Imaging Axis Terror: War Propaganda and the 1943 “The Nature of the Enemy” Exhibition at Rockefeller Center
Seiten 85 - 101
This publication is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons License Attribution - NonCommercial - NoDerivatives 4.0. (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0)
In the summer of 1943, the Office of War Information (OWI) staged an exhibition titled “The Nature of the Enemy” at Rockefeller Center in New York City. It included huge photo-murals showing the destruction and displacement caused by the global conflict of World War II and six scenic installations depicting the cruel practices of the Axis powers. In this essay, I analyze the exhibition, which was designed by OWI Deputy Director Leo Rosten, as an instance of propaganda, relating it to a series of posters on the same topic produced at the OWI by the American artist Ben Shahn, but never shown to the public. Rosten’s exhibition depicted the enemy’s actions and alleged nature in a prestigious urban location and provocative style, combining elements of instruction with thrilling entertainment. I argue that it signified an important yet ambiguous and contradictory attempt to represent the horrors of war from a “comfortable distance.” While Shahn’s poster series aimed for empathetic identification with the victims of terror, Rosten’s exhibition promised the vicarious experience of cruelty through the juxtaposition of enemy statements and installations depicting scenes of violence.
1 Amishai-Maisels, Ziva. Depiction and Interpretation: The Influence of the Holocaust on the Visual Arts. Oxford: Pergamon Press, 1993. Print.
2 Asch, Sholem. “In the Valley of Death.” New York Times 7 Feb. 1943: SM16, 36. Print.
3 Baldwin, Hanson W. “We Have Learned to Fight.” New York Times 26 Sept. 1943: SM5, 36, 37. Print.
4 Balfour, Alan. Rockefeller Center: Architecture as Theater. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1978. Print.
5 Decker, Christof. “Fighting for a Free World: Ben Shahn and the Art of the War Poster.” American Art 33.2 (2019): 84-105. Print.
6 Der Fuehrer’s Face. Dir. Jack Kinney. Walt Disney Productions, 1943. Film.
7 Feller, A[braham] H. “OWI on the Home Front.” Public Opinion Quarterly (1943): 55-65. Print.
8 Friedrich, Carl J. “Issues of Informational Strategy.” Public Opinion Quarterly (1943): 77-89. Print.
9 Greenfeld, Howard. Ben Shahn: An Artist’s Life. New York: Random House, 1998. Print.
10 >Gutheim, Frederick A. “Federal Participation in Two World’s Fairs.” Public Opinion Quarterly 3.4 (1939): 608-22. Print.
11 Hagen, Joshua. “Parades, Public Space, and Propaganda: The Nazi Culture Parades in Munich.” Geografiska Annaler 90.4 (2008): 349-67. Print.
12 Heyman, Therese Thau. Posters American Style. New York: Abrams Publishers / National Museum of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, 1998. Print.
13 Jastrow, Joseph. “War Captives Offer Chance.” New York Times 15 June 1943: 20. Print.
14 Leff, Laurel. Buried by The Times: The Holocaust and America’s Most Important Newspaper. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2005. Print.
15 Lipstadt, Deborah E. Beyond Belief: The American Press and the Coming of the Holocaust, 1933–1945. New York: The Free Press, 1986. Print.
16 Luckert, Steven, and Susan Bachrach. State of Deception: The Power of Nazi Propaganda. Washington, DC: United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, 2011. Print.
17 “Many See Exhibits of War’s Horrors.” New York Times 18 May 1943: 19. Print.
18 McCloskey, Barbara. “Teach Your Children Well: Hermynia zur Mühlen, George Grosz, and the Art of Radical Pedagogy in Germany between the World Wars.” Art and Resistance in Germany. Ed. Deborah Ascher Banstone and Elizabeth Otto. New York: Bloomsbury Visual Arts, 2019. 77-95. Print.
19 Natanson, Nicholas. The Black Image in the New Deal: The Politics of FSA Photography. Knoxville: U of Tennessee P, 1992. Print.
20 “‘Nature of the Enemy’ Exhibit to Open Today.” New York Herald Tribune 17 May 1943: 7. Print.
21 Nelson, Steve. “Walt Disney’s EPCOT and the World’s Fair Performance Tradition.” The Drama Review 30.4 (1986): 106-46. Print.
22 Novick, Peter. The Holocaust and Collective Memory: The American Experience. London: Bloomsbury, 1999. Print.
23 “O. W. I. Exhibit of Axis Terror Is Opened Here.” New York Herald Tribune 18 May 1943: 17. Print.
24 Rosten, Leo C. “The Intellectual and the Mass Media: Some Rigorously Random Remarks.” Daedalus 89.2 (1960): 333-46. Print.
25 ---. “Movies and Propaganda.” The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 254 (1947): 116-24. Print.
26 Rukeyser, Muriel. “Memo re. the Poster Series on the Nature of the Enemy.” TS (draft), with the author’s ms. corrections, unsigned, 12 Mar. 1943. 2 p. Folder United States. War Information Office. Graphics Division. Muriel Rukeyser Papers, The Henry W. and Albert A. Berg Collection of English and American Literature, New York Public Library.
27 >---. “Memo. Poster Tie-up with Bureau of Intelligence Reports.” TS (carbon), unsigned, 19 Feb. 1943. 4 p. Folder United States. War Information Office. Graphics Division. Muriel Rukeyser Papers, The Henry W. and Albert A. Berg Collection of English and American Literature, New York Public Library.
28 “Tableaux to Show Hitler ‘Platform.’” New York Times 11 May 1943: 23. Print.
29 Watson, June. “Poster Show War Theme Panorama.” The Washington Post 24 Jan. 1943: L4. Print.
30 Weinberg, Sydney. “What to Tell America: The Writers’ Quarrel in the Office of War Information.” The Journal of American History 55.1 (1968): 73-89. Print.
31 Whiting, Cécile. Antifascism in American Art. New Haven, CT: Yale UP, 1989. Print.
32 Winkler, Allan. Home Front U.S.A.: America during World War II. 2nd ed. Wheeling, IL: Harlan Davidson, Inc., 2000. Print.
33 Witkowski, Terrence H. “World War II Poster Campaigns: Preaching Frugality to American Consumers.” Journal of Advertising 32.1 (2003): 69-82. Print.