Political Posters
from the Depression Years

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  • "P," Munich
  • 1930

German Women
Think of Your Children 

Hitler knew that violence and appeals to violence were a necessary element in politics. But he also was aware that violent symbols were a two-edged sword: they could repell as well as attract. Thus Nazi propaganda frequently contained another element of which this 1930 poster is an excellent example. It shows a German mother with her two children. She holds a hand to her mouth, but it is unclear why. Is she holding back a sob? tears? a cry of protest? In any case, she is apparently the sole source of comfort for her two children, who cling to her frantically.

This appeal to pathos -- to the suffering of children, the strong, silent self-sacrificing of mothers -- becomes a popular theme for the NSDAP during the depression. And this poster shows how effective it could be. The graphic is tightly presented, with no cluttering or contrasting elements. No home, no landscape, no flags. Just the mother's determination to protect her children.

The beauty of this approach is, of course, that it remains purely emotional. The viewer is not informed about how or why the women needs to think of her children. Nor is there any indication why a Vote for Hitler (the caption at the bottom of the poster) will improve her situation. Indeed this poster is almost an archtypal Nazi approach. Raise the human condition to pure emotional pathos, and ignore political programs. It is sobering to remember that a majority of Hitler voters were women, attracted by just such an appeal.

There can be no doubt that this poster contributed to the spectacular victory the Nazis won in this 1930 elections. Their seats in the Reichstag jumped from 12 to 108, and overnight they went from 9th to become the second largest party in Germany -- just behind the SPD.

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