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wwii-propaganda-posters-500-65When Pearl Harbor was bombed on December 7, 1941, it was not only a date that has lived in infamy, it was a wake-up call for all Americans. World War II became not just an effort undertaken by soldiers but everyone in the country.

Everyone—soldier and civilian alike—had a role to play in the war effort. Children collected scrap materials, women planted victory gardens, and men served as air raid wardens. Sometimes it was hard to know if their hard work did any good as they watched map boards anxiously to track troop movements and battles and checked whether someone they knew was listed as wounded, captured or killed. Of the nearly 4,000 Adams County residents who served in the war, 118 gave their lives and many more were wounded.

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As soldiers were shipped overseas, families left behind worried over whether they would ever see their loved ones again. That worry translated into a need to do something to help in the war effort. Seeking to direct this energy, the federal government and some private companies produced posters encouraging people to buy war bonds, plant victory gardens, be careful about what they said and more.

“They showed people that things done at home were helping over there,” says Benjamin Neely, executive director of the Adams County Historical Society.

The Adams County Historical Society has a collection of more than two dozen of these posters that show the messages that county residents were being bombarded with. They are a mix of paintings and photographs emblazoned with short messages. One image that sticks with Neely is that of a sailor’s hand sticking above the water. The message of the image is that the sailor is drowning.  The poster warns, “Someone talked.”

The WWII propaganda posters were carefully planned by the U.S. Government, which tried to identify the most-effective way to not only communicate a message to Americans but to influence their behavior.

we-can-do-it“One government-commissioned study concluded that the best posters were those that made a direct, emotional appeal and presented realistic pictures in photographic detail. The study found that symbolic or humorous posters attracted less attention, made a less favorable impression, and did not inspire enthusiasm. Nevertheless, many symbolic and humorous posters were judged to be outstanding in national poster competitions during the war,” according to the National Archives web site.

The posters were created by some of the leading illustrators and photographers of the day, including Norman Rockwell.

“They encouraged the country to pull together and sacrifice,” Neely says. “I would think that they were really effective because they still survive today.”

The messages encouraged Americans to recycle materials and conserve their usage of materials needed in the war effort. They promote buying war bonds to help fund the war. They warn people to be careful of what they say because it might reach the wrong ears.

“These posters really raised awareness about different things,” says Erik Dorr, curator of the Gettysburg Museum of History. “They were the government’s way of communicating with the masses.”

The posters appeared at a time when Americans needed some direction. They were angry that the U.S. had been attacked. They wanted to help, although many of them were not eligible for military service. These posters served as a constant reminder of what they were fighting for. It helped them believe that the changes they were experiencing were worth it.

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“World War II was a unique time in the history of the country where we were really, really united in one cause,” says Dorr.

Things like gasoline, rubber, kitchen fats, and meat were rationed. Families had to register in order to receive ration books. The coupons in the book allowed the families to be able to purchase different items during certain periods of time and in specified quantities. So strict was rationing that the Gettysburg Times noted that newborn babies needed to be registered at the ration board so that the family would receive additional coupons in order to be able to get needed food items for the child.

Robert Bloom noted is his book, A History of Adams County, Pennsylvania 1700-1990, that Fairfield doctor Ira Henderson dealt with the restrictions rationing caused to driving by using a bicycle to get to his patients’ homes.

Draft boards were set up in New Oxford and Gettysburg to evaluate males for eligibility into the military. As more males went into the military, it created labor shortages at area businesses. Because of this women were encouraged through the propaganda posters to join the workforce. “Poster and film images glorified and glamorized the roles of working women and suggested that a woman`s femininity need not be sacrificed. Whether fulfilling their duty in the home, factory, office, or military, women were portrayed as attractive confident, and resolved to do their part to win the war,” the National Archives web site notes.

The posters encouraged the men and women stateside to become a part of the Civilian Defense Corps. They could serve as air raid warden, nurse’s aides, fire watchers and more. More than 4,000 Adams County residents participated in these war time roles.

Gettysburg even had a POW camp for German prisoners during the war. The prisoners were used to offset some of the labor shortages, but they also needed to be guarded. Dorr’s grandfather, Fred Pfeffer, was Gettysburg’s mayor during the war. Not only did he serve as an air raid warden, he deputized a group of men, including a hunter with a bloodhound, to track down any prisoners who escaped from the camp.

When the war was finally won in 1945 and the country celebrated its victory, they were celebrating not only the return of their loved ones but the fact that their sacrifices at home had paid off.

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American soldiers recover some of the art work stolen by the Nazis during WWII.

I just saw an episode of “Bones” where an old Nazi was murdered in South America and in his basement they found art work, gold, pictures and other items he had been hiding. Then a real-life story of Nazi theft caught my attention.

Just recently more than 1,500 paintings that haven’t been seen in 75 years were recovered. Many of them had been believed destroyed during the war.

Three years ago customs officials doing a routine check on a train from Switzerland met an man from Munich, Germany, named Hildebrant Gurlitt. It turns out the Gurlitt was a fake name.

Officials tracked him down in 2011 to an small apartment.

“Behind “mountains of rotting food and decades-old tin cans” lay a collection of artworks thought to be worth over $1.35 billion, including paintings by Picasso, Matisse, and Renoir,” reported TheVerge.com.

Many of the pieces came from Gurlitt’s father who was an art historian. Cornelius Gurlitt acquired many of the paintings from Jews who were trying to raise capital to get out of Germany after the rise of the Third Reich. Cornelius took advantage of the Jews’ desperation and bought them for next to nothing. Other pieces had been seized outright by the Nazis.

“A total of 121 framed and 1,285 unframed works, among them works by famous artists, were seized,” prosecutor Reinhard Nemetz told CNN.com. “There were oil paintings, works in india ink, pencil, watercolors, lithographs and prints.”

Gurlitt had been making a living selling off some of the lesser-known pieces in order not to draw attention to himself. Though he wasn’t living a flashy lifestyle, investigators found one bank account with $650,000 in it.

Officials are now searching for the original owners of the art work. “It’s believed that one of the Matisse paintings may belong to Anne Sinclair, the wife of disgraced politician Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the former head of the International Monetary Fund facing trial in France for his part in abetting a sex trafficking ring,” TheVerge.com.

Here’s the link to The Verge and CNN.

 

 

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