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.