book (design) story #222
ede und unku
malik-verlag, berlin, 1931
printer: j. b. hirschfeld (arno pries), leipzig
size: 21 x 14 cm
designer: john heartfield
the story of ede, a working-class boy who befriends unku, a sinti girl, is a classic socialist children's book, first published in 1931. behind the pseudonym alex wedding – "alex" refers to alexanderplatz, "wedding" to a working-class district of berlin – hides writer/journalist grete weiskopf-bernheim (1905-1966) who was married to writer franz carl weiskopf. they left berlin in 1933 and emigrated to prag, paris and finally new york. later in her life she lived in the gdr where "ede und unku" became a much-read children's book. a gdr film based on the story was made in 1980.
this first edition was published by the famous socialist malik-verlag. apparently the nice photographs were taken by malik's founder wieland herzfelde (1896-1988) himself, although he is not credited in the book. the cover design is – as usual with malik books – by wieland's brother helmut, better known by his pseudonym john heartfield (1891-1968). while the photographic cover with its bright red background and asymmetric sans-serif title is modernist, the book's typography isn't, as often with malik publications.
needless to say that this book was banned by the nazis as they came to power in 1933. but the real tragedy: the story was inspired by a real sinti family living in berlin-reinickendorf. the character of "unku" is based on then 11-year-old erna lauenburger who became a friend of grete weiskopf. after being declared "zigeuner-mischling" ("gipsy mongrel") by the rassenhygienische forschungsstelle (research institute for racial hygiene), erna and her family were deported to auschwitz in 1943. only one of the eleven sinti children mentioned in the book survived.
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