Saved From Execution: George Grosz

George GroszGeorge Grosz was born in Berlin in 1893. On the outbreak of the First World War he volunteered for the German Army. In 1915 he was released as unfit for duty. However, in 1917, desperate for soldiers, Grosz was conscripted again. Kept from frontline action, he had to transport and guard Prisoners of War.
After trying to commit suicide in 1917, Grosz was send to an army hospital. Then he was court-martialed for insubordination and sentenced to death. One of his patrons, Count Kessler, saved him from execution. He was now diagnosed as suffering from shell-shock and was discharged from the German Army.
After the war Grosz became a famous expressionist painter (DaDa-movement) and he was a leading anti-Nazi activist.
He published his portrayal of Christ wearing a gas mask and army boots with the caption "Keep your mouth shut and do your duty", in 1924 in an album titled Hintergrund (Backdrop). The images in this album are of utter loneliness and despair, because they not only depict the brutal reality of human condition, but also its radical hopelessness. Charged with blasphemy Grosz was at first found guilty but was then acquitted in 1932 during an appeal.
In 1933, after being harassed by Hitler's Gestapo, Grosz fled to the USA. His war experiences did not stop haunting him. He returned to Germany in 1959, saying "My American dream turned out to be a soap bubble", and died the same year.