Started by publisher and Communist Party organizer and delegate to the German Reichstag Willi Münzenberg (1889-1940), Arbeiter Illustrierte Zeitung (AIZ) was part of a boom in photo-illustrated magazines during the Weimar Period in Germany. The political orientation of the inter-war German republic under the control of the Social Democrats remained a source of dissatisfaction for leftists like Münzenberg. He founded the Internationale Arbetierhilfe (IAH / Workers International Relief) in 1921 at the request of Lenin in an attempt to allay the suffering of Russian workers. AIZ began in 1921 as this organization’s magazine, Sowjet Russland im Bild (Soviet Russia Pictorial), but its title was later changed to Sichel und Hammer (Sickle and Hammer), and finally AIZ. With the name changes came a shift in orientation from Russia to Germany and to the working class internationally. Unlike other contemporary photo-illustrated German magazines, AIZ focused on the cruel realities of working-class life (rather than more elite, optimistic subjects in magazines such as the Berliner Illustrirte Zeitung (BIZ) or the Münchner Illustrierte Presse (MIP)). In order to accommodate their leftist mission of confronting working-class realities, AIZ held a photo contest in 1926, which not only brought large amounts of image into the magazine’s stores, along with an army of Arbeiterkorrespondenten (worker correspondents), but also prompted the formation of the first worker photographer groups throughout Germany. These groups would later consolidate themselves into the Vereinigung der Arbeiterfotografen Deutschlands (VdAFD, the Association of German Worker Photographers).
AIZ moved to Prague in 1933, the year that Hitler became chancellor. (It was renamed Volks Illustrierte from 1936 to 1938). From the early thirties until its last year of publication in 1938, many of John Heartfield's famous bitingly satirical photomontages appeared in the pages and on the covers of AIZ.
Ollman, Leah. Camera as Weapon: Worker Photography Between the Wars. Balboa Park, California: Museum of Photographic Arts, 1991.
Evans, David. John Heartfield, AIZ : Arbeiter-Illustrierte Zeitung, Volks Illustrierte, 1930-38. Edited by Anna Lundgren. New York: Kent, 1992.