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Business and the Holocaust
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© The Boston Globe 2001.  Used by permission.
The Secret History of World War II
PART VIII: THE WAR OF WORDS

by Mark Fritz / Globe Staff / December 3, 2001

Page 4 of 7

Continued from page 3

"The effective propagandist must be a master of the art of speech, of writing, of journalism, of the poster and of the leaflet. He must have the gift to use the major methods of influencing public opinion such as the press, film and radio to serve his ideas and goals, above all in an age of advancing technology. Radio is already an invention of the past, since television will probably soon arrive."

This is an excerpt of a 1934 speech that Joseph Goebbels, the Third Reich's propaganda minister, gave a year after Hitler took power in Germany. Goebbels drafted the blueprint for "the big lie," blaming what the Nazis characterized as the avarice of Jews for keeping Germany from climbing out of the hyperinflation and ruin of World War I and global depression. He and Hitler built the myth of Aryan superiority, the blond, blue-eyed icon that towered over the substratum of humanity.

A German propaganda official in Turkey, who defected to the Allies in 1944, wrote for the OSS a report on what he called "the main internal political weapon of Hitler."

The official, identified only as a former reporter named Fiala, said Hitler rose to power by promising prosperity. "Why did Hitler fight the Jews?" he wrote. "Because he knew that he had to eliminate an entire property-owning class in order to give people the positions, the money, and the offices he promised."

In the opening years of World War II, the Germans contended that the Americans were fighting on behalf of the Jews. Allied propagandists countered by downplaying the unfolding genocide as only one aspect of a global threat, believing that virulent anti-Semitism in the United States might cripple support for a war that Americans overwhelmingly wanted to avoid.

Even a grass-roots effort to create a safe haven for Jewish refugees in the British colony of Palestine was thwarted in part by a US intelligence campaign, the declassified files reveal.

With support for a Jewish state growing among influential Americans, OSS Middle East desk officer Stephen Penrose convinced many prominent Americans to reconsider, arguing in one memo that the move would prompt hundreds of millions of Muslims to make "a fanatically religious issue" of a Jewish state for "the next two or three generations."

Putzel says Donovan was determined to master the manipulation of information. In 1942, the OSS set up a psychological operations think tank headed by Harry Murray, a Harvard psychology professor. Hollywood and the domestic press were enlisted to keep Americans behind the war effort. The files are filled with dispatches that journalists for major news organizations filed directly to the OSS.

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