Ben Shahn

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Background on Shahn's poster ''This is Nazi Brutality'' 1942 from Swann Aug 2003

On May 27, 1942, Reinhard Heydrich (the Nazi official in charge of Czechoslovakia) was assassinated. In response the Nazi regime ordered the destruction of the Czech village of Lidice because they suspected some of its citizens to have been involved in the murder. The Nazis executed all of the men and 56 women in the town and sent the remaining women and children to concentration camps.  They then leveled the village to the ground and struck its name from the official record. On June 11, 1942, the Germans announced that they had taken this action.

The hooded prisoner, cornered and chained, has no means of escape from the finality of the horrifying message.The designer of This is Nazi Brutality grew up in New York City after moving from his home country, Lithuania, in 19061. Before becoming a freelance lithographer, Ben Shahn spent four years as an apprentice to a commercial lithographer1. This experience allowed him to grow very familiar with letter forms, typography, and more importantly it gave him an opportunity to practice his drawing skills, which he greatly wanted to improve. Throughout Shahn's life, he used various different mediums, from painting to photography and print making, in order to try and capture the mood and spirit of the times that he lived in1. As a member of the Social Realism movement Shahn tried to capture the inspirational qualities of ordinary people, like the people of Lidice, Czechoslovakia, the subject of This is Nazi Brutality2.