An ex­hi­bi­tion France must see be­fore it votes

The Jewish Chronicle - - WORLD NEWS - BY ROBERT PHILPOT

THERE ARE fresh flow­ers be­neath the black plaque on the wall of the pri­mary school on the Rue des Ar­chives in Paris’ Marais district. The gold let­ter­ing com­mem­o­rates the de­por­ta­tion and mur­der of its Jewish pupils, vic­tims of the Vel’ d’Hiv round-up which oc­curred 75 years ago this sum­mer.

It is thus both poignant and fit­ting that this grim an­niver­sary year opens with the city’s nearby town hall stag­ing the US Holo­caust Memo­rial Mu­seum’s trav­el­ling ex­hi­bi­tion, State of De­cep­tion: The Power of Nazi Pro­pa­ganda.

The ex­hi­bi­tion is, though, not sim­ply about com­mem­o­rat­ing the mur­der­ous con­se­quences of the words of hate im­parted by the Third Re­ich’s pro­pa­ganda ma­chine. Rather, it also serves as a timely warn­ing from his­tory as French vot­ers pre­pare to elect a new pres­i­dent in two months’ time; an elec­tion which is ex­pected to see the leader of the far-right Na­tional Front, Ma­rine Le Pen, top the poll in the first round on April 23.

Just as the pop­ulist right in its many man­i­fes­ta­tions is prov­ing par­tic­u­larly adept at util­is­ing and ma­nip­u­lat­ing so­cial me­dia, it is easy to for­get that, while they ped­dled the world’s old­est ha­tred, the Nazis were the masters of modern cam­paign­ing tech­niques.

In his failed bid for the pres­i­dency in 1932, which nonethe­less re­sulted in him win­ning the sup­port of nearly 37 per cent of vot­ers, Adolf Hitler trav­elled between Ger­man cities by air. Then un­prece­dented, his “flights over Ger­many” al­lowed the Nazi leader to ad­dress close to 200 ral­lies, cap­tur­ing wide­spread press at­ten­tion and pro­ject­ing an im­age of dy­namism. For those not able to catch the as­pir­ing Führer in per­son, an al­ter­na­tive was at hand: 50,000 record­ings of his speeches — in­ter­spersed with rous­ing mil­i­tary mu­sic — were dis­trib­uted. By con­trast, the ageing Pres­i­dent Paul von Hin­den­burg de­liv­ered few pub­lic An an­ti­semitic Nazi pro­pa­ganda poster from 1942, by Bruno Hanisch


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