World War II in Europe began September 1, 1939 with Germany’s invasion of Poland, followed by Great Britain and France’s response declaring war on Germany. However, as the “Hossback memorandum” indicates,plans had been proposed at least since 1937 to begin the process of placing Germany on a war footing in Europe. (2019.2.8) Hitler began early in his administration with propaganda campaigns to influence German minds so that everyone would be “working toward the Fuhrer.” This included propaganda rationale for invading Poland (2014.1.439). Joseph Goebbels was minister of the agency that managed propaganda and promoted Nazi messaging through the diverse media outlets of the day: art, music, theatre, films, pamphlets, journals, radio, etc., all the while silencing the opposition and bolstering Hitler’s self-image as a messianic figure bent on saving Germany and building a thousand year Reich. Goebbels promoted a fierce nationalism on one hand and an ardent racial hatred of Jews and other perceived defectives: the Slavs, Communists, the mentally ill or anyone with abnormalities: all were seen as sub-human Untermenschen, or "Lebensunwertes Leben" (life unworthy of life) ( 2019.2.194) and subject to sterilization, slavery, or death. Blond, blue-eyed, muscular (from performing “real” work) Aryan men (vide Riefenstahl’s Olympia) were contrasted in every medium with the hook-nosed, deformed grotesques of the Jewish “race” who belonged nowhere and owed allegiance to themselves alone. The Eternal Jew exhibitions (2012.1.478) depicted Jews in unimaginably negative and unfavorable ways.
The movie Jud Suss (2012.1.492) or the pornographic caricatures of Julius Streicher’s tabloids (2012.1.494) portraying Jews as sexual perverts or his anti-Semitic cartoon books for children (2012.1.546) are merely a few examples of this form of propagandizing where Nazi memes become truth and reality (especially-as Goebbels remarked-if they are repeated often enough), thus facilitating and rationalizing the Nazi “solution to the Jewish problem”. Degenerate “Jewish” art would be contrasted in public exhibitions with, for example, Arno Breker’s, neo-classical, monumental, but ultimately unimaginative forms. Likewise, “Jewish” science or “Jewish” literature had to be expunged from Aryan paradise. Hans Schweitzer’s “Mjolnir” cartoons and Goebbels own writings and speeches blamed Jews for Germany’s economic problems .(2019.2.217). The “Parole der Woche”, was a weekly poster or propaganda card focusing on issues or individuals the Nazis wanted to dwell on to heighten their messaging. Subversive propaganda came as well in the form of postal forgeries of enemy stamps often with anti-Semitic messages; for example, the head of Britain’s King George VI surmounted with a Jewish star and the hammer and sickle, symbols in the Nazi worldview of the connection between Jews and Communism (2015.2.154). Stamps would also “predict” the end of the British empire. (2015.2.155). Parody postcards with caricatures of Churchill (2019.2.132) and Chamberlain (2019.2.135) were not meant to be amusing.
Winston Churchill created the British Political Executive at the beginning of the war to produce propaganda that to the Germans to whom it was disseminated seemed authentic but was in fact aimed at damaging morale. Most memorable were Churchill’s broadcasts to rally the British against the Nazi scourge. His very presence in walking among the British civilians who would gather around him in throngs was an important boost to British morale. What came to be known as black propaganda entailed sending subversive, at times subliminal, messages to the Germans, including leaflets, postcards (2019.2.133), and other forms of propaganda dropped from airplanes (2019.2.149).
In America, Roosevelt created the Office of War Information in 1942 to boost production and undermine enemy morale. OWI used available media-especially newsreels and film, posters (e.g. “Rosie the Riveter”) and radio broadcasts to help mobilize Americans to buy into the war and make them feel they were an important part of the war effort.The darker arts of espionage- “spywar”- were managed by “Wild Bill” Donovan, head of the OSS, the precursor agency of the CIA. One of his efforts- “Operation Snowflake”- was a parody of the Hitler 12 Pfennig postage stamp-known as the Skull or Death’s Head stamp- wherein the words Deutches Reich (German Empire) were replaced by “Futches Reich” meaning “Lost Empire.” These parody stamps and postcards-while amusing- had a deadly serious purpose and taken together with other forms of propaganda were also intended to demoralize the German public. (2012.1.443)
In the realm of American wartime propaganda, mention must be made of the work of Arthur Szyk, a Polish-born artist who thoroughly embraced the promise of democracy and human rights of his adopted country and expressed through his art his commitment to religious and racial tolerance for Jews and blacks. His political commitments, especially his concern over the persecution of European Jews by the Nazis, were expressed in his anti-Axis art as well (2012.1.417e, 2012.1.417a-d),but his patriotism and reverence for America were best displayed in his” Four Freedoms” stamps. Like Norman Rockwell’s posters, these stamps were also inspired by FDR’s 1941 speech before Congress. (2012.1.418).
There is a counter-narrative to Szyk’s adoration of America, one that has been proffered as a partial explanation for FDR’s hesitation about entering the war before 1941. Opinion polls taken from the mid 30’s to the late 40’s in the United States found that at least 60 per cent or more of respondents held a low opinion of Jews. Many felt they had too much power; that they were greedy or dishonest; and ultimately a threat to the welfare of America: indeed, more so than any other ethnic or religious group. Some 10 per cent of those polled were even in favor of deporting them. The State Department under FDR was teeming with anti-Semites, including Breckenridge Long (2016.1.18), a friend of the President who endeavored to keep immigration quotas for Jews artificially low during a time when European Jews were attempting to escape Nazi persecution. The Wagner- Rogers Bill of 1938 would at least have increased the quota of immigrants by allowing entry to 20,000 Jewish children under the age of 14. It never came to a vote, opposed by nationalist organizations and blocked by a Senator from North Carolina. Within a year, most of the refugees of the SS St. Louis were themselves denied visas to enter Cuba and the United States and were forced to return to Europe and the attendant danger of falling into Nazi hands. (2016.1.15), (2019.2.198).
The America First Committee, founded in 1940, was opposed to America’s entry into another European war. (2019.2.33-.58). Like the British Union of Fascists headed by Britain’s Oswald Mosely (2012.1.64), they believed that such a war would ultimately be instigated by Jews. Among this group were Catholic priest Charles Coughlin, known for his virulent ant-Semitic rants on radio. His magazine Social Justice (2019.2.59) contained writing indistinguishable from the fevered screeds of Joseph Goebbels, reporting that Jews were behind Communism; that they corrupted culture and politics; and that they were ultimately interested in world domination. The primary source for these beliefs was the discredited forgery Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Joseph P. Kennedy, father of the future president and ambassador to the Court of St. James- urged- as did Britain’s Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain (2014.1.180)- appeasement with Hitler. Charles Lindberg, important spokesperson for America First, and an avid admirer of Hitler, downplayed his own anti-Semitic views but believed nevertheless that Jews exerted too much influence over American culture, and that a European war would ultimately be instigated by them and redound to their benefit.
--Michael D. Bulmash, K1966
Browse the Bulmash Family Holocaust Collection.
Broadside with four squares of illustrations, titles “Grippe” in upper right corner.
Information Provided by Michael D. Bulmash: Schweitzer, used the pen name “Mjolnir,” or Thor’s hammer. He was recruited by Joseph Goebbels to produce Nazi propaganda caricaturing Jews and other Nazi opponents. He was also a member of the S.S. He became the “Reich Commissioner for Artistic Design.”
The captions read:
“The Jews Hilferding, master of inflation. The world Jew does not want the German Mark.”
“We build homes in France. But Germans must live like this.”
“On February 11, 1922 the French have occupied the Ruhr because too few telegraph poles has been delivered.”
This work, signed by Schweitzer with his alias “Mjolnir,” was apparently discarded by the Munich city library.
Document includes large red “V” in center with a banner marked “VIKTORIA” going through it.
Information Provided by Michael D. Bulmash: A Dutch National Socialist party (Nationaal Socialistische Beweging) – ‘V’ Propaganda leaflet.
305: Document titled “Paroles Françaises Paroles d’Espoir” with two images of men on the left side, blue and red border.
306: Document titled “MESSAGE DU MARÉCHAL PÉTAIN” in bold, blue print with image of Pétain in center.
307: Document titled “COLLABORATION”, with three frames of illustrations, final panel includes large question mark.
308: Document includes “Que deviant la FRANCE dans toute cette histoire?” underlined in top left corner, “MAURICE DELAUNAY” underlined at bottom of page.
309: Document titled “RESTE EN FRANCE!” at top of page, includes central image of ruins and three round images on right side.
Information Provided by Michael D. Bulmash:Post-1940 Vichy propaganda supporting puppet French leader, Marshal Philippe Petain and his collaborationist Vichy French government:
2019.2.305: “Paroles Francaises Paroles d’Espoir”, a leaflet praising Petain and introducing Darlan, Weygand, Pierre laval, and other supporters
2019.2.306: a message from Petain to French veterans, essentially blaming the previous administration for French loss and promising revolutionary changes in governmental and social administration
2019.2.307: a flier headed “COLLABORATION” and showing what was hoped for France versus what characters intended to represent Jews are actually doing to destroy the process
2019.2.308: an advertisement for a pro-Petain Vichy publication
2019.2.309: two-sided flier showing American bomber destruction of French cities and satirically advising: “French workers! Do not go to Germany…wait here for the bombs of ‘your friends’ the Anglo-Americans”.
Poster with illustration of a man wearing a Star of David necklace peering through a U.S. flag, a U.S.S.R. flag, and a British flag, “Et derrière: Le Jui” printed in yellow banner in lower left corner.