Collecting: VD Campaign Posters (1946)

VD Campaign Posters (1946)

Installation view, (Im)memorabilia exhibition, School of Art Museum and Galleries, Aberystwyth University (2014-15)

These posters are the work of Franz Oswald Schiffers (1902–1976), a graphic artist who designed movie posters and advertisements in late-1920s and early 1930s Germany.  During the Nazi era, Schiffers was commissioned to create propaganda posters warning against the dangers of loose talk.  Immediately after the Second World War, when Germany was occupied by the allies, Schiffers worked for the US government on this 1946 campaign to discourage fraternization.

Virile soldiers are shown to be up against the looming threat of venereal disease.  The visual metaphor served as a reminder to Americans stationed in Germany that the momentary gratification of illicit pleasure abroad might prevent men from returning home, where they presumably belonged once the bloodshed had ceased.

I knew nothing about Schiffers when I spotted these prints in a bookstore in Vienna in 2013.  For over two decades, I had avoided traveling to German-speaking countries, uneasy about Germany’s past and my grandparents’ part in it.  In my collection, these images resonate with a feeling of being torn and struggling with a sense of belonging, conflicting emotions that Schiffers is likely to have experienced himself.

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