Propaganda is a form of communication whose major aim is to influence the attitudes of a group of people or community to support the beliefs or values of another person. The information is provided with the key aim of influencing the person who is receiving the information. It does this though selective presentation of facts and loaded messages aimed at pursuing a particular political agenda. During the Second World War it was used by both Axis and Allied forces to pursue their political agendas.
The Axis Powers:
The Nazis used propaganda to influence the public opinion on the Jews and the war (Kallis, 2005). Public media was used by the party before and during the World War 2. They wanted to fulfill their goals of acquiring territories for the perfect German race and kill the Jews through Hitler’s “Final Solution”. Adolf Hitler wrote Mein Kempf where he revealed he had learnt the value of propaganda. He stated that Germany had lost WW1 due to the British propaganda. He established a daily newspaper for the Nazis in 1925 and another propaganda paper was added in 1926. When the Nazi party was in opposition they also used Hitler’s speeches. They also succeeded in having American Anti-war films banned in Germany. The Nazis stressed to the German population that the enemies were those countries that had enforced the treaty of Versailles. It also spread propaganda that the internal enemies of the country were the Jews. The Nazis and Hitler increased the anti-Semitism feelings and resentment in the German people. The Germans were told that the Jews took the fruits of their hard labor while the Jews themselves never actually worked.
A propaganda paper actually said that the Jews were kidnapping small children to use their blood to mix with their Mitzvah for Passover. There were cartoons, fliers, film that spoke ill of the Jews. The Germans who lived in other countries such as Czech, USSR, Poland and France were also targeted by the propaganda media. Hitler urged them of the need to fight for their nationality. He wanted the Germans to have political independence. The Nazis stressed on the territorial land of the Germans. Hitler knew the people were annoyed by the treaty so he worked to intensify hatred for the allied countries. He stated how Germany was being deemed as inferior and less than a country by the treaty. The propaganda was successful in causing the party to get control of the country. In 1939 he spread propaganda that the Polish authorities were organizing violent attacks on the Germans in that country. This was to justify the attack of Poland to the public (Browning, 1998).
The propagandists during the war spread news on the prowess of the German weapons. They also said that the German army was humane towards the people in the invaded countries. They showed the armies of the allied countries as cowards. Since the success of the German soldiers had been greatly advertised the German people demanded to know why the victory was taking so long. This caused more propaganda to be released stating that the allied powers forced the war to happen since they had refused to accept the independence of the German people. In 1944 Hitler even invited the Red Cross to a concentration camp to show them that the Jews were living well. He even set up fake cafeterias and shops. It was a lie though since the camp was just en route to the concentration camp where the Jews were being killed. The Nazis needed to have the support of the public to convince them on the need to fight in the war. Much of the propaganda was dispensed through radio, speeches, posters and newspapers. After the war began the Nazis realized they needed more soldiers so they put up posters of soldiers collaborating with workers together to continue production of the army tanks.
The public were encouraged to conserve materials to aid in materials for the war. It helped since the materials during the war began to be scarce. The posters encouraged the individual person to play their role in conversation of materials. The posters were necessary as most Germans did not want to give up their luxuries. The propaganda also promoted Hitler as a great leader to establish him as the ultimate leader of government. This was to instill loyalty for the Reich in the German population. In the countries they occupied the Nazis made sure they controlled all the media, television, radio and newspapers so as to use them for propaganda to aid them in the war by influencing the Germans in those countries. They also used the broadcasts to discourage the enemy soldiers, to breakdown their morale and discipline. In Italy, there was Radio Corse Libre where Mussolini used the station to spread propaganda on Italy’s territorial possessions. He talked of Corsica which at that time was being controlled by the French. The area had a high population of Italian Descent. The station also reached the country of Spain. The radio was used in Spain to gather support for the Fascist leader Francisco Franco. Mussolini forged an alliance with the Spanish leader that helped Italy in its goal for territorial conquests. The Japanese also used propaganda in the war.
The common media was film where they displayed movies in China after they had invaded it. The propaganda portrayed Japan as the savior of the Asian countries from the Western countries. The Japanese portrayed a romantic bond between the Chinese and Japanese through the films to show that they only wanted the best for the Chinese people and other Asian countries that would be invaded. In China posters were widely used and put up everywhere for the benefit of the Japanese. There were also books and newspapers that depicted the Western culture as corrupt, showed the heroism of the soldiers and war widows shared their stories. They even had radio broadcasts in the Asian countries spreading anti-European sentiment and showing the benefits of the Japanese attacks and rule.
The Allied Countries
The British government also used propaganda in World War 2. There were pamphlets distributed with humor to awaken support for the war effort. One was titled ‘What would happen if Hitler won the war?’ This was to show the public of the need to fight Hitler since his victory would mean life would never be the same again. It said that there would be loss of freedom since people who are not for Hitler would be betrayed by his spies. It was to show the cruelty and dangers of Hitler’s dictatorship. The ministry of Health even issued a publication on ‘How to keep Well in Wartime’. This was to encourage the people to be in the best shape since their labor would be very crucial during the war. The people were even encouraged to be careful in matters of sexual intercourse since if they got sick in hospital, it would mean loss of armies and efficiency. The propaganda showed the evil of the Axis countries, Japan, Italy and Germany while it encouraged the people to have warm sentiment towards the Allies, US and USSR. In Ireland the country had decided to be neutral in the war. The British spread propaganda in the country against the Axis countries in a bid to influence the Irish thoughts towards the war and hating the Germans, Japanese and the Italians (Cole, 2006).
There were also anti-gossip posters distributed. This was to ensure that the British plans were secretive. The people who had access to sensitive information were encouraged to keep quiet. There were slogans with messages such as ‘Your talk may kill your comrades.’ Radio was a cheap method that reached many people. Britain and France also used the radio stations to air anti-German propaganda. These stations even reached Germany and Austria to gather support against Hitler. Other medium used to spread propaganda were leaflets, books, movies and news reels (Fox, 2007).The American government used propaganda to intensify hatred for the enemies and gather support for the allied countries.
They also urged the people to conserve materials so that more could be used for the war. Robert Sherwood, one of President Roosevelt speech writers was the chairman of a committee in 1941 whose purpose was to fight a war of words against the Axis countries. The committee helped gather support for the U.S army but it was also to inform the people in the countries Germany had conquered about America’s involvement in the war. As the Nazi party became more powerful in the 1930’s mass media in America become a powerful tool for gathering support from the people. The government avoided using the word propaganda instead they preferred to call it spreading information. The American people did not want the use of Propaganda in the country since they still had memories of the great use of propaganda in ww1. They felt it had disregarded people’s basic rights and spread a lot of misinformation. The government did not want to use Propaganda but at the end did so due to pressure from advertisers and the media. That is why the word Propaganda was not being used.
In the 1930’s, Roosevelt used the radio for his weekly radio addresses to encourage the people to support his new policies. For the military they used radio to distract the Nazis from the real attack areas. The US and Britain teamed up to create radio broadcasts in the German occupied areas to mislead them on the locations where they were to attack. This was with the hope that the Nazis would be distracted from concentration in North Africa where they launched attacks. In 1944 the government through the use of Hollywood movies and printing presses launched a high level of propaganda to convince the public the need for dealing harshly with the Germans and convincing them that the German people and the Nazi people were the same and not different entities as commonly believed. Posters were printed during the war that had different themes such as recruitment, confidentiality, conservation and production. They were put up in schools, restaurants, railroad stations, retail outlets, private homes and apartment buildings. In the areas the US had occupied in 1945 propaganda was spread by the US armies to discourage the Nazi soldiers by spreading victory of the US (Hartenian, 2003).
Propaganda is an effective non-conventional weapon. The countries involved in World War 2 did not limit themselves to the usual offensive and defensive use of weapons such as bombs, grenades and guns. It was highly effective as it worked to get the support of the people. The young men were excited to fight in the war. Their wives and families were a great support system. Hitler was able to gather the support of the German people yet what he was doing was not right. He killed many Jews and minority races and glorified the German race. Propaganda is used by governments today as a weapon to gather the support of the people on different issues such as the implementation of new policies and laws. It will still be used in the future as a very effective weapon by people interested in the pursuit of their own selfish interests.
Kallis, A.(2005). Nazi Propaganda and the 2nd World War. Baskingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.Fox, J. (2007). Film Propaganda in Britain and Nazi Germany: WW2 Cinema. New York: Berg.
Browning, C. (1998). Ordinary Men: Reserve Police Battalion 101 and the Final Solution in Poland. New York: HarperCollins Publishers.
Cole, R. (2006). Propaganda, Censorship, and Irish Neutrality in the Second World War. Edinburgh, Scotland: Edinburgh University Press.
Hartenian, L. (2003). Controlling Information in US Occupied Germany, 1945-1949: Media Manipulation and Propaganda. Lewiston, N.Y.: Mellen