Propaganda and World War II
In this activity, students compare World War II propaganda posters from the United States, Great Britain, Nazi Germany, and the Soviet Union. Then students choose one of several creative or analytical writing assignments to demonstrate what they've learned.
Students will understand how waging a "total war" altered the nature of American society.
Students will read, write, listen, and speak for critical analysis and evaluation.
Students will understand the effects of World War II at home.
Step 1: Poster Analysis
Before the lesson begins, the teacher should prepare packets of posters for each nation: United States, Great Britain, Nazi Germany, and Soviet Union.
Divide students into small groups of 3-4 students. Assign each group one of the four nations and pass out the packets to the appropriate groups. Each student should choose one poster from the packet to analyze, using the Poster Analysis Worksheet.
After individually analyzing posters, the groups should reconvene. Each group member should present their poster to their group members. After presentations, group members should discuss how they feel the posters work together: Is there a common theme? Are there common images? What aspects of the posters make them propaganda?
Step 2: Essay Writing
After the group discussion, students should individually write an essay about the posters. The teacher may choose one assignment from the list below or allow students to choose from among the options; the teacher may also differentiate the lesson by varying which assignment is given to each student:
Compare and contrast two or more posters
Visual essay: pull together different images to tell a story; text should bridge the posters together
Responsive essay: elaborate on the emotions (anger, sadness, pride, etc.) that the poster(s) evoke
Historial writing: Historically contextualize the poster: Is there a particular event or person the poster refers to? What makes this a World War II poster? (Requires additional research)
Point of view writing: Pretend you are a person in the poster; what story do you want to convey?
Fiction writing: Make up a narrative describing the events leading up to or following the scene depicted in the poster
Propaganda was one of many weapons used by many countries during World War II, and the United States was no exception. From posters to films and cartoons, the federal government used propaganda not only to buoy the spirit and patriotism of the home front, but also to promote enlistment in the military and labor force. Several government agencies were responsible for producing propaganda, with the largest being the Office of War Information (OWI), created in 1942. The OWI created posters, worked with Hollywood in producing pro-war films, wrote scripts for radio shows, and took thousands of photographs that documented the war effort. Worried by the increase in government sponsored propaganda, academics and journalists established the Institute for Propaganda Analysis. The Institute identified seven basic propaganda devices: Name-Calling, Glittering Generality, Transfer, Testimonial, Plain Folks, Card Stacking, and Band Wagon. [For more on the IPA and the seven devices, please see http://www.propagandacritic.com/] All of these devices were used during the war. In this activity, students will analyze World War II posters, examining the different techniques and themes used by the OWI and other branches of government.
Source | American Social History Project/Center for Media and Learning, 2011.
Creator | American Social History Project/Center for Media and Learning
Rights | Copyright American Social History Project/Center for Media and Learning This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Item Type | Teaching Activity
Cite This document | American Social History Project/Center for Media and Learning, “Propaganda and World War II,” HERB: Resources for Teachers, accessed March 14, 2018, https://herb.ashp.cuny.edu/items/show/1826.
Propaganda During World War Two Essay
Propaganda During World War Two
During World War II propaganda was ubiquitous. It consisted of a wide range of carriers including leaflets, radio, television, and most importantly posters. Posters were used based on their appeal: they were colorful, creative, concise, and mentally stimulating. Posters often portrayed the artist's views on the war. They demonstrated the artist concern for the war, their hopes for the war, and reflected the way enemies were envisioned. Posters also show a nations political status: they reflect a nations allies and enemies, how the nation saw itself, and its greatest hopes and fears of the war.
Posters were mainly used to sway public opinion. They were aimed at brainwashing society to think and act a certain way. Each poster was designed specificly for a particular community, playing upon the cultural norm. Since posters were rather inexpensive, they were not made to last, but were effectively used as a visual tool of propaganda. They were usually very graphic, therefore allowing even the illiterate to be swayed in the direction of the artists choosing.
Essentially the posters intentions were to boost morale at home. This was a necessity since the United States had to cut short American liberties and rights in order to successfully wage a war. Such liberties included: food rationing, involuntary drafting, metal rationing, relocation of citizens, and many other restrictions. Posters were used to keep morale high and reassure the public just what they were fighting for and that victory is inevitable.
World War II propaganda posters were used mainly for three reasons: to invoke public sympathy for the war cause, to help finance the war, and by encouraging people to support the war. Many types of posters invoked the use of sympathy. The first type of poster of was the "Alliance" poster. In this type of poster, the United States flag as well as the flags of the Allied powers were drawn to show that the Allied powers had bigger and strong allies and would easily crush the smaller and lesser Axis powers. The second type of poster was the "Victory" poster. In this type of poster, the United States flag and a solider in uniform were shown to give off a patriotic feeling and accompanied by words such as " America, Now and Forever". These posters also used symbols such as Uncle Sam, the American Eagle, and most of all the Stars and Stripes. The third type of posters, "Careless Talk" posters, were in contrast to "Victory" posters. These posters were designed to keep Americans from talking about the war. Talking may seem as harmless, however American authorities feared that spies would overhear American plans of attack and would relay this information to Axis powers. Although not using nation symbols, symbols such as were death, such as a paratrooper and others with cemetery crosses. These posters commonly used the cause-and-effect idea. An example of this is represented in a poster showing a spaniel gazing over...
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