From 1957 to 1968, life in East Germany was easier for John Heartfield. However, years of institutional neglect and Stasi persecution had taken their toll. He was never again as prolific an artist as he was during his WW2 anti-Nazi period.
But nothing could prevent him from being a vital outspoken man of the people.
He could travel outside the GDR on “temporary visas.” It allowed him to spend time with his family.
In 1968, Heartfield was scheduled to attend an exhibition in Czechoslovakia on a temporary visa. On the day he left the GDR, he spent time in the morning dictating and signing a three-page will with his third wife, Gertrud. Gertrud would inherit everything the prolific artist owned, including all his surviving original art. There was no mention of his children, Tom George Heartfield or Eva Sondermeijer. There was also no mention of Heartfield’s beloved brother, Wieland Herzfelde. It was Wieland, along with Willi Münzenberg, who was responsible for the vast majority of Heartfield’s professional success as an artist.
Tom George Heartfield had supported his father financially and emotionally throughout his life. In a letter, Gertrud later apologized to Tom. She wrote that, because of “the state,” Tom could not be mentioned in the will.
Soon after signing this will, John Heartfield passed away in April of 1968 in East Berlin. He is buried steps away from Bertolt Brecht’s home.Gertrud began traveling throughout Europe, acquiring as much of John Heartfield’s art as possible.