May 11 – November 11, 2012
The Typography of Terror. Posters in Munich 1933 to 1945

As the "Capital City of the Movement" Munich was the center of Nazi ideology from the party's earliest days. Munich's prominence is reflected in posters that showcased Hitler, displayed the power of the Nazi regime and held out the promise of a "Volksgemeinschaft” or racially unified community in which the interests of the individual would be strictly subordinate to those of the nation. During the Nazi period nearly all posters contained a political message; they constantly drove home to the population the ruling party's objectives and values. They were deliberately used to stage-manage the dictatorship; their purpose was to make Nazi ideology emotionally compelling.

The exhibition contains over 100 posters from different walks of life such as politics, the arts and business that were put up in Munich between 1933 and 1945; most were designed and printed in the city. They capture what was happening at the time they were produced, they provide information about how National Socialism rule evolved and how it was structured; and they document the political and social models of the day. They also give an insight into the pictorial representation of the Nazi dictatorship and its inherent components: violence and extermination.

The exhibition centers on the design and materials used in the posters to convey the propaganda message. The typography is as faithful a mirror of ideological conviction as the careful matching of image and the printed word. The posters vividly illustrate the "corporate design" of Nazism. By displaying them critically in their setting their manipulative intent is revealed; thus we see the power of the images in context and are no longer awed by them.

Neither the rise of the National Socialist German Workers’ Party (NSDAP) to political power nor broad public support for National Socialism can be explained by poster propaganda alone. Indeed the posters are one – albeit an important one – among many components used to establish and consolidate the National Socialist dictatorship. The images in the posters were to trigger a reaction and sow the seeds of Nazi ideology in the public's conscience. Passion and violence were the twin foundations of propaganda, for which posters were important tools.

In the days of the Nazi "struggle" before 1933 poster artists such as Felix Albrecht and Hans Schweitzer had to a great extent created the image of the Nazi party by using violent and radical visual language. When the Nazi party moved from claiming to be a militant "party of struggle" to a "party of the people and the nation" with broad support, such language became less important in the propaganda images of the dictatorship. From then on the official party line was in the hands of well-established graphic artists such as Ludwig Hohlwein and Wilhelm Jakob Engelhardt.

The limits to Nazi propaganda became apparent during the war years. In addition to propaganda, those in power used the police and courts with far greater vigor than in the past to keep their own population in line. The posters clearly reveal the worsening military and economic situation as the war drew to a close. Not only is the color of poor quality; in particular the drastic reduction in overall poster production chronicles the end of the "Third Reich".

Publication

To coincide with the exhibition the Kehrer Verlag publishing house has produced a catalog "Typographie des Terrors. Plakate in München 1933 bis 1945” availiable in German. It contains numerous illustrations, is 336 pages long and costs 39,90 €. Availiable at our Online-Shop in German.