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The effects of film on WWII propaganda

Without the advent of the medium of film to wage a war of propaganda both the Axis and the Allies of World War II would have found it difficult to gather as much support for their causes as they did. Guns, tanks, and bombs were the principal weapons of World War II, but there were other, more subtle, forms of warfare as well. Words, posters, and films waged a constant battle for the hearts and minds of the masses of the world just as surely as military weapons engaged the enemy.

Persuading the public became a wartime industry, almost as important as the manufacturing of bullets and planes. Both sides launched an aggressive propaganda campaign to galvanize public support, and some of these nation’s foremost intellectuals, artists, and filmmakers became warriors on that front. Propaganda in the broadest sense is the technique of influencing human action by the manipulation of representations. These representations may take the spoken, written, pictorial, or musical form.

Since the cinema uses all four of these types of representations, a filmmaker would seem to wield a lot of power as a propagandist. If he so chooses to use his power to its fullest potential. The essential distinction lies in the intentions of the propagandist to ersuade an audience to adopt the attitude or action he or she espouses. This is ever so prevalent as Hitler gained support from his nation to exterminate the Jewish people from Germany and Europe alike. He adopted such support by using his Nazi propaganda films as a weapon of mass distraction and manipulation of the people of Germany.

If he had not idealized the German soldier as a hero, and bestowed nationalism in his people, and blamed the economic problems of German on the Jewish race then he never would have been able to accomplish what he had in such a short amount of time. The ost famous Nazi propaganda film is Der ewige Jude (“The Eternal Jew”). “Der Ewige Jude” was engineered by Hitler’s 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 world through their control of banking and commerce, yet which still live like animals. The narrator tries to depict the Jew’s behavior as rat like, while showing footage of rats squirming from sewers and leaping at the camera. Using the montage editing technique so as the juxtaposition of the shots would imply to the viewer to connect the rats with the Jewish people.

A very simple and effective technique that is still used today. The film’s most shocking scene is the slaughter of a cow, shown in bloody detail, by a grinning Rabbi- and it is followed by, of all things, three innocent (presumably German) lambs nuzzling each other. Which is yet another example of the editing techniques that Pudoukin discussed. Hitler also provides the emotional climax of the film, with footage of his speech to the Reichstag from 1939.

When preceded by sixty minutes describing the Jewish problem, and followed by thunderous applause, Hitler’s prophetic warning takes on even greater significance: “If the international finance-Jewry inside and outside Europe should succeed in plunging the nations into a world war yet again, then the outcome will not be the victory of Jewry, but rather the annihilation of the Jewish race in Europe! “(Adolph Hitler). The importance of this groundbreaking propaganda is often underestimated. Someone might characterize the film as a X-ray of the decision making process that led to the Holocaust.

It can also be argued that he film is seen as the official promulgation of Hitler’s decision, and that it – together with the feature film Jud Sub- deliberately was used to prepare both perpetrators and bystanders for the extermination of the Jews. The producer Joseph Goebbels knew all to well how to create a film that would not only grasp the publics attention but also a film that would transform them into a flock of sheep, upon which he could lead them into what ever belief he wanted. The masses of German people would stand behind Hitler no matter what happened.

Why wouldn’t they? German propaganda films depicted Adolph Hitler as a kind, family man. Everyone has seen the pictures of Hitler walking around with little Aryan children. Across the lawn of a house, or through a field, while the German shepherd walks around and protects the child. Such a very noble and chivalric ideology. When actually the fact was he was starving, slaughtering, and with out mercy murdering 6 million Jewish men, women, and children. None of the 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 Genocide hey would have to have the people and its army behind them 100%. Through their propaganda they did, and what a achievement just that is. To change the beliefs of a nation. Prior to all of this Hitler had to start the movement towards this propaganda war waged on the silver screen. In 1934, 413 English per 1000 went to the movies each week, 343 per 1000 Americans, and 160 per 1000 French.

In Germany, only 86 of 1000 went to the movies, a far cry from the turn out that the English and Americans had. Now leaving out the fact that at this time the German nation was in a intense depression far worse then that hich was felt in the United States, and without a doubt most of its cinema’s were most likely out of business due in large part to this. The German people didn’t have the money to waste on going to the movies. He had either fix the economic problems or make the cinema come to the people.

Leaving aside the cultural and historic differences between Germany and these other nations, it is clear that increasing German film attendance is among the most important tasks of German film policy, and that doing so would increase the effectiveness of film in propaganda and popular enlightenment. Hitler recognized films effectiveness early. Not only does it influence popular opinion but films relative great costs “pay off”: film stock, equipment, studios, the large technical and artistic staffs, ect. all cost a lot of money, but the result, the finished film, may bring in tens of thousands whose admission fees not only cover the costs, but result in a good profit. Hitler’s answer to the lack of attendance was to establish the extremely powerful Ministry of Propaganda, and to nationalize the film making process. In this propaganda war Germany and its allies seemed to initially have a distinct advantage. Because their governments controlled all media, they ould largely seal off their peoples from Western propaganda.

And only show its people what they wanted them to see. Germany’s people could see nor hear no evil. At the same time, the highly centralized government could plan elaborate propaganda campaigns and mobilize resources to carry out their plans. My making the renting fees low on some of their extra projectors it gave incentive for the come business man to have his own showings because he could make a little profit by doing so. This was a definite win win situation for Hitler. They could also count on aid from Nazi parties and sympathizers in other countries.

Democratic states, on the other hand, could neither prevent their peoples from being exposed to Nazi propaganda nor mobilize all their resources to counter it. Before each new aggressive move by Germany, as for example, against Czechoslovakia in 1938, the German press, radio and newsreels publicized alleged 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 proved effective in dividing populations, weakening the power of the victim to resist, nd causing its allies to hesitate.

Plus bring back films from the fronts lines of various German victories help win more and more support back home, along with helping to recruit young men who too wanted to be like the heroes portrayed by these films. By 1941 Nazi propaganda films were being shown in evening shows 45,000 times every month in areas that are without movie theaters. Nine to ten million citizens see both the latest films and the German Weekly Newsreel. More than 30 million soldiers received relaxation and entertainment from films shown by the party.

In addition the 80,000 to 00,000 veterans of the war that return back to the Reich monthly are shown films in their camps. Between Jan. 1 and Sept. 30 of 1940 33. 7 million adults and 6 million youths were reached by party film shows. The proceeding numbers and facts prove that the task was being met, even when one considers that it was not being carried out by a fully-staffed and experienced team. Ruffly 50% of the Ministry’s people joined the army when the war broke out. Yet they were still able to wield this propaganda and use it to reach 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 support for their causes through propaganda. In 1944 the British Ministry’s Film Division asked Alfred Hitchcock to make two French language adventure movies designed as war propaganda films. They were to be produced to raise the spirits of people in Occupied France and gain support for the French resistance there. So in the winter of 1944 “Aventure malgache”(which translate as “Madagascan Adventure”) and Bon Voyage were made over a four week period in Occupied France.

Having already edited a pair of English war documentaries (that were directed by others) in 1941, Hitchcock onsidered such work to be his patriotic duty, and he immediately accepted the offer. The plan called for Hitchcock to direct refugee French actors in two half-hour French language mini-movies designed to be shown in secret locations in Nazi-held France. Hitchcock wanted to keep the films simple as possible, achieving a dark, black-and-white “film noir” look which he felt the people 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 its viewers.

Hitchcock chose to highlight in the story irony, surprises, moral mbiguity, and the uncertainties of life. The joint venture of the British and the French Nationalist to try to promote these two films fell short by the simple fact that the German Occupied France was isolated by the Germans. Reaching out to the masses of the population of France was all but impossible with the Germans controlling the theaters and projectors. Conducting secret screenings of only a select few people really didn’t have the same christening effect as would showing the films to thousands.

Gathering support in a occupied country was a lost cause when the people are being fed German propaganda every day and eeing the appearance of their unsurpassable strength would be hard to over come, especially after falling victim to it. Besides the fact that the films never reached the masses they were intended for, Hitchcocks inability to resist his temptations to focus on ironies and ambiguities was for the majority the down fall of the two films. Propaganda, especially in a highly political wartime context, strives to glorify one system or ideology and assault the opposing views.

In other words, propaganda needs to be clear, direct, and orthodox, with every perception razor sharp and every moral issue purely black and white. No mbiguity or alternative thinking is allowable. It has often been asserted by critics that propaganda films make bad entertainment: Hitchcock demonstrated that good entertainment can make equally bad propaganda. The films are relatively unknown until their re-release approximately 50 years later. The United States also produced on a large scale propaganda films and newsreels.

Every week a person could go to the movie theater and before the movie started expect to see a newsreel about the war , or war effort that was being fought on our own shores. Even our F. D. R. was known to be filmed in giving a speech to the American people. Reaching out to the people of the United States to pull together as one and stand up to the forces of the day that threatened their freedom was a big undertaking indeed. Allied propaganda efforts were aimed at separating the peoples of the Axis nations from their governments, which were solely to blame for the war.

The United states attempted by sustained campaigns to win to their side the great masses of uncommitted people and thereby achieve their goal. But through the use of film they were able to gain support just like the Germans had with their own propaganda. And just like the German’s we too had pecial organizations in charge of doing just that for the people of our country. During the war the offices in charge of propaganda was the Office of War Information (OWI) in charge of disseminating information at home and abroad, and the Office of Strategic Service (OSS), charged with conducting psychological warfare against the enemy.

Working together they both proved very effective in gaining support at home and abroad. One thing that was different how ever was the fact that once the first concentration camps were liberated, and even before this, we didn’t have to distort the truth about what as going on. What was happening was plain as day, German aggression was in plain view and so was the atrocities they were committing . The only thing we had to do was show the people exactly what was going on, and let them see and decide for themselves.

And in doing this the great many people of this nation pulled together and with out a doubt changed the tides of the war. Conclusion If one compares the directness and intensity of the effect that the various means of propaganda have on the great masses, film is without question the most powerful. The written and spoken word depend entirely on he content or on the emotional appeal of the speaker, but film uses pictures, pictures that for eighty years have been accompanied by sound.

We know that the impact of a message is greater if it is less abstract, more visual. That makes it clear why film, with its series of continually moving images, must have a particular persuasive force. Film is a very effective tool in waging a war. With out it, it would be hard to get the people to stand behind you and support your cause. Without the people it is hard to win a war. Thus I feel that with out films contribution to the propaganda effort the WWII would have been very, very different.

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