Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, the weekly magazine SIMPLICISSIMUS was reissued in post-war Germany, providing critical essays and amusing commentaries on morality and immorality, hopes and fears in the young Federal Republic in words and images. The Käthe Kollwitz Museum Köln is now dedicating a special exhibition to the bestknown satirical magazine of the years of the so-called Economic Miracle. Cover pages, drawings, and original lithographs from the years 1954 to 1967 take visitors back to a not-so-distant past era – and point to parallels with today’s world events.
As early as the Wilhelmine Empire, SIMPLICISSIMUS took aim at political and social grievances with wit and pungency. Some even regarded the magazine with the vicious heraldic animal, the red bulldog, as the ‘only real opposition’ of that era. Käthe Kollwitz was among the artists who contributed pictorial motifs at the time.
After the First World War, however, the paper was subjected to fluctuating fortunes: In September 1944, SIMPLICISSIMUS was tamed and brought into line, and finally went under due to a banal shortage of paper.
The red dog bites again
In the 1950s – during the era of the Cold War, the division of Germany, and the Economic Miracle – a new squad of journalists revived the critical tradition under the famous title. Their preferred target: the protagonists of the East-West conflict and Konrad Adenauer’s policies on European and inner-German issues. But the ‘Deutscher Michel’ himself was also subjected to abusive criticism.
Once again, it was the cartoonists who give the magazine its distinctive face. Alongside illustrators such as A. Paul Weber or Hanns Erich ‘Erik’ Köhler, who had already been working in the spirit of the NS-regime, there are new artists such as Manfred Oesterle or Wigg Siegl from the middle of society. They now reflect the current affairs of the Bonn Republic and provide contributions with bite. Once again, the motto was: ‘Attack!’. Soon, the red dog was again feared by politicians and other leaders of society – and celebrated by its readers.
Looking into the satirical distorting mirror of those years, the supposedly old socio-critical themes and political tensions appear frighteningly topical against the background of current developments.
Curated by Dr. Uwe Westfehling und Katharina Koselleck.