsThemes > Weimar Germany (1919-1933)

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Following Germany's defeat in First World War (1914-1918) a national assembly was convened in Weimar to prepare a new constitution and the period from 1919 to the Nazi parties rise to power in 1933 is known as the Weimar Republic.
The aftermath of the First World War in Germany
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Unidentified photographer
[Photograph of Berlin inhabitants cutting up a horse for meat during fighting in the city] 
1918-1919 (ca)
   
The end of 1918 was a bitter one for a blockaded and starving Germany - its armies had been defeated, the fleet mutinied at Kiel in October, Kaiser William II abdicated and fled to Holland, the Armistice was signed ending the War on 11 November 1918 and by then the cities were being run by revolutionary councils as social order collapsed.
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It was a time of social revolt with Karl Liebknecht (1871-1919) and Rosa Luxembourg (1871-1919) leading the 1919 Spartacist Revolution against the state and being murdered for doing so. The German humiliation of the Treaty of Versailles (1919) brought about upheavals that went along with a cultural renaissance.
 
Artistic ideas flourished as the proponents of Dada attacked the traditional militaristic and aristocratic establishment that they held responsible for the chaos of the devastating war. Society was fragmented between the communists on the left, a collection of centralist parties and as the 1920's came to a close the rise of the right wing Nazi party. The political confrontations spurred a highly innovative series of existing illustrated magazines such as 'Berliner Illustrirte Zeitung', 'Münchner Illustrierte Presse' and encouraged the creation of new ones such as the left wing Arbeiter-Illustrierte-Zeitung' better known by the abbreviation AIZ that is now recognized as one of the key innovators in propaganda photocollage with works by Hannah Höch and John Heartfield.
 
This was a period of tremendous artistic and literary development and Germany became the leading place in the world for illustrated magazines including:
  • 'Berliner Illustrirte Zeitung' founded in 1890 but in the 1920's it's editor Kurt Korff hired a new type of photojournalist such as the young Hungarian sports photographer Martin Munkacsi (born - Martin Marmorstein)
  • 'Münchner Illustrierte Presse' had a Hungarian Stephan Lorant as the editor for a period.
  • The left wing illustrated magazine 'AIZ' - 'Arbeiter-Illustrierte-Zeitung' ('Worker's Illustrated Paper') was founded in 1925 and moved to Czechoslovakia in 1933.
German illustrated magazines during the First World War
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Berliner Illustrirte Zeitung - Cover no 52, 30 December 1917 
1917, 30 December
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Münchner Illustrierte Zeitung - Cover, 2 March 1918 
1918, 2 March
  
With Germany by the First World War illustrated magazines such as Berliner Illustrirte Zeitung (founded in 1890) and Münchner Illustrierte Zeitung were well established. They used the juxtapositions of different photographs to good effect.
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Left wing magazines during the Weimar Republic in Germany
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John Heartfield
Untitled 
n.d.
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John Heartfield
Untitled 
n.d.
  
John Heartfield and AIZ in the Weimar Republic.
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Germany during this period was developing the best cameras (Leica, Ermanox) and lenses in the world and a number of outstanding photojournalists were able to use these and develop a candid camera mode of working almost unseen. They included: At the same time the left wing illustrated press particularly 'Arbeiter-Illustrierte-Zeitung' (AIZ) was publishing satirical collages and photomontages by Hannah Höch and John Heartfield (born - Helmuth Herzfelde) that bitterly attacked the Nazi party. By the late 1920's and early 1930's being independently minded, Jewish or left wing was highly dangerous and they started to leave where possible. Germaine Krull, Florence Henri, Ilse Bing and Andreas Feininger, for example, all moved to Paris during the 1920s and early 1930s. This is the decadent and Bohemian period that the writer Christopher Isherwood (1904-1986) described in Goodbye to Berlin (1939) and that became the 1968 film musical Cabaret. The acceptance of this form of photojournalism was encouraged by the 1929 founding of the photo agency Dephot (Deutscher Photodienst) with Felix H. Man, Umbo, Kurt Hübschmann and the Hungarian Robert Capa but as Nazism increasing clamped down they fled Germany. The remarkable talent pool of photojournalists and editors that had existed in Weimar Germany moved when they could to the UK and the USA. Tracing how these people influenced the picture magazines of the 1930's and 1940's is informative and leads one to appreciate the immense effect they had.
 
In the USA when 'Life' magazine came out in 1936 one of its advisors was Kurt Korff who had been editor of 'Berliner Illustrirte Zeitung' and the photographers included - Alfred Eisenstaedt
 
In the UK Picture Post was started and edited by Stephan Lorant who had been the editor of 'Münchner Illustrierte Presse' and not surprisingly he hired those who had escaped the persecutions of the Nazis including Tim Gidal, and two who had worked for the Dephot agency Felix H. Man and Kurt Hübschmann (under the name Kurt Hutton).
 
Many other photographers left Germany and became leaders in their fields. For example the Hungarian born sports photographer Martin Munkacsi worked for 'Town and Country', 'Pictorial Review', 'Life Magazine' and 'Harper's Bazaar' where he became a very influential fashion photographer.
Weimar Germany
 
Picturing Modernism: Moholy-Nagy and Photography in Weimar Germany
Picturing Modernism: Moholy-Nagy and Photography in Weimar Germany 
  
Eleanor Hight
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Portraits Of An Age: Photography In Germany And Austria 1900-1938
Portraits Of An Age: Photography In Germany And Austria 1900-1938 
  
Renee Price (Afterword); Albrecht Schroder (Afterword); & Monika Faber (Editor)
Click here to buy this book from Amazon
 
 
Heartfield Versus Hitler (Pocket Archives)
Heartfield Versus Hitler (Pocket Archives) 
  
John Willett
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John Heartfield: Aiz-VI 1930-38
John Heartfield: Aiz-VI 1930-38 
  
David Evans; & John Heartfield
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John Heartfield
John Heartfield 
  
John Heartfield; Peter Pachnicke; & Klaus Honnef
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