How Cartoons and Propaganda were used Against Jews and Nazis During WWII
The use of propaganda through political cartoons is an unavoidable topic in the studies of WWII. Though the propaganda against Jews is a cliche assumption, the use against Nazis prevailed in many ways of its own. Both played key points in the war, from brainwashing to fairytales and cartoon war to tombstones, few subjects were used as a fighting force made from pencil and paper.
In America, political cartoons were used widely as motivational statement for troops. The leading man in this was Walt Disney and Disney Studios. His logo, depicting a mosquito holding a torpedo, for the new fleet of “mosquito boats” was so well received, army bases across America asked for some of his cartoons for their crafts as well. Though no Disney character in particular was more popular than the others, it eventually came to a strong, satirical result. That is when Donald Duck waged war on Hitler. In a political cartoon, Donald Duck is seen dressed as a Nazi and marching with other Nazis or “Nutzi”. He suffers in an assembly line screwing war munitions together. He eventually goes insane from shouting “Heil Hitler” and whirling his hands impossibly fast. He wakes up from the dream and says “Oh boy, am I glad to be a citizen of the United States of America!” “Der Fuehrer’s Face” got much notice and even won the Oscar for best animated short film. In another short, “The Spirit of ’43,” Donald showed Americans that they need to save money in order to pay for their taxes fully and on time. Disney studio was also commissioned to make training videos for the navy.
These pictures were important for morale and to encourage Americans in a positive way and denote Germans in a humorous way. It was one of the most successful and busy times ever for Disney Studios. In one year they used 200,000 feet of film, which is five times the average it would use in times of peace. The ability to make Americans laugh in a time of crisis was so important to its success.
The movie “Education for Death” contrasted with Disney’s other feats. It tells the story of an innocent boy named Hans born in Germany and the difficult process to keep him safe from the government; such as them threatening to take him away if for being sick. Though he is kind and innocent, he is brainwashed into being an evil, merciless, Nazi solider. And as a full grown Hans marches with the rest of the Nazis he fades into a tombstone without a name, symbolic of how many German citizens were killed for nothing and how his only purpose in life was to die. This dark cartoon contrasts sharply with the rest of the cartoons because it directly attacked the way Germans learn, did not have a happy ending, and most of all did not support Americans in any way. It may because Disney wanted to scare the public into supporting their country because war donations had diminished at the time.
Walt Disney studio was undoubtedly the most active in American propaganda of Germany. But the sense of hope it gave Americans powered through ages. Even though many of the cartoons were shelved for a very long time the impact they left was not to be forgotten. It can be argued that the films didn’t help, but two thirds of Americans went to the movies every week and the amount of faith put into them was staggering and it shows because Donald Duck was made an honorary member of the Army. And in 1984 he was promoted to the rank of sergeant and was honorably discharged from the military.
But to understand the political propaganda that was going on in Germany is to understand propaganda itself. Propaganda is the art of persuasion and Hitler would not let it go to waste. He grew up and learned to embrace propaganda and blames Germanys’ loss in WWI as a lack of propaganda. He even dedicated two chapters to it in his book Mein Kampf. When WWII started he appointed Dr. Joseph Goebbels as the person in charge of the propaganda. Goebbels had two jobs; to make sure no anti-Nazi message of any kind got to the German population, and to put across the views of Nazis in the most persuasive way possible. His official rank was the Minister of Enlightenment. He worked with SS and Gestapo, who hunted down anyone who would make articles against the Nazis in Germany. He set up the Reich Chamber of Commerce, which dealt with literature, art, newspaper, film, and cartoons. To produce any of the aforementioned subjects you would need to be a member of the Commerce and of course believe in Nazi ideas. This strong censorship never allowed any of Disney’s cartoons to reach Germany.
The film industry than focused on the “issues” including Jews, Hitler’s greatness, and the abuse of Germans in eastern countries. A new version of Sleeping Beauty arose with witch being democracy and the cursed princess being Germany. After prince Hitler saves Germany from democracy he gets Germany on her feet and the run off into the sunset. This is cartoon is undoubtedly directed at not only children, but the parents who read it to their children. Political cartoons in Germany depicted Jews as evil vile creatures that were responsible for all of Germany’s problems. But political cartoons were not alone nor did they play a huge role in the propaganda industry. It was the fact that everything became pro-Nazi. Such a mass takeover of ideas develops a strong following. This is why American cartoons didn’t directly attack the German people. Because it was all they were allowed to know.
The cartoons that Goebbels did produce were mostly depicting Hitler of being a strong, great, and unbeatable leader who would make Germany strong. His posters were not descriptive of Nazi ideals, they merely depicted Nazi support. The post “Germany Lives” is an important adulation of Hitler. It displays a proud Hitler holding the Nazi flag and marching with the army. The common Nazi symbolism of light breaking through clouds is seen here, as well as the eagle flying. It was used as a morale booster for Germany, much like Disney’s. Jews were often displayed with a stereotypical big nose and heinous demeanor as well as being communists or supporting communism. One poster dehumanizes the Jewish people and another movie The Eternal Jew compares them to rats. The ability to strike fear into the German population about Jews gave Nazis the upper hand. Another depicts a swastika falling a Jewish person on the Star of David. This is symbolic of Germany’s impending victory. Surprisingly this poster was created by an English man rather than the Reich Chamber of Commerce, which could show that foreign countries may have supported the Nazis.
Posters with proud hard working Germans were impossibly common and always showed Aryan Germans. They were used to get citizens excited about helping the Fuhrer. The name Fuhrer was applied in order to make Hitler an undeniably strong hero and leader and that all will know him as such. Depictions of Hitler hugging or taking over the Earth were popular as items used against and even for Nazis. The ones against Hitler use more black than white and often have him be a horrific monster. Pro-Nazi art displays Hitler hugging the earth or attacking the democratic America.
The way political cartoons were used against Jews and Germans alike during WWII differs in nearly every way. American propaganda against Germans was more for encourage the people to pitch in and help with the war. It also delivered it in a brilliant way; by showing the cartoons, which are normally happy and humorous, become dark and evil things. This effectively convinced Americans that staying positive and doing all they can was the best thing they can do. Germans on the other hand used nation-wide brainwashing, mass censorship, and harsh images to scare the German population into Nazism, thinking it was the only way to be safe. It also glorified Hitler as an amazing leader, whereas American cartoons portrayed Hitler as skinny, angry, and incompetent. Hitler’s situation can be related to rulers throughout history namely Louis XIV who glorified himself through paintings and palaces, glorified his country and culture as the ultimate people, banished people of a different religion, controlled his nobles through Absolutism, and induced censorship. Yet have you ever heard of the evil that Louis XIV caused? He is identical to Hitler in numerous ways and yet you have never heard of his terror or tyranny. That is the power of propaganda in two different forms. You know Hitler is evil because it is everywhere, telling you of all the people he killed and all the hate he spread, but the amount of propaganda against Louis is simply inferior to the amount against Hitler. But in second form propaganda I have depicted Louis acts as being unnecessary, evil, and pompous. Nevertheless, Louis XIV is often called one of the greatest and strongest rulers of all time, giving France a deep, rich culture and making French a staple language for royalty. This was a use of propaganda, to give you all the little pieces that you should know, keeping them all truthful, and yet not tying them together with the reality of the situation. Though the situation of Hitler was a situation of evil the views that propaganda can cause are undeniably powerful. Hitler’s power would not have been as mighty without propaganda and the ability to portray him as evil and receive assistance for the war would have been far more difficult. This explanatory statement proves the power of propaganda in WWII.