Commentary

Hitler declared war on Stalin in June 1941 and the USSR had effectively begun to turn the tables by 1944. The accumulation of red in the frame to the right gives telling expression to this soviet turnaround.

This print has all the fun and punch of caricature as well. Whether in the before- the-event frame or after, Hitler’s lurid image provokes the grotesque revulsion associated with the villains of comic-strip entertainment. Lurking in this image, too, are hints of the TASS posters’ recurrent bestialisation of Hitler as evil enemy number one.

Facts

Printed poster
15,000 copies
Title
To the East! To the West!
Date created
12 November 1944
Artist
Deni
Publisher
“Iskusstvo”
Original dimensions
40.5cm x 48.5cm
Collection number
MS 281/2/2

War Context

The date of publication given on the poster itself is 12 November 1944. This period coincides with the soviet attack on Hungary, at that point still in the hands of the Germans. The campaign lasted until February 1945, when Budapest was retaken by Red Army forces.

In the preceding months, the USSR had also been operating in clearing Germans from their occupation of the Balkans and was simultaneously engaged on the front against Finland in the North. So resources were stretched. It was important to portray Hitler in retreat and imminent defeat.

Artistic Roots

Like Deni’s other work, this image makes use of Hitler’s signature features, namely his hair and moustache. Additionally here, however, the hair is used to point up the import of the words. In the smaller first frame, Hitler announces his intention to go east, and his hair is drawn forwards to express his directional intention and aggression. His downfall, as he is forced to retreat westward three years later, is matched by his flattened hair.

Both facets link him to a fur-coated animal or beast, the coat of which will often express intention: bristling fur for a cat or a dog on the alert or aggressive, and a laid back coat for a beast under baiting or in retreat (see also, for example, TASS 863 where Hitler’s foot turns into a beast’s clawed paw).

Artist

Deni presents a combination of the ‘before-and-after’ device and the comic strip in this print, also seen in the TASS windows (see TASS 1006). As well as time passing as indicated in the two dates, Hitler’s recognisable hair flops for the second image; his eyes deflate; and his posture drops, even his nose droops downwards. The juxtaposition of these two different size frames, moving from small to larger, magnifies for the spectator the emotions Hitler is experiencing.

The style is easily recognisable as Deni’s. The use of colour other than black, white and grey is sparing and very effective. His recurrent version of Hitler’s hair and /or moustache makes his target and his own work immediately identifiable.

Neat touches are the change in colour from black to red, the sword emerging from the handwriting in the frame to the right and the clustering of the colour red among caption, year and signature, also on the right. This last creates a pool of colour to underline the soviet viewpoint and welcome for this defeated vision of Hitler himself (see also Despatches from the Front).

Writer

Close observation of the added text uncovers the small caption on the left. It says, ‘slavery for all peoples’. It refers to Hitler’s ethnic intentions towards the Slavs at the time of his move eastwards in 1941.

The two upper captions are grammatically reflexive of each other, and create effective mirroring between the two images. They also imply, of course, how Hitler has been forced to a complete change of mind by soviet retaliation from the ‘east’.