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Cover of Anna Seghers’s, Das siebte Kreuz (The Seventh Cross) Mexico City: El Libro Libre [Realizado para Portada de Anna Seghers, La Séptima Cruz Mexico City: El Libro Libre]
Méndez made this print, which depicts the brutality of a Nazi prison camp, for the cover of Anna Seghers’s Das siebte Kreuz (The Seventh Cross). Published as a Spanish-language edition in Mexico in 1943 by El Libro Libre, the book recounts the imprisonment of seven German socialists and their attempted escape from Nazi violence. Seghers, a German Communist and renowned author, fled Nazi oppression herself, living in exile in both Mexico and the United States. Through Das siebte Kreuz, she exposed the Nazi aggression that targeted the Left in the 1930s. One of her most important works, the book was critical for revealing the realities of pre–World War II Germany to the public in the Americas.
In his cover illustration, Méndez reflects the dark cruelty described by Seghers. A Nazi soldier, identifiable by his black books, uniform, and swastika armband, grabs for his gun as he disappears behind a dead tree trunk, the wood of which has been fashioned into an implement of torture for one of the seven escapees. This “seventh cross,” which bears the author’s name and the book title, dominates the composition through its abrupt placement in the immediate foreground. Méndez’s use of bold black line and sadistic imagery replicates the sinister tone of Das siebte Kreuz in visual form.
from Costa, Para la Gente: Art, Politics and Cultural Identity of the Taller de Gráfica Popular (Notre Dame, 2009)