Honoring Women and Heckling Hitler

What do a Florida International University history class, a Miami Beach Crypt Cracking event, and Women’s History month all have in common? Each of these have a connection to The Wolfsonian–FIU, where student researchers, museum members and visitors, and our online blog fans can juxtapose and make curious connections between such seemingly disparate things as objects and artifacts lampooning der Führer and others hailing the contributions of women to victory over the Axis.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Gift of Francis Xavier Luca & Clara Helena Palacio Luca

In February and March, The Wolfsonian–FIU Library hosted forty Florida International University students enrolled in Professor Terrence G. Peterson’s European History courses on “Nazism and the Holocaust” and “World War II.” Groups of students were assigned to specific archives or topics, including historical artifacts investigating gender roles in the Second World War.

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Some of the students made use of Second World War veterans’ memorabilia documenting the days when the beach served as an Army Air Forces training camp and Miami’s version of “Rosie the Riveter” helped keep ’em healthy and “Keep ’em Flying.”

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Judith Berson-Levinson Collection

These materials were collected by the veteran celebration organizer, Judith Berson-Levinson for an exhibition titled Sand in their Boots, which she later organized as an archive and donated to our museum.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Judith Berson-Levinson Collection

Other students focused on photographs taken by Mel Victor of the campaigns in the Pacific Theater;

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, The Mel Victor WWII Pacific Theater Collection, gift of Donna Victor

…materials preserved and donated by Aristotle Ares documenting his service aboard the USS Yorktown carrier stationed in the Pacific;

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…morale-boosting items from the Victory Gold Levi Collection of home-front ephemera;

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Victory Gold Levi Collection

…photographs, maps, and documents from the Thomas Barrett Archive documenting the air war over North Africa and Italy;

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Thomas Barrett Archive, gift of Susannah Troner

…a large collection of broadsides printed by the German military and Italian Fascists, as well as by the Allied Army forces liberating and occupying the Italian peninsula;

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

…anti-Axis propaganda leaflets and novelty works designed by the U.S. Government for use in neutral and occupied territories, and envelopes stamped with humorous anti-Axis messages for the home front;

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Loan

…anti-Allied propaganda produced by the Nazis and Fascists in support of Mussolini’s Republic of Salò;…

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

…children’s propaganda books (many donated by Pamela K. Harer) targeting younger audiences on all sides of the conflict;

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Gifts of Pamela K. Harer

…and a variety of historical artifacts (including broadsides, posters, booklets, portfolio plates, postcards, and personal correspondences) dealing with women and the war.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Gifts of Leonard A. Lauder

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Purchase

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Gift of Martijn F. Le Coultre

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Gift of Jean S. and Frederic A. Sharf

Some of the students homed in on a set of personalized illustrated postcards and letters written by a young schoolgirl to her brother in the service. These notes not only reveal the attitudes of young persons on the home front, but are probably an example of how patriotic children were encouraged to correspond with servicemen to keep up their morale.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Gift of Dolores Trenner

No sooner had the librarians re-shelved these materials than we received a request for items ridiculing the Nazi leader, Adolf Hitler, for our Into the Stacks public program headed by Crypt Cracker Nathaniel Sandler. Wolfsonian curator Shoshana Resnikoff pulled out a couple of satirical paintings by Alexander Z. Kruse: the first depicting Kaiser Wilhelm II and Adolf Hitler as a kangaroo and joey; the second depicting der Führer and Il Duce as clowns who conversations over the Espanolaphone were turning Spain into a graveyard during the civil war, 1936–39.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Gifts of Mrs. Kathreen Kruse, in memory of Martin Alexander Kruse

She also found such comical objects as the “Hotzi Notzi,” a ceramic Hitler pincushion for patriotic women’s sewing needs on the home front.

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To complement these objects, the librarians pulled a number of paper items from the ephemera collection also caricaturing Herr Hitler, including a cardboard version of a Hitler pincushion, a calendar with boot strings to hang Hitler and Mussolini in effigy, a matchbook requiring the user to pull out der Führer’s “hair” to strike a match.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

Sandler and Resnikoff came up to the library to make a selection of materials satirizing Hitler to be presented to the program’s participants. While Sandler was amazed by some of humor making Hitler the “butt” of the joke, Shoshana was especially drawn to a set of humorous postcards focusing on the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (or WAACs).

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Gift of Jeffrey G. Fischer and Michael Smith

While one might suppose that focusing on Hitler could be a downer or a drag, who wouldn’t be uplifted by seeing caricatures of the brunette leader of the blonde master race in drag!

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Gift of Martijn F. Le Coultre

If such images weren’t enough to bring on the giggles, there were also sheet music covers depicting Donald Duck pelting der Führer in the face with a tomato, and postcards which showed him literally getting his butt kicked by an Aryan-looking American woman in uniform!

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Gift of Charles L. McCarney, Jr.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Gift of Francis Xavier Luca & Clara Helena Palacio Luca

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As Shoshana noted in her presentation, there was some contemporary criticism leveled against the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC) playing on the fear that donning a military uniform threatened to make women more masculine (or to emasculate men). To allay and counter such concerns, many of the series of comical WAAC postcards illustrated by Max Halverson (1924–2006) emphasized the women’s short skirts and shapely legs, poked fun at female drivers, or depicted them doing non-threatening domestic chores or using domestic objects like a rolling pin to take down Hitler.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Gifts of Jeffrey G. Fischer and Michael Smith

And in keeping with the Women’s history theme for March, I thought I’d end today’s post with the message printed on the following WAAC postcard.

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Gift of Jeffrey G. Fischer and Michael Smith

 

~ by "The Chief" on March 27, 2018.

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