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Fathers of the Nation

A Comparative Analysis of The Visual Portrayals of Hitler and Stalin as Father Figures of Their Respective Countries

Dit is het derde artikel in een reeks artikelen over Russische geschiedenis en communisme.

Auteur: Thirza van Hofwegen


“The state must declare the child to be the most precious treasure of the people. As long as the government is perceived as working for the benefit of the children, the people will happily endure almost any curtailment of liberty and almost any deprivation.”

- Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf (1925) [1]

As this quote by Hitler makes clear, children were deemed very important in the national socialist ideology. When Hitler later came to power, the significance of children in Nazi Germany as expressed in the quote was put into practice with the foundation of several youth organizations, the most important being the Hitler Youth (Hitler Jugend) and the League of German Girls (Bund Deutscher Mädel). Furthermore, education of children was reformed to fit in within the national socialist ideology. The emphasis on children as the backbone of Nazi Germany was hardly unique. Almost at the same time in Stalin’s Soviet Union, the youth was enlisted in organizations such as the Komsomol. The importance of childhood was perhaps recognized even earlier in the communist superstate than in Nazi Germany, with Loraine de la Fe arguing that ‘ideas of childhood and citizenship stood at the center of the Soviet Union’s empire-building project during the 1920s and 1930s.’ [2]

In this paper, twenty primary sources (propaganda posters, staged pictures and paintings) from 1933 to 1953, which present Hitler and Stalin as ‘fathers of the nation’ will be analyzed in relation to the personality cults of both leaders, with the question being asked to what extent Hitler’s and Stalin’s images as ‘fathers of the nation’ as visualized in propaganda from this period can be compared to one another. The choice for the number twenty as the amount of primary sources analyzed in this paper is not coincidental, as there are twenty years between 1933 to 1953, the period chosen as the timeframe of this paper. Furthermore, by assigning an equal number of ten primary sources to each dictator, the chance of one dictator being more discussed than the other is prevented. Due to the limited scope of the paper, not all of the primary sources will be discussed separately in much detail. Instead, in this paper, it has been chosen to connect all the primary sources with one another by discerning common patterns between the several sources if possible. Therefore, while the analysis of the primary sources on their own at first may not seem to be very ‘in-depth’, I have attempted to link the primary sources with each other in a way that in the bigger picture, the generalizations and conclusions I have drawn hopefully do make sense.

The scope of twenty years, then, was chosen as it covers all of Hitler’s twelve years as leader of Nazi Germany (1933-1945) and leaves room to analyze the shift in the use of children in Soviet propaganda under Stalin before, during and after the Second World War. No more than two sources from the same year have been chosen to analyze in order to cover the twenty-year timeframe as evenly as possible. Despite this, less material of both dictators being presented with children during the war years could be found. This can be explained by the fact that from the invasion of Poland in 1939 onwards, the aim of propaganda shifted from presenting Hitler as an admirable, trustworthy man towards maintaining public morale and increasing support for the war effort. [3] Similarly, in the Soviet Union, propaganda during the war years was also mainly used to rally national support for the war effort and convince eligible people to enlist. [4]

Each of the primary sources have been selected on three criteria, those being that the exact year in which the propaganda was published or made is known, that English translations of the texts or slogans presented in the propaganda was available and that the sources either directly show the dictators in the presence of children or mention Hitler or Stalin in relation to the children portrayed in them. The sources do not necessarily have to mention Hitler or Stalin directly in relation to fatherhood, but a paternalistic attitude towards the children must be conveyed in some way (e.g. the dictator must be presented as an overarching figure that interferes or influences the youth). In the case of Hitler, more photographs than posters of him posing were available. With Stalin, however, more propaganda and artworks could be found. Therefore, the primary sources will not be compared on a material level, that is, by evaluating the difference between seeing a photograph of the leader posing with a child or a poster showing the same. Rather, while comparing the primary sources, the position of the two leaders towards children in the propaganda, the position of children towards the leader within the propaganda, and, if present, the respective language used in the material which links the leaders to ‘fatherhood’, will be considered. All the primary sources have been found either by using the online search engine Google or by consulting pictures in academic works. In the case of Stalin, many primary sources also discussed in this paper have been derived from Anita Pisch, who has written The personality cult of Stalin in Soviet posters, 1929 -1953 and has researched images from the Russian State University in Moscow. The choice to include some primary sources from Pisch is because she has provided English translations of the Russian slogans used in them, a language which I myself do not speak.

In each of the four paragraphs, a different element of the main research question will be discussed. First, Paragraph 1 will elaborate on the concepts ‘personality cult’ and ‘father of the nation’ and bring up the role of propaganda in the cultivation of Hitler’s and Stalin’s personality cults. This will be followed by a discussion on the role of children in both Hitler and Stalin’s dictatorships and propaganda in paragraph 2. In the same paragraph, a brief history of the symbolism attached to using children in government propaganda, in particular Nazi and Communist propaganda, will also be provided. It is in paragraph 3 that the full analysis and comparison of primary sources which feature Hitler and Stalin as father of their respective nations takes place. In the analysis in paragraph 3, the emphasis is on the position of the children in the propaganda towards the leader, which is a bottom-up approach. This kind of analysis is carried on in the last paragraph, paragraph 4, in which the position of the leader towards the children featured in the propaganda is the focus, thus adopting a top-down approach.

Getting Personal: The concept of ‘personality cults’ in relation to Hitler and Stalin’s regimes

A general definition of personality cult would be ‘a situation in which a public figure (such as a political leader) is deliberately presented to the people of a country as a great person who should be admired and loved’. [5] The term ‘personality cult’ has been attributed to Nikita Khrushchev’s Secret Speech of 1956, in which he denounced worship of his predecessor Stalin, who had died three years before. Jan Plamper has identified five characteristics in relation to modern political personality cults, respectively that propaganda was directed and derived its legitimacy from the total population; used modern mass media which allowed the cults to reach a much larger audience; originated in closed societies in which criticism of the leadership was made very difficult; was secular; and was exclusively centered around men (patricentric). [6] Both the regimes of Hitler and Stalin ascribe to Plamper’s characteristics. However, in this paper, the focus will be on Plamper’s notion that modern political personality cults are ‘patricentric’, since this ties in well with the presentation of both leaders in propaganda as ‘fathers of the nation’.

While much has been written about the role of propaganda in cultivating a personality myth of leaders in dictatorships, the specific image of leaders as real ‘fathers of the nation’ seems to have been studied less. Instead, the debate on personality cults, especially those of Hitler and Stalin, has centered on three major questions. First of all, Max Weber’s concept of ‘charismatic leadership’ has been brought into the academic circle to determine whether Hitler and Stalin could be characterized as being ‘charismatic leaders’, who, as summarized by Robert C. Tucker, are revered by their followers for apparent extraordinary qualities, not out of fear or by the promise of money, but ‘out of love, passionate devotion, enthusiasm’. [7] While some scholars have argued that Hitler was a charismatic leader, most notably Ian Kershaw in his book The" Hitler myth": Image and reality in the Third Reich (1987) [8], others, such as Hans Mommsen, have characterized him as a weak leader, claiming that the adoration towards Hitler was not ‘identical’ with the loyalty towards the NSDAP, SS, local Nazi chiefs and thus the regime. [9] The same question has been raised in relation to Stalin, with most scholars, arguing Stalin was not charismatic but more pragmatic. Rather, he was in the words of Ronald Grigor Suny, a ‘man who got things done, a skillful political infighter able to sense when he needed to retreat or keep silent and when he could act with impunity.’ [10]

Another scholarly debate regarding personality cults has focused on the question to what extent personality cults were orchestrated or real. In the case of the Soviet Union, scholars such as E.A. Rees have noted that leader cults in the Soviet Union appeared in the times of desperate need, such as economic crises, social unrest and overall weak support or dissatisfaction with the regimes. Leadership cults, then, have been characterized as cultivated, as legitimacy for the leader could not be derived ‘through its policies or accomplishments’. [11] In contrast, scholars such as Ian Kershaw have characterized as Hitler’s personality cult as both real and constructed, with Kershaw writing in his classic article Working Towards the Führer.' Reflections on the Nature of the Hitler Dictatorship (1993) that ‘…the 'Hitler myth' was structurally indispensable to, in fact the very basis of and scarcely distinguishable from, the Nazi Movement and its Weltanschauung [worldview, author’s translation].’ [12] Finally, a concept which has often been used in relation to personality cults is that of ‘political religion’, which sees the popular appeal to ideologies such as National Socialism and Soviet Communism as forms of non-secular ideologies that adopted characteristics of traditional religions. The history and academic debate regarding this term have been discussed extensively by Ulrike Ehret. [13] The scholarly debate regarding ‘political religion’ can be linked to the personality cults of both Hitler and Stalin, as the propaganda of both leaders, despite them not adhering to traditional religious values, frequently elevated them above the population, almost God-like.

In propaganda, Hitler was presented in several different ways. Steffen Krüger distinguishes between images of Hitler as a ‘being without worldly desires’ (by not indulging, for example, in eating meat, drinking or smoking), a hard worker who sacrifices himself for the wellbeing of the country and as a man of the people, and a father to the Germans. [14] Posing with children or being shown in relation to children made Hitler seem as a man of the people, or as, James Wilson in his book Hitler’s Alpine Headquarters (2014) wrote in the description of a picture of Hitler with a young boy, ‘a approachable and caring leader who gives of himself without hesitation’. [15]

In The Stalin Cult. A Study in the Alchemy of Power (2012), Jan Plamper traces the Stalin cult back to 1929, when the Soviet Union was rapidly industrializing and collectivizing agriculture. Since many Soviet citizens were illiterate at the time, the image of Stalin was mainly expressed in visual forms. Hence, Plamper describes the Stalin cult as an ‘overwhelmingly visual phenomenon.’[16] It has also been argued by some scholars that the cult centered on Stalin originated from a cult that was built around Lenin after the latter’s death. The association with Lenin in the initial propaganda featuring Stalin aimed at presenting the latter as the founding father of communism’s legitimate heir. [17] However, like Hitler, the portrayal of Stalin in propaganda did not remain constant over the years that he was in power. Roughly, four archetypes can be discerned, namely Father of the nation, Warrior, Teacher and Savior. [18] Anita Pisch has cited the Father of the nation archetype in propaganda as ‘one of the strongest and most prevalent images associated with Stalin’s persona’, writing that Stalin was frequently described as ‘father’ in the press and portrayed in posters in paternal or patriarchal roles. Often stressed in propaganda was the view of Stalin as ‘the patriarch of all the Soviet peoples, all nationalities and all ethnicities.’ [19]

Getting Them While They’re Young: The Role and Importance of Children in Nazi Germany and Stalinist USSR in Reality and Propaganda

Over history, the uses and symbolisms attached to the depiction of children in propaganda have differed. In a brief historical overview, Robin Jackson traces the representation of children in art until the mid-eighteenth century as ‘faulty small adults’ who were in need of discipline and correction to ‘romantic children’ from the period of Enlightenment, with children becoming ‘icons of innocence and naivet [naiveté, author’s correction], onto which adults could project their own hopes, dreams and ideals.’[20] During the First World War, two archetypes of children were used in propaganda by all combatant states, namely the innocent and the heroic child. [21] Throughout the Second World War, children in Soviet propaganda were represented as victims of the war. These images were meant to recruit adults for the war effort. [22] While propaganda posters of the Nazis also linked children to militarism – for example in relation to the Hitler Youth – many of the posters portraying children set out to promote pro-natalist messages and the stereotypical idea of an Aryan, nuclear family, in which the father worked and the mother looked after the children. [23]

In her analysis of photographs of children in Nazi and Stalinist Propaganda from 1933 to 1939, Silja Pitkänen argued that in both regimes, children often symbolized new futures in either Socialist or Nationalist Socialist ideologies. [24] If children as a group were indeed seen as representatives of the future, then the Nazi reading of the propaganda would be that the future is white, predominantly blond and traditional (Figures 1.1, 1.3, 1.5, 1.6, 1.8 and 1.10). In contrast, the future of the Soviet Union, as depicted by children, would be diverse and inclusive (Figures 2.2, 2.3, 2.4, 2.5, 2.8 and 2.9). However, even in Stalin’s personality cult, there was a shift in the children depicted in propaganda after the Second World War. Instead of showing a broad variety of children from all kinds of ethnic backgrounds, the children shown in propaganda were white ethnic Russians, with blonde hair. [25] This is also reflected in the primary sources, with images from respectively 1947 and 1952 all showing blonde children (Figures 2.6 and 2.10). This change in the sort of children depicted in propaganda has been linked to ‘Soviet Patriotism’, which erupted during the Second World War and has been seen by many historians as ‘thinly veiled Russocentric nationalism.’[26] However, the depiction of children of non-ethnic backgrounds in propaganda did not disappear completely, as posters from respectively 1948, 1949 and 1951 make clear (Figures 2.7, 2.8 and 2.9). Thus, while children in Stalinist propaganda in terms of appearance sometimes seemed very alike to the children seen in Nazi propaganda, the fact that non-white children did never completely disappear in the propaganda of the Soviet Union is indicative of the ideological differences between the two regimes.

The Relation of Children- Leader (Bottom-Up) in Nazi and Stalinist Propaganda

When analyzing the primary sources from a bottom-up approach, starting with how the children are represented in the propaganda of Nazi Germany and Stalin’s Soviet Union, a few observations can be made. Apart from the difference in the ethnicities of the children represented in propaganda, there are also similarities between them. One thing the propaganda of both regimes do have in common is the way that even though children are shown in the images, they both make clear that ultimately, it is the leader one should focus on. Two examples that make clear that Hitler is elevated above the children presented are the front covers of two books, whose titles respectively translate to ‘Children, what do you know about your Führer?’ (Figure 1.1) and ‘Mother, Tell Us About Adolf Hitler!’ (Figure 1.8). Even though the children are put on the front, with the second book cover showing Hitler as a spirit-like presence in the background, the titles make clear that the children are to be told about their Führer, not the other way around. The images seem to suggest that the role of children in the Nazi regime is to be passive recipients of Hitler’s apparent wisdom. This passive role also becomes clear in some of the pictures, especially the pictures in which Hitler is seen posing with boys. The way the pictures are framed makes clear that it is Hitler who initiates (physical) contact with the children. The purpose of the children, then, is to sit still and greet the leader appropriately (Figures 1.3, 1.5 and 1.10). Although one could argue that Hitler in these pictures is presenting himself as literally ‘one of the boys’, linking it more to the ‘man of the people’ archetype that can be found in personality cults rather than the ‘father of the nation’ persona, I argue that the latter is more appropriate to use here. Due to the fact that militarism was an important aspect of the Nazi regime and ideology and also formed an important aspect of its propaganda, Hitler posing with boys dressed in military uniforms was also a way to showcase how boys were to be primed to become soldiers. Furthermore, Hitler as a former soldier himself perhaps could be linked to the younger generation of warriors. As a father, he is teaching and raising the young boys to become just like him. The relationship between the children (especially boys) and Hitler is thus not equal, which the picture of Hitler with Wilhelm Hübner, one of the youngest recipients of the Iron Cross, makes clear. Almost patronizing, Hitler touches the cheek of Hübner, who passively sits still, not even looking his leader in the eyes (Figure 1.10).

Like in Nazi propaganda, children in Stalinist propaganda were mainly used in order to elevate the leader above the people. Essentially, the children are merely background props. Even if Stalin is not ‘physically’ present among children in the propaganda, for example when the children are shown greeting or standing in front of a portrait of Stalin, his presence is overwhelming. The figure of Stalin is depicted as literally larger than life. It is clear that he, like Hitler, must be seen as the center of attention, not the children (Figures 2.2, 2.3, 2.5, 2.6, 2.7, 2.8, 2.9 and 2.10). The accompanying texts also often stress the unequal relationship the children have (or should have) with Stalin. Slogans such as ‘Thank you dear Stalin for our happy childhood!’ (Figure 2.3), ‘Thank you Comrade Stalin for our happy life!’ (Figure 2.5) and ‘We are warmed by Stalin’s affection …’ (Figure 2.8), which seemingly ‘quote’ the children portrayed in the images evoke the feeling that the children should be grateful to have such as a great father or ‘best friend of children’ (Figure 2.9) in their lives. One interesting image that especially makes clear that children should always remember that they are ‘indebted’ to Stalin is a poster which shows a boy staring at a portrait of Stalin, with the text wishing the ‘beloved Stalin’ a ‘happy new year’. This image, already remarkable due to the fact the boy is portrayed in front of a Christmas tree, which seems out of place in the atheist country of the Soviet Union, does show the little boy as physically ‘bigger’ than the leader, with the relatively small portrait of Stalin occupying a place in the background. However, the adoring look of the little boy towards the portrait and the accompanying text reinforce the idea that even during certain anniversaries that have nothing to do with Stalin, everyone, even the little ones, should always think of how the leader is faring at the moment (Figure 2.10).

It is the way gender roles are portrayed in the propaganda of Hitler and Stalin that marks a first difference in the representation of the ‘father of the nation’ archetype. In the Nazi propaganda, boys and girls are portrayed in vastly different manners. In all the pictures with boys, the boys are presented in a military environment, wearing army uniforms and donning serious expressions (Figures 1.3, 1.4, 1.5 and 1.10). In contrast, girls are shown smiling and adorn typical feminine clothes, such as dresses and skirts (Figures 1.2, 1.6, 1.7 and 1.9). Moreover, in many of the pictures, the color of the girls’ clothes is white, which has typically been regarded as an ‘innocent’ and ‘pure’ color (Figures 1.7 and 1.9). This all of course fitted well within the traditional gender roles in Nationalist Socialist ideology, in which men had to be the strong providers and women had to take care of the children and chores. The propaganda thus reflected the future roles boys and girls were to occupy within the Nazi regime.

In contrast, Stalinist propaganda presented boys and girls often in a similar fashion, often even wearing unisex clothes (Figures 2.2, 2.5 and 2.9). This reflected the Communist ideals in which men and women were seen as equal, at least, on paper. However, just like in Nazi Germany, young boys and girls did occupy different roles in Stalinist propaganda. Plamper for example argues that after the Second World War, if Stalin was shown with children, those would be exclusively girls, as they, due to their gender and age, elevated Stalin above the people more than boys did. [27] In Communism, unlike Nazi ideology, men were not seen as superior in relation to women. This is reflected in the propaganda as well, with only two images exclusively portraying boys ‘posing’ with Stalin (Figures 2.6 and 2.10). Moreover, these images do not come with messages pointing to masculinity or militarism, as was often the case in Nazi propaganda. Rather, the choice for a boy seems random, as if a girl could have been portrayed in a similar manner. In most of the propaganda, boys are just one part or one half of all the children that are part of Stalin’s Soviet Union, which reinforces the idea that Stalin is, truly, the father of the nation.

The Relation of Leader – Children (Top-Down) in Nazi and Stalinist Propaganda

Some have noted a change in the way Hitler was presented with children before and from 1936 onwards. While Nazi propaganda with children before 1936 tended to depict Hitler as an ‘uncle’ or a ‘friend’ to children, Hitler later was presented in more ‘fatherly’ manner. [28] In her analysis of pictures featuring children in the magazine NS Freuenwarte, Silja Pitkänen also noted the way Hitler looks in propaganda in relation to the children, with him being ‘… […] compassionate, happy and friendly, and even as messianic in the context of meeting children.’ [29] In private, Hitler also surrounded himself with children, even if he was childless himself. It could be argued that by inviting children over to pose with him, Hitler tried to make up for a fact that he, in a way, was not living by the norms of National Socialist ideology, that is, by having an Aryan family himself. Nevertheless, the seemingly friendly manner in which Hitler behaved around children seems to have been somewhat genuine, as he in real life was close with the children of Joseph Goebbels, such as Helga Goebbels (Figure 1.7), and was also appointed godfather of Göring’s daughter Edda in 1940 (Figure 1.9). [30] However, the pictures and images made of these seemingly private moments were as orchestrated as the pictures staged at mass gatherings and ceremonies.

As noted in the previous paragraph, the way children were represented in Nazi propaganda adhered to traditional gender rules as was encouraged in National Socialist ideology. The way Hitler himself behaves with boys and girls, however, is also significant in this aspect. In pictures with boys, Hitler is often seen posing in a serious manner. A small, proud smile seems to be sufficient. While he may put an arm on some children’s shoulder, he is still quite distant towards them, almost cold (Figures 1.3, 1.5 and 1.10). With girls, however, Hitler is portrayed as more open and warm, openly embracing them and looking them in the eyes (Figures 1.2, 1.6, 1.7 and 1.9). This also seems to reinforce ideas of traditional gendered values, in which men have to be the strong leaders and women have to be meek followers. The idea that especially women were important as ‘followers’ of Hitler is clear in one picture, in which Hitler is shown proudly posing with two young women, who have literally followed Hitler from his original Austrian hometown (Figure 1.6).

In Stalinist propaganda, gendered ideas about masculinity and femininity are absent. Another difference is how Stalin purposefully avoided posing with children personally known to him, which Hitler sometimes did. Jan Plamper argues that in order to conform to Stalin’s image of ‘father of the peoples’, pictures of Stalin with his own biological children – Yakov, Vasily, Svetlana and Artyom – were rarely used in propaganda, with Pravda only once publishing a picture of Stalin and his daughter in 1935. Instead, he was shown posing with non-biological children. [31] It can be argued that the troubled relationships with his own biological children, with Yakov being shot dead in 1943 while in German captivity, Vasily serving seven years in prison and Svetlana estranging herself from her father after he imprisoned an older man she had fallen in love with, probably would not have translated well into propaganda. [32] Catriona Kelly also argues that ‘the ruler-with-non-related-small-children’ icons projected Stalin as ‘the kindly, homely and accessible leader’. [33] The most famous example of this is a photograph of Stalin with 6-year old Engelsina (Gelya) Markizova from 1936 (Figure 2.1). Although her parents were later murdered under Stalin’s orders, the image remained influential, with poster versions of the picture being hung in all children’s institutions, such as schools, clubs and the like. [34]

As in the case with Hitler, Stalin is also portrayed as messianic in relation to children, an almost god-like savior. One example of this is a painting, which shows Stalin, as well as some other (unidentified) members of the Politburo being surrounded by enthusiastic children (Figure 2.4). It seems to evoke almost Christian imagery of Jesus being surrounded by children, as a shepherd leading them the way. This is even more emphasized by the fact that he and the other men are dressed in heavenly white. Despite this fact, it is clear to the viewer that Stalin is the most important leader of all, with him looking straight ahead, instead of watching the children. The same Christ-like imagery can be found in another image, in which Stalin is seen holding up a young boy to the sky. The accompanying text praises Stalin’s ‘kindness’, which ‘illuminates the future of our children.’ (Figure 2.6). The links between enlightenment, the future of children and religious subtext can also be found in a poster, in which Stalin is literally portrayed as the sun (Figure 2.7), which is very similar to how Hitler is portrayed in one image (Figure 1.8). The poem reinforces the now almost God-like imagery, praising Stalin as someone who led the youth into a brighter future.

Although both Communism and National Socialism were secular ideologies, the ‘savior’ and ‘father of the nation’ archetypes were often mixed in a way that harkened back to images of religious leaders. Whether this is sufficient evidence that Communism and National Socialism were indeed ‘political religions’, however, remains to be seen.


In this research paper, a gap of research specifically focusing on the ‘father of the nation’ archetype of Hitler and Stalin respectively has been bridged by analyzing several primary sources through both top-down and bottom-up approaches. Using this comparative method has brought to light how, despite ideological differences, the presentation of Hitler and Stalin as ‘fathers of the nation’ in propaganda were strikingly similar. First of all, in both Nazi and Stalinist propaganda, the leaders were presented as larger than life, both in a literal and a figurative sense. In contrast, the children served more passive roles in propaganda, mainly aiming to make the leader seem humane. However, both Nazi and Stalinist propaganda also sometimes seemed to evoke religious, especially Christian imagery, in order to elevate Hitler and Stalin as God-like figures. The leaders were thus presented as being simultaneously among and above the people. Secondly, the children portrayed in Nazi and Stalinist propaganda were to some extent the same, with a preference for blonde, white children. While Nazi propaganda exclusively represented white, Aryan children, non-white children were sometimes present in Stalinist propaganda. Finally, if the leader is not ‘physically’ present in the propaganda, but merely mentioned in relation to children, he is still an overwhelming, important figure in the children’s lives. The biggest difference between children in Nazi and Stalinist propaganda is the stress on traditional gender roles in the former, which is virtually absent in the latter. Even so, the propaganda of both leaders attached different meanings to the effect of putting a boy or girl in the same frame as the leader. Overall, there are more similarities between the propaganda systems and the personality cults they were part of than differences. The lack of propaganda featuring Stalin and Hitler with children during the war years is odd. While in the introduction of the paper it has been suggested that this could be due to the fact that the propaganda of both countries became more occupied with maintaining morale and support for the war, some other reasons may be behind this. Especially since in the last years of the war very young boys were sent to the front (especially in the case of Nazi Germany), it is strange that children seemingly disappeared from visual propaganda. Further research thus may focus more on the shift in tone or in the use of children in propaganda before and during the war years.


Figure 1.1

Picture of Hitler holding up a child and being surrounded with children captioned with ‘Kinder, was wisst ihr vom Führer? (Children, what do you know about your Führer?), from Nick Burchett, ‘Nazi Propaganda in World War II Germany - Part I’,retrieved from, published October 13, 2020, accessed on December 9, 2020. Originally published in H. Morgenroth and M. Schmidt’s Kinder, was wisst ihr vom Führer? (1933), a children’s book. Site last refreshed in 2020.

Figure 1.2

Picture of Hitler hugging 6-year-old Rosa Bernile Nienau (1933), from Ian Shapira, ‘The Führer’s child’: How Hitler came to embrace a girl with Jewish roots’, retrieved from, published November 13, 2018, accessed on December 9, 2020. Site last refreshed in 2020.

Figure 1.3

Picture of a smiling Hitler greeted by saluting young boys (1933), from Tyler Cersley, ‘What did the Nazi propaganda do to the children in Germany from 1933 to 1945?’, retrieved from, accessed December 19, 2020. Site last refreshed in 2018.