Nazi racial policies gave certain privileges to so-called “Aryan” Germans—but these privileges came with certain expectations and duties. According to Nazi ideology, each member of the so-called "national community" ("Volksgemeinschaft")1 was responsible for doing their part to maintain the health, strength, and unity of the nation. Nazi propaganda urged “Aryan” Germans to stay healthy and “make sure the bloodstream is passed on pure and unmixed.”2 German citizens were also expected to show support for the Nazi regime3 and contribute to the national economy.
The regime’s demands on its citizens grew as World War II created new economic strains for Nazi Germany. Produced in April 1942, the featured propaganda poster outlines Nazi expectations for individual citizens’ different duties to support the wartime economy. It shows how Nazi authorities demanded that Germans from all different walks of life each do their part to help German forces achieve victory in the war. Farmers are instructed to reject hoarding, merchants are cautioned against trading on the black market, and housewives are warned not to give bribes for food or goods. These demands are framed as “service to the war and preparatory work for victory!”
During the years of World War II, Nazi propaganda described the duties of members of the "national community" in military terms.4 Nazi ideology glorified violence and war. The regime celebrated the camaraderie of soldiers in combat—the so-called “fighting community”—as a model to be followed by everyone. Wartime propaganda frequently encouraged German civilians to behave as if they were all frontline soldiers united together in battle against Allied forces.5 The featured poster states that Germans should all be proud of their different contributions to the wartime economy. But the poster does not just rely on positive reinforcement to make its points. It also warns that severe violations will be punished by the death penalty. Nazi propaganda often relied on a combination of incentives and fear to persuade its audience.6
This large poster—33.13 inches tall by 47.5 inches wide—belongs to the “Word of the Week” series of Nazi propaganda posters. Word of the Week was produced by the Reich Propaganda Directorate of the Nazi Party from 1936–1943. Roughly 125,000 new posters were produced and distributed each week. Their large size, simple graphics, and bright colors were all designed to attract people’s attention. They were known as “wall newspapers” because they were typically placed on the walls of busy gathering spots such as bus stops or train stations.7 These striking posters were put in these highly visible public places so that large numbers of people could not help but see them during their daily routines.