Sunday, December 02, 2012

"Trust the German soldier" (France, 1940)

1. The first German propaganda poster, France (1940) 
[Cumbria County Archives & Local Studies Centre]
2. 'Occupied France' (1940) display
[Musée de l'Armée, Invalides (Paris VII)]
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In English
"Abandoned populations, trust the German soldier".
In French:
«POPULATIONS abandonnées, 
faites confiance 
AU SOLDAT ALLEMAND!» 
For additional information click on 'Comments' below.

2 Comments:

Blogger Cathie said...

Thanks for the great poster, Joseph. can only agree with what you wrote : by using the term 'abandoned' the Nazis wanted to focus on the uselessness of the French leaders, or so-called leaders, and therefore insist on the necessity of a collaboration with the German rulers. A notion that would happily and unfortunately be picked up by the so-called French leaders of the Vichy regime.

Sunday, 02 December, 2012  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

Additional information

The first German propaganda poster, Occupied France (1940):
"Abandoned populations, trust the German soldier".
« POPULATIONS abandonnées, faites confiance AU SOLDAT ALLEMAND ! »

The wartime photograph of a German propaganda poster comes from the photographic collection of Mlle. Maud Olga Andrée Baudot de Rouville, whose WW2 'nom de guerre' was "Thérèse Martin". "Thérèse" was a French Red Cross worker in German Occupied France during both World Wars.

Additionally, in the Second World War "Thérèse" became an active 'lieutenant' in the resistance network. She was a member of the 'PAT' escape and evasion network which assisted escapees and Allied service personnel to escape from the Occupied Zone, return to the UK to rejoin their units and continue the struggle against the Nazi Occupiers.

It is believed the photograph dates from late 1940 or 1941 in the Lille area of northern France. Another act of resistance was taking photographs and getting these over to the Allies in London, often by the escape lines. This photograph may be an extra copy of one sent over to London during the war. According to the Musée de l'Armée, Paris, this German propaganda poster was the first in a series distributed by the Nazi Occupiers. They were designed to persuade the French population they had nothing to fear from the German soldier now that the fighting was over.

On the contrary, the poster attempts to portray the idealised image of the 'clean cut' German soldier - tall, blond, handsome and smiling. This blond Aryan Adonis carries in his arms a young French boy wearing the French black beret. Further, the young French boy is eating what appears to be a buttered slice of bread. It implies this has been provided by the caring German soldier. There are two other figures on the poster - young French girls timidly looking upwards with eager anticipation at the sight of a buttered slice of bread.

Looking at the image, the impression conveyed is that the young girls are reassured by the strength and protection of the caring German soldier. Overall, it implies that the young children of France, and indeed the whole of France, who have been abandoned, betrayed and left famishing by their former leaders have now found a new protector and bread winner in their midst. Who is this new protector of 1940? It is the German soldier.

The slogan printed in large red and black lettering attempts to reinforce the image:

"Abandoned POPULATIONS - trust THE GERMAN SOLDIER!"

In the original French this is:

« POPULATIONS abandonnées, faites confiance AU SOLDAT ALLEMAND ! »

The large format poster (123 cm x 87 cm) was designed by the Viennese born illustrator Theo Matejko (1893-1946). His signature can be seen on the image, just below the German soldier's helmet.

Although not necessarily representative of all French civilians in Occupied France, even from the earliest days of the Occupation there were those who knew that the reality was far from the image portrayed by the poster. For those such as "Thérèse" who were active in the resistance from the earliest days of the Occupation, there would be many long, hard days and nights before they were liberated.
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Acknowledgements

Cumbria County Archives & Local History Centre
(Whitehaven Records Office)
Scotch Street, WHITEHAVEN, Cumbria.

Musée de l'Armée,
Hôtel national des Invalides
129 rue de Grenelle,
PARIS 7e, France.
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Sunday, 02 December, 2012  

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