An exhibition France must see before it votes
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