The Enemy as Sociologist

27 April 2021American exceptionalism as detected by the Nazi propaganda publication Signal Sara Krolewski
The English-language edition of the very first problem of Signal, published in April 1940, (left) and the German-language edition of the 5th concern of 1945. There is one extant copy of a sixth 1945 problem of the publication, printed in Swedish, but it is believed that it was never dispersed.
“American reality– gone with the wind,” declared the subheading of a 1943 post on the industrialization of farming in the United States. Composing in generally flawless English, Signals editors slammed what they saw as a degenerated, yet still alarmingly strong, United States: a land of abundance and possibility, now riven by conformity, vice, and greed, and stimulated on by continuous imperialism. In the pages of Signal, a magazine created to vouch for the force and credibility of Nazi Germany, the United States was an opponent who had once been something of a model.

” The awful carnival.” Spread from the eighteenth problem of Signal published in 1944, including 2 journal entries composed on 25 and 26 July 1943 by a German lieutenant who functioned as a Rome correspondent for the publication. The very first entry laments that days choice by the Fascist Grand Council to dismiss Mussolini and return constitutional powers to King Victor Emmanuel III.
However in the English-language edition, they paid particular attention to the United States, demonstrating a remarkably comprehensive understanding of the current events of their challenger to the west. By 1943, the concerns in English were only offered to readers in Ireland and the Channel Islands, who would have been more acquainted with the culture and politics of the United States than of the Soviet Union. The idea, then, was to encourage these readers of the United States weaknesses and mounting failures.
By contrast, the American propaganda publication Victory– produced by the Office of War Information in action to Signal and likewise distributed in Europe, though with less than half of the formers blood circulation– just contained content about the United States, mainly “basic posts on Americas war effort and evergreen pieces concentrating on revealing how America lives.” [9] Signals focus on the United States makes the publication all the more striking as a work of propaganda: one that took discomforts to depict its foe with depth and clearness, and periodically, a note of moderate approval.

André Zuccas photograph of an advertisement for Signal on a Paris newsstand, August 1941. The French professional photographer in fact worked for Signal, which indicated that he had access to German AgfaColor stock and took a few of the only recognized color images of the city under occupation. His association with the magazine resulted in his arrest following the war, though he was never prosecuted. We can not confirm whether this photo was itself considered the pages of Signal.
Signal was an insidious tool of Nazi ideology, indicated to combat a picture of fanaticism and indiscriminate violence: by late fall 1943, as lots of Jews as Signal readers had actually been killed in Polands extermination camps. [6] A rosier, apparently benign Germany might be discovered in Signals photo-essays and editorials. German youth, film stars, and soldiers positioned for full-page picture spreads, symbols of a robust, supporting empire. In a 1943 essay entitled “Nazalia: The Girl from the Ukraine,” Signals editors profiled a young Ukrainian lady who was rescued by a German soldier after her town was ruined. Germany, Signal recommended, had civilized the Ukrainians, the “unspoilt kids of nature,” and gotten better lives for them. [7]

In 1943, Signal– a glossy publication produced by the Wehrmacht, the merged armed forces of Nazi Germany, and best understood for its uncommon and striking wartime photos– was “the most commonly offering magazine in occupied Europe,” reaching a readership of over 2.5 million. Signal was a perilous tool of Nazi ideology, suggested to neutralize an image of fanaticism and indiscriminate violence: by late autumn 1943, as lots of Jews as Signal readers had been killed in Polands extermination camps. Numerous of these reproduced excerpts from United States publications and papers– snippets provided as evidence for Signals anti-US claims, and to reinforce the publications credibility. Wirsing, a reporter and SS captain who ended up being Signals chief editor in 1943– overseeing the production of the “Americana” series, and contributing to the content of numerous of the articles– was proficient in English and had often traveled to the United States to report for German publications. S. L. Mayer, Signal, Years of Retreat, 1943– 1944: Hitlers Wartime Picture Magazine (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1979), n.p.
S. L. Mayer, Signal, Hitlers Wartime Picture Magazine (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1976), n.p.

The front cover (left) and back cover of the second of the four Italian-language concerns of Signal released in 1945.
Signals own argument to readers was simple and attracting. Neither financial system, Signal argued, would enhance life in Europe. In brief, polemical essays, Signals editors greatly condemned both countries, with occasional jabs at Great Britain and France.

” Toward a 3rd world war?” With World War II still raging, Giselher Wirsing hypothesizes on the political conditions that might provoke the next international dispute. Likewise from the French-language edition of the second of the 2 problems released in May 1943.
Wirsing, a reporter and SS captain who ended up being Signals chief editor in 1943– overseeing the production of the “Americana” series, and contributing to the content of many of the posts– was proficient in English and had often traveled to the United States to report for German magazines. In spring 1938, on a trip financed by the weekly magazine Münchner Illustrierte, Wirsing had actually met with Henry Luce, the owner of Life, and the magazines editorial personnel; later, he had actually had a personal conference with President Roosevelt, and meetings with several US senators. Plainly, both Wirsing and Solm found something to admire in the United States, even as they assisted shape Signal into an anti-American magazine.
This same faint sense of adoration runs below many of the “Americana” pieces, appearing in subtle methods. The Americans recklessness and avarice, his “lack of appreciation of his own soil,” were bound to change this plentiful, fast-growing nation into a barren, lifeless one. 26]
In “Concerning the Victory Girl,” Signal determined a select group of Americans still maintaining moral standards in the face of national decline: “Even today there is another America for which morals and decency still exist– however it is condemned to silence and perseverance.” [27] What was this “other America” that might redeem its other, fallen half? Here, Signal stayed oblique, however its editors were more sincere in their affection for the speed and level of industrialization in the United States, an outlook that was commonly shared not simply throughout Nazi Germany however in continental Europe as a whole. As Klaus P. Fischer writes in Hitler and America, as late as 1942 Hitler was praising the industrial and technological achievements of the United States, which had actually supplied its residents with wealth and autonomy, even as he denounced the country as a materialist, “degenerate and corrupt state.” [28] Such affection had a long history and had only magnified in the wake of World War I, as the United States saw prevalent industrialization and the development of its nouveaux riches, while lots of parts of Europe lay ravaged, financially and otherwise. At the very same time, the means by which industrialized success had actually been attained in the United States had actually led some Europeans to regard it as a country of “spiritual emptiness”– materially rich, but lacking custom or types of community, and worshipping intake above all else. [29] Signal played into these typical presumptions and attitudes, while standing in for the ideological apparatus of the Nazi state.
We tend to believe of propaganda as distortion, however Signal can not nicely be categorized. As a stealthy instrument of Nazism, Signal left out truths about Germanys own collapsing war efforts.
Reading Signal today, I had the odd, unpleasant sensation that I was concurring, a minimum of partially, with analyses promoted by the United States most well-known opponent. Several of Signals “Americana” reviews are still relevant, echoed in different methods by contemporary critics. Have we yet got to any definite, enduring services to racial discrimination, climate modification, and the deleterious effects of capitalism? Have we at all tempered our “system of negligent and callous exploitation,” or merely continued it? An overarching story of American exceptionalism has often impeded required development. It can be (and has actually consistently been) stated that Americans are blind to their own long record of failures and faults. If this extreme myopia carries out in fact define us as a people, an artifact such as Signal asks us to consider: What if our opponents understand us better than we understand ourselves?
[n.a.], “Americana: Concerning the Victory Girl and What Colliers Magazine Has to Say about Her,” Signal, no. 16/2 (August 1943), p. 38. At its peak, Signal was releasing 2 problems per month; the problem number notations throughout these notes indicate whether the issue was the very first or 2nd in an offered month.
, “The Green Heart of America: American Reality– Gone with the Wind,” Signal, no. 10/2 (May 1943), n.p. Some concerns of Signal were unpaginated.
S. L. Mayer, Signal, Years of Retreat, 1943– 1944: Hitlers Wartime Picture Magazine (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1979), n.p.
S. L. Mayer, Signal, Hitlers Wartime Picture Magazine (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1976), n.p. The tally of foreign editions is originated from the research of Alexander Zöller et al. See
As Jordan Henry keeps in mind in ” We Europeans: Signal Magazine and Political Collaboration in German-Occupied Europe, 1940– 1945,” “as late as 1943, content from the magazine was still being reproduced in American newspapers, including the Cleveland Plain Dealer.” While some Signal-produced reports appeared in US newspapers after 1941, complete variations of the English-language edition– in which the “Americana” series would have appeared– were not readily available in the United States after 1941. See Jordan Henry, ” We Europeans” (undergraduate thesis, The Ohio State University, 2017), p. 15. Available at
Nicholas OShaughnessy, Selling Hitler: Propaganda and the Nazi Brand (London: C. Hurst & & Co., 2016), p. 77.
Priced Estimate in S. L. Mayer, Signal, Years of Retreat, n.p.
Nicholas OShaughnessy, Selling Hitler, pp. 83– 84.
Marja Roholl, “Preparing for Victory: The U.S. Office of War Information Overseas Branchs Illustrated Magazines in the Netherlands and the Foundations for the American Century, 1944– 1945,” European Journal of American Studies, vol. 7, no. 2 (March 2012), p. 7. Offered at
[n.a.], “Americana: Concerning the Victory Girl,” p. 38.
[n.a.], “Americana: Zoot Suiters– Jitterbug,” Signal, no. 12/2 (June 1943), n.p.
[n.a.], “Americana: Between Favour and Hatred,” Signal, no. 19/1 (October 1943), n.p.
[n.a.], “The Zoot Suit,” Tucson Daily Citizen, 8 April 1943.
See, for example, illustrator Harold Von Schmidts 1043 ad for Chrysler Corporation. Its text begins: “It wasnt just dark … it was black as Tojos heart!” Offered at
[n.a.], “The Green Heart of America,” n.p.
Jordan Henry, ” We Europeans,” p. 12.
, “U.S. Propaganda,” Life, vol. 14, no. 12 (22 March 1943), p. 12.
An account of Wirsings trip is given up a report prepared by the US Army International Center Interrogation Section in 1946, when Wirsing was being held as a prisoner of war. See
[n.a.], “The Green Heart of America,” n.p.
[n.a.], “Americana: Concerning the Victory Girl,” p. 38.
Klaus P. Fischer, Hitler and America (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2011), p. 10.
Sara Krolewski is the Stenbeck Fellow in Cultural Reporting and Criticism at NYUs Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute. A former editorial assistant at Cabinet, she is a graduate of Princeton University and the University of Edinburgh, where she was a Witherspoon Scholar.
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The table of contents for the English-language edition of the eighteenth problem of Signal published in 1944.
In the 1943 English-language edition of Signal, a series of articles under the heading “Americana” explored and analyzed fissures in American society. Much of these recreated excerpts from United States publications and papers– bits provided as proof for Signals anti-US claims, and to boost the magazines credibility. One short article, “Concerning the Victory Girl and What Colliers Magazine Has to Say about Her,” drew on a March 1943 Colliers article describing a trend amongst young women, called “Victory Girls,” of pursuing sexual relationships with sailors and soldiers. “After checking out a great deal of American newspapers and regulars released in 1943 … even the most impartial observer should get an absolutely nothing less than stunning impression of the ethical degradation of a particular part of the individuals of the United States,” wrote Signals editors. [10] “We do not wish to make unclear assertions and will subsequently quote what has actually been stated in America itself,” they added, before straight quoting from Colliers. In addition to “Victory Girls,” the short article likewise in-depth circumstances of juvenile delinquency and crime in Los Angeles, Detroit, and New York City, which Signal indicated as proof of Americas “internal decay.” [11]
These same styles were echoed in “Americana: Zoot Suiters– Jitterbug,” which cited a short article from Time publication describing the 1943 Los Angeles Zoot-Suit Riots, in which white servicemen and locals assaulted Mexican-American and black youths attired in “zoot fits,” a type of match fashionable with non-white, working-class Angelenos. “America has here to do with one of the especially exceptional attributes of the total break-up of discipline and morals in her youth,” Signals editors said (in a poor English translation, perhaps a result of waning resources for the English-language edition). “They desire to be American,” the editors composed of the victims, but “the rest of the Americans refuse to recognize them in any way.
Another “Americana” essay, “Between Favour and Hatred,” used explanations for the “colour riots” that had actually happened in numerous cities in the summer of 1943: “inexpressible” living conditions for Black migrants in the North; white employees worry of losing their jobs to lower-paid Black workers; Washington political leaders hollow, inefficacious rhetoric of social development. [14] The editors used this oddly prescient medical diagnosis: “The unsolved colour issue is gnawing deeper and much deeper like a sluggish venom into the unsteady, social structure of the U.S.A. The color riots this summer remain in all probability only the forerunners of a lot more severe disturbances.” [15] At a time in which United States publications tended to revile minorities– an editorial in the Tucson Daily Citizen from 1943 noted that “all wearers of the [zoot match] are suspect”– Signal showed rather on the oppression they dealt with, representing racial hatred and strife as signs of Americas own wear and tear. [16]
Unusually for German propaganda, Signals anti-American appeals were totally free and factual from extreme invective. Nor did Signal resort to caricature, as US propaganda frequently did– for example, illustrating Japanese soldiers as overstated, grotesque figures. In an “Americana” essay entitled “The Green Heart of America,” Signals editors described the deforestation of the nations hinterland and the industrialized “exploitation of the broad prairie land in the heart of America,” processes that had left huge swaths of land unusable and affected weather condition patterns.

The cover of the second of the two Spanish-language problems released in June 1941. The magazine was originally a.
semimonthly; not surprisingly, its production schedule started to falter.
in 1944.
In 1943, Signal– a shiny magazine produced by the Wehrmacht, the combined armed forces of Nazi Germany, and best understood for its striking and uncommon wartime images– was “the most extensively offering publication in occupied Europe,” reaching a readership of over 2.5 million. The publication was distributed internationally, though aimed mostly at a European audience: readers in countries Germany had dominated or hoped to conquer, and those in a handful of neutral nations, consisting of Sweden. Within Germany, the magazine flowed only amongst the armed force.

A critique of the failure of the United States to effectively handle its forests and agricultural lands. The anonymous short article argues that the lack of stewardship is a function of the nations widespread materialism and fetishization of technology.
From the French-language edition of the second of.
the 2 issues published in May 1943.
In Signals view, industrialism had actually even stripped the United States of any genuine culture. The images caption explains that in the United States, “individuals now live on tinned food, use standardized shirts, standardized hats, and standardized fits. Without the clear nationalist rhetoric of other Nazi publications, Signals reviews of American commercialism scan as accurate, even percipient– prefiguring the work of later US writers like David Riesman and C. Wright Mills, who analyzed the impacts of industrialism on an increasingly consistent, pushed away American middle class.
For all of the anti-American opprobrium of the “Americana” series, an unusual uncertainty highlights much of Signals blogging about and attitudes toward the nation. For one, though Signal lamented the state of US culture, the publication looked to that same culture for inspiration, knowingly modeling itself on the American periodical Life. Signal likewise included the input of Nazi propagandists Major Fritz Solm and Giselher Wirsing, both of whom took particular interest in US society and culture. Signal was the creation of Solm, who studied at Columbia University and operated at the New York marketing company J. Walter Thompson in the 1920s. After going back to Germany in the 1930s, he became involved with the Division for Defense Propaganda, a branch of the Wehrmacht. Making use of his experiences as an online marketer in the United States, Solm, together with financial expert Heinrich Hunke, approached the leadership of the Wehrmacht in the fall of 1939 to propose a propaganda publication in the design of Life: a general-interest publication for the European middle-class reader, with vibrant picture spreads and articles on present events. [21] Solm wished to reproduce Lifes success, attracting the same group in Europe. Life itself would eventually explain Signal as part of the “terrific, efficient and detailed propaganda makers” of “Berlin, Rome and Tokyo”– deeming the Axis powers ephemera and publications more “slashing” than American propaganda like Victory, which was likewise imitated Life. [22]

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