Der Stürmer-Nazi Propaganda tool

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Der Stürmer was an anti-Semitic “tabloid style” newspaper published by Julius Streicher from 1923 almost continuously through to the end of World War II. Der Stürmer was viewed by Hitler as playing a  significant role in the Nazi propaganda machinery and a useful tool in influencing the “common man on the street”.

It was a significant part of Nazi propaganda and was vehemently anti-Semitic. the paper’s tag line was “The Jews are our misfortube”.Unlike the Völkischer Beobachter the official party paper which gave itself an outwardly serious appearance.

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Der Stürmer often ran obscene material such as antisemitic caricatures of Jews and accusations of blood libel, as well as sexually explicit, anti-Catholic, anti-Communist, and anti-monarchist propaganda.

The newspaper originated at Nuremberg during Adolf Hitler’s attempt to establish power and control. During that struggle, Streicher was accused by the opposition of the Nazi party as being “a liar, a coward, of having unsavory friends, mistreating his wife and of flirting with women.

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Despite the accusations, the first copy of Der Stürmer was published on 20 April 1923.Der Stürmer’s circulation grew over time, distributing to a large percentage of the German population as well as Argentina, Brazil, Canada and the United States.Streicher wanted Der Stuermer to appeal to the common man, to the worker with little time to read.

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Thus, Der Stuermer’s articles used short sentences and a simple vocabulary. Ideas were repeated. Headlines grabbed a reader’s attention. And the cartoons were easily understood.

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Rather then going into the ins and outs of the ‘Newspaper’ below some of the paper’s front pages and cartoons, which will explain why it was such a powerful tool.

Julius Streicher, warned of a Jewish program for world domination in this 1934 issue. The article, titled “Who is the Enemy?” blamed Jews for destroying social order and claimed that Jews wanted war, while the rest of the world wanted peace.

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A Nazi is pumping poison gas into a tunnel beneath an oak tree representing Germany. Dead Jewish rats are strewn about.  The head lines says “The poisoned King”with the context : “When the vermin are dead, the German oak will flourish.” Since this is from 1927 it clearly indicates the plans by the Nazi’s in relation to gassing the jews,long before Kristallnacht and the Wannsee convention.

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1934 Stürmer issue: “Storm above Judah” – criticizing institutional churches as “Judaized” organizations.

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Front page of the most popular issue ever of the Nazi publication,Der Stürmer, with a reprint of a medieval depiction of a purported ritual murder committed by Jews.der-sturmer-ritual-murder

Der Stürmer, was removed from news kiosks during the Games as a concession to the International Olympic Committee. But the paper was still published, using racist slurs and caricatures to malign Jews in its special Olympics issue. July 1936.

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This image depicts the “Jew” as a warmonger who looks on approvingly as the non-Jewish world is crucified on a cross marked “war” (Krieg).

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Julius Streicher was not a member of the military and did not take part in planning the Holocaust, or the invasion of other nations. Yet his pivotal role in inciting the extermination of Jews was significant enough, in the prosecutors’ judgment, to include him in the indictment of Major War Criminals before the International Military Tribunal – which sat in Nuremberg, where Streicher had once been an unchallenged authority. Most of the evidence against Streicher came from his numerous speeches and articles over the years. In essence, prosecutors contended that Streicher’s articles and speeches were so incendiary that he was an accessory to murder, and therefore as culpable as those who actually ordered the mass extermination of Jews (such as Hans Frank and Ernst Kaltenbrunner). They further argued that he kept them up when he was well aware Jews were being slaughtered.

He was acquitted of crimes against peace, but found guilty of crimes against humanity, and sentenced to death on 1 October 1946. The judgment against him read, in part:

For his 25 years of speaking, writing and preaching hatred of the Jews, Streicher was widely known as ‘Jew-Baiter Number One.’ In his speeches and articles, week after week, month after month, he infected the German mind with the virus of anti-Semitism, and incited the German people to active persecution. … Streicher’s incitement to murder and extermination at the time when Jews in the East were being killed under the most horrible conditions clearly constitutes persecution on political and racial grounds in connection with war crimes, as defined by the Charter, and constitutes a crime against humanity.

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Emil Jannings-Oscar Winner and Nazi propagandist.

This is a slightly different story from the WWII era but nevertheless still an intriguing one. WWII wasn’t only death and destruction ‘normal’ life went on too. People would still go to the Cinema and watch movies. However in Germany these movies were often used as propaganda tools to divert the attention of what was really going on.

Emil Jannings, original name Theodor Friedrich Emil Janenz (born July 23, 1884, Rorschach, Switzerland—died January 2, 1950, Strobl, near Salzburg, Austria) internationally known German actor famous for his tragic roles in motion pictures.

To date, he is still the only German to have won the Best Actor Oscar.

Jannings is best known for his collaborations with F.W. Murnau and Josef von Sternberg, including 1930’s The Blue Angel, with Marlene Dietrich.

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Der blaue Engel was meant as a vehicle for Jannings to score a place for himself in the new medium of sound film, but Dietrich stole the show. Jannings later starred in a number of Nazi propaganda films, which made him unemployable as an actor after the fall of the Third Reich.

 

 

 

In 1929, the first year of the Academy Awards, Jannings won a Best Actor award for his performances in the American-made films The Way of All Flesh (1927, now lost), in which he played an embittered family man, and The Last Command (1928), in which he was an exiled Russian general reduced to playing bit parts in war films. (During the early years of the awards, actors could be nominated for multiple performances.) With the advent of sound in American cinema, Jannings was forced because of his thick accent to abandon his career in the United States. He continued to work in German films, but his support of the Nazi regime made him a pariah elsewhere in the world. He continues to be a subject of great controversy, though many of his detractors begrudgingly admit that he was one of the finest actors of his generation.

After the Nazi seizure of power in 1933, Jannings continued his career in the service of Nazism and cinema. During the Third Reich, he starred in several films which were intended to promote Nazism, particularly the Führerprinzip (prescribed the fundamental basis of political authority in the governmental structures of the Third Reich)by presenting unyielding historical characters, such as Der alte und der junge König (The Old and the Young King 1934), Der Herrscher (The Ruler 1937) directed by Veit Harlan, Robert Koch (1939), Ohm Krüger (Uncle Kruger, 1941) and Die Entlassung (Bismarck’s Dismissal, 1942).

 

He also performed in his famed role in The Broken Jug directed by Gustav Ucicky. Minister of Propaganda Joseph Goebbels named Jannings an “Artist of the State” (Staatsschauspieler) in 1936.

St. Wolfgang, Goebbels und Emil Jannings

The shooting of his last film Wo ist Herr Belling? was aborted, when troops of the Allied Powers entered Germany in Spring 1945. Jannings reportedly carried his Oscar statuette with him as proof of his former association with Hollywood. However, his active role in Nazi propaganda meant that he was subject to denazification, and a comeback attempt would not be legal.

The Denazification was an Allied initiative to rid German and Austrian society, culture, press, economy, judiciary, and politics of any remnants of the National Socialist ideology (Nazism).

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It was carried out specifically by removing from positions of power and influence those who had been Nazi Party members and by disbanding or rendering impotent the organizations associated with Nazism. The program of denazification was launched after the end of the Second World War and was solidified by the Potsdam Agreement.

Ironically, in the same period Dietrich would become a US citizen and an influential anti-Nazi activist, spending much of the war entertaining troops on the front lines and broadcasting on behalf of the OSS.

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Dietrich particularly loathed Jannings for his Nazi ties, and would later refer to her former co-star as a “ham”.

According to Susan Orlean, author of Rin Tin Tin: The Life and The Legend (Simon and Schuster, 2011), Jannings was not actually the winner of the first best actor vote, but the runner-up. While researching her book, Orlean discovered that it was in fact Rin Tin Tin, the German Shepherd dog, one of the biggest movie stars of his time, who won the vote. The Academy, however, worried about not being taken seriously if they gave the first Oscar to a dog, chose to award the Oscar to the human runner-up.

Jannings retired to Strobl near Salzburg, Austria, and became an Austrian citizen in 1947.He died in 1950, aged 65, from liver cancer.He is buried in the St. Wolfgang cemetery.

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His Best Actor Oscar is now on display at the Berlin Filmmuseum.

His Birth place of Rorschach, Switzerland, honored him with a special star (similar to the ones on the Walk of Fame in L.A.), which was revealed on November 12, 2004. Only hours prior to the ceremony, the town’s council learned of Jannings’ efforts on behalf of the Nazis during World War II. A few days later, the star was removed.I am a bit cynical about this especially in 2004 where information was readily available about Emil Jannings, I find it hard to believe they weren’t aware of his involvement with the Nazi party and especially Joseph Goebbels.

 

The Death Match 9 August 1942

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With the European Cup Finales upon our doorsteps it is time to go back into history of football for a bit.

Although as a Dutchman it aches me to admit that the Germans generally put up a good team for the tournament, there is however a black mark in the German football history.

KIEV, Ukraine — There are few striking features about Start Stadium except its disrepair. Wooden planks in the grandstand, like neglected teeth, are mostly loose or missing. Behind the tiny seating area, though, a sturdy column rises and supports a statue. It depicts a muscular, naked man heroically kicking a soccer ball into the beak of a trampled eagle.

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On the 9th of August 1942, a group of men who worked at Kiev’s Bakery #3 took on the might of the Nazi Luftwaffe team and triumphed.  The game was dubbed the “Death Match”.  It was a match that went down in legend and folklore.  It was a match that was used for Soviet propaganda.  It was a match that provided the inspiration for the 1981 film Escape to Victory.  It was a match where the events surrounding the game are still being discussed and debated.  It had come about because of the remarkable feats of F.C. Start.

On the 19th of September 1941 the Nazis successfully invaded and captured Kiev.  A few days after they took over the city, the Nazis slaughtered over 33,000 Jews at the ravine of Babi Yar.

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In their attempts to keep the local population under control the Nazi rulers decided to introduce a series of football matches in June 1942.  It was part of an effort to distract and pacify the populace with a sense of “normality.”  Little did they know that a group of former Dynamo and Lokomotiv Kiev players who worked at a bakery would turn into a symbol of resistance for the people of Kiev.

The formation of F.C. Start effectively began with Nikolai Trusevich.  Trusevich was the goalkeeper of Dynamo Kiev before the outbreak of World War II.  He enlisted in the army to defend Kiev but soon became a prisoner of war and was held in the Darnitsa camp after the Nazi’s captured the city.  Trusevich was eventually released, after signing papers pledging loyalty to the new regime (not that he had much choice considering the alternative), and returned to Kiev.

On August 6, 1942 FC Start played the German team Flakelf. There was an estimated 2,000 spectators in attendance, with each spectator paying a total of five rubles to attend. Zenit Stadium was lined with SS soldiers and police dogs as an attempt to intimidate the Start players.

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(I am not sure if this is an actual picture or from the movie which was made in 2012)

The Flakelf team consisted of German soldiers who manned antiaircraft guns around Kiev. FC Start dominated the first game by defeating the Germans 5-1. The German team would demand a rematch. The “Death Match” or second match took place on 9 August 1942 at the Kiev city stadium against the German team Flakelf, made up of air defense artillery football players.

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With an audience of 2000,the teams met again three days later, in the later so-called “Death Match”. The poster informed that Flakelf had a “strengthened” team but did not reveal any names. But it named 14 Start players, amongst them Lev Gundarev, Georgi Timofeyev and Olexander Tkachenko, Ukrainian policemen under German command.

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The score was 5–3 in favour of Start. Only the first half of the match is documented: The Germans opened the score, then Ivan Kuzmenko and Makar Honcharenko two times marked the 3–1 score for half time. After the match a German took a photograph of both teams showing a relaxed atmosphere. Some days later he offered a copy to former Lokomotiv player Volodymyr Balakin.This photograph was never published in Soviet times.

Afterwards the winners drank a glass of self-made vodka and met at a party in the evening.

There were stories that in the aftermath of the match the players of F.C. Start were rounded up and executed.  That wasn’t the case though as the team played one more game a week after the infamous “Death match,” thrashing Rukh 8:0.

On the 18th of August 1942 the Gestapo arrived at Bakery #3 and read out a list of names who were required for questioning.  The names were of the players of F.C. Start.  The Gestapo wanted to prove that the players were agents of the NKVD, the secret police, and knew that the organization had links to Dynamo Kiev prior to the war.  Apparently a picture of Nikolai Korotkykh in an NKVD uniform was discovered and he was tortured to death.  The story goes that his sister had turned him in after being interrogated by the Nazis.

The remaining members of the team were sent to a concentration camp at Syrets.  It was there, six months after they had been arrested, that Alexei Klimenko, Ivan Kuzmenko and Nikolai Trusevich met their fate.  The commander of the concentration camp, Paul Radomski, had ordered the prisoners of the camp to line-up and decreed that every third one would be shot.  There are differing reasons given for his decision to exact punishment, ranging from revenge for attacks by Soviet partisans to retribution for prisoner disobedience.  No matter what, they were three pillars of the F.C. Start side were felled.  Trusevich, it was said, was wearing the goalkeeping top he wore for F.C. Start in the final moments of his life.

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Makar Goncharenko, Mikhail Sviridovsky and Feodor Tyutchev, who were in Kiev as part of the work squad, took their opportunity to flee fearing that they would be killed if they returned to Syrets.

The reports give several reasons for the execution:

  • A conflict concerning the dog of the camp commandor Paul Radomski: Some prisoners were said to have beaten it with a shovel in the camp kitchen. On this situation one of the prisoners had attacked an SS soldier.Radomski
  • Punishment for the escape of some prisoners.
  • Disobiedience of prisoners who were ordered to hang other prisoners who tried to flee from the camp.
  • A sabotage act of partisans on a tank repair facility

After the fall of the Nazis the Soviet government initially played down the story of F.C Start with the exploits of the team only being recognized and broadly told in the late 1950s.  The regime soon came to realize the propaganda value of using the legend of F.C. Start to further their ideological cause. From then on the Soviet government used the story of F.C. Start for their own purposes.  They promoted the myth that a number of the team were immediately shot after the game and died for their ideology and ideals.  Indeed, when Goncharenko was discussing the aftermath of game in 1985 he claimed that Trusevich’s last words were “long live Stalin, long live Soviet Sport.”  Again, there are differing accounts of exactly what words, if any, Trusevic uttered.  Goncharenko may have felt obliged to give the regime’s version of events..

After the publication of a report in a German newspaper repeating the Soviet version a case about the “Death Match” was opened by the prosecution office of Hamburg in July 1974.As Soviet authorities did not collaborate on the case, it was closed in March 1976. In 2002 the Ukrainian authorities informed Hamburg about their new investigation. So the case was reopened, but finally closed by the investigation commission in February 2005. The commission was not able to find any connections between the game and the execution of people who participated in it, nor any person responsible for the executions being still alive. Radomski had been killed on 14 March 1945.

Either way one can not help but wonder if these men were killed because of the match.

Many may never have heard of this story while some may have forgotten it but the city of Kyiv shall forever remember this incredibly brave group of eleven men who stood for everything the city believed in, the men who held this city together through one year of the war, the men who defeated Germany, the men who expressed themselves through the sport they loved, the men who wanted to free Ukraine!

Two movies were inspired on the event. Although the 1981 one movie “Escape to Victory”directed by John Huston is only very loosely based on the match, the only similarities it has is a match between Germans and Non Germans during WWII. In the movie the Germans play allied POWs.

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In 2012 the Russian movie “Match” ,which is actually based on the event , caused quite some controversy in the Ukraine.

Regulators said the film could incite aggressive fans just weeks before Ukraine hosted several games played by Germany’s national team during the 2012 European Championship from June 8-July 1.

‘There always are people – hooligans – who use football to spill out their aggression and some of those people may be influenced by (the film),’ said political analyst Volodymyr Fesenko.

In the Dynamo Kiev Stadium  in Kiev a monument has been erected depicting some of the players reputedly executed by the Nazis.

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Whether the players were eventually executed or not I don’t really know for certain, but given the fact that the Germans were defeated twice must have been a blow to the Nazi propaganda machine and therefore it would not surprise me in the slightest that the  men were killed because of this.

 

 

William Joyce-AKA Lord Haw Haw

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Regardless what you think of the Nazi’s, one thing can’t be denied. They had an extremely effective  and well oiled propaganda machine.

Not only German Nazi members and citizens were involved it had also foreign Nazi sympathizers working for them and none so infamous and notorious as William Joyce AKA Lord Haw Haw.

William Joyce was born on Herkimer Street in Brooklyn, New York, to an Anglican mother and an Irish Catholic father, Michael, who had taken United States citizenship on 25 October 1894. A few years after his birth, the family returned to Galway, Ireland.

Joyce attended the Jesuit St Ignatius College in Galway (1915–21).

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It was here that during a fist fight with another boy that Joyce had his nose broken. He kept quiet about the injury and his nose never properly set – giving him the nasal broken drawl so familiar in his later broadcasts from Germany

Unusually for Irish Roman Catholics, both Joyce and his father were strongly Unionist. Joyce later claimed he had aided the Black and Tans during the Irish War for Independence

and had become a target of the Irish Republican Army.

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The Joyce family were in Ireland at the time of the Sinn Fein insurrections and because they were Conservative and pro-Union they were very unpopular with the rebels. Joyce’s early life was marked by violence, including an attack on his father’s business and attacks on the family home by Sinn Feiners. When the British Prime Minister Lloyd George announced the Anglo-Irish Treaty of 1921 and the creation of the Irish State the Joyce family left for England. Joyce was then 15 years old.

Far from being the puny figure described by the press during World War II, William Joyce was of average height and strongly built. During his youth he excelled at boxing, swimming and fencing. This was to hold him in good stead later when he was involved in many street battles.

On 22 October 1924, while stewarding a meeting in support of Jack Lazarus (the Conservative Party candidate for Lambeth North in the general election), Joyce was attacked by Communists and received a deep razor slash that ran across his right cheek. It left a permanent scar which ran from the earlobe to the corner of the mouth.He claimed his attackers were Jews.

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In 1932, Joyce joined the British Union of Fascists (BUF) under Sir Oswald Mosley, and swiftly became a leading speaker, praised for his power of oratory.

The journalist and novelist Cecil Roberts described a speech given by Joyce:

“Thin, pale, intense, he had not been speaking many minutes before we were electrified by this man … so terrifying in its dynamic force, so vituperative, so vitriolic”

William Joyce gained the reputation of a savage fighter and was always the first to dive into a fracas with knuckle-duster at the ready. The image of “Jewish Communists” who scarred his face was always in the back of his mind and he wanted revenge. Standing on his soapbox in Blackshirt battledress – a buttoned black suit with a high-necked pullover – his left hand in his pocket and his right clutching the microphone – he fed on the tension and heckling like a drug. The June 1934 Olympia conference which turned into a bloody fight and the violent rhetoric of Joyce destroyed the image of respectability that Mosley and the BUF were striving for. But this did not prevent Joyce from being appointed Deputy Leader of the BUF.

His violent rhetoric and willingness to physically confront anti-fascist elements head-on played no small part in further marginalizing the BUF. After the bloody debacle of Olympia, Joyce spearheaded the BUF’s policy shift from campaigning for economic revival through corporatism to a focus on antisemitism. He was instrumental in changing the name of the BUF to “British Union of Fascists and National Socialists” in 1936, and stood as a party candidate in the 1937 elections to the London County Council. In 1936 Joyce lived for a year in Whitstable, where he owned a radio and electrical shop.

One particular concern for Joyce was the Government of India Bill (passed in 1935), designed to give a measure of autonomy to India, allowing freedom and the development of limited self-government. Joyce harboured a desire to become Viceroy of India should Mosley ever head a BUF government, and is recorded as describing the backers of the bill as “feeble” and “one loathsome, fetid, purulent, tumid mass of hypocrisy, hiding behind Jewish Dictators

Mosley and Joyce were completely different in character. Mosley was relaxed, humorous and charming whereas Joyce was impatient, intense and bad-tempered. Joyce’s departure from the BUF in April 1937 came as a result of Joyce being dismissed from the salaried staff of the BUF. Bad election results, falling support and lack of money led to a BUF staff reduction of 143 to approximately 30. This and Joyce’s personal differences with Mosley led Joyce to form the British National Socialist League.

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Despite Joyce having been Deputy Leader of the BUF between 1933 and 1937 and a brave fighter and powerful orator, Mosley snubbed him in his autobiography and denounced him as a traitor because of his wartime activities.

On 26 August 1939, approximately a week before the outbreak of war, Joyce and his family fled to Berlin after a tip-off that, under the soon to be introduced emergency powers, he would be interned for the duration of the war. It was an act that would lead eventually to his death and denouncement by many, including Mosley, as a traitor. Rightly or wrongly Joyce was adamant that Britain was being led into another pointless war and Neville Chamberlain’s, and subsequently Winston Churchill’s, governments were betraying their people.

In Berlin, Joyce could not find employment until a chance meeting with fellow Mosleyite Dorothy Eckersley got him an audition at the Rundfunkhaus (“broadcasting house“).Eckersley was the former wife  of the Chief Engineer of the British Broadcasting Corporation, Peter Eckersley. Despite having a heavy cold and almost losing his voice, he was recruited immediately for radio announcements and script writing at German radio’s English service. William Joyce replaced Wolf Mittler.

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The name “Lord Haw-Haw of Zeesen” was coined in 1939 by the pseudonymous Daily Express radio critic Jonah Barrington,but this referred initially to Wolf Mittler (or possibly Norman Baillie-Stewart). When Joyce became the best-known propaganda broadcaster, the nickname was transferred to him. Joyce’s broadcasts initially came from studios in Berlin, later transferring (because of heavy Allied bombing) to Luxembourg and finally to Apen near Hamburg, and were relayed over a network of German-controlled radio stations that included Hamburg, Bremen,Luxembourg, Hilversum, Calais, Oslo and Zeesen. Joyce also broadcast on, and wrote scripts for, the German Büro Concordia organisation, which ran several black propaganda stations, many of which pretended to broadcast illegally from within Britain.His role in writing the scripts increased as time passed, and the German radio capitalized on his public persona. Initially an anonymous broadcaster, Joyce eventually revealed his real name to his listeners; and he would occasionally be announced as “William Joyce, otherwise known as Lord Haw-Haw”.Urban legends soon circulated about Lord Haw-Haw, alleging that the broadcaster was well-informed about political and military events to the point of near-omniscience.

Although it was illegal to listen to his broadcasts in Britain they became very popular with British listeners. They always began with the words “Germany calling Germany calling,” which because of Joyce’s broken nose sounded like: “Jarmany calling, Jarmany calling.” During his heyday Joyce had almost as many listeners as the BBC – and he caused alarm with his tales of a Fifth Column in Britain and his talks on how to treat bombing wounds. He caused panic with his apparently accurate descriptions of Town Hall clocks that had stopped and how many steps there were in a particular church steeple.

After the Battle of Britain and the invasion of Russia, Joyce’s broadcasts lost more and more listeners in Britain – but he still remained the number one broadcaster in Berlin and his anti-semitism never faded in its virulence – continuing to blame the war on “Jewish International Finance.” For his efforts Joyce continued to live a comfortable life in Berlin and in September 1944 was awarded the Cross of War Merit 1st Class with a certificate signed by Adolf Hitler. As the war worsened he began to drink heavily and his marriage became a joke with both his wife and he having numerous affairs.

During the final stages of the war, with the Red Army approaching Berlin, Joyce moved to Hamburg. He made a final broadcast on 30 April 1945 – warning that the war would leave Britain poor and barren now that she had lost all her wealth and power in 6 years of war, leaving the Russians in control of most of Europe. He signed off with a final defiant “Heil Hitler.”

Joyce was captured while going through a wood near Flensburg after the war; he received a bullet wound to the leg in the process. Joyce’s fate at the gallows was then merely a formality and the British press whipped up all the hysteria they could – reminding people that he was a snarling traitor. The British Government passed the Treason Act 1945 the day before Joyce was flown back to Britain.

Although Joyce was born in the USA, brought up in Ireland and took German nationality on 26 September 1939, he was charged with treason from 3 September 1939 to 2 July 1940, the date his British passport ran out, and sentenced to death. Joyce was confined in a death cell at London’s Wandsworth Prison. In the cell next door was John Amery, the son of a British lord and the man who had tried to form British expatriates and sympathetic British POW’s into a Freicorp to fight on the German side. Joyce was executed five days after Amery on 3 January 1946. He was adamant and defiant to the end. He showed no emotion when confronted by news and scenes from the concentration camps, blaming the deaths on starvation and disease caused by Allied bombing of communication lines. He also scratched a swastika on the wall of his cell whilst awaiting sentence. His last public message reported by the BBC was “In death as in life, I defy the Jews who caused this last war, and I defy the powers of darkness they represent.” He was not yet 40 years old when executed. He was buried in an unmarked grave in the grounds of the prison.

 

Mildred Gillars AKA Axis Sally-Hitler’s American voice

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Mildred Elizabeth Gillars (November 29, 1900 – June 25, 1988), nicknamed “Axis Sally” along with Rita Zucca, was an American broadcaster employed by the Third Reich in Nazi Germany to proliferate propaganda during World War II. She was convicted of treason by the United States in 1949 following her capture in post-war Berlin.

During World War II, the Allies and the Axis powers made heavy use of radio for propaganda purposes. Most of this spin was aimed at their own populations, but some was tailor made for consumption by enemy soldiers and civilians. Both sides recruited native speakers to broadcast radio messages to the opposition in the hopes of spreading disinformation and sowing discontent. These mysterious radio personalities became minor celebrities during the war, and some were even arrested and branded as traitors when the fighting ended. Find out more about six World War II broadcasters who used the radio waves as a weapon.

Several American Nazi sympathizers worked as broadcasters for German state radio, but perhaps none was as famous as Mildred Gillars. Born in Maine, Gillars was a former Broadway showgirl who moved to Berlin in 1934. She remained in Germany after the war broke out, and eventually became one of the Third Reich’s most prominent radio personalities with “Home Sweet Home,” a propaganda show directed at American troops. Gillars broadcasted under the radio handle “Midge,” but American GIs soon gave her a more infamous nickname: “Axis Sally.”

Gillars’ Axis Sally spoke in a friendly, conversational tone, but her goal was to unsettle her listeners. One of her favorite tactics was to mention the soldiers’ wives and girlfriends and then muse about whether the women would remain faithful, “especially if you boys get all mutilated and do not return in one piece.” Prior to the Allied invasion of France, she also starred in a radio play, called “Vision of Invasion,” as an American mother whose son needlessly drowns during the attack. Like a lot of propaganda, Gillars’ radio shows rarely had their desired effect—many GI’s only listened because they found them funny—but she was still considered a traitor by the U.S. government. When the war ended, the voice of Axis Sally was arrested and eventually spent 12 years behind bars.

American Mildred Elizabeth Gillars had moved to Germany in the 1930s and found a job at Radio Berlin in 1940. During World War II, she broadcast pro-Nazi propaganda designed to sow dissent in America and to demoralize Allied troops, earning the nickname “Axis Sally.”

She was arrested in 1948 and taken back to the U.S. to face treason charges. While on trial, she claimed that she had only agreed to do the broadcasts out of love for her husband, German foreign service officer Max Otto Koischwitz.

She blamed the U.S. Embassy in Berlin for taking away her passport in 1941, which she said forced her into a position where she had to sign a German oath of allegiance. She also apparently tried to gain sympathy by painting a picture of herself as a woman who struggled through life in the United States.

Gillars’ trial was of great interest to the American public. The New York Times described her life and love affair with Koischwitz as having “soap-opera quality.” Gillars herself was described during her trial as “a theatrical figure in tight-fitting black dresses, long silver hair and a deep tan. She had scarlet lips and nails.”

Gillars was found guilty of treason and sentenced to 10 to 30 years in prison. Upon hearing the verdict, she remarked, “I wish those who judge me would be willing to risk their lives for America as I did.”

The US attorney general dispatched prosecutor Victor C. Woerheide to Berlin to find and arrest Gillars. He and Counterintelligence Corps special agent Hans Wintzen only had one solid lead:

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Raymond Kurtz, a B-17 pilot shot down by the Germans, recalled that a woman who had visited his prison camp seeking interviews was the broadcaster who called herself “Midge at the Mike”According to Kurtz, the woman had used the alias Barbara Mome. Woerheide organised wanted posters with Gillars’s picture to put up in Berlin, but the breakthrough came when he was informed that a woman calling herself “Barbara Mome” was selling her furniture at second-hand markets around town.A shop owner who was found selling a table belonging to Gillars was detained, and under “intensive interrogation” revealed Gillars’ address.When she was arrested on March 15, 1946, Gillars only asked to take with her a picture of Koischwitz.

AIXI

She was then held by the Counterintelligence Corps at Camp King, Oberursel, along with collaborators Herbert John Burgman and Donald S. Day, until she was conditionally released from custody on December 24, 1946. However, she declined to leave military detention.She was formally re-arrested on January 22, 1947 at the request of the Justice Department and was eventually flown to the United States to await trial on August 21, 1948.

Gillars was indicted on September 10, 1948, and charged with ten counts of treason, but only eight were proceeded with at her trial, which began on January 25, 1949. The prosecution relied on the large number of her programs recorded by the Federal Communications Commission, stationed in Silver Hill, Maryland, to show her active participation in propaganda activities against the United States. It was also shown that she had taken an oath of allegiance to Hitler.The defense argued that her broadcasts stated unpopular opinions but did not amount to treasonable conduct. It was also argued that she was under the hypnotic influence of Koischwitz and therefore not fully responsible for her actions until after his death. On March 10, 1949, the jury convicted Gillars[15] on just one count of treason, that of making the Vision Of Invasion broadcast. She was sentenced to 10 to 30 years in prison.and a $10,000 fine. In 1950, a federal appeals court upheld the sentence.

Gillars served her sentence at the Federal Reformatory for Women in Alderson, West Virginia. She became eligible for parole in 1959, but did not apply until 1961.She was released on June 10, 1961.

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Having converted to Roman Catholicism while in prison, Gillars went to live at the Our Lady of Bethlehem Convent in Columbus, Ohio, and taught German, French, and music at St. Joseph Academy, Columbus.

In 1973 she returned to Ohio Wesleyan University to complete her degree.

Gillars died of colon cancer at Grant Medical Center in Columbus on June 25, 1988