In 1921, a famine in the Volga region of Soviet Russia threatened the lives of millions of peasants, and stories of cannibalism and other horrors circulated in the West, prompting Kollwitz to make this lithograph. Gaunt cheeks and sunken eyes give an emaciated man a skeletal appearance, while hands circle around him offering help. Kollwitz gives the tragedy a human face and urges her compatriots to lend their support.
This poster was published as part of the relief efforts of the Internationale Arbeiterhilfe (International Worker’s Aid), a Communist-backed organization founded in August 1921 as a response to Vladimir Lenin’s call for help from the international proletariat. Some versions came with with the exhortation “Helft Russland” (Help Russia) written near the top. Kollwitz’s image circulated widely in Europe and the United States.
Publication excerpt from Heather Hess, German Expressionist Digital Archive Project, German Expressionism: Works from the Collection. 2011.