Ideology Through the Mail

Postcards of Hitler’s Germany
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By Chris William

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When Adolf Hitler and the Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei (N.S.D.A.P — Nazi Party) rose to power in 1933, much of their political success had been won through the use of a constant stream of party propaganda bombarding the German people. One form that continued to be heavily woven into everyday life until the end of the world war was the tremendous quantity of political and patriotic postcards that were printed and sold throughout Germany and their occupied territories.

 Adolf Hitler’s image graced many of the propaganda pieces made popular during the Third Reich.

Adolf Hitler’s image graced many of the propaganda pieces made popular during the Third Reich.

Soldiers writing home, workers on vacation, young adults away at camp, and countless others used postcards as brief ways to stay in contact with their friends and families in an era before the advent of the mass communication systems that are prevalent today. Cards were produced commemorating notable places or events (such as the annual Nuremburg rallies or the Führer’s birthday), military themes, or the glamorization of the peasant worker in the Third Reich.

 German veterans’ groups produced postcards to sell, such as this example, honoring the flag of the Luftwaffe Flak artillery.

German veterans’ groups produced postcards to sell, such as this example, honoring the flag of the Luftwaffe Flak artillery.

Companies produced series of cards (such as copies of works by the famous German painter, Wolf Wilrich) that were sold not only to help people keep in contact with others, but were also valued by period collectors when assembling patriotic sets. Besides using copies of paintings, postcards were also produced using real photographs. In addition to the commercially produced cards, many photography studios offered customers’ privately taken prints in postcard formats so that they could be sent through the mail to their loved ones.

 German war time industry also had their “Rosie the Riveter”.

German war time industry also had their “Rosie the Riveter”.

To augment the flow of cards from private retail companies, many groups affiliated with the Nazi Party (such as the Volksbund fur Deutschtum im Ausland — VDA) had cards commercially produced. The sale of these bolstered their coffers during funding drives.

Though there were literally millions of postcards printed during the 12-year period of the Nazi reign,comparatively few exist today. Many containing the themes of the Third Reich were destroyed after the war.

 Not all postcards used painted images. Actual photos were common, such as these soldiers in battle pictured in the series “Unsere Waffen SS” (“Our Waffen SS”).

Not all postcards used painted images. Actual photos were common, such as these soldiers in battle pictured in the series “Unsere Waffen SS” (“Our Waffen SS”).

Today, many original cards can sell from $20 to $75. As with any collectible items of value that can be readily duplicated, reproduction cards have frequently surfaced over the last few years. These differ from the originals with variations ranging from deviated print color on the reverse to missing signatures (if included on originals) on the faces of others. With this in mind, it is always best to study original examples whenever available, and only purchase pieces from trusted venders.

 The police and SS were honored in this colorful postcard.

The police and SS were honored in this colorful postcard.

 During WWII, Wolfgang Willrich joined Propaganda-Ersatzabteilung „Staffel der bildenden Künstler” and produced portraits of famous officers like Erwim Rommel.

During WWII, Wolfgang Willrich joined Propaganda-Ersatzabteilung „Staffel der bildenden Künstler” and produced portraits of famous officers like Erwim Rommel.

 All theatres of war were represented on post cards, including this Africa Corps knight’s cross winner.

All theatres of war were represented on post cards, including this Africa Corps knight’s cross winner.

 Luftwaffe pilots who achieved the distinction of becoming an ace were often pictured on patriotic postcards.

Luftwaffe pilots who achieved the distinction of becoming an ace were often pictured on patriotic postcards.

 Images of independence and daring were captured in Willrich’s U-boat captain portraits.

Images of independence and daring were captured in Willrich’s U-boat captain portraits.

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