Soldier raping a nun was suppressed from the original War portfolio on its publication in 1924 on the advice of Dix’s publisher Karl Nierendorf. He believed it would be seen as a ‘slap in the face for all those who celebrate our “heroes” [and]… for all those who have a bourgeois conception of a front-line soldier.’ Nierendorf had similar reservations about plate 34, Frontline soldiers in Brussels and plate 36, Visit to Madame Germaine in Mericourt both of which depict soldiers visiting a brothel.
According to Nierendorf, an image such as Soldier raping a nun could ‘threaten the whole work with confiscation… People will make this one print into the target of their attacks.’
This image is perhaps the least successful of the cycle. Whereas the brothel images may have been authentic in terms of Dix’s own observed experience - he was a famous frequenter of such places - Soldier raping a nun is unlikely to have been. It is anecdotal. While such events no doubt occurred, it is also open to the less convincing symbolic reading of mindless brutality triumphing over pure innocence. This, and its almost caricatured voyeuristic content, is in stark contrast to the sense of authentic observation that informs the rest of the portfolio.
The Circle, 1922