The combination of trench warfare, outdated offensive tactics, and new industrial technology made World War I a particularly horrific experience for the common soldier. One such soldier was a German expressionist artist named Otto Dix. Expressionism was an artistic movement that sought to present the world solely from a subjective perspective, distorting it radically for emotional effect in order to evoke moods or ideas. Expressionist artists sought to express meaning or emotional experience rather than physical reality. While fighting in the trenches, Dix kept a journal. After the war, he took his wartime journal and created a series of 50 etchings based on his experience. “Der Krieg,” or “The War,” was completed in 1924.
In this resource, students learn about different aspects of trench warfare through maps, diagrams, and Otto Dix's etchings. The main focus is for students to examine the horrors and psychological impact of trench warfare on the individual soldier. In showing the images, I turned off the lights in the room, put them up on the board one at a time for a minute at a time. During that time, students completed the graphic organizer on the back page of the resource. Then, after seeing all 10 images, we went back through each one and discussed our reactions. You could also make class set copies of the images if you don't have access to a digital projector. This was a really good lesson for artistically oriented students.