National Archives at Kansas City

Exhibits at the National Archives at Kansas City

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State of Deception: The Power of Nazi Propaganda on exhibit in Concourse Gallery

June 24, 2014 – October 25, 2014

The book cover of State of Deception: The Power of Nazi Propaganda, written by Museum curators Steven Luckert and Susan Bachrach. The book is part of the Museum’s initiative on propaganda, which also includes an exhibition and a website. The cover image is from a poster for the 1933 film S.A. Mann Brand.–Kunstbibliothek Berlin/BPK, Berlin/Art Resource, New York

The Nazi Party developed a sophisticated propaganda machine that deftly spread lies about its political opponents, Jews, and the need to justify war. But Nazi propaganda was much more complex than that. For the Nazis to achieve power and pursue their racial policies and expansionist war efforts, a much more nuanced picture had to be painted – one that would appeal to broad swaths of the population, not just a fanatical extreme.

Featuring rarely seen artifacts, State of Deception: The Power of Nazi Propaganda draws visitors into a rich multimedia environment vividly illustrating the insidious allure of much of Nazi propaganda. The exhibition opens at the National Archives at Kansas City on Tuesday, June 24 and will be on display through Saturday, October 25, 2014.

“Adolf Hitler was an avid student of propaganda and borrowed techniques from the Allies in World War I, his Socialist and Communist rivals, the Italian Fascist Party, as well as modern advertising,” says exhibition curator Steven Luckert. “Drawing upon these models, he successfully marketed the Nazi Party, its ideology, and himself to the German people.”

The exhibition reveals how shortly after World War I, the Nazi Party began to transform itself from an obscure, extremist group into the largest political party in democratic Germany. Hitler early on recognized how propaganda, combined with the use of terror, could help his radical party gain mass support and votes. He personally adapted the ancient symbol of the swastika and the emotive colors of red, black, and white to create the movement’s flag. In doing so, Hitler established a potent visual identity that has branded the Nazi Party ever since.

After seizing power, the Nazi Party took over all communications in Germany. It marshaled the state’s resources to consolidate power and relentlessly promoted its vision of a “racially pure,” utopian Germany that needed to defend itself from those who would destroy it. Jews were cast as the primary enemies, but others, including Roma, homosexuals, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and mentally and physically disabled persons, were also portrayed as threats to the “national community.”

As Germany pushed the world into war, Nazi propaganda rationalized Germany’s territorial expansion as self-defense. Jews were depicted as agents of disease and corruption. The Nazis’ actions against them, in Germany and occupied countries, were promoted as necessary measures to protect the population at large.

Additional information

Group tours are available and free to the public, but must be arranged in advance. School groups are welcome to schedule during daytime hours. Additional curriculum details are available for schools. Tours are available Tuesday through Saturday, 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. and those touring with a docent/guide will receive an email confirmation to bring with them for the tour. Groups who have not made a reservation with a docent/guide are welcome to tour the gallery at their leisure. To schedule a group tour call 816-268-8013 or email mickey.ebert@nara.gov.

State of Deception: The Power of Nazi Propaganda is produced by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, presented by the Midwest Center for Holocaust Education, and hosted by the National Archives at Kansas City. State of Deception was underwritten in part by grants from Katharine M. and Leo S. Ullman and the Blanche and Irving Laurie Foundation, with additional support from the Lester Robbins and Sheila Johnson Robbins Traveling and Special Exhibitions Fund established in 1990 and by Dr. and Mrs. Sol Center. Kansas City Presentation Sponsors include: Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany; Sosland Foundation; Donna Gould Cohen; Hall Family Foundation; Sprint Foundation; Annette & Sam & Jack Swirnberg Charitable Foundation, Bank of America, Trustee; H&R Block Foundation; Community Legacy Fund of the Jewish Community Foundation of Greater Kansas City; Oppenstein Brothers Foundation; Barton P. and Mary D. Cohen Charitable Trust; Arvin Gottlieb Charitable Foundation, United Missouri Bank, N.A., Trustee; Kansas Humanities Council; and Hunt Midwest (in kind). Bus subsidies for schools are provided by the following funds of the Jewish Community Foundation of Greater Kansas City: J-LEAD; Earl J. and Leona K. Tranin Special Fund; and Flo Harris Foundation.

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