This gruesome scene plays on human phobias about rats, eating dead bodies to the bone. Both specimens here, Hitler to the top and the diminutive Goebbels below, have vampire-like blood dripping from their jaws. The fires of destruction rage in the background, and ruined buildings are the detritus of Allied action.
A poor unfortunate German soldier gnawed to death must have died in his boots, bottom left, and his rifle is thrown down, bottom right.
The discarded German helmet and the words imply these are Germans suffering at the hands of their own leader. Designed on the one hand to capture the death and destruction of Hitler’s policy, this poster plays on deep-seated feelings of revulsion and vengeance.
The Germans were terrified of the Allies taking Berlin as the war reached its last phase. The Soviet attack was launched on 16 April 1945 just 2 days before this poster was designed. The Soviet and Allied attack shattered Berlin and Hitler committed suicide on 30 April.
Cartoons make the horrific and the inhuman seem possible in their methods of drawing on realism, caricature and the grotesque. The subjects have to be recognisable, but are also given markers which underline who they are (caps, insignia). Their facial features are emphasised (the jaws) and yet the repulsive aspects of rats are there too in their tails, sharp teeth and the Hitler rat’s bloated body.
The Kukryniksy depict Hitler as another negative animal, in TASS window 956. He is an aggressive, monstrous snake strangling Hungary and Romania to bring them to his purpose.
However, in the cartoonist’s world the mighty will fall. Hitler as wolf in TASS window 727 is about to be pierced by the spears of the allies.
Sokolov-Skalia gives his imagination free range in his vivid cartoonish style. This is one of the most repulsive images of the German leaders in the series. The task to show decay, ruin and the consequences of German aggression is achieved in every corner of the poster. The control on colour is immense, highlighting blood and the flames of destruction.
Anger and the need for vengeance turn Hitler and Goebbels into rats. The use of vampire jaws is a neat touch to suggest they are only one step from human cannibalism.