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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Arbeiter-Illustrierte-Zeitung or AIZ (in English, The Workers Pictorial Newspaper) was a weekly German illustrated magazine published between 1924 and 1938 in Berlin and later in Prague. Anti-Fascism and pro-Communism in stance, it was published by Willi Münzenberg and is best remembered for the brilliantly propagandistic photomontages of John Heartfield.

History of the AIZ

The history of the AIZ began with a famine in the Soviet Union and Lenin's appeal of August 2, 1921 to the working class for assistance. As a support organization for this campaign, International Workers' Aid (IAH) was formed, led by William (Willi) Münzenberg. In the autumn of 1921 a monthly German magazine was created, Sowjet Russland im Bild (Soviet Russia in Pictures), with reports about the recently created Russian Soviet state, its achievements and problems, and about the IAH. In 1922 the first reports on the German proletariat appeared in its pages. At this time the monthly circulated about 10,000 copies.

The paper grew rapidly during the 1920s as it expanded coverage and attracted prominent contributors like the artists George Grosz and Käthe Kollwitz, and playwrights Maxim Gorki and George Bernard Shaw. Circulation increased from to 100,000 in 1922 to 180,000 in 1924.

On November 30, 1924, the renamed AIZ appeared with a new format and a biweekly schedule. It became the most widely-read socialist pictorial newspaper in Germany. The magazine covered current events and published fiction and poetry, with such contributors as Anna Seghers, Erich Kästner and Kurt Tucholsky. Münzenberg wanted the AIZ to connect the Communist Party of Germany to a broad educated readership. In November 1926 AIZ began publishing on a weekly schedule. According to a survey AIZ conducted in 1929, "42 percent of its readers were skilled workers, 33 percent unskilled workers, 10 percent white-collar workers, 5 percent youths, 3.5 percent housewives, 3 percent self-employed, 2 percent independent, and 1 percent civil servants."

The photojournalism, often striking, was predominantly worker photography ("Arbeiterphotographen"), submitted by amateur photographers. Beginning in Hamburg in 1926, Münzenberg established what eventually became a network of Worker Photographer groups across Germany and the Soviet Union. In 1930 began the magazine's association with John Heartfield, whose photomontages savagely attacking both National Socialism and Weimar capitalism became a regular feature.

At its peak the circulation of AIZ reached over one half million. The last issue published in Berlin was dated March 5, 1933; after the seizure of power by Hitler the AIZ went into exile in Prague. In Prague, AIZ's circulation fell to 12,000, and attempts to smuggle the magazine into Germany failed. Continuing under editor-in-chief Franz Carl Weiskopf, the magazine was renamed Die Volks Illlustriete in 1936. When the Nazis invaded Czechoslovakia, the publication was moved to Paris in 1938, where it published at least 4 issues before before finally folding.

AIZ in museums

In 2011 Museo Reina Sofía organized in Madrid the exhibition A Hard, Merciless Light. The Worker-Photography Movement, 1926-1939 which exposed considerable amount of material about amateur social photography. This exhibition included many numbers of the AIZ, as well as pictures of amateur workers photographers and other workers magazines and newspapers in circulation between 1926 and 1939 in Europe, Soviet Union and United States.

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Arbeiter-Illustrierte-Zeitung" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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