Chilling Nazi, antisemitic and anti-Communist propaganda in Cambridge UL’s National Socialism collection

I recently catalogued two dozen of Nazi booklets and pamphlets circulating in France in the 1940s. They are an addition to existing special collections of National Socialist literature at Cambridge University Library; and a good complement and forerunner to the more recently donated Chadwyck-Healey Liberation collection (which focuses on French language works mainly published between 1944 and 1946). A first Nazi literature collection in the University Library (CCA-CCC.25) contains a selection of books representing National Socialist Germany and is based on a collection of 750 items, including school textbooks and songbooks, which were acquired in August 1947 through His Majesty’s Stationary Office.

A second collection (CCA-CCC.26) with a wider scope, dealing with National Socialism and its origins, is based on an acquisition from Paul W.J. Alicke in 1927. It contains about 900 items, exemplifying patriotic (“völkisch”), racialist, and pan-German movements, as well as their contemporary criticism. Over the years, this collection has increased through additional purchases. The newly catalogued books, brochures and pamphlets (consisting of Nazi, antisemitic, and anti-Communist propaganda) are striking. They resonate with the current use and manipulation of traditional and social media in the context of the war in Ukraine, and with the recurring issue of fake news.

Some brochures, such as L’Allemagne de nos jours, Exposition de Bordeaux, mai-juin 1941 (CCC.26:4.603) or La Jeunesse estudiantine allemande (CCC.26:4.600) celebrate the order and prosperity brought by the Nazi regime in Germany. It purportedly fostered ideal social and economic conditions (progress of science, medicine and hygiene, development of infrastructure, demographic growth through the vision of women dedicated to the care of their families etc.). Other publications, such as Le Führer et son peuple (CCC.26:4.602) contribute to the personality cult of Hitler: « ce livre parle d’Adolf Hitler et de son travail en Allemagne et pour le peuple allemand »…

The use of (manipulated) data and statistics, as well as clever illustrations, is part of the propaganda war. L’Europe plus forte d’année en année : le potentiel de guerre des puissances du pacte tripartite (CCC.26:4.619) builds up the victories and territorial expansion in Europe of the Axis powers (originally Rome-Berlin-Tokyo). It claims that their alliance has resulted in territorial expansion (in relation with the German concept of ‘Lebensraum’), as well as economic growth in Europe through an increase in the production of hydraulic electricity, coal, steel, petrol, rubber etc. Interestingly, forced foreign labour in Germany is called “the solution to the labour challenge”, and is presented as expressing “European solidarity in the common fight for existence” (p. 27)…

A popular technique used by the Nazi propagandists was also to create compilations of (manipulated) quotations by either their own leaders, supporters and historical figures rallied to their cause. Compréhension collaboration (CCC.26:4.610), edited by Jean Everard, provides a collection of quotations by a wide range of French and German literary figures (such as Mme de Stael, Renan, Michelet, Baudelaire, Taine, Jules Romans) or social and political leaders, both historical (Frédéric le Grand, Guillaume Ier, Bismarck) and contemporary (“Dr Schacht, ministre de l’économie du Reich”, Joachim von Ribbentrop, Pierre Laval)… All of them are purportedly supporting “a true socialism, such as that conceived by the victorious Axis powers”, which needs to be grounded in “a spirit of Franco-German collaboration” p. 3.

Given the recent debates in France about “Islamo-leftism” (Islamo-gauchisme), an alleged alliance between leftists and Islamists; or earlier theories regarding a “Judeo-Masonic” conspiracy, it is also striking to see the prevalence of the association and double condemnation of Jews and Communists in the Nazi collection. The Communist scare plays a huge role in Terre de France (CCC.26:4.618), targeting French farmers, which associates Soviet-style communism with the end of the French “peasant” and “peasantry”, denounces a Jewish-Communist conspiracy, and celebrates the German model. The ending consists in a direct injunction for French farmers to pick a side: “Paysan de France, tu dois choisir”…

The illustrated booklet L’armée de la Libération (CCC.26:4.614) uses images to denounce the idealised picture of an engagement in the resistance (escaping the STO, accomplishing heroic actions) as a trap. It contrasts it with an alleged grim reality consisting of victimising the civilian population, as well as committing crime and brutal murders. In the dramatic ending, a man is executed for “not being a Communist”: “the so-called soldier of the liberation, the maquisard, is in reality a common criminal fostering the Bolshevik invasion”… A resistant is pictured on the back cover as a weapon manipulated by the Soviet Union.

Finally, from a pro-Vichy and pro-German perspective, L’armée du crime, from 1944 (Liberation.a.287 and CCA.26:4.505) uses shocking and gruesome images to bolster a discourse where resistants are presented as Jews (or manipulated by a Jewish conspiracy) and Communists (Soviet agents). They are also depicted as criminals, bandits and terrorists. The brochure relates to the notorious “Affiche Rouge” poster, produced in relation to the execution of 23 immigrant French Resistance fighters, members of the Manouchian Group, at the beginning of 1944. The publication ends with a chronological list of exactions (“effrayante ephemeride”) committed by the criminal resistants throughout the months of August 1943 to January 1944. It concludes with the chilling call : “Let’s strangle banditry” accompanied by the haunting picture of a clenched red hand.

Irene Fabry-Tehranchi

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