|Intl. Notebook||May 23 2012|
Above and below we have a collection of World War II propaganda posters from the U.S., Russia, Britain, Japan, and other participating nations. Some of these are artistically adept, and yet intensely ugly. You’d almost wonder if artists—who have so much power over the imagination—shouldn’t adhere to a version of the Hippocratic oath that forbids doing harm in the practice of the craft. Unfortunately, World War II itself teaches us that such oaths don't work for doctors either—re: cruel medical experiments in Germany, the U.S., and other countries resulting in numerous deaths for the purpose of morbid curiosity.
All of these posters are circa 1939 to 1945, except the nasty anti-Jewish, anti-Russian poster, which dates from 1937, but which we’ve included to illustrate how racism was used to pave the way for a war nobody realized—foolishly—would be a generation killer. It's an effective piece in the sense that it portrays other humans as inhuman based on a perception of otherness. It was painted by Horst Schlüter, a prominent graphic artist of the time. And for an idea how unkillable such ideas are, consider the fact that we saw that poster commented upon favorably on a neo-nazi forum.
World War II is just a school term for most people on the planet today, and is often thought of as a romantic time. Perhaps—but it’s worth noting that, more or less, 27,500 humans were slaughtered every day for about six years, eventually totaling more than 60 million lives snuffed out. Many of those people would have been orators, musicians, teachers, artists, writers, and even pulp writers, that we would remember today. Check our previous collection of war posters here.