Opinions on propaganda leaflets

Opinion of 'Bomber' Harris:

It is well known that Air Chief Marshal (later to become Marshal of the Royal Air Force) Sir Arthur Harris, was very specific in the way he wanted to bring Germany to its knees. A Chief of Staff memorandum dated July 31, 1941 gives a very short 'explanation' of the carpet-bombing of German towns:

"We must first destroy the foundations on which the German war machine rests. The economy that feeds it, the morale which sustains it, the supplies which nourish it and the hopes of victory which inspire it. Then only shall we be able to return to the Continent and control portions of his territory and impose our will upon the enemy... It is in bombing, on a scale undreamt of in the last war, that we find the new weapon on which we must principally depend for the destruction of German economic life and morale".

Harris had also a very specific opinion on leaflet droppings:

The British public called him 'Butcher' Harris because of the killing of Germans he did. His crews however seem to have called him 'Butch' for another reason. They (sometimes) felt that they were used as a tool to destroy Germany, but at the costs of the 'tools' lives.
In fact, Harris was very fierce if he had to protect the crews from, in his eyes, wrong policies. One of those policies was the airdropping of leaflets. He didn't want ack-ack guns and enemy fighters kill his crews while they bombarded German cities with 'bits of papers' as he called them. Bombers were made for delivering bombs. He did not want his crews to be newspaper boys or his planes delivering trucks. Harris also said that "He had not become Chief of Bomber Command to provide the citizens of the Third Reich with regular supplies of toilet paper".
All his resistance did not help to much!

Opinion of Bomber crews:

Of course, the crews themselves did not believe in airdropping leaflets over axis troops and civilians. But what could they do? With there special kind of humour they sometimes said:
"There is always the possibility of a parcel failing to open and hitting someone on the head!".
"See that you check the parcels before you throw them out to make sure they are properly undone. Otherwise you might hit someone!"

Article in LIFE magazine: January 1945

Opinion of Front soldiers:

The above was only known to the common public after the war. The quarrels between Harris and his superiors were, for certain, not made public in the war years.
But in the war itself, enemy propaganda was also counterattacked by ridiculing it! In 'Life' magazine of january 1945, was the following article (readers letter). It is also a description of how 'spreading by hand' took place.

Does this counterattack show the real feelings about enemy propaganda? (I have my doubts). In fact, the whole article / letter could be a setup as own propaganda.
Anybody that could give me more background information about the spreading of this kind of leaflets on the (Italian) front, is invited to e-mail me! Could anybody give me information on this specific incident? I'm also in search of more articles like this in wartime press!
nb. Visitors of my slideshows wil have seen the above leaflet in it. In reality it is a very nice coloured leaflet in different compositions (and with different women pictures).

Russian SAFE CONDUCT to Germans

The success of Safe Conducts:

Ridiculing the (own and enemy) propaganda is one thing! But it is a fact that there is at least one very successfull leaflet used: "The Safe Conduct Pass".
There are photographs known of groups of German soldiers surrendering to allied soldiers while waving with such a leaflet. US interogation teams found out that the soldiers that surrendered, were not afraid to go into captivity (although the Nazis told them all kinds of terrible stories about it). It was feld by the US soldiers that this was due to the fact that the common German soldier believed the texts on the (Passierschein) leaflets. (Important note: I'm not saying that the German soldier did not believe in Germanies victory anymore after reading the leaflets! But after strong resistance against the allied forces, they had less trouble with surrendering because they were NOT as afraid of going into captivity anymore).

But also the Germans and Russians used all kinds of Passierschein types of leaflets to pursuade enemy soldiers to surrender. This despite the fact that the Germans also made a forgery of the allied Passierschein (aimed at allied frontline troops) in which they ridicule the allied Passierschein.

This Russian leaflet is of February 1945 and aimed at the Germans.
In the 'example leaflets' section (menu on the left) are some more Passierschein leaflets shown with a short description. The forged Passierschein is also shown there.


It is a fact that there is only very little known about the effects of leaflet propaganda in WW2 (and other wars!). All the above points are just examples of the things that ARE known.
But if the propaganda leaflets did not have any effect (as sometimes said by critics), why is it that all over the world this kind of propaganda is still in use? A small list to end with:

Afghanistan invaded by the Russians
And, after 9/11, again: Iraq!

At all these scenes (and many, many more) leaflets were / are used after WW2!
Because 'of topic' there are no pictures of these leaflets shown in this homepage! But because of the recent war in Afghanistan, a lot of people did develop a renewed interest for the subject. Numerous journalists keep asking me for examples of WW2 leaflets to compare them to the leaflets used in Afghanistan. For example there was an article in the New York Times making use of some of my pictures. See the thumbnail picture below and/or click the link to read/view a scan of the complete (480 kb) article:

Header of NY times article
NY Times article New York Times article - October 14, 2001
Click here to open a screen with full size readable scan ....(480 kb).

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Wartime opinions and law
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Propaganda leaflets of the second World War

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