Modern Graphics to Educate German Citizens, 1928-1930

Report on City Services -- edited by Johannes U. Höber, Mannheim, 1929

Report on City Services — edited by Johannes U. Höber, Mannheim, 1929

Germany’s adoption of the Weimar constitution after the end of World War I brought democracy, universal suffrage and far greater citizen involvement than had previously been the case.  Progressive municipal leaders saw an urgent need to educate the general public on matters of public administration and the role of government.  To this end, many German cities established public affairs offices,which, among other things, generated educational materials on the activities of the city administration.

"The Living City," the quarterly magazine of municipal affairs edited by Johannes Höber, 1928-1930.

“The Living City,” the quarterly magazine of municipal affairs edited by Johannes Höber, 1928-1930.

The first job my father, Johannes Höber, had after he finished at Heidelberg University was heading the public affairs office for Mannheim, a city of half a million. The city’s Social Democratic administration supported active economic, cultural and social programs to improve the lives of its citizens.  Johannes edited numerous reports and periodicals to spread the message about the city’s activities.

Program for the commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the national theater in Mannheim, 1929.

Program for the commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the national theater in Mannheim, 1929.

The publications Johannes edited featured dramatic graphic representations that attracted the reader’s attention and presented information in a clear, engaging fashion.

Comparison of annual tonnage shipped through the upper Rhine River ports of Mannheim and Strassburg, 19

Comparison of annual tonnage shipped through the upper Rhine River ports of Mannheim and Strassburg, 19

Sometimes the graphics were a bit strained, and then deciphering them became its own kind of entertainment, as in the following article on the increase in expenditures for various city services.

Cost increases in munic ipal services.  From upper left:  administration, police, building inspection, streets and water, subsidized businesses, schools, arts and sciences, welfare. [Click image for larger view.]

Cost increases in munic ipal services. From upper left: general anc fiscal administration, police, building inspection, streets and water, subsidized businesses, schools, arts and sciences, welfare. [Click image for larger view.]

Font selection, well-composed photographs, diagrams and good page layout were thoughtfully addressed, as in this magazine article on housing developments in Mannheim.

Article in "The Living City" about housing developments in Mannheim, 1913-1930. [Click image for larger view.]

Article in “The Living City” about housing developments in Mannheim, 1913-1930. [Click image for larger view.]

This eye-catching graphic compares the percentage of the total workforce in various cities that was employed in public service.  Although the Social Democrats were proud of the services Mannheim provided, public workers made up a smaller percentage of the workforce than in other German cities.

Percentage of the city's workforce employed in public service in various cities in Germany, 1929.[Click image for larger view.]

Percentage of the city’s workforce employed in public service in various cities in Germany according to the employment census of 1925. [Click image for larger view.]

When Johannes fled Germany in 1938, he carried only two small suitcases.  Nevertheless, he devoted space in his baggage for several copies of the publications he edited for the city of Mannheim.  He used these publications as samples of his work, and they helped him get jobs when he was starting out here in the United States.

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3 Comments on “Modern Graphics to Educate German Citizens, 1928-1930”

  1. Well done Frank. Via Johannes’s Mannheim story, you have made city government in Weimar Germany come alive.

  2. Katherine Parkin says:

    Wonderful that they worked as a portfolio — these kinds of publications rarely credit an author. Another terrible problem your parents faced, to lose your contacts, references, etc. Fascinating. Thanks.

    • Frank Hoeber says:

      I’ve been thinking about this comment and about what my parents lost when they decided to leave Germany. In Mannheim, Johannes was the expert, the guy who knew everything. When he got to America he was a novice, the guy who knew nothing. That is, in fact, the essence of the immigrant experience, and those who have come to America for generations have been the people who have the courage to face that challenge and make the most of it.


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