Effects of Nazi Propaganda on the Dutch

1933 was the beginning of the end for many Jews. It was the year Hitler came to power in Germany; it was the year the German government started to restrict the Jews. The National Socialist party was founded on the ideals of anti-communism and anti-Semitism, but it was mainly the message of anti-Semitism that the Nazis tried to use to relate to the peoples of Europe. The anti-Semitic views of the party were a big factor in its rise to power within Germany. However, the party miss judged how the other countries of Europe would react to these views. Resistance to the propaganda campaign in the Netherlands can be seen on a large scale with the mass strikes and underground resistance groups and intimately through the Diary of Anne Frank.

The Nazis used propaganda to first take over Germany and then pointed this tool of war the other residents of the globe. The goal of the propaganda was to "break down the enemy psychologically" (Zeman, 77). The Nazis were very successful at using this psychological warfare against the German people. The National Socialist party preyed on the fears and prejudices of the people of Germany. It, among other things, used the anti-Semitic feelings of the people to relate its self to the country as a whole and thus was able to gain control of the country. Once the party was in control of Germany it began to aim its propaganda machine at its neighbors. It was assumed that for the most part the same strategy that had won them Germany could be employed. A heavy emphasis on anti-Semitism and anti-communism continued to be the battle plan for the Nazis. In the pre-war years the propaganda campaign seemed to work to some extent. However, the support of German laws and policies in the 1930’s by the Dutch government was mainly due to the fact that Germany was a major player in the Dutch economy. It was decided that for the interests of the state and economy that "incurring Germany’s displeasure had to be avoided." (Brinks, 20). This kind of view was rampant across Europe; it just seemed like too much trouble to oppose the Nazis. Politically it seemed to the Nazis that their propaganda was having the desired effects, however, the true feelings of the people were quite different.

Unlike the Dutch government, the people displayed their resistance to the attempted Nazi-ization of their country. When the Germans occupied the Netherlands they had 4 goals: to transform it into a National Socialist State, to exploit the Dutch economy, to purge the Netherlands of Jews, and to prevent aid to Germany’s enemies. It was the failure of the first and last goals that showed the Dutch people to be against the Nazi ideals, to show that they wanted their freedom back. The National Socialist movement "never won the support of more than 1½ percent of the Dutch population" (de Jong, 33). Also three major strikes were organized, the first in Amsterdam was to protest the treatment of Jews in the city. The second was a nationwide strike to protest the attempt to liquidate the Dutch army into the German army or have them report to P.O.W. camps. And the 3rd was a railroad strike that isolated part of the country when the allies landed at the lower Rhine. In addition to these public strikes there was a massive underground working against the Nazis. Daily accounts of the war effort were printed up and distributed along with more important documents by an underground press. And there were numerous organizations, which kept tabs on the police sweeps, faked documents, and got Jews into hiding. Although the Germans were able to deport about 82 percent of the Jews in the Netherlands to concentration camps another 25,000 went into hiding with the help of such resistance groups. Approximately 16,000 of them were able to say hidden through out the occupation.

Until 1942, the ineffectiveness of the German propaganda allowed the Franks to live relatively carefree, as seen in the early entries of the Diary of Anne Frank. Despite the many anti-Semitic laws that went into effect in 1940, "Jews were required to wear a yellow star; Jews were required to turn in their bicycles; Jews were forbidden to use streetcars; Jews were forbidden to ride in cars, even their own" (Frank, 8), Anne Frank was able to lead a normal life for a 13 year old girl. She had many friends but was only able to confide in her diary that she named Kitty. Through the early passages in the diary Anne’s life seems almost perfectly normal for a girl her age. She worries about school, talks about friends, about "admirers," and complains about her parents. These are the things she Anne worries about because she can hardly feel the German influence. Her Christian friends still treat her the same, there are still stores where she can buy anything she wants, and boys are still pursuing her despite all the German laws and propaganda. She is light hearted and does not have a care in the world. She tells Kitty about such incidences as her Math teacher assigning her an essay on chatterboxes for talking in class and only mentioned the effects of the German occupation in passing. Things like "Father gave Mother’s bike to some Christian friends for safekeeping" (Frank, 12) are immediately followed by lighthearted accounts of when she first meets a guy she later dates. By 1942, when the diary entries start, the anti-Jewish laws have been in effect for about 2 years; Anne had gotten a chance to become used to the laws, and therefore does not see the relevance in making a big deal out of them in her diary. She was lucky, being in a private school sheltered her from a lot of the anti-Semitism that children in public schools suffered. She was surrounded by the children of a wealthier and more enlightened class of people who were less likely to be swayed by the Nazi propaganda and become anti-Semitic. It was not until the entry just before they family is forced into hiding that Anne states that German influence is making its mark on the family: "Father has been home a lot lately. There’s nothing for him to do at the office; it must be awful to feel you’re not needed…Father began to talk about going into hiding" (Frank 17). This is when Anne begins to really feel the effect of the German occupation.

On Monday July 5, 1942 the Frank joined the numbers of the 25,000 Jews forced into hiding in the Netherlands; Anne’s moral remained relatively high despite this imprisonment. Once the initial shock of the move was over Anne wrote to Kitty describing the "Secret Annex," in exhausting detail she describes every room in the building. Her curiosity and attention to detail remained intact. Her father brought her collection of post-cards and movie stars she was able to make her room "[look] much more cheerful" (Frank, 26). Her mood remained incredibly optimistic considering the circumstances as she writes: "I’m looking forward to the arrival of the van Daans, which is set for Tuesday. It will be much more fun and also not as quiet" (Frank, 27). Anne continually uses upbeat words like "fun" and "cheerful" in the initial entries after the family moved to the annex giving the appearance that she is somewhat naive about exactly what is going on. Her comments added to the entries at a later date show how the surroundings she was forced to grow up in changed her out look: "Now that I’m reading my diary after a year and a half, I’m surprised at my childish innocence. Deep down I know I could never be that innocent again, however much I’d like to be" (Frank, 59). Only a year and a half and she was saying she had lost her innocence. Growing up in the annex forced her to mature mentally much faster than a child under normal conditions would. As the months pass the entries become more sullen, while she still looks optimistically towards the future she talks more about the bickering between the people forced to live in hiding. In the last few entries Anne’s moral is drastically low considering the news that the allies will be making a push to liberate central Europe soon. The stress of confinement is getting to her, "I feel more miserable than I have in months, Even after the break-in I didn’t feel so utterly broken, inside and out" (Frank, 300). Even the good news of the engagement of a friend is out weighed by the tension she feels. Indirectly the Germans are finally taking a toll on her moral. The forced confinement is beginning to be too much for her. The last entry in the diary talks about her different sides, the optimistic vs. the insightful. The entry talks about how she dislikes the fact that she only lets other people see the happy optimistic side of her, that no one knows the other side of her. She is depressed with how she comes across to other people; she longs for someone who can understand her deeper self. This kind of deep introspection is what is expected of someone twice Anne’s age yet because of her confinement her mental age had reached that point.

In the Netherlands the Nazi propaganda war was not as successful as it had been in Germany. The attempts to spread the ideals of anti-Semitism and anti-communism that embodied the National Socialist Party of Germany failed to take hold with the Dutch people. Not even the anti-Jewish laws could prevent a 13-year-old Jewish girl from being completely optimistic about life. Anne Frank managed to resist the Nazis without even realizing it. By remaining positive about life she rebelled against the propaganda campaign of the Nazis. The basic type of resistance shown by Anne was the basis for the larger resistance groups in the Netherlands. The brave people of the resistance groups rebelled against German control and managed to save over 16,000 Jews in the Netherlands. Unfortunately most of the residents of the "Secret Annex" were not among those numbers. Anne, matured by her confinement but optimistic till her capture, died in the winter of 1944-45 in a concentration camp.

 

Works Cited

Brinks, Herman. "The Dutch, the Germans, and the Jews." History Today 49.6 (1999): 17-28.

Frank, Anne. The Diary of a Young Girl: The Definitive Edition. Trans Susan Massotty. Ed. Otto Frank and Mirjam Pressler. New York: Bantam, 1991.

Hilberg, Raul, ed. Documents of Destruction. Chicago: Quadrangle Books, 1971.

Jong, Louis de. The Netherlands and Nazi Germany. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1990.

Laska, Vera, ed. Women in the Resistance and in the Holocaust. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1983.

Zeman, Z. A. B. Nazi Propaganda. New York: Oxford University Press, 1964.