Propaganda posters from WWII

Ben Cosgrove says: "As Tuesday's the 70th anniversary of the start of WWII, I decided to put together a gallery of some of the most intense propaganda posters and flyers I could find, just to remind LIFE visitors that, whatever one thinks of the war itself, there's no denying that some of the graphic art that came out of it was AMAZING."

In war and in peace -- but especially in war -- governments everywhere resort to propaganda, which at its simplest and starkest often takes the form of outrageous posters: occasionally beautiful, sometimes racist, and often brutally jarring. This, for example, is how the Nazis wanted occupied Holland to see America and Americans in 1944 -- as a Frankenstein's monster of warmongering racists, jazz-crazed degenerates, and money-mad gangsters.
Propaganda posters from WWII


  1. Interesting image – especially when you think Iraq, rather than WW11…the Abu Graib hood, the loose-cannon Blackwater mercenaries, HumVees with heavy metal and hiphop at full volume… think about it.

  2. An irony not lost on the people who remixed lots of these in protest against Bush II, the PATRIOT Act, etc.

  3. thnk lt f ths pstrs r lst n th mdrn dnc.

    sw Phnng & Drvng pstr th thr dy. Th slgn sd “Crlss Tlk Csts Lvs”, whch md m sml, bcs gt th rfrnc.

    tld th gys t wrk bt t nd thy ddn’t knw wht th hll ws tlkng bt.

    – < hrf="">dm

    1. Hunter1,

      Since you ignored my previous warning about linking to your website in every comment, I’ve deactivated your account. Contact me if you would like it reinstated.

  4. Although the text of this version of the poster is in Dutch, the artist is not Dutch or Flemish, by the way, but the Norwegian Harald Damsleth, who was a popular commercial artist and book cover designer, but became notorious for his propaganda work for the collaborationist Nasjonal Samling party (samples of his poster work for them and the Germans). According to older folks, his colourful work was very striking visually in the otherwise drab and grey occupation years, so even those who hated the collaborationists often followed his “exibition window” on the Oslo main street with interest.

  5. @#6 PELLE:

    I wondered about that. I’d seen a few Nazi posters aimed at the Dutch, and the text always seemed a bit off.

    A couple of years ago here in Amsterdam I saw a poster that said “Halt! Winterhulp” poster that had a NSB’er (Nationalsocialistische Bond – local Quislings) with a cheesy grin holding out a collection can. I was tempted, but didn’t buy it.

  6. If I’m not mistaken, the inscription on the canary cage that the figures are prancing around in says “jitterbug.”

    A dance-fueled war machine? What German wouldn’t trade von Braun and all the rocket fuel in Bavaria for a superweapon powered by the jitterbug?

    I thought this poster was trying to demonize the US, not make them look COMPLETELY AWESOME

  7. above all you should see from these how hard government’s of all kinds had to work to convince their people that the WAR was worth fighting and winning,that there was not another way other than mass killing.

  8. These are amazing images. It’s interesting to see the move back towards less abstract representation during the war itself. I’ve recently become interested in propaganda from the inter-war period, which featured much more modernist approaches to popular art. Of course much of this was not state-sponsored, and informed by pretty radical ideologies. For example, the work of the Cologne school:

    Even during the Spanish Civil War, one can detect an interesting tension between the more abstract art associated with some of the anarchist and anarcho-syndicalist militias (, and the socialist realism eventually favored by the communists.

    Of course, my favorite from this set is “Women Love a Submariner,” but I have a dirty mind.

  9. Ironically the Canadians, not Americans, liberated Holland, and got along quite well with the Dutch. As a result lots of Dutch moved to Canada after the war.

  10. I once saw a WWII Nazi magazine illustration that depicted, from a curved horizon *satellite* point of view, the southeastern part of the Confederate States of America in flames and burning: supposedly Sherman’s 1865 “March To the Sea.”

    The caption (translated) read: “If they would do this to their own people, what will they do to you?”

  11. I’ve always found that poster to be one of the creepiest things I’ve ever seen. Maybe I shouldn’t have seen it when I was 4.

  12. I can’t find it, but one of the most amusing items I’ve ever encountered was the official nazi guide for distinguishing “degenerate Jewish music” like jazz etc.

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