Tuesday, January 24, 2012

"Safe Conduct" Leaflets

A common practice during World War II was the dropping of surrender leaflets on military troops and civilians on both sides of the conflict. By the time the Americans entered the war in 1941, the practice was already well established albeit with questionable success. The allied leaflets that were in use had no uniformity. They were of different color and size and had varying surrender instructions. Under the supervision of the United States, the Allies not only standardized the leaflets but used all their psychological warfare resources to design a "Passierschein" that was eminently more successful. For example, it was assumed that Germans would be more inclined to believe documents that looked official, so the Allies added the great seals of the United States and Great Britain, as well as Eisenhower's signature to the leaflet. The text urging Germans to surrender is in German and English. The text on the back, which quotes excerpts from the Haager Convention (1907) and from the Geneva Convention (1912) on the rights of prisoners of war, is in a font typically used by German authorities. According to an article by SGM Herbert A. Friedman (Ret.), this particular leaflet was dropped from September 1944 to March 1945.

Whereas the "Safe Conduct" leaflet leaves no doubt as to where it originated, a typical German surrender leaflet was more obscure in its origin. It is only upon reading that the source becomes clear. Delivery and execution of this type of "grey" propaganda fell to a special branch of Goebbels propaganda machine, the propaganda company (PK), whose purpose it was to disseminate positive but also misleading and false information, using the same psychological warfare methods as the allies.

German Produced "Surrender" Leaflet
To take a look at these and other World War II propaganda materials ask for MS-995 or Broadside 001459.

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