Monday, 21 September 2009

Fritz Behrendt

Caption: You never know who's next to you in a German tram, but then you never know in The Netherlands either.

The Dutch Resistance Museum, Amsterdam, is currently showing work by the cartoonist Fritz Behrendt. The show runs until November 15th. There’s a short review at Globespotters. You can see photos of some of the Fritz Behrendt displays along with some of the museum’s permanent exhibition in this Flickr set.

Born in Berlin in 1925, Fritz Behrendt’s family moved to The Netherlands in 1937. From 1943 to the end of the war he attended the Amsterdam Arts and Crafts College.

During a lesson he watched as three British planes were shot down by the Germans. The RAF pilots were shot dead while hanging from their falling parachutes. “That was the moment when I told my art teacher that we could no longer keep on drawing flowers. That was the moment when I decided I would not become a painter or a photographer, but rather use my drawing skills in the fight against injustice.” He was imprisoned by the SS in 1945 for participating in the Dutch Resistance.

In 1947 he went to Yugoslavia as a commandant in the Gerrit Jan van der Veen youth brigade to work on the Samac to Sarajevo Youth Railway. In 1948 he studied at the Art Academy in Zagreb, and in the holidays worked as project leader and interpreter in the International Youth Brigade constructing the Zagreb to Belgrade motorway.

At the urging of Erich Honecker, leader of the Freie Deutsche Jugend, Behrendt went to East Berlin in 1949 and worked there in the FDJ Central Council as an expert on visual promotion, designing orders of merit and citations. Following the Tito-Stalin split, Honecker had Behrendt arrested as a supporter of Yugoslavia. He was imprisoned in solitary confinement for six months, one of the first prisoners of the newly formed Stasi secret police. He was released in 1950 following pressure from the Dutch government.

He went on to work for several major Dutch papers, as well as The New York Times, Time, Punch, Der Spiegel, and the New York Herald Tribune. He died on December 5th last year.

This Vrij Nederland article (in Dutch) includes a choice sample of his postwar cartoons, anti-Stalinist, pro-Israel, UN-critical, including the above drawing on the Soviet invasion of Hungary and the one below of hip Western leftists making an embarrassing discovery.

Drawings copyright © the estate of Fritz Behrendt.

You might also be interested in my earlier post on Danish cartoonists during the occupation.


Roland Dodds said...

Excellent stuff Kellie. The Stalin in Marx’s tomb is brilliant.

Naj said...

Hi Kelly; thanks for your visit! I will check out this cartoon exhibit! Seems nice.

jams o donnell said...

I hd not knowingly seen his work before. Thanks for drawing my attention to a superb cartoonist

I agree with Roland about the Stalin in Marx's tomb cartoon.. Excellent