The effects of film on WWII propaganda Without the advent of the medium of film to wage a war of propagandaboth the Axis and the Allies of World War II would have found it difficult togather as much support for their causes as they did. Guns, tanks, and bombswere the principal weapons of World War II, but there were other, moresubtle, forms of warfare as well. Words, posters, and films waged a constantbattle for the hearts and minds of the masses of the world just as surely asmilitary weapons engaged the enemy. Persuading the public became awartime industry, almost as important as the manufacturing of bullets andplanes. Both sides launched an aggressive propaganda campaign to galvanizepublic support, and some of these nations foremost intellectuals, artists, andfilmmakers became warriors on that front.
Propaganda in the broadest sense is the technique of influencing humanaction by the manipulation of representations. These representations maytake the spoken, written, pictorial, or musical form. Since the cinema uses allfour of these types of representations, a filmmaker would seem to wield a lotof power as a propagandist. If he so chooses to use his power to its fullestpotential. The essential distinction lies in the intentions of the propagandist topersuade an audience to adopt the attitude or action he or she espouses. Thisis ever so prevalent as Hitler gained support from his nation to exterminatethe Jewish people from Germany and Europe alike. He adopted such supportby using his Nazi propaganda films as a weapon of mass distraction andmanipulation of the people of Germany.
If he had not idealized the Germansoldier as a hero, and bestowed nationalism in his people, and blamed theeconomic problems of German on the Jewish race then he never would havebeen able to accomplish what he had in such a short amount of time. Themost famous Nazi propaganda film is Der ewige Jude (The Eternal Jew).Der Ewige Jude was engineered by Hitlers Minister of Propaganda. It was created to legitimize the exclusion, and the ultimately the destruction,of an entire people. It depicts the Jews of Poland as corrupt, filthy, lazy,ugly, and perverse: they are an alien people which have taken over the worldthrough their control of banking and commerce, yet which still live likeanimals.
The narrator tries to depict the Jews behavior as rat like, whileshowing footage of rats squirming from sewers and leaping at the camera. Using the montage editing technique so as the juxtaposition of the shotswould imply to the viewer to connect the rats with the Jewish people. A verysimple and effective technique that is still used today. The films mostshocking scene is the slaughter of a cow, shown in bloody detail, by agrinning Rabbi- and it is followed by, of all things, three innocent(presumably German) lambs nuzzling each other. Which is yet anotherexample of the editing techniques that Pudoukin discussed.Hitler also provides the emotional climax of the film, with footage ofhis speech to the Reichstag from 1939.
When preceded by sixty minutesdescribing the Jewish problem, and followed by thunderous applause, Hitlersprophetic warning takes on even greater significance: If the internationalfinance-Jewry inside and outside Europe should succeed in plunging thenations into a world war yet again, then the outcome will not be the victory ofJewry, but rather the annihilation of the Jewish race in Europe!(AdolphHitler). The importance of this groundbreaking propaganda is oftenunderestimated. Someone might characterize the film as a X-ray of thedecision making process that led to the Holocaust.
It can also be argued thatthe film is seen as the official promulgation of Hitlers decision, and that it -together with the feature film Jud Sub- deliberately was used to prepare bothperpetrators and bystanders for the extermination of the Jews.The producer Joseph Goebbels knew all to well how to create a filmthat would not only grasp the publics attention but also a film that wouldtransform them into a flock of sheep, upon which he could lead them intowhat ever belief he wanted. The masses of German people would standbehind Hitler no matter what happened. Why wouldnt they? Germanpropaganda films depicted Adolph Hitler as a kind, family man. Everyonehas seen the pictures of Hitler walking around with little Aryan children. Across the lawn of a house, or through a field, while the German shepherdwalks around and protects the child. Such a very noble and chivalricideology. When actually the fact was he was starving, slaughtering, and without mercy murdering 6 million Jewish men, women, and children.
None ofthe films that the Ministry of Propaganda ever made depicted any of that. Why? If they had, no one would have joined a cause for something like that,and they knew that if they were to commence with the plains of the Genocidethey would have to have the people and its army behind them 100%. Through their propaganda they did, and what a achievement just that is.
Tochange the beliefs of a nation.Prior to all of this Hitler had to start the movement towards thispropaganda war waged on the silver screen. In 1934, 413 English per 1000went to the movies each week, 343 per 1000 Americans, and 160 per 1000French. In Germany, only 86 of 1000 went to the movies, a far cry from theturn out that the English and Americans had. Now leaving out the fact that atthis time the German nation was in a intense depression far worse then thatwhich was felt in the United States, and without a doubt most of its cinemaswere most likely out of business due in large part to this. The German peopledidnt have the money to waste on going to the movies. He had either fix theeconomic problems or make the cinema come to the people.
Leaving aside the cultural and historic differences between Germanyand these other nations, it is clear that increasing German film attendance isamong the most important tasks of German film policy, and that doing sowould increase the effectiveness of film in propaganda and popularenlightenment. Hitler recognized films effectiveness early. Not only does itinfluence popular opinion but films relative great costs pay off: film stock,equipment, studios, the large technical and artistic staffs, ect., all cost a lot ofmoney, but the result, the finished film, may bring in tens of thousands whoseadmission fees not only cover the costs, but result in a good profit. Hitlersanswer to the lack of attendance was to establish the extremely powerfulMinistry of Propaganda, and to nationalize the film making process.In this propaganda war Germany and its allies seemed to initially havea distinct advantage.
Because their governments controlled all media, theycould largely seal off their peoples from Western propaganda. And onlyshow its people what they wanted them to see. Germanys people could seenor hear no evil. At the same time, the highly centralized government couldplan elaborate propaganda campaigns and mobilize resources to carry outtheir plans.
My making the renting fees low on some of their extra projectorsit gave incentive for the come business man to have his own showingsbecause he could make a little profit by doing so. This was a definite win winsituation for Hitler. They could also count on aid from Nazi parties andsympathizers in other countries. Democratic states, on the other hand, couldneither prevent their peoples from being exposed to Nazi propaganda normobilize all their resources to counter it. Before each new aggressive move by Germany, as for example, againstCzechoslovakia in 1938, the German press, radio and newsreels publicizedalleged evidence of persecution of German minorities in the victim country. Incidents were manufactured and exploited to justify German intervention.The German war machine was depicted as invincible. The technique provedeffective in dividing populations, weakening the power of the victim to resist,and causing its allies to hesitate.
Plus bring back films from the fronts lines ofvarious German victories help win more and more support back home, alongwith helping to recruit young men who too wanted to be like the heroesportrayed by these films. By 1941 Nazi propaganda films were being shown in evening shows45,000 times every month in areas that are without movie theaters. Nine toten million citizens see both the latest films and the German WeeklyNewsreel.
More than 30 million soldiers received relaxation andentertainment from films shown by the party. In addition the 80,000 to100,000 veterans of the war that return back to the Reich monthly are shownfilms in their camps. Between Jan.
1 and Sept. 30 of 1940 33.7 million adultsand 6 million youths were reached by party film shows. The proceedingnumbers and facts prove that the task was being met, even when oneconsiders that it was not being carried out by a fully-staffed and experiencedteam. Ruffly 50% of the Ministrys people joined the army when the warbroke out. Yet they were still able to wield this propaganda and use it toreach out to far more people then they other wise would have been able to.The French and British also attempted to fight back and gain supportfor their causes through propaganda. In 1944 the British Ministrys FilmDivision asked Alfred Hitchcock to make two French language adventuremovies designed as war propaganda films.
They were to be produced to raisethe spirits of people in Occupied France and gain support for the Frenchresistance there. So in the winter of 1944 Aventure malgache(whichtranslate as Madagascan Adventure) and Bon Voyage were made over afour week period in Occupied France. Having already edited a pair of Englishwar documentaries (that were directed by others) in 1941, Hitchcockconsidered such work to be his patriotic duty, and he immediately acceptedthe offer.The plan called for Hitchcock to direct refugee French actors in twohalf-hour French language mini-movies designed to be shown in secretlocations in Nazi-held France.
Hitchcock wanted to keep the films simple aspossible, achieving a dark, black-and-white film noir look which he felt thepeople of Occupied France could relate to. Walking in the dark shadows,telling secrets in dark corners, a very effective way to associate the film to itsviewers. Hitchcock chose to highlight in the story irony, surprises, moralambiguity, and the uncertainties of life.
The joint venture of the British and the French Nationalist to try topromote these two films fell short by the simple fact that the GermanOccupied France was isolated by the Germans. Reaching out to the massesof the population of France was all but impossible with the Germanscontrolling the theaters and projectors. Conducting secret screenings of onlya select few people really didnt have the same christening effect as wouldshowing the films to thousands. Gathering support in a occupied country wasa lost cause when the people are being fed German propaganda every day andseeing the appearance of their unsurpassable strength would be hard to overcome, especially after falling victim to it. Besides the fact that the films neverreached the masses they were intended for, Hitchcocks inability to resist histemptations to focus on ironies and ambiguities was for the majority the downfall of the two films. Propaganda, especially in a highly political wartime context, strives toglorify one system or ideology and assault the opposing views. In otherwords, propaganda needs to be clear, direct, and orthodox, with everyperception razor sharp and every moral issue purely black and white.
Noambiguity or alternative thinking is allowable. It has often been asserted bycritics that propaganda films make bad entertainment: Hitchcockdemonstrated that good entertainment can make equally bad propaganda. The films are relatively unknown until their re-release approximately 50 yearslater. The United States also produced on a large scale propaganda films andnewsreels. Every week a person could go to the movie theater and before themovie started expect to see a newsreel about the war , or war effort that wasbeing fought on our own shores.
Even our F.D.R. was known to be filmed ingiving a speech to the American people. Reaching out to the people of theUnited States to pull together as one and stand up to the forces of the day thatthreatened their freedom was a big undertaking indeed.
Allied propaganda efforts were aimed at separating the peoples of theAxis nations from their governments, which were solely to blame for the war. The United states attempted by sustained campaigns to win to their side thegreat masses of uncommitted people and thereby achieve their goal. Butthrough the use of film they were able to gain support just like the Germanshad with their own propaganda. And just like the Germans we too hadspecial organizations in charge of doing just that for the people of ourcountry.
During the war the offices in charge of propaganda was the Office ofWar Information (OWI) in charge of disseminating information at home andabroad, and the Office of Strategic Service (OSS), charged with conductingpsychological warfare against the enemy. Working together they both provedvery effective in gaining support at home and abroad. One thing that wasdifferent how ever was the fact that once the first concentration camps wereliberated, and even before this, we didnt have to distort the truth about whatwas going on. What was happening was plain as day, German aggressionwas in plain view and so was the atrocities they were committing . The onlything we had to do was show the people exactly what was going on, and letthem see and decide for themselves. And in doing this the great many peopleof this nation pulled together and with out a doubt changed the tides of thewar.ConclusionIf one compares the directness and intensity of the effect that thevarious means of propaganda have on the great masses, film is withoutquestion the most powerful.
The written and spoken word depend entirely onthe content or on the emotional appeal of the speaker, but film uses pictures,pictures that for eighty years have been accompanied by sound. We knowthat the impact of a message is greater if it is less abstract, more visual. Thatmakes it clear why film, with its series of continually moving images, musthave a particular persuasive force. Film is a very effective tool in waging awar. With out it, it would be hard to get the people to stand behind you andsupport your cause.
Without the people it is hard to win a war. Thus I feelthat with out films contribution to the propaganda effort the WWII wouldhave been very, very different.BibliographyDer exige Jude: Quellenkritische Analyse eines antisemititschenPropagandaf ilms, Institute Fur Wissenschaftlichen Film, Gottingen,1995,p.
134Ellul, Jacques, Propaganda: The Formation of Mens Attitudes. New York:Alfred A. Knoph, 1965.Hippler, Fritz, Der Film als Waffe, Unser Wille und Weg, 7(1937),pp.21-23.Propaganda, Microsoft Encarta Online Encyclopedia 2000.Words/ Pages : 2,454 / 24