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German Leaflet: "Jewry and Penal Punishment"

Fichte-Bund Propaganda Flyer
US Holocaust Memorial Museum
View this Pamphlet

tags: Americans abroad propaganda

type: Pamphlet

Soon after Adolf Hitler became Chancellor of Germany, the Nazi regime began working to create a positive image of the new Germany in the United States. Its aim was to counter negative press reports about the Reich's violence against political opponents and Jews.1 By the end of the 1930s, as Nazi Germany drove Europe into war, a new goal was added: keep the United States out of the conflict. German officials were well aware of Imperial Germany's failure to sway American public opinion in World War I and sought to avoid that outcome.

Josef Goebbels's Ministry of Propaganda and Public Enlightenment hired prominent American public relations firms to promote favorable views of Hitler's government and targeted various sectors of the American population—German-Americans, tourists, academics, politicians, right-wing organizations—with specific messaging. In 1933, the Ministry began radio transmissions to the Americas. More important, the Ministry distributed large amounts of printed material, supplied in the United States by the German Library of Information and other outlets. The Nazi regime devoted considerable funding and manpower to influencing Americans attitudes. Customs and postal officials calculated that by 1940, the German government was transporting tons of propaganda materials by ship each month, which then would be distributed through the US mail.2

The Fichte Association [Fichte-Bund] was one of the prolific creators and distributors of Nazi propaganda. Controlled by Goebbels's ministry, it spread millions of leaflets across the globe in more than a dozen languages. These publications were provided free of charge and were advertised in newspapers or magazines sympathetic to the Nazi or fascist cause.3

Like much of Nazi propaganda for Western nations, the Fichte Association's leaflets portrayed Hitler as an advocate of world peace, warned of the dangers of Communism, denounced the Versailles Treaty, and declared the benefits of Nazi racial legislation, including sterilization of individuals deemed biologically unfit. Its publications also tried to counter Western critics' claims about Nazi Germany's treatment of the Jews and justify the regime's anti-Jewish measures, often by playing on antisemitic sentiment in the United States. As a deeply negative portrayal of Jews—supported with falsified statistics—the flyer featured here describes Jewishness itself as criminal, a common Nazi characterization.

Although the Fichte Association's materials frequently circulated among far-right political groups in the United States, they also appeared on college and university campuses, where Nazi propagandists hoped to achieve some success. By presenting a positive image of Hitler's Reich and sowing doubt over the accuracy of newspaper reporting about Germany, they attempted to reshape American students' opinions and behaviors.4 Ettore Peretti, an American graduate student attending university in Germany, received the featured leaflet sometime in 1935 or 1936.

For more on Americans' attitudes and responses to the Nazi threat, see the online exhibition Americans and the Holocaust.

Although neither the US Postal Service nor the US Customs Service had kept complete records on the amount of Nazi propaganda entering the country, it supplied the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) with some alarming statistics. One Japanese ship alone transported almost five tons of German materials to the West Coast in a single trip. The Committee reported that additional Japanese freighters had dropped off nearly 10 tons of propaganda from one German publisher over the course of 12 weeks in fall 1940. See Special Committee on Un-American Activities, House of Representatives, Seventy-Eighth Congress, First Session on H. Res. 282, Appendix—Part III, Preliminary Report on Totalitarian Propaganda in the United States, (Washington, DC: United States Government Printing Office, 1941), 1383–1384.

For the activities of the Fichte-Bund in other countries, see Nick Toczek, Haters, Baiters and Would-Be Dictators: Anti-Semitism and the UK-Far Right (London: Routledge, 2016), 240–241; Martin Franzbach, "Deutsche Feindpropaganda nach Spanien und Lateinamerika im I. und II. Weltkrieg," Iberoamericana, 14, no. 1 (1990): 26–e32; Mark M. Hull, "The Irish Interlude: German Intelligence in Ireland, 1939–1943," The Journal of Military History, vol. 66, no. 3 (July, 2002), 695–717, 698–700; R. M. Douglas, "The Pro-Axis Underground in Ireland, 1939–1942," The Historical Journal, vol. 49, No, 4 (2006), 1155–1183.

See information on the Fichte-Bund's activities in Special Committee on Un-American Activities, House of Representatives, Seventy-Eighth Congress, First Session on H. Res. 282, Report on the Axis Front Movement in the United States, First Section—Nazi Activities, Appendix—Part VII), (Washington, DC: United States Government Printing Office, 1943): 35; on the efforts of the Nazis on American college campuses, see Stephen H. Norwood, The Third Reich in the Ivory Tower: Complicity and Conflict on American Campuses (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2009); Stephen H. Norwood, "Legitimating Nazism: Harvard University and the Hitler Regime, 1933–1937," American Jewish History, 92, no. 2 (June 2004), 189–223.

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Archival Information for This Item

Source (Credit)
US Holocaust Memorial Museum
Accession Number 2007.410
Date Created
1935 to 1936
Author / Creator
Fichte-Bund
Language(s)
English
Document Type Pamphlet
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