Museum Exhibits Nazi Propaganda and Texas Media During WWII

“This happened in a democracy and so this can happen again.”

By Alain Stephens & Alexandra HartDecember 9, 2016 2:59 pm|

Adolf Hitler said “Make the lie big, make it simple, keep saying it, and eventually they will believe it.”

Many historians agree that one of Hitler’s most dangerous weapons was his words. With the help of Reich Minister of Propaganda Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s words mobilized anger, anti-Semitism, homophobia and white supremacy, fueling a political machine that began one of the world’s largest wars.

That propaganda weapon is now on display in a new exhibit called “State of Deception: The Power of Nazi Propaganda” at the Bullock Texas State History Museum in Austin.

Jenny Cobb, Associate Curator of Exhibitions at the Bullock, takes us through the exhibit.

She says you’ll see a lot of imagery walking through the front doors. You’ll see reproductions of posters in German, and a few smaller versions in English.

“I think a lot of people think they understand World War II and the Holocaust and it’s this horrible thing that happened,” Cobb says. “But when you actually see this propaganda that was being spewed at these people day in and day out, constantly – I mean it was everywhere. It was in children’s board games. They were inundated with this. And people, I don’t think, really understood that. And they just have this visceral reaction of shock and awe.”

The exhibit features historic film footage, propaganda posters, postage stamps, first-person interviews from people who fell victim to the propaganda, and rare artifacts – like a Nazi uniform.

Items in the exhibit are on loan from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and are complemented with items from the Dallas Holocaust Museum, Holocaust Museum Houston and some private lenders.

Cobb says the Nazis took the idea for their propaganda from the WW I allies.

“It was this use of basically taking your enemy and personifying them in this really negative, ugly way and inciting fear as a result,” she says. “It was mostly imagery with very few words, but when there were words they made them count. And so they were very strong, striking words that incited some sort of emotion in the people reading them.”

The propaganda was also successful because of the time period, Cobb says. Germany was coming out of a loss in WWI and an economic depression.

“These people are looking for a savior to pull them out of this depression and they’re also looking for someone to blame,” she says.

The Bullock Museum also has a companion exhibit “On the Texas Homefront” that portrays Texas’s relationship with the Holocaust. It includes editorial cartoons and newspaper clippings from newspapers like the Dallas Morning News, U.S. government footage and first-person accounts of life in Texas internment camps.

Cobb says the exhibit shows that the history of the Holocaust is relevant to Texans.

“This happened in a democracy and so this can happen again,” she says. “We were creating propaganda as well. … Walt Disney was creating films to inspire audiences to join the war effort and publishing children’s book about saving war bonds. We have Dallas Morning News articles talking about the flight of Jewish refugees as early as 1933. So Texans were aware of what was going on.”

Post by Beth Cortez-Neavel.