CRY “HAVOC!” AND LET SLIP THE DOGS OF WAR: PROPAGANDA FROM THE WOLFSONIAN-FIU LIBRARY
Just today, a crate containing a large number of children’s propaganda books and ephemera from The Wolfsonian-FIU library returned from a loan to the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. These items had been included in the exhibition Century of the Child: Growing by Design 1900-2000,on view between July and November 2012. The exhibit had been organized by Juliet Kinchin, Curator, and Aidan O’Connor, Curatorial Assistant, Department of Architecture and Design. While in the organizing stage, both curators had visited the Wolfsonian and asked to include in their show a number of Italian fascist and Second World War children’s propaganda materials. See my earlier blog post about their visit.
The Wolfsonian-FIU library holds a large number of children’s propaganda books and vintage postcards produced during the First and Second World Wars. In reflecting on the use of animal imagery and allegory in these items, I thought about just how many of them specifically referenced dogs either as national symbols or leaders. Such reflections led to today’s blog post, which looks at images of dogs in war propaganda.
During the First World War, the Germans published a children’s book titled: Vater ist im Kriege (or, Father is at War). With verse written by Rudolf Presber and romanticized illustrations of war provided by Ludwig Berwald-Halensee, the book attempted to explain to children something of the nature of the conflict. One particular illustrated page depicts a hound dog leading an elderly “Samaritan”-soldier of the Red Cross in a search for wounded survivors on a snowy battlefield.
While this particular children’s book aimed to provide children with a realistic (if highly romanticized) view of war, most of the dogs appearing in other propaganda were more blatantly satirical in nature.
During the First World War, the Allies created children’s propaganda that vilified Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany, whom they blamed for unleashing the carnage of the global conflict. In an adaptation of An Elegy on the Death of a Mad Dog—a children’s book originally illustrated by Randolph Caldecott and published in 1879—an updated parody illustrated by Lewis Christopher Edward Baumer (1870-1963) pictured Kaiser Wilhelm as the “Mad Dog of Potsdam.”
Since dachshunds are a breed of dog commonly associated with the Germans, the Kaiser is transformed into a rabid hound that bites a Belgian and threatens French women and children.
Ultimately, however, the tale has a happy ending. The Kaiser-hound is chased off by a Russian Cossack, John Bull, Marianne, a French poodle, English bulldog, etc. At the story’s end, the Belgian recovers and the rabid dog dies.
GIFT OF PAMELA K. HARER
The French produced a series of postcards early on in the war that focused on the pitiable fate of refugee children in Belgium and France. In one particularly poignant postcard designed to emphasize German inhumanity, two orphaned refugees drink water from a dog’s bowl with a title that reads: “A dog that is not a “Boche [derogatory term for a German].”
GIFT OF JOSEPH MISCIONE
Following the entrance of the United States into the conflict in 1917, the American public was barraged by an anti-German propaganda campaign that did not limit its condemnation to the Kaiser and his military command, but also implicated the German people as a whole. Towards that end, the Illustrated Postal Card & Novelty Company of New York published a series of humorous propaganda postcards illustrated by Bernhardt Wall (1872-1956). While at least one pictured patriotic American pups in red, white, and blue, several depicted the German enemy as dachshunds.
Far from presenting a threatening appearance, these hotdogs look ridiculous sporting their spiked helmets and iron cross medals and are invariably and easily brought under control by Uncle Sam, the American eagle, and U.S. soldiers.
Dachshunds make an appearance in other propaganda pieces published in the United States during the Second World War. In contrast to the propaganda campaign unleashed by Woodrow Wilson during the First World War, President Franklin Roosevelt and the Office of War Information consciously distinguished between the evil Nazi dictators and the “good” German people under their thrall. Consequently, the German dachshunds depicted in American WWII propaganda tend to be more ambivalent than evil. In one satirical postcard, a smug dachshund questions the bare-bottomed Fuehrer (aka Adolf Hitler) concerning the Russian campaign.
MITCHELL WOLFSON, JR. LONG-TERM LOAN
In Yussuf the Ostrich, a book depicting the American liberation of North Africa from the Nazis, an ostrich captured by the Germans is put to work shining boots and walking a pair of dachshunds wearing Nazi armbands.
When Yussuf learns of the Nazi’s plans, he plots his own escape, aided and abetted by the adorable dachshunds—a plot twist reflecting President Roosevelt’s hopes that good Germans would rise up and overthrow their evil Nazi masters.
GIFT OF PAMELA K. HARER
Other American children’s books published during the Second World War also included dogs, most often in a supporting role. In one coloring book, for example, a mutt sporting a red and white striped ribbon leads the charge of two uniformed children driving a tank and jeep.
GIFT OF FRANCIS XAVIER LUCA & CLARA HELENA PALACIO-DE LUCA
In a book written for African-American children, a patriotic spaniel helps Nicodemus and his friends participate in a scrap drive.
GIFT OF PAMELA K. HARER
Dogs are the central characters in The Ordeal of Oliver Airdale, or, To the Dogs and Back, a biting satire written and illustrated by Donald Thompson Carlisle (1894-?). The story of Oliver Airdale roughly parallels the life and presidency of Franklin Roosevelt, and lauds his foresight and early recognition of the threat posed by the rise of Der Pootsch in Hundia.
The cast of characters includes: Airdale, his wife and whelps (the Roosevelt family);
Der Pootsch (Hitler);
a bulldog in a bowler hat (Churchill) unmoved by the ravings of a Nazi general (Hermann Göring);
various fifth columnists including a Skye Terrier advocating appeasement (Charles Lindbergh);
Eastern European refugees;
GIFT OF FRANCIS XAVIER LUCA & CLARA HELENA PALACIO LUCA
Our Russian allies in the war also depicted the enemy as dogs in their propaganda campaigns. Viktor Nikolaevich Deni (1893-1946), for example, produced a number of caricatures of Hitler leading Benito Mussolini and other fascist allies around on leashes.
The Germans and their collaborators also used children’s books featuring dogs for propaganda purposes during the Second World War. In a children’s book published in German-occupied Netherlands, a flighty Dutch duck, an ugly English Bulldog, Russian bear, and Gallic Rooster, and Democratic donkey plot with Jewish rats to keep Flits (the noble German shepherd) cooped up.
Ultimately, Flits escapes his bonds, thwarts their evil machinations, and reestablishes order over the farm.
Of course, Nazi propaganda did not go unopposed in the occupied territories. At the war’s end French resistance and freedom fighters published a two-volume edition of La Bete est Morte! in which Nazi’s are depicted as the evil cousin of man’s best friend, the big, bad wolf.
GIFTS OF PAMELA K. HARER