By Cadence Summers, VI Form
Nazi Propaganda and its Effect on the United States
An unknown man heils a banner of President George Washington and two banners embroidered with the Swastika on either side. On February 20, 1939, seven months before the start of World War II and George Washington’s birthday, 20,000 Americans gathered in Madison Square Garden, the world’s most famous arena, in support of the Nazi party. For decades, the narrative that the United States was a strictly anti-Nazi nation in the years leading up to and during World War II has eclipsed that of the much more sinister truth. In the years immediately prior to the United States entrance into World War II on December 7, 1941, there were at least 100,000 Nazi sympathizers in the United States. White supremacist groups such as the KKK, who’s numbers were near four million in the 1920s, guaranteed millions more American antisemites and possible Nazi sympathizers. Nazi Germany ruled much of American society, in addition to the entire population of Germany, with an iron fist of deception and its most dangerous weapon: Propaganda.
Hitler regarded propaganda as a “truly terrible weapon in the hands of an expert.” The man he appointed to oversee the creation and dispersion of propaganda proved that it can be as lethal as machine guns and torpedos. Joseph Goebbels headed the Reich Ministry for Propaganda and Public Enlightenment (RMVP) for the entirety of the Holocaust. The Third Reich’s prolific propaganda was due to his shrewd and wicked genius. His tactics for propaganda creation and dispersion increased its efficacy as he, and his team, including visual artists, writers, and filmmakers, created propaganda that would appeal to each man, woman, and child in Germany. The RMVP targeted German adults with countless antisemitic newspapers and posters that vilified everyone who did not fit the ideal Nazi narrative, from Jews to communists to the Allies. Nazis isolated and indoctrinated children using a system of altered school curriculums, children’s books, summer camps, and youth organizations. Often children were indoctrinated before their parents because they were young, naïve, and impressionable and would therefore mold more easily to the new onslaught of Nazi ideology. Nazi propagandists believed that if children were indoctrinated, then hesitant parents who grew up with Jews and were friends with them would be persuaded to align themselves with Nazi ideology in order to protect themselves and their children from the regime.
Catie Summers is a VI student from Amherst, New Hampshire. She enjoys playing field hockey and will be playing at Brown University this fall. In her spare time, she loves to make art and bake with her cousins.