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Propaganda Film on Community Welfare

A propaganda film promoting the Winter Relief fund.
US Holocaust Memorial Museum, Courtesy of the Bundesarchiv

When the Nazi Party rose to power in early 1933, the new regime took control of Germany’s political, social, and cultural activities through a process known as Gleichschaltung (German for “coordination”). Sporting events, recreational activities, and even charity drives became controlled by groups associated with the Nazi Party.1 Nazi leaders believed that participation in community charity events would promote a sense of shared responsibility and kinship among members of the Nazis' so-called "national community" ("Volksgemeinschaft").2

The National Socialist People’s Welfare (Nationalsozialistische Volkswohlfahrt, or NSV) was originally established in 1932 to provide Nazi Party members with emergency assistance. After the Nazi rise to power, the NSV rapidly expanded and absorbed many private charity organizations. Each year from 1933–1945, the NSV ran a months-long charity drive known as the Winter Relief Fund (Winterhilfswerk). This charity campaign provided items like food, clothing, and coal to Germans in need during the cold winter months—if they were so-called “Aryans” in good standing with the Nazi regime.3 German citizens were urged to donate money, volunteer at soup kitchens, or make Christmas ornaments.

The featured film was created in 1942 to mark the achievements of ten years of NSV charity work. The film shows people donating money and food to the Winter Relief Fund, preparing large pots of soup, and making Christmas ornaments. Nazi leader Adolf Hitler is pictured making a public donation. The film also uses Disney-like animation to represent the achievements of the Winter Relief Fund.4 Happy cartoon fish and livestock show how much food was collected and distributed. In the featured clip, one of the Winter Relief Fund’s Christmas ornaments of Santa Claus comes to life. Toys representing the charity’s yearly contributions march out of Santa’s sack.5

Annual charity campaigns first became a regular feature of German life during the Great Depression in the last years of the Weimar Republic. In 1933, Nazi authorities absorbed and adapted this tradition to advance Nazi propaganda about national unity and racial camaraderie.6 This charity campaign was specifically designed to generate public support for the regime. Nazi Minister for Propaganda and Public Enlightenment Joseph Goebbels oversaw the operation of the Winter Relief Fund each year. Goebbels declared that “the entire community will pay us allegiance when we come to the aid of the poorest of the poor and prove to them by deed that the concept of the people's community is not an empty phrase.”7

Although the Winter Relief Fund was designed to increase support for the regime, it became a source of resentment for many Germans. Many questioned how the money that was collected was actually being spent. Some people felt forced or shamed into giving donations. The aggressive “can rattlers” of the Winter Relief Fund became so unpopular that one police officer joked that pretending to ask for donations to the charity drive was the quickest way to break up a crowd. Some Germans even mocked the Winter Relief Fund’s slogan—“No one should go hungry or freeze”—by changing it to “No one has to go hungry without freezing, too!”8

The German Labor Front created the "Strength through Joy" program ("Kraft durch Freude") in November 1933 to structure workers' recreation time and build popular support for the Nazi regime.

To learn more about the "Strength through Joy" program, see Shelley Baranowski, Strength through Joy: Consumerism and Mass Tourism in the Third Reich (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004). Also see the related Experiencing History items, Photograph of "Strength through Joy" Event at Strandbad Wannsee and Photograph of a "Strength through Joy" Car.

To learn more about how the Nazi regime attempted to build public support for the Nazi program through the use of seemingly positive propaganda, see the Experiencing History collection, Nazi Propaganda and National Unity.

Nazi officials removed people from the list of Winter Relief Fund beneficiaries if they did not meet the regime’s expectations of social conformity and political support. To learn more, see Aryeh L. Unger, "Propaganda and Welfare in Nazi Germany," Journal of Social History 4, no. 2 (Winter, 1970-1971): 125–140.

Nazi authorities admired Hollywood movies and Disney animation, but they wanted to establish German alternatives to rival or surpass the achievements of the American film industry. In summer 1941, Nazi Minister of Propaganda and Public Enlightenment Joseph Goebbels oversaw the establishment of the German Animation Film Company (Deutsche Zeichenfilm G.m.b.H.) to produce Nazi-approved animation inspired by Disney films. To learn more, see Rolf Giesen and J.P. Storm, Animation Under the Swastika: A History of Trickfilm in Nazi Germany, 1933–1945 (Jefferson, NC: McFarland and Company, Inc., 2012).

The Nazi regime absorbed and adapted many German traditions for its own purposes—including Christmas. Nazi propaganda used traditional Christmas icons like Santa Claus even as it tried redefining the holiday as a modern expression of ancient Germanic pagan traditions. To learn more, see Joe Perry, "Nazifying Christmas: Political Culture and Popular Celebration in the Third Reich," Central European History 38, no. 4 (2005): 572–605.

For more on Nazi ideals of racial camaraderie, see the related Experiencing History item, Report on the Camaraderie House for Female Students of Göttingen.

Joseph Goebbels, quoted in Aryeh L. Unger, "Propaganda and Welfare in Nazi Germany," Journal of Social History 4, no. 2 (Winter, 1970–1971), 137.

To learn more about how people used humor as a response to the policies of the Nazi regime, see F.K.M. Hillenbrand, Underground Humour in Nazi Germany, 1933–1945 (London: Routledge, 1995).

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Das Aufkommen der Winterhilfswerke erzielte von Jahr zu Jahr höhere Leistungen und beträgt seit 1933 bis heute insgesamt über 5 Milliarden Reichsmark. Diese Mittel waren und sind ausschließlich für soziale Zwecke bestimmt.

The revenue generated by Winter Relief reached higher amounts from year to year, and from 1933 to the present day it adds up to more than RM 5 billion in all. These funds were, and are, reserved exclusively for social [that is, charitable] purposes.


Archival Information for This Item

Source (Credit)
US Holocaust Memorial Museum, Courtesy of the Bundesarchiv
Accession Number 2005.64.1
RG Number RG-60.3411
Source Number 2562
Date Created
Duration 00:01:10
Sound Yes
Moving Image Type Newsreel
How to Cite Museum Materials

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