George Grosz takes aim at the stupidity and brutality of the German military in his portfolio Gott mit Uns (God with us). In nine unremittingly caustic, clearly rendered illustrations, Grosz focuses on the corrupt nature of the pompous, overfed, and self-satisfied officers and officials who had dragged Germany into the cataclysm of World War I and who still governed the Weimar Republic. Grosz depicts the violent suppression of the working class by the ruling class. In Die Kommunisten fallen—und die Devisen steigen (Blood is the Best Sauce), uniformed soldiers beat unarmed protestors as an officer and a profiteer enjoy a decadent meal. Elsewhere, a dead body washing ashore does not disturb a soldier's cigarette break. Grosz sharpens his visual attacks with captions printed in three languages—English, French, and German. These statements are not always direct translations, but sometimes different phrases that together heighten Grosz's satirical attacks. "Gott mit Us" (God with us), taken from the inscription on German soldiers' belt buckles, originally meant to invoke God's support, becomes in the English caption "God for Us," a nationalist cry to smite the enemy.
Grosz's political stance (as a communist) and intentions (working-class revolution) were obvious. Kurt Tucholsky, one of Weimar Germany's leading satirists, said of the portfolio, "If drawings could kill, the Prussian military would certainly be dead." Grosz, along with his publisher, Wieland Herzfelde, was tried for defamation of the military; found guilty, they were fined and forced to surrender all copies of the portfolio to the army.
Publication excerpt from Heather Hess, German Expressionist Digital Archive Project, German Expressionism: Works from the Collection. 2011.