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Hitler’s War — how the Wermacht wanted the world to see Germany’s prosecution of World War II

18 June 2014

Hitler’s War — how the Wermacht  wanted the world to see Germany’s prosecution of World War II

Hitler’s War: World War II as portrayed by SIGNAL, the international Nazi Propaganda Machine, Jeremy Harwood, 2014, ISBN 9780760346211, 224 pp.

Hitler's War: World War II as portrayed by SIGNAL, the international Nazi Propaganda Machine by Jeremy Harwood

Hitler’s War: World War II as portrayed by SIGNAL, the international Nazi Propaganda Machine by Jeremy Harwood

Jeremy Harwood has written another fine book and one which is quite unusual as well as one which saves a significant aspect of history how World War II Germany tried to influence world opinion in its march for conquest of Europe.

Harwood has brought readers a requiem of the defunct photo-essay magazine, Signal. Back in the day when magazines of this genre were king, publications such as Life, the German Army (Wermacht) published Signal in multiple languages and distributed millions upon millions of issues throughout neutral countries as well as countries occupied by Germany during the near entirety of World War II.

Harwood states that Signal was “Nazi Propaganda Magazine” but this may be an overgeneralization. This is because it was published and controlled by the Wermachtand not the Nazi propaganda machine (Reichs Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda) run by the infamous (also, and unfortunately, incredibly succesful Joseph Goebbels). That it certainly spun the news cannot be rationally argued but it may not be propaganda, per se.

Or maybe it is?

Harwood takes the reader through the years of distribution which fueled the ravenous appetites of its readership which searched for news and understanding during a time when Europe was either aflame or at least under threat. The magazine is well written but it is the photos which made it popular. News quality images brought to readers in graphic and expressive black and white images as well as center spreads done in color which were rare for the day. Victories were enthusiastically portrayed (the early Blitzkrieg for example) and defeats were spun (such as those in Russia as well as the Allied bombing campaign). What could not be spun simply went unreported (there is no mention of the “Final Solution” or slave labor or other atrocities). The book has 200 images which are evenly divided between color as well as black and white.

Signal’s journalism is not objective but neither do the well captioned photos unequivocally lie as we generally think of with the practice of propaganda. The photos are most often emotive, showing people suffering hardship and overcoming privation as well as martial photos of aircraft, artillery and soldiers. Many images are not commonly seen as is the practice of not showing the defeated in any light other than being defeated. Many of them are absolutely and unexpectedly jarring. One example is of three Luftwaffe Dornier Do 17 bombers flying past the Acropolis. Another is of soldiers taking advantage of an underground structure in the hot North African desert with an infantryman climbing a ladder through rays of sunlight streaming through the access hole.

More can be learned of the time by the photographs of various entertainers as well as the advertisements pertinent to the time. The type is small, like the magazine, but makes for incredibly rich reading in this book which is published in Signal’s original large format.

This book is important to read for the reasons given above but also for today’s world. Being able to recognize when the news has the appearance of being objectively reported when it is in fact not is a necessary skill for the 21st Century. This may be Harwood’s greatest gift with the writing of Hitler’s War: World War II as portrayed by Signal the international Nazi propaganda magazine.

The logo of "Signal"


As is the publishing business custom, Zenith Press and On-line Bookstore provided a copy of this book for an objective review.

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