Created by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in June of 1942, the Office of War Information (OWI) designed and spread propaganda both in the United States and abroad during World War II. The OWI produced posters, films, photographs, and exhibitions to promote civilian support of the American war effort, often portraying Nazism as a direct threat to the United States and to American values.1 Many of these materials framed Christianity as inherently American and used religious imagery to evoke American identity.
The featured photo depicts The Nature of the Enemy exhibition, an example of this approach and one of many OWI exhibitions staged on the plaza at Rockefeller Center in New York City during the war.2 Running from May 17 to July 4, 1943, it included a replica of a typical American Protestant church, pictured here. A tableau below reads "The Desecration of Religion," accompanied by a caption: "The simple, colonial church that symbolized American religion has been burned and battered by the Nazis before they barred the door with the sign: 'Closed by the Gauleiter of America.'"3 The tableau also featured quotations from Axis leaders on their supposed derision or rejection of Christianity, for example, "'Adolf Hitler is the true Holy Ghost.' Hanns Kerrl, German Minister for Church Affairs."
A tableau beside the church is titled, "Militarization of Children." Other tableaus included those titled "Abolition of Justice" and "Slave Labour." Partially visible in this photograph is a large banner hung from a building, which reads, "The Enemy plans this for you." The OWI cast "the enemy" here as all Axis nations, not just Nazi Germany.4 The caption suggested that the Axis powers posed a serious threat to American values and underscored that Protestant Christianity was a core feature of American culture. Nevertheless, the exhibit's creators preferred the term religion in the title rather than Christianity or American Christianity.