Fallen Comrade: Nazi Propaganda, 1933 (OPTICC 5)

Depicted with combed hair, clean and innocent faces, and chiseled jaws, this propaganda art makes the audience believe that the soldier depicted were fighting for the right cause. This piece embodies the style and message of most propaganda during World War II, especially throughout Germany and the Soviet union. A German soldier, holding a Nazi flag, looks down solemnly at his fellow soldier lying dead, who is looking up triumphantly at the painted red and purple skies.

The color of the skies may resemble the violence of warfare, which was a magnificent theme during this time, or it could be a symbol for the mourning of this particular death of the Nazi soldier. Obviously, this symbolism is meant to encourage sympathy for Nazi soldiers at war, and imply the message that the Nazis were the victims. The majority of propaganda at this time was to encourage German citizens, along with the citizens of countries aligned with Germany, that the Nazis were “The Good Guys.” The standing soldier is looking down solemnly, but still stands strongly, gripping the Nazi flag, perhaps “for support.” The soldier on the ground looks up with his mouth agape, looking peaceful and not at all in pain. This is a message to the audience that he died knowing it was for a good cause- satisfied with his own death. In reality, any death at war would most likely be a painful one.

Similar to many other aspects of this piece, this Nazi propaganda resembles the other propaganda of this time in that it does not come with a title. Perhaps when it was made and displayed, it held a title, but as it moved through books and archives, that became irrelevant to the meaning. Most Nazi propaganda titles were probably identical, and unimportant to the message to the audience. This was because the real message was either depicted in the art, or in words over the art. For example, another piece like this may have had the words (in German), “Stand with our nation, fight with our nation, die for our nation,” written in the sky. The actual caption from the archive is: “Here a Nazi looks down on a fallen comrade.” This could be a title, but it is not persuasive, and therefore would not have been used as a title during the Holocaust.

The message of this piece is that the Nazi’s are good people, experiencing pain and sadness, and standing strong through it “for the good of Germany.” This particular propaganda was showing the people of Germany that the Nazis who were creating and enforcing the extreme circumstances of World War II were experiencing sorrow, and that they were not to blame. It is influencing Germans to support the Nazi’s, to make sure that the “fallen comrade” is not forgotten, and to make sure that the Nazi’s were victorious.

This is within the context of World War II, wherein governments relied on propaganda to force their people to accept circumstances that were morally unacceptable. The Germans were persuaded to support Hitler through extreme propaganda, portraying Jewish people as terrible people, and essentially “the enemy.” Russians were persuaded to be prideful of the harsh circumstances of their communism and the militarism of Stalin’s rule. Japanese people were convinced that all other Asians were a subspecies, or animals, and deserved to be experimented on, disregarded concerning feelings, controlled, and murdered. Germans were desperately trying to take over Europe, and perhaps eventually the world. In order to do so, they needed the absolute support of their own citizens.

Painted with perfect features in front of a mourning sky, with sorrowful and perseverant expressions, this piece of propaganda art is a perfect representation of how the harsh governments such as Japan, Russia, and Germany, maintained support during World War II. When studying this war, it is important to acknowledge the manipulation of media that happened to sustain control over the people.

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