Blut fur Eisen [Blood for iron]

Accession Number ARTV09076
Collection type Art
Measurement Overall: 63.9 x 48 cm
Object type Poster
Physical description photogravure on paper
Maker Heartfield, John
Heartfield Archive and GDR Government
Date made 1957
Conflict Period 1930-1939
Spanish Civil War (1936-1939)

Item copyright: Unlicensed copyright


The poster depicts a crate of Nazi troops being loaded aboard a ship. Nearby is railroad freight car being loaded with iron ore from Morocco. The crate is addressed to General Franco who was one of the leaders of the military coup during the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939). The poster suggests Germany was trading human lives for raw materials; sending military aid to Franco in return for iron ore for the Nazi armaments program. The poster's title also alludes to a speech made by Otto von Bismarck in 1886 in which he argued that German unification required a strong military force and 'can only succeed through blood and iron'. This work is from a portfolio of 33 posters reprinted by the Heartfield Archive and the East German Government. John Heartfield (1891-1968) was a pioneer in the use of art as a political weapon. In 1912, after studying arts and crafts in Munich and Berlin, he found work as a commercial artist. From the beginning, Heartfield was infused with a passionate belief that art existed not to glorify the artist but to serve the common good. His photomontages created during the Second World War were anti-Nazi, anti-Fascist statements. Heartfield also created book jackets for authors such as Upton Sinclair, as well as stage sets for such noted playwrights as Bertolt Brecht and Erwin Piscator. Following the Second World War, Heartfield settled in East Berlin, East Germany and worked closely with theatre directors. During the 1930s and 1940s, he created some of his most famous montages. Heartfield lived in Berlin until April 1933. On Good Friday, the SS broke into his apartment, and he barely escaped by jumping from his balcony. He then walked around the Sudeten Mountains to Czechoslovakia. In 1938, he was forced to run for his life—this time to England—before the imminent German occupation of Czechoslovakia. He was interned for a time in England as an enemy alien, and his health began to seriously deteriorate. He returned to East Berlin in 1950 and was greeted with suspicion by the authorities because of the length of his stay in England and died there in 1968.