4 MARCH – 6 JUNE 2022

Jeanne Mammen, Dying Warrior (Young Soldier in the Front Fire), ca. 1943

Election year 1932. In April, the National Socialist German Workers’ Party (NSDAP) obtains a majority in the state parliament in the Free State of Anhalt with more than forty percent of the ballots cast. The first extensive solo exhibition of the artist Hannah Höch in Germany is planned to open in May at the Bauhaus School of Architecture, Design and Art in Dessau, the state capital at the time. Just before the opening, the newly elected political leadership prohibits the exhibition project from taking place. The financial subsidies are withdrawn and the Bauhaus, whose artistic orientation does not fit within the National Socialist ideology, is dissolved a few months later.

With the ascendency of the National Socialists begins a time of violence and terror, despair and hopelessness—for those who do not join in the, at first, majority support for National Socialist regime. Public life, politics, media, and the fine arts are subjected to an ideology in line with the National Socialist regime. Many artists living in Germany flee into exile, concerned for their own lives, and in order to retain the freedom to choose how they express themselves artistically. Others do not leave Germany and also create very expressive works out of the public eye and under the radar of the National Socialists. The artists address the fears and the misery of the time, their isolation, and the impending threat of war, as well as its grim consequences. Besides reactions to day-to-day political events, their works show an intensive examination of experimental photography, photomontage, and current tendencies of abstract painting.


The term “dictatorship” denotes the unrestricted rule of a person, group, or party in a country. The National Socialist regime in Germany between 1933 and 1945 was a totalitarian dictatorship. In totalitarian dictatorships, all political, social, and government questions are subordinated unconditionally to a programmatic ideology. Diversity in public life, freedom of the press and mass media, and the free development of the arts and oppositional movements were eliminated in favor of the absoluteness of the dictator. The aim was to completely control the society and reshape it according to the official worldview. Intimidation, persecution, and the use of terrorist measures assisted in suppressing the individual and to already stopping any nascent expressions of resistance.

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