Sunday, December 14, 2008

Propaganda

There is quite a wonderful archive of German propaganda from the Nazi years and beyond at the Calvin College website. Propaganda works quite well, and the average person basically accepts it either whole or half heartedly, and so it's worth a look to see something of the point of view of the Germans during the conflict. As an example, the cartoon on the right is quite enlightening. The context is the (from our point of view) accidental bombing of Switzerland, a 'neutral' country (more on that in a later post). The guilty airman is being questioned as to why he made the mistake and his response is that the flags of Switzerland and the Red Cross look so similar. To understand the humor of this cartoon, you have to know that it was a common belief in Germany that the Allies were deliberately bombing hospitals and Red Cross vehicles and facilities. Maybe we were, maybe we weren't. In Chunk Yeager's autobiography, he describes being given an order to go to a particular mile-square grid location in Germany and kill every living thing in it: person, animal, etc. He says he didn't feel too good about it, but he did it because that's what you did when you were given an order, the classic Nürnberg defense. Luckily for him, there are two major requirements for being a war criminal: one is committing the atrocity and the second is losing the war. Victors so write the history books as we know.
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