Anti-Allied propaganda in Cambridge University Library’s Nazi Collection

We recently wrote a blog post about a recently catalogued collection of Nazi propaganda. Among these items were some specifically anti-British and anti-American publications which are well worth examining. For instance, the humorous graphic concertina leaflet (leporello) L’Olympiade 1941 (CCC.26:4.620) by Apis (pseudonym for Jean Chaperon, 1887-1969) makes fun of the Allied defeat in Greece, presented in the guise of a failed competition of the British team at the aptly named ‘Olympic games’, under the gaze of Jupiter. In the first two vignettes, a group of Tommies landing in Greece are welcomed with enthusiasm by a young man in traditional Greek costume. But very quickly, the challenge turns sour: the British run away from the German enemy and their best performances consist in their speed at taking flight (running, marathon, jumping, rowing and swimming). The grim outcome is death: “Morts à l’arrivée”.

Deuxième front… Terre brûlée (1944, CCA.26:4.506) blames the Allied forces for the destruction of France (affirming in passing that the British forces are mainly made up of foreign, rather than English men). It depicts the damage caused by the Allied bombardments on French territory as the result of a conscious “scorched earth” policy resulting from a Bolshevik and Jewish conspiracy. Opening a Second Front on French soil would result in the annihilation of France, including Paris. All hopes for a Liberation by the Allied forces and / or support to the resistance would only lead to death and destruction of France and French people, and to civil war. Supporting Pétain and the Vichy regime (against “le gaullisme, le giraudisme, le bolchevisme, le terrorisme”) is presented as the only way to keep “order” and ensure the “defence” of the country…

Issuing fake publications attributed to the enemy is one of the techniques used in the Nazi propaganda collection. This could lead to doubt and questioning in the minds of the readers. Initially, the fake news material and pamphlets look like they originate from the Allies, but reading through them, it becomes clear that they in fact emanate from Nazi Germany and aim to discourage or lower the spirits of the resistance and of people susceptible to questioning the authority of the Vichy regime and eventually -when a potential German defeat is on the horizon- the Nazi military power. Libération (CCC.26:4.607), whose cover suggests (wrongly) that it is a publication by “vos amis de la RAF”, the Royal Air Force, describes the bombing of French civilian targets, including churches, as an (outrageous) action to “avenge the persecuted Jews”. It consists mainly of alarming statistics regarding the presumed growth of the number of Jewish people in France (since the Middle Ages…).

We protest, 1944 (CCC.26:4.608), whose content is actually written in French, is presented as a protestation by Anglo-American soldiers against the reductive image of a feeble and cowardly German army presented in the media. It argues instead, using quotes of Allied military leaders, and of soldiers on the ground, of the admirable efficiency, determination and excellency of the German troops. The aim is to demoralise the Anglo-American troops engaged in the European war, and the public opinion in the Allied countries regarding a potential victory of the Allied forces against the Germans.

Another propaganda method is from the German perspective to quote the Allied enemies, pointing out the contradictions and hypocrisy of the discourse of the opposite camp throughout the course of the war. Mon allié Staline de Winston Churchill, by Arnold Littmann, CCC.26:4.601, is a collection of quotes by Churchill in the American and British press, accompanied by satirical drawings. It denounces the hypocrisy of a leader previously vehemently against Communism, who eventually became allied with Stalin after the termination of the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact in June 1941 (when  Germany eventually attacked the Soviet Union).

The collection at CCA-CCC.26 deals with National Socialism and its origins, from the early decades of the 20th century to the 1950s. In a very sinister way, a special issue of L’Assiette au beurre (CCA.26:4.507) published in 1944 compiles satirical drawings from previous issues and recalls a history of xenophobic and antisemitic French publications in the early years of the 20th century. It derides the visit to London of the French President Émile Loubet under King Edward VII, and the Entente cordiale agreement of 1904. Through disturbing images, the reprints implicitly reply to the condemnation of the German treatment of Jewish people by depicting the fate of Boer civilians during the Second Boer War in South Africa (1899-1902) (including their detention in military concentration camps). It also provides a gruesome depiction of the British “colonising and civilising” of Africa.

L’Assiette au beurre also denounces the hypocrisy of America, the “free and strong country” of the “Good Roosevelt”, given its treatment of black people, and includes the picture of a lynched and hanged black man (in a similar way, the US have recently been accused of applying double standards while criticising the human rights abuses of Uyghurs in Xinjiang, because of the incarceration of undocumented immigrant Latino children, separated from their families, under the Trump presidency; or while speaking against the Rohingya genocide in Myanmar, when experiencing entrenched institutional racism which led to the Black Lives Matter movement). The special issue also embraces antisemitic stereotypes in the caricature of cynical rich and fat Jews making their fortune on the back of a mass of (working) people…

Irene Fabry-Tehranchi

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