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Art and Literature Response to Horrors of War

There are a lot of sufferings that people undergo in events of the war that are not accounted for. Soldiers as well as prisoners of war are subjected to suffering by their enemies. Innocent citizens are displaced with others being killed in the process. Women and children are the most affected by wars with some children being forced to participate in wars as child soldiers. Lots of women are raped and even killed. For people who have experienced wars, it becomes hard to express the magnitude of suffering they went through especially when they remember their loved ones who died in the war or the torture they were subjected to. This leaves most people not being aware of the horrors of war. Numerous horrors occur in the event of war. In most cases, the government tends to hind these events from the public. This leads to the public making various assumptions regarding the consequences of war. Most of the public perceive war as an adventure without being aware of the sufferings and horrors that it harbors (Rank para. 2).

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Arts and literature are the only media that brings out the horrors of war without hiding anything. Since art and literature are not influenced by politics, artists and writers can develop clear literature and pictures that reflect realities of war, showman inhumanity on others and facilitate in reconciling those who are affected by wars. Through its work, the media helps people understand adverse effects of war making them shun waging wars against one another. Art helps in linking the gap between people’s life and a distant war. Since most wars were fought in foreign countries and media was restricted from covering the events that took place in the wars, most people had no idea about effects of war (Hans 5). People had little or no access to information about dangers and brutalities that people in war-torn areas went through. Artwork was the only tool that could be used to reflect the life and suffering of people in those areas.

In some instances writers use literature to show the dangers as well as discourage war. Some write poems that direct their anger towards the perpetrators of war. They use their poems to express their outrage at the horrors of war and also to show remorse for soldiers and innocent citizens who fall prey to wars. Their work acts as a reminder to people of the effects of war leading to people making all efforts to evade reoccurrence of war in their nations. When one listens to a poem that explains the suffering one went through as a result of war, he or she sympathizes with the poet. Emotions aroused by the poem make the person understand effects of war leading to the person opposing war (Hans 7). Numerous documentation compiled by people who have participated in war describes their experience. Some of the experiences are horrifying to an extent that when a person reads them he or she is afraid of war. Through these writings, people use literature to communicate information that is mostly not conveyed to the public about the horrors of war. This paper is aimed at analyzing how arts and literature responded to horrors of war in Germany.

Artists John Risseeuw and Daniel Heyman are examples of artists who clearly addressed war and its effects through drawings and printmaking. During the Second World War, various countries used different weapons to fight their enemies. Some countries used landmines to attack and blast tankers from their enemies. Most landmines went without exploding. They were buried on the ground. Such landmines posed a great threat to people who lived in such areas. At times people would step on the landmines without knowing only to be blown out. Children would come across these objects and start playing with them without knowing the dangers the objects posed to their life (Wenz-Danise para. 2). For many years people died as a result of landmines that were left during the world wars but little was made to look into the source of the landmines. It is increase in number of people who died from these landmines that triggered Rissseeuw and Heyman to respond to the problem through developing artworks from cast paper pieces and pieces of clothes from those victims who died as a result of landmine explosion. Their aim was to create awareness to the public and to educate them on the adverse effects of these objects as well as soliciting funds to help victims of the landmine explosions who survived.

Artists like Pablo Picasso used oil paintings to communicate to the public about devastations and violence of war that people were subjected to in 1973. His painting entitled Guernica was and still is one of the most famous paintings that remind people of the animosity that people of Guernica went through. This was after the German Air force in conjunction with the Italians and Spanish attacked the defenseless city of Guernica with explosives. The painting event today is great fascination due to great information it conveys about the war (Wenz-Danise para. 4). He used numerous images that tried to delve into the horrors of war. German artists were known to know to clearly bring out events that took place during war more than other artists. Otto Dix is one of the German artists who clearly used his artwork to bring out horrors of war and the sufferings that people went through during war. Dix had volunteered to offer services to German army during the war. It is here that he experienced the horrors of war. He could regularly have nightmares about what he had gone through during the war. This led to him focusing on these horrors in his later artwork. Among his famous paintings was the Match Seller that represented a blind man who was an ex-soldier beggar. The painting was used to educate people on the aftermaths of war. The man became blind during war. Since he could no longer work as soldier again because of his blindness, he ended up being a beggar. The painting showed the blind man begging from passers-by who ignore him. The painting showed the ignorance in the society about the effects of war (Hans 11).

There were numerous events that went on during the war which were not made public due to their nature. What the public knew about the suffering soldiers went through was just a tip of the ice bag. A lot went on in the war ground but the information did not reach the public. Having experienced the horrors, Dix could not be able to hold back the information (Kramer para. 2). His main aim was to use all his skills to inform the public about the horrors of war to counteract their ideas regarding war. His painting named Trench of 1923 vividly reflected what was actually going on on the battlefield. The painting showed corpses of soldiers who died in the war. The country could not make public the number and how their soldiers died during the war. It is this painting that led to him being accused of not giving respect to those soldiers who died in the war. Most of his critics criticized his tendency of representing his paintings clearly without hiding scenes that were hard to look at. However, being determined of conveying the correct information on the effects of war he could not make it without clearly reflecting horrors of war in his paintings. During the war, soldiers were brutally treated. This information could not reach the public. As a result, the public did not know what their soldiers were going through. Dix tried to show some of the mistreatments that soldiers went through by coming up with some paintings. His painting entitled Essenholer be Pilkem, showed soldiers crawling carrying pails in their mouths. Most of the soldiers who were arrested as prisoners of war were forced to behave like animals by their masters. Dix used the painting to show how men brutally treated their fellow men in the event of war. His drawing was aimed at making people take time and try to imagine the situations that people went through during wars and sympathize with them. In the process, people could understand the impacts of war leading to them avoiding activities that would trigger war among themselves (Kramer para. 4).

After some of the artists had suffered from world war one, they embarked on producing artworks that opposed war. They used their art experience to convey the situation they were going through. It is from this that they expected people to understand some of the horrors of war. A good example was Kathe Kollwitz. Kathe was inspired to respond to effects of war after she lost her son in the war. Her prints are still used today in educating people on the effects of war. During the war, women and children suffered a lot (Kramer para. 5). This made Kollwitz focus her artwork on conveying some of the sufferings that women and children went through during the war. She depicted women protecting their children in her paintings. This reminded her of the way she could not manage to protect her son. She also developed an image showing a youth with his fist rose up opposing war. She used this picture to express her strong opposition to war. The sculpture she developed beside the graves where German soldiers were buried reminded people of the effects of the war. The sculpture represents two grieving parents. Upon coming across the sculpture, people are able to understand the sufferings that world war one inflicted on most families. Most families lost their relatives; women lost their husbands while some parents lost their sons. It was Kollwitz’s aim to erect the sculpture at this place to be reminding people of the impacts of war whenever they pass through the graves (Kramer para. 7). As a result many people learned of the horrors of war thus opposing it. Apart from death world war one and two had other effects on the society. Most of the soldiers who did not die in the war ended up being crippled or incapacitated in a way. Most of the soldiers lost their hands, legs or eyes. Their life was adversely affected by the war-making them depend on other people for survival. The government as well as society did not care about the future of these people. Most of them went begging along the streets without getting public mercies. Dix’s painting of a blind ex-soldier begging in the streets reflected some of the sufferings that soldiers who were victims of the war went through. His card-playing war cripples print also reflected the suffering people were going through as a result of war.

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When Max Slevogt an artist was requested to develop lithographs that addressed the subject of war, he had two options to choose from. He could have used his knowledge in art to show how Germany triumphed in the war (Rank para. 4). However, he decided to use his knowledge in warning people of the effects of war. His work entitled Gedichte constituted of portraits that condemned the war. This led to German government destroying the lithographs. In his lithographs he represented a woman who was mourning with her hands raised up. In the background, there was a trench that contained dead bodies. Unlike Kathe’s representation which showed women crying due to their inability to save their children from war, Slevogt uses his art to warn the society of the adverse effects of war. He uses his portraits to signify the atrocities of war and how war can sweep out the generation.

Both world war one and world war two resulted in people dying out of hunger. Since most of the energetic men and youths were engaged in the war, it was hard for that left at home to provide for their food. In most cases people assume that war affects only those in war-torn areas. This has been a perception among most people. To show that war has negative effects on entire world regardless of whether the war is being fought away from your country, kathe represented paintings of women and children suffering from starvation as a result of the war. In this way she aimed at informing people why they should oppose war even if it is not being fought on their grounds (Rank para. 4).

An exhibition conducted in Berlin that comprised of artists hailing from countries that participated in world war two, gave the artists an opportunity to express their opposition against war. Different artists used cartoons, photographs, films as well as prints to express their feelings against war. Through their works, most artists clearly described the effects world war I had on their societies as well as countries. Most of their works represented a rebellion and shocking reaction to war. Before the exhibition, most of the citizens were eager to mobilize their fellow countrymen to revenge against countries that had waged war against them. For most countries, they perceived that they had suffered more from the war than those countries they were fighting. Most of the German catalogs showed the Germans who were eagerly waiting to be ordered to launch an attack against their enemies (Sujo 124). They were not aware of the effects that war could cause. It was from the artists’ presentations that these people realized the atrocities of war leading to them changing their decision.

In kathe Kollwitz’s seven woodcuts entitled war, she uses terms like volunteers, the sacrifice, the mothers and the windows to show her rage at those who have suffered from war. Her use of simple, black and white colors to represent the images amplifies her anger at the effects of war. Most of the artwork done by Dix, Kathe and Slevogt greatly denounced war and those who mobilized their people to engage in war. They used their work to educate people on the war leads to destruction and loss of life indiscriminately. This was especially after the effects of the First World War (Hans 8). They showed how mankind is inhuman in events of war by drawing pictures that showed soldiers killing women and children. They tried to reflect how mankind had failed to learn from the effects of the First World War.

Struggle against controlling and getting rid of reemergence of war was not only shown by artists, different kinds of literature and poems were compiled. Some were compiled by people who had participated in both the first and the Second World Wars. Being unable to narrate the events ad experience they went through, these people decided to compile poems and write books that taught people the dangers and effects of war. In 1924, Ernst Friendrich compiled an album of photographs entitled Krieg dem Krieg which meant War Against War. In this album, Friendrich compiled photos he collected from both the German military and medical records from the First World War. In the album, he compiled photographs of both soldiers and innocent citizens in hospitals who had suffered from the war. His main aim in compiling the album was to clearly convey to people the effects of the war. He aimed to educate people about the adverse effects of war (Sujo 126). Through his work, he intended to show how poor people suffered from the war and help the society overcome being exploited by the rich who benefited from the war at their expense.

War experience of Germans had for many years been ignored not only in the country but also around the world. The German government never paid tribute to those who died in the war or acknowledge the contribution done by its citizens during the war. After the war, German soldiers who survived the war received little attention from the government. Despite their effort in ensuring that Germany emerged victorious in the war, their effort was not recognized (Sujo 128). For those incapacitated during the war, they were left with no alternative but to go back home and depend on the community for their lives. The government did not take the initiative of compensating them. This led to some writers compile books that tried to explain how ex-soldiers and German veterans were treated after the First World War. Adrian Gregory asserts that it was very difficult for Germans who suffered from the war to claim for descent treatment from the government. In his writing, he showed how wounded soldiers from French and British armies were attended to back in their countries, while those from Germany were ignored.

During the war, most of the soldiers were forced to participate. Some of the soldiers valued human life. This made it hard for them to kill or torture people on the battlefield. This led to perpetrators of war looking for ways to ensure that the soldiers behaved inhumanly when on the battle field. Heinrich Boell was a German soldier during this period. He later wrote of the methods that Adolf Hitler used to ensure that his soldiers killed as many people as they could. Hitler after realizing that his soldiers valued human life, decided to give them drugs. He supplied them with methamphetamine tablets in bid to help his soldiers become active in the war. They did not consider the side effects of the drugs on the soldiers. In the process German pilots bombed numerous cities without considering the sufferings they were inflicting on innocent citizens (Rank para.5). The drugs had adverse side effects on the soldiers. For those who survived the war, drugs had eroded their moral standards leaving them like animals. Cases of these soldiers behaving inhumanly against their relatives and society were reported. The soldiers were also encouraged to consume alcohol to stimulate their performance. This resulted in most soldiers becoming blind as others died because of consuming methyl alcohol.

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After First World War, most of the citizens lost their loved ones while others lost their property. Because of the suffering they went through, some compiled various poems that remind people of the sufferings the Germans went through during the war. These poems were aimed at informing the society about effects of war to ensure that in future, they do not engage in war. Some poems educate the Germans on the alternative ways they take in case of conflicts while others describe the events that took place on the battlefield. Argonne Forest is one of the poems that describe the suffering that German soldiers went through as they fought. The poet describes a person who lost his loved one in the battle and how he regretted that he will never see his loved one again. The poet also describes the weapons used during the war. The poet describes the dangers that soldiers were facing (Rank para. 6). He describes the artilleries and grenades used during the war and how the soldiers advanced their enemies. This poem clearly reflected the horrors of war that German soldiers went through and show how the country lost many soldiers in the war.

Most of the poets were not happy about those who encouraged the war. This was because the rich encouraged the poor to participate in the war. When the erupted, the rich were in a position to escape and protect themselves from its wrath leaving the poor languishing. This led to poets writing various poems that showed their anger towards generals and other army commanders who encouraged German soldiers to participate in the war (Fraser pp. 255-272). Wilfred Owen is one of the German poets who wrote various poems that outlined the horrors of war and showed his anger for generals mobilizing German soldiers into war. In his poem strange meeting, he describes a soldier who escaped from the battle through tunnels that had been dug through granites in course of the war. Along the tunnel, the soldier comes along with heaps of dead soldiers who are left decaying in the tunnel. A lot of o soldiers died during the war but it was hard for the public to ascertain as most of them were buried in mass graves on the battlefield. It is through poets like Owen that people understand the agony their soldiers went through during the battle. Through his poems, people are able to reminiscent some of the events and horrors that occurred during the war. This leads to most of the Germans sympathize with the victims of the war as well as pay tribute to their fallen soldiers who died during the war. Most of the young men were not aware of the horrors of war. These men were easily deceived to be recruited into troops to participate in wars. This made Owen compose these poems that vividly portrayed horrors of the war in order for such youths to understand the dangers they were subjecting themselves to by accepting to be recruited to fight (Curtis para. 3).

War poems reflect images of war and often the desire by people to get peace and normality. For soldiers who had not traveled away from home, experience they got on the battlefield was absolutely different from what they had been used to. They experienced the magnitude of human suffering that people in the war-torn zones were going through. They witnessed disgusting odor of death and suffering that soldiers were forced to go through in the battle. During the First World War, soldiers used trenches to protect themselves from their enemies during the battle. Many soldiers died in these trenches. As there were no other means of defending themselves, the soldiers had to persevere the stinking smell of the dead soldiers in the trench. To overcome the situation, most soldiers wrote poems that tried to explain to the world the life they were going through in the trenches. The soldiers carried no cameras to the battlefield neither did they have mobile phones. The only way they could be able to communicate with their loved ones and the society about the horrors of war was through composing poems (Martin p. 167).

No method greatly brought out horrors of war than use of films. Most German filmmakers used their skills in compiling films that documented events that went on during the first and the Second World Wars. In the films, people could clearly see the suffering people went through as a result of war. Women and children were seen to die out of hunger. People were also seen weeping after losing their friends and family members in the battle. What was shocking most in the films is to see the acts that were being done by soldiers. Defenseless women and children cried for help as they were being killed by soldiers. Some films also documented how prisoners of war were mistreated. Most of them were stripped and beaten. Some films also documented how soldiers were killed through grenades and other artilleries. There were films that showed masses of soldiers being buried in mass graves. These films greatly reflected the horrors of war and educate people on the effects of war (Evans p. 125). Consequently, most people who considered war as an adventure changed their view of war.

Since most wars were triggered due to greed of leaders from different countries, tragedies that rocked their soldiers were never exposed to the society. This facilitated ensuring that people were cooperative whenever asked to participate in the war. Many soldiers died in the war but their relatives were never informed. This led to most people have a positive perception about war where most took it as an adventure. It is from the artwork and literature that people came to understand the effects of war that they had not been exposed to for many years. Artists such as Dix used their knowledge in art to communicate the experience they went through on the battlefield. His painting reflecting trenches containing dead soldiers led to the public understanding about how their soldiers died in the battle but the information was not conveyed back home. Kathe, having lost her son in the battle used her art knowledge to show how women and children suffered from the war. In her paintings, she showed women struggling to protect their children in vain (Sujo 130). Dix’s pictures showing ex-soldiers who were blind as well as of cripples playing cards reflected the aftermath of war on soldiers. The German government made little effort to treat well soldiers who survived the war. Most of them were left begging in the streets or depending on the community for their survival.

Works Cited

Curtis, Jeff. German War Poetry (English Translation). 2000. Web.

Evans, David. The First World War, Teach yourself. London: Hodder Arnold, 2004. Print.

Fraser, Thomas. G. Germany and Indian Revolution, 1914-18. Journal of Contemporary History, 12.2 (1977): 255–272.

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Hans, Mathews. German artist Otto Dix’s etchings reflect the horrors of war and the anguish of human degradation. The Hindu, 15.1(1998): pp. 5-11.

Kramer, Hilton. Dix and Beckmann: Two painters convey the horror of war. 2005. Web.

Martin, Gilbert. The Somme: Heroism and Horror in the First World War. London: Henry Holt and Company, 2001. Print.

Rank, Carol. Promoting Peace through the Arts: The Role of Anti-War and Peace Art in Building Cultures of Peace. 2008. Web.

Sujo, Glenn. Legacies of Silence. London: Philip Wilson Publishers, 2001. Print

Wenz-Danise, Susan. Oil Painting during Times of Tragedy. 2001. Web.

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