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German Leaflet: "Jewry and Penal Punishment"

Fichte-Bund Propaganda Flyer
US Holocaust Memorial Museum

Soon after Adolf Hitler was appointed Chancellor of Germany, the Nazi regime began working to create a positive image of Nazi Germany in the United States. The goal was to counter negative reports about the regime's violence against political opponents and Jews.1 By the end of the 1930s, the primary purpose of these efforts was to keep the United States out of World War II.

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

The Fichte Association [Fichte-Bund] was one of the creators and distributors of Nazi propaganda. Controlled by Goebbels' 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 causes.3

Like much of Nazi propaganda for Western nations, the Fichte Association's leaflets portrayed Hitler as an advocate of world peace. It warned of the dangers of communism, denounced the Versailles Treaty, and declared the benefits of Nazi racial legislation—including forced sterilization of people deemed to be genetically "undesirable." Its publications also tried to justify the regime's anti-Jewish measures. This was often done by exploiting American antisemitism. The featured flyer uses false statistics to advance deeply negative and prejudiced beliefs about Jewish people.

Although the Fichte Association's materials frequently circulated among far-right political groups in the United States, they also targeted college and university students. By presenting a positive image of Germany and spreading doubt over the accuracy of newspaper reporting about the Nazi regime, they tried 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 American attitudes and responses to the Nazi threat, visit the related Experiencing History collections, American Witnesses and the Third Reich, Propaganda and the American Public, and US Government Rescue Efforts. There is further information available at the USHMM online exhibit, 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. To learn more, 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.

To learn more about 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; Mark M. Hull, "The Irish Interlude: German Intelligence in Ireland, 1939–1943," The Journal of Military History, 66, no. 3 (July, 2002), 695–717; and R. M. Douglas, "The Pro-Axis Underground in Ireland, 1939–1942," The Historical Journal, 49, no. 4 (2006), 1155–1183.

To learn more about Nazi propaganda campaigns 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); and Stephen H. Norwood, "Legitimating Nazism: Harvard University and the Hitler Regime, 1933–1937," American Jewish History, 92, no. 2 (June 2004), 189–223. For more primary sources on American students and Nazi Germany, see the related Experiencing History collection, American College Students and the Nazi Threat

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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
Document Type Pamphlet
How to Cite Museum Materials

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