Start Over

Allies inside Germany

  • On 3 July 1942, the [i]Allies inside Germany[/i] exhibition, organised by the Free German League of Culture, opened in London in an empty shop at 149 Regent Street.
  • Allies inside Germany

    Word Count: 3

  • Exhibition
  • 03-07-1942
  • 16-08-1942
  • On 3 July 1942, the Allies inside Germany exhibition, organised by the Free German League of Culture, opened in London in an empty shop at 149 Regent Street.

    Word Count: 25

  • On 3 July 1942, the Allies inside Germany exhibition, organised by the Freier Deutscher Kulturbund (also known as the Free German League of Culture), opened in London in an empty shop at 149 Regent Street and ran until 16 August 1942, its duration extended in response to the large number of visitors. The enlightening purpose of the exhibition was to convince the English people that they had potential allies in Germany; in other words, good Germans who were fighting the battle from within.
    Great Britain declared war on Germany in September 1939 and by 1940 German air raids on English cities had resulted in great destruction and many deaths. As a consequence, the British people supported the war against Germany, an attitude reinforced by political speeches, newspaper articles and visual propaganda. This put German-speaking emigrants in England in a difficult position, requiring them to convince the locals that not every German was an enemy. The internment of numerous people who had fled the Nazi regime shows how difficult the situation of the emigrants in their country of exile was.

    The Free German League of Culture, founded by emigrants at the home of the artist Fred Uhlman, was an association which organised exhibitions, concerts, readings and plays from a headquarter in Hampstead, north London. The League was committed to the promotion of a free German culture, meaning art, literature and music that had not been politically appropriated by National Socialism. It also aimed to promote understanding between the English population and the refugees. Patrons and Honorary Members included recognised personalities such as The Bishop of Chichester, the zoologist Julian Huxley and the writer J. B. Priestley, who supported the League and its activities with their names (Kokoschka 1942).
    Allies inside Germany featured photographs, pamphlets and illegal publications from Germany, as well as works such as photomontages and materials produced in exile. The exhibition was a joint production: Hans Fladung of the league’s art section, together with the Free German Youth, produced the exhibition’s 27 panels; Heinz Worner organised the documentary material; René Graetz was responsible for the invitation cards; and John Heartfield supplied the photomontages.

    René Graetz’s invitation cards, illustrated in red, show a male figure, identifiable as a worker by his clothes and cap, standing wide-legged with a clenched fist. Graetz links this self-confident depiction to the Red Front Fighters’ League from the time of the Weimar Republic, where a (raised) clenched fist was used as a sign of anti-fascist resistance. Graetz thus adapts left-wing iconography for the émigré Allies inside Germany exhibition.

    The 27 panels were dedicated to different themes or years and portrayed resistance and subordination and also offered an appearance to the emigrants themselves, whose position as resistant was thus exposed. In this way the panels did not portray the emigrants as victims, but rather emphasised their stance in the fight against the Hitler regime.
    The panel dedicated to 1933 bears the inscription “Hitler Comes to Power” and depicts the terror that enabled and accompanied Hitler's seizure of power. Photographs were collaged side by side with an explanatory text, including statistics showing that, in the last free election on 6 November 1932, Hitler came to power in spite of the fact that the NSDAP suffered considerable losses, receiving just 33.1% of the vote.
    The 1934 panel shows how the NSDAP and its officials established themselves in power. “One by One” is a phrase repeated on many of the plates showing how the European states either surrendered or made deals with Hitler. Part of this panel is a work by John Heartfield which first appeared in the anti-fascist newspaper AIZ (Arbeiter Illustrierte Zeitung) on 19 July 1934 (p. 464) and was dedicated to the Night of the Long Knives, on 30 June 1934, when Hitler had the SA leadership around Ernst Röhm eliminated. The photomontage shows the dying Röhm raising his arm in a Hitler salute and illustrates how the fuhrer did not hesitate to murder his own followers in the pursuit of power.
    The panel devoted to 22 June 1941 marks the day of the German invasion of the Soviet Union and also shows how the Netherlands, Belgium, Yugoslavia, Denmark, France and Greece were occupied and brought to their knees by the Nazi army. This list, on a single panel, shows how quickly the expansion of power proceeded without significant resistance from other states. Churchill is one of the politicians who made speeches but let events run their course.
    The panel on Stalin shows the leader of the Soviet Union in the vanguard of the military struggle against German troops on the Eastern Front. Plans had been in place since late 1941 for the anti-Hitler alliance to establish a second front; the attack on the Axis powers was expected to lead to the withdrawal of German forces from the Eastern Front and help relieve the Soviet Union. A photomontage designed by John Heartfield for the exhibition shows a pocket watch with the hands at five minutes to 12. Hitler and Goering pull on a rope with the help of Goebbels, who is too small, in an effort to halt the minute hand and stop the Allies' victory over Germany. The time allusion has a dual significance: a warning to the Nazi regime that its time is running out and a reminder to the British public that it the fighting on a second front is necessary and urgent.
    One of the panels is dedicated to German-speaking emigrants and features such headlines as “Germans whose work endures”, “Freedom of Science and Learning” and “Germany’s best sons in exile or silenced”. The panel includes three-dimensional books alongside two-dimensional photographs and photomontages.
    Allies inside Germany also offered a varied accompanying programme, which was announced in the invitation flyer - from film, concerts and plays to lectures by Hans Rehfisch and Felix Albin held at various locations: the clubhouse of the Free German League of Culture, the Everyman Theatre near Hampstead Underground station and Caxton Hall, Victoria. All events were dedicated to the resistance against National Socialism and reinforced the central theme of the exhibition, which described National Socialism as violent and destructive, but the struggle against dictatorship as vital. Most of the events were open to members and guests, and were thus designed to attract public attention.

    The Allies inside Germany exhibition went on tour throughout England and was shown in Birmingham, Glasgow, Manchester, Leeds, Oxford, Leicester and Cambridge, among others, with a total of 160,000 visitors. (In London alone there were 30,000 visitors.) This meant that the exhibition had to be transportable, and easy to set up and dismantle. The objects on display could not be too valuable, as the premises (think of the shop in London) did not allow for increased security measures and there was likely to be a dense crowd. Also, very importantly, the political message of the exhibition had to reach the public in the available time. Another serious challenge arose when some of the panels had to be altered. Cordula Frowein writes that some titles were changed after criticism that the visualisation of anti-NS resistance in Germany was being idealised: “German Labour an Active Ally” became “...Potential Ally”, and even the exhibition title itself was changed to “We accuse – Ten Years of Hitler Fascism” when the exhibition went on tour (Frowein 1986, 45).  It can be concluded from this that a concept for the exhibition and the individual panels existed from the start, but really only took shape as the exhibition was put together and underwent a number of adaptations as the tour progressed.

    Word Count: 1237

  • Allies inside Germany, leaflet, cover, 1942, design by René Graetz (METROMOD Archive).
  • Allies inside Germany, leaflet, pp. 2–3: Programme of Activities, 1942 (METROMOD Archive).
    Allies inside Germany, leaflet, p. 4: Come and see our exhibition, 1942 (METROMOD Archive).
    Allies inside Germany, exhibition view, shop at 149 Regent Street, 1942 (Kunst im Exil in Großbritannien 1986, 44).
    Allies inside Germany, panel: “1933 – Hitler comes to Power”, 1942 (Kunst im Exil in Großbritannien 1986, 41).
    Allies inside Germany, panel: “1934 – In Power”, 1942. Photomontage 30. Juni 1934: Heil Hitler! (1934) by John Heartfield (Kunst im Exil in Großbritannien 1986, 41, © The Heartfield Community of Heirs / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2021).
    Allies inside Germany, panel: “22 June 1941 – One by One”, 1942 (Kunst im Exil in Großbritannien 1986, 42).
    Allies inside Germany, panel: “Second Front – Victory 1942”, 1942. 5 Minutes to 12 photomontage, (1942) by John Heartfield (Kunst im Exil in Großbritannien 1986, 43, © The Heartfield Community of Heirs / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2021).
    Allies inside Germany, panel: “German Refugees Play Their Part for Allied Victory”, 1942 (Kunst im Exil in Großbritannien 1986, 44).
    Allies inside Germany, panel: “Germans whose work endures”, 1942 (Kunst im Exil in Großbritannien 1986, 43).
    Allies inside Germany on tour: opening ceremony in Glasgow, 1942, in Freie Deutsche Kultur, no. 12, 1943, p. 8 (Deutsche Nationalbibliothek, Deutsches Exilarchiv 1933–1945, Frankfurt am Main).
  • Bihler, Lori Gemeiner. Cities of refuge: German Jews in London and New York, 1935–1945. SUNY Press, 2018.

    Chadour-Sampson, Anna Beatriz. “Barbara Cartlidge. Life and Work.” Barbara Cartlidge and Electrum Gallery. A Passion for Jewellery, edited by Anna Beatriz Chadour-Sampson and Janice Hosegood, arnoldsche Art Publishers, 2016, pp. 12–85.

    Coles, Anthony. John Heartfield. Ein politisches Leben. Böhlau, 2014.

    Frowein, Cordula. “Ausstellungsaktivitäten der Exilkünstler.” Kunst im Exil in Großbritannien 1933–1945, exh. cat. Neue Gesellschaft für bildende Kunst, Berlin, Frölich & Kaufmann, 1986, pp. 35–48.

    Kokoschka, Oskar, President of Free German League of Culture. Letter (Akademie der Künste, Archiv Bildende Kunst, 9 April 1942).

    Müller-Härlin, Anna. “The Artists’ Section.” Politics By Other Means. The Free German League of Culture in London 1939–1946, edited by Charmian Brinson and Richard Dove, Vallentine Mitchell, 2010, pp. 54–73.

    Schultz, Anna. “John Heartfield. A Political Artist’s Exile in London.” Burning Bright. Essays in the Honour of David Bindman, edited by Kim Sloan, UCL Press, 2015, pp. 253–263.

    Schultz, Anna. “Uncompromising Mimikry. Heartfield’s Exile in London.” John Heartfield. Photography Plus Dynamite, edited by Angela Lammert et al., exh. cat. Akademie der Künste, Berlin, Hirmer, 2020, pp. 195–202.

    Vinzent, Jutta. Identity and Image. Refugee Artists from Nazi Germany in Britain (1933–1945) (Schriften der Guernica-Gesellschaft, 16). VDG, 2006.

    Word Count: 199

  • Akademie der Künste, Berlin, Archiv Bildende Kunst (Papers of René Graetz, John Heartfield, Heinz Worner).

    Word Count: 16

  • My thanks go to Sylvia Asmus and Katrin Kokot (Deutsche Nationalbibliothek, Deutsches Exilarchiv 1933–1945, Frankfurt am Main) for providing me with the images of Freie Deutsche Kultur.

    Word Count: 26

  • Burcu Dogramaci
  • Hans Fladung, René Graetz, John Heartfield.

    Word Count: 6

  • 149 Regent Street, Mayfair, London W1.

  • London
  • No
  • Burcu Dogramaci. "Allies inside Germany." METROMOD Archive, 2021,, last modified: 26-04-2021.
  • John Heartfield
    ArtistGraphic DesignerFotomonteur (mounter of photographs)

    After escaping from his first exile in Prague in December 1938, the political artist John Heartfield lived in London since 1950, working for Picture Post and the publisher Lindsay Drummond.

    Word Count: 28

    The Warburg Institute
    Research Institute

    The Kulturwissenschaftliche Bibliothek Warburg in Hamburg achieved a new presence in London after 1933 under the name The Warburg Institute as a research institution with a library and photo archive.

    Word Count: 29

    Julian Huxley

    Julian Huxley was the director of London Zoo from 1935 to 1942 and worked closely with emigrant photographers, artists and architects, including Berthold Lubetkin, Erna Pinner and Wolf Suschitzky.

    Word Count: 27