Hans Schweitzer


Posters, illustrations, caricatures. Born 25 July 1901 in Berlin. Politically active from his late teens. ‘Joins the Potsdam section of the NSDAP on 2 February 1926…and begins to contribute to the party press under the pseudonym of Mjölnir (name of Thor’s hammer in the old Germanic religion). Quickly becomes known for the quality and the vigour of his stroke, and his posters, caricatures, and drawings make him the most famous propagandist of the NSDAP. (The Völkischer Beobachter describes him in 1934 as “the sketcher par excellence of national-socialism”). By 1928 he was a friend of Joseph Goebbels and later illustrated a number of his books, including Die verfluchten Hakenkreuzler (Munich, 1930). October 1935: appointed by Hitler as Representative for Artistic Design (Reichsbeauftragter für deutsche [or künstlerische] Formgebung) ‘a post which gives him authority (in conjunction with the Ministry of Propaganda [Reichsministerium für Volksaufklärung und Propaganda] in all areas of artistic activity directly dependent on the party: exhibitions,…erection of monuments, development of insignia and national symbols (decorations, emblems, flags, uniforms, banknotes, stamps, diplomas, official seals, etc.).’ 1936: becomes honorary member of the SS with rank of Oberführer. ‘Becomes a member of the advisory board of the Chamber of Art [Reichskammer der bildenden Künste]. Also becomes head of the Bund Deutscher Maler und Graphiker e.V….[In 1937, is] a member of the organization committee of the exhibition in Munich on “degenerate art” [entartete Kunst] and belongs to the commission assigned from 1938 on to decide how to utilize works removed on this occasion from the galleries and museums.’ (The above quotations from MGD, 1992; write for permission ). 1943-4: artist with the Wehrmacht; his work published in the Völkischer Beobachter and Das Reich. 1945: in the German territorial army , captured by the Americans in Schleswig-Holstein; interned at Neuengamme.

‘[ A]t war’s end, he and his wife and children escaped to Schleswig-Holstein, and he was not arrested until May 1947. He claimed that he was turned in by a modernist artist whom he had earlier attacked .

‘Hans Schweitzer had his [Nazi] record completely expunged in 1955. He proceeded to rehabilitate his career in the postwar period, during which he continued to find work as an illustrator. Schweitzer nevertheless decided to assume a new name…Under the name “Herbert Sickinger”, he taught painting in Westphalia to generations of German and American students… .[ He] prospered until his death in 1980. The important role he had played in the cultural life of the Third Reich, however, was not completely forgotten. The radical right-wing press in Germany, for example, noted his passing in glowing obituaries.’ (Petropoulis, pp. 162-3)

In the 1950s and 1960s Schweitzer had continued to draw posters and illustrated for newspaper and journals such as Elsa, Mut and Deutsche Wochen-Zeitung. He died on 15 September 1980 in Landstuhl (Palatinate).

Writings about

  • Jürgen Steen and Wolf von Wolzogen (eds.), “Die Synagogen brennen…”, Frankfurt a.M.: Historisches Museum, 1988 (political cartoons, pp. 48, 49, 51)
  • Andreas Fleischer and Frank Kämpfer, ‘The political poster in the Third Reich’, in Brandon Taylor and Wilfried van der Will (eds.), The Nazification of Art, Winchester: The Winchester Press, Winchester School of Art, 1990, pp. 188, 189
  • SP, 1991, pp. 152, 245
  • SB, 1991
  • MGD, 1992
  • Saur, 2000
  • Jonathan Petropoulis, The Faustian Bargain, USA: Oxford Press, and London: Allen Lane, 2000, pp. 158-63 and 318-19 (notes)
  • Peter Paret, An Artist against the Third Reich. Ernst Barlach 1933-1938, Cambridge University Press, 2003
  • www.hausarbeiten.de.


  • Imperial War Museum, London (Unsere letzte Hoffnung/Hitler’, 1933?)