JF Ptak Science Books Post 281
War propaganda is distributed across all levels of society during a time of conflict. I've made a number of posts concerning Nazi and Japanese propaganda but no so much on the Allies' side. These two pamphlets come from a small stash of mine relating to Red Cross activities and prisoners of war (POWs).
The young man in the illustration seems extremely fulsome for being a POW--he's healthy-looking, shaved, with good meat on his bones; he has a (white) shirt and an undershirt, and his bed has sheets, blanket and a pillow-cased pillow. The item he has received is a big thick sweater,something I'm sure that the Nazis would allow their prisoner to have rather than one of their own soldiers.
It is very interesting to note that the closest thing that I can come to the "Stalag 3" on the package that was received by the fellow on the pamphlet cover is the famous Stalag Luft III--scene of the real-life Great Escape and about 100 miles from Berlin, where 55 Allied prisoners made it out in the escape, and 75 captured. The order from Hitler itself was for all of the captured prisoners were to be executed; he lightened the edict some under the insistence of some of his inner circle, and decreed that "more than half" of the captured were to be executed and cremated. The result was that 50 of these men were indeed executed. Word of the atrocity reached the outside world and by July of 1944--three months before this pamphlet was printed--Anthony Eden called (from the floor of Parliament) for those responsible for this crime (and violation of the Geneva Convention) to be brought to justice as war criminals. With all of this so fresh in September 1944 I wonder if the use of the address in the package on the cover of this pamphlet was intended or not.
The camp came to hold 10,000 prisoners, was 52 acres in size and had a five-mile fence perimeter. A Stalag :Luft III website contained this interesting commentary about Red Cross packages:
Food was always very close to a prisoner's heart. Germany, involved in a total war, had difficulties enough feeding its own people. Feeding POWs was well down on the list of priorities. The German POW rations were insufficient to sustain health and failed to meet the requirements of the Geneva Convention. Had the International Red Cross not shipped food parcels to all Allied POW camps except to the Russians, serious malnutrition would have been common. The Red Cross offer to feed the Russian POWs was spurned by Stalin. The receipt of the Red Cross food parcels suffered from the uncertainties of the wartime rail service in Germany and the caprice of the Germans who would withhold delivery of the food as group punishment.
The second pamphlet is still understated but far more menacing than the first, especially if you removed the pressed, smiling figure with the can of happiness in his hand, the image takes on a much darker tone. The other prisoner is heavy lidded, sunken and unkempt, and sitting; there is of course the barbed wire, and the looming and large silhouette of the Nazi guard, who although obviously standing in front of these two men is not casting his shadow on them, just on the barracks. There's quite a a few suba rosa messages going on here, making the spiffy smiling POW seem almost like a ghost of chance and possibility compared to the reality of the sallow seated POW.
This pamphlet was produced in April, 1943 and called for "next-of-kin" pamphlet which could include "additional (?) food, invalid comforts, warm clothing, educational facilities, indoor games and books, musical instruments and of course Braille and aural comforts". It assures the relatives that every effort is made to deliver the packages, with "positive evidence that the packages are received in camps safely and in adequate quantities". Not only that, but "every effort is made to maintain a reserve in Geneva which may be drawn upon in time of need". I guess that this would send a strong hint to everyone involved that the efforts were so successful that a surplus is maintained "just in case".
A letter from a POW ("from a Prisoner's letter") is also included for good measure: "My Red Cross Parcel is really a wonderful affair--all good, nourishing foodstuffs, and I am sure it will do a world of good". If this clean, utterly hopeful little pamphlet didn't do the trick to ease the worst fears of relatives of POWs, I couldn't imagine much else that would.