See the first post about Japanese kamishibai (paper theatre) for more information and commentary about the origins and context of these images.
Here we move into the 1940s, WWII and the dodgy, overly-positive world of propaganda. Propaganda is almost by definition absurd and deceptive; if it wasn’t so cognitively dissonant and detached from observed reality then we’d just call it informative or documentarian. But there’s still something particularly disturbing about the hijacking of a medium intended mainly for children. The slides shown here are from How to Build a Home Air Raid Shelter and from Kintaro the Paratrooper. The latter is a militaristic rewrite of the traditional story about Momotoro the Peach Boy, who joined up with animal friends to defend Japan from invading demons. You can see what they did there, obviously.
Kintaro the Paratrooper. Here come the British soldiers. Their tank seems a bit wee, but perhaps that’s intentional. I’m British but I still can’t really object to this racist caricature of us with our stupid shorts and our sunburned ears and noses. Stereotypes all have an original.
Kintaro throws a grenade at the British tank. Kawaiiiiiiiiiiiiiii.
The last scans for now from an excellent but sadly out of print book called The Public Notice. The Channel Islands, including Jersey, were the only part of Britain occupied by the Germans during World War II, from summer of 1940 until May of 1945. Even though the Channel Islands are some distance away from mainland Britain, they’re technically spoken of as being among the British Isles. These proclamations (both 1941) give some intimation of a nightmare scenario where the Nazis won and the rest of Britain fell permanently to the Third Reich; a place where a man would be summarily shot for releasing a pigeon or chalking a V onto a wall. As in all the other occupied territories, in the Channel Islands there was resistance both passive and active; there were also people who eagerly availed themselves of the opportunity to snitch and collaborate offered in the second notice below.
For those who didn’t know or realise it already, the real and occasionally fatal practice of signifying that resistance was alive in conquered Nazi territory by defacing walls and official notices with a V sign– for victory, as demonstrated by Churchill’s fat little fingers– is the direct source of its use in Alan Moore’s V for Vendetta, and in the considerably less subtle Nazi allegory (less subtle, in fact, to the point of not being an allegory at all) of the original, cheesy, shoulder pads and rubber lizard mask 1980s V.
V for Vendetta. Even though I think Anonymous is generally a good thing, won’t you all join me in trying to forget the film version ever happened? Holy Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins, preserve us from the Wachowskis’ tin ears for British speech and culture.
V. Hide yo hamsters, hide yo guinea pigs, cuz they eating all yo rodents.
I think the internet has rewired my brain. Nowadays when I’m reading a book (you know, the things made of bound paper), I’m constantly distracted by passing references or random facts because some part of me immediately knows I could look it up. One recent example occurred while I was reading about Jewish/Zionist terrorism in Palestine after WWII, which was mainly focused on forcing the colonial British to leave. There was a fleeting mention that the Mufti of Jerusalem had been involved in recruiting Muslims into the Nazi SS. Obviously there’s “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” to consider, but Nazi Muslims? Outside of the crazed, ignorant, hateful imaginations of certain Republicans in the US, I mean?
It’s true. The 13th Waffen Mountain Division of the SS Handschar didn’t actually operate in Palestine, but they were mostly recruited in 1943 from Bosnian Muslims to fight on the Axis side against Yugoslav partisans. A combination of naive orientalism, pseudoscience and the good old standby of Nazi hypocrisy allowed Heinrich Himmler to convince himself and his racist idiot cronies that Bosnian Muslims fit into the nonsensical genealogy of the so-called Aryan race. They definitely had nothing to do with Slavs, oh no, definitely not. The hardline Mufti of Jerusalem, Mohammad Amin al-Husayni– fairly indiscriminately opposed to the British and to Jews no matter where they came from– was brought in to convince and legitimise Bosnian Muslims into defying their own Islamic clerics, who had expressly and unanimously (and wisely) forbidden their communities from getting involved with nationalist causes or the Nazis.
In common with all their other Schutzstaffel colleagues, the 13th Waffen distinguished themselves mainly for their indiscriminate brutality both in battle and against unarmed non-combatants. In this case it was mainly Serbian civilians who bore the brunt of war crimes that were punished afterwards with executions of the perpetrators. And of course, much like the rest of the SS with their Hugo Boss uniforms, the horror of what they did was somehow accentuated by the fact that they always turned up for mass murder, genocide and hatred immaculately styled, covered in logos… and in the case of the 13th Division, wearing a fez.
Members of the 13th Waffen Mountain Division of the SS. You can probably work it out for yourself, but the pamphlet they’re reading is ‘Islam and Judaism’.
In July I visited Orford Ness, the former military testing site on the Suffolk coast. In the 1930s it was one of the places where the technology that became known as RADAR (RAdio Detection And Ranging, now normalised as an actual word, “radar”) was developed, then it was a base for the Atomic Weapons Research Establishment, and finally it was a powerful radio installation responsible until 2012 for broadcasting the BBC World Service to Europe. It’s now owned by the National Trust. Access is severely restricted and visitor numbers are strictly controlled because of the danger from unexploded ordinance, and to protect an extremely rare and fragile habitat of vegetated shingle. It’s also situated on a long spit that has to be accessed by boat. As you’ll see from the pictures, probably the only way to describe it if you’ve not been there is as a kind of temperate maritime desert. I was there on an extremely rare hot, dry and sunny day when you could walk around without being blown over sideways. Not much can live on the Ness permanently. Despite growing up not far away from Orford, and living in the vicinity on and off over the years, the inaccessibility and isolation of the place plus the fact that I don’t have a car had always conspired to keep me away from a place that I found fascinating. Continue Reading
It’s not at all unusual for me to see things on the internet that make me wish they were a brilliant piece of satire instead of an actual thing that really exists. Unfortunately I must report that action figures of Hitler and other leading Nazis are definitely things that really exist. The subtly and charmingly named 3Reich* offers such a wide selection of evil warmongers and architects of genocide that there’s sure to be somebody who takes your fancy: choose from Hitler, Göring, Goebbels, Heydrich, Dönitz, Himmler or even Japanese luminaries like Ito Hirobumi because, hey, there were loads of brilliant atrocities perpetrated in Manchuria, Korea and China too you know! The site says “our product is for historic education purposes only, and is not intended to glorify, nor exploit the horrors and atrocities of war.” So make sure you appreciate Hitler for his art and for how much you can learn from him, and not for his atrocities, OK? Continue Reading