Influencing your friends and your enemies....

How Britain and Germany used propaganda during the war

Article by Jessica Davis

Propaganda has been used throughout history by various countries and governments to mould people’s ideologies and actions and the Second World Was was no different.

The British government used all kinds of propaganda to convince men to volunteer, to persuade people to grow their own food and to put the Nazis in a negative light.

The Nazis also used propaganda to portray the Jewish people as the ones to blame.

What's the difference?

There are three types of known propaganda: White, Grey and Black. This relates to the transparency of the media.

White propaganda is ‘propaganda that doesn't hide its origin or nature’. Essentially, it is mostly truthful, not intentionally deceptive and very direct in the message it's pushing across. It is also the most transparent of the three.

Grey Propaganda is a little different as the source is usually unknown and the creator of the media is also unknown but it doesn't necessarily mean the content has to be inaccurate. It’s just hard to tell if the information is credible or not due to the lack of source.

The final type of propaganda is black propaganda in which the source pretends to be an alternate source and spreads their own messages through this mask of a reliable creditor.

Three forgeries of German postage stamps printed by American intelligence for Operation Cornflakes: February – March 1945. It was a military propaganda operation designed to spread anti-Nazi sentiments and attack the moral of the German population. Fake stamps similar to real issues of German postage stamps were produced and spread in the hostile territory.

Public domain

How was propaganda used in the UK?

Britain didn’t just have morale to keep up when making their propaganda, they also had to convince the country to give up certain luxuries and even their children.

With the bringing in of rations and the concept of evacuation, Britain had some quite unique things they had to convince the nation to do. If you’re a mother, whose husband’s soon to be on the war front, sending your children miles away to the country is a hard and emotional thing to do. Especially, if you have no idea who is going to be looking after your children or if they are going to be looked after at all.

When it comes to rations, giving up some of your basic needs immediately is a drastic change. Ration books didn’t even guarantee you got your weekly rations, since you still had to pay for the food you're receiving.

Due to this, the Government posted propaganda to get people to farm their own produce, since it would be cheaper and taste better, without putting stress on the food supplies the country had

A poster from the 1940’s  telling the public to ‘Grow (their) own vegetables’ A young woman is holding out a cauliflower and gardening tools can be seen in the background.

An employee of London Underground and a companion tending cabbages in a field beside South Harrow Station, September 1939. Britain's wartime government encouraged the population to grow their own vegetables - as reflected in the many posters produced at the time.

Dig for victory: vegetable growing during WWII in pics (

Getty Images 

...Britons were told to save their bottle caps as it could be made into metal for planes...

A poster highlighting how repairing your own clothes was cheaper than using clothing coupons. An important tip during wartime austerity.

World War II: Coupons and Clothing, Did you know? – The Circular

Since food was less abundant, some people came up with recipes to utilise the leftover food, to minimise waste. Examples include ‘Fadge’: a dough made from potatoes which would be griddled, or ‘Two-minute Soup’ : a soup containing only dried milk, one beef stock cube, parsley and salt.

Although this lowered the food risk, there were other resources that needed to be saved. Britons were told to save their bottle caps as it could be made into metal for planes.

Darning or repairing your clothes was heavily encouraged too because clothes coupons were much more expensive in regards to the foods. Underwear alone was 4 coupons and you only received 66 coupons to last you a year. If you wanted proper clothes, like a dress, that’d cost you 8 coupons alone.

How the Nazi's embraced propaganda

Although Germany had some similar things to Britain in terms of Propaganda like enlisting etc. the darker side of the propaganda covered some more sinister things.

Take the Hitler Youth for example. The Hitler Youth was an organisation for both girls and boys to join from age 10.(See fig. 2 below)  The male Hitler Youth sent its members into the war as young as 14.

And taught them how to utilise weapons and snitch on people who opposed Hitler’s views or people who were hiding Jews in their house without the German Government knowing. This even caused children to snitch on their parents if they said one word against the Führers Regime.

The young women of Germany were told to be all natural, have blonde hair, have broad, child-bearing hips and to appear feminine. This idea was enforced by the second in command Joseph Goebbels who was very much into keeping girls in the kitchen in their ‘traditional’ household role.

A propaganda poster for Hitler Youth put up by the Nazi party. The image displays a young boy carrying a satchel with the Hitler Youth symbol in the corner of the poster.

...The education system included this indoctrination too...

The media also fed to these gullible children was negative propaganda against minorities, and it wasn’t just the public media they were fed this.

The education system included this indoctrination too. Space for your own thoughts didn’t exist as a young person in Germany. Any other point of view was eradicated and censored from textbooks and books completely.

Jews in a German concentration camp, 1933. German propaganda played a large role in demonising Jewish people in the eyes of the German population and making it easier to persecute them.

Rare Color Photographs Capture Daily Life in the First Nazi Concentration Camps in 1933 ~ Vintage Everyday

When it came to the propaganda against Jews, it wasn’t just posters. The message of the ‘Aryan’ race being ‘superior’ was drilled into the public via radio and Hitler’s speeches especially.

The public believed this information although it was false, due to the desperation they had been left in because of the great depression in the 1920s-1930s.

All this media represented Jews and other minorities living in german or the surrounding countries under the Nazi regime as the ones to blame for the problems in germany and inferior to the ‘Aryan’ race.

This included people of colour, people with disabilities (both mentally and physically), people in the LGBTQ+ community and people who opposed hitler’s view in general.

When you look at these posters the Jewish community is portrayed as a shadowy, sketchy figures, often with a slogan next to the illustration berating Jewish people or calling them names.

A poster with the text ‘He is to blame for the war!’ in German. The image displays a hand pointing at a man wearing a yellow star with the text ‘JUDE’ (meaning Jew in German).

...was to blame for the spread of Typhoid...

Another claim that was pushed was that the jewish community was to blame for the spread of Typhoid, a deadly disease originating from lice. Not only was this pushed through propaganda, but several medical professionals pushed this inaccurate message to the public.

Debris lays scattered throughout the interior of a synagogue in Nueremberg, Germany. Relentless Nazi propaganda against the Jews also helped facilitate the events of Kristallnacht (Night of Broken Glass) which saw Jewish owned properties attacked across Germany and the arrest of 30,000 Jewish men. 

The pretext for the attacks was the assassination of the German diplomat Ernst vom Rath by Herschel Grynszpan, a 17-year-old German-born Polish Jew living in Paris.

Yad Vashem

75 years since 'Night of Broken Glass' | CNN


When it comes to changing viewpoints, abundance is key. By having this propaganda everywhere, in all types of forms, the nation can’t help but acknowledge what is being shoved in their faces.

In terms of Britain, it was suggestions for getting used to this new war environment or even putting the Nazi’s in the negative light they deserve.

In terms of Hitler and the Nazi party, this was the horrific ideas of a superior race and the suppression of others.

But even though the propaganda created by the Nazi party was untrue, the manipulation of the country’s hardships was the thing that made it a credible, reliable source to the people of Germany.

This manipulation was also used by the English government, playing on the nation’s emotions and guilt-tripping them into sending kids away for example, or eating leftovers they usually wouldn’t.

Overall, the thing to remember is the government can turn any situation bad or good by the way they use the media, and the second world war was no different.

The 'Careless Talks Costs Lives' proved to be an effective propaganda message during the war. the inference being that (a ridiculous or caricatured) Hitler was always lurking close by, eager to listen in.

It was an effective way to both present a serious message and promote the idea of the Nazi leader being a slightly absurd figure of fun.

19 Incredible British Propaganda Posters From World War Two (

Lord Haw-Haw, also known as William Joyce, was a British traitor who worked as a propagandist for the Nazi regime during World War II. He made radio broadcasts from Germany that were designed to demoralize British troops and civilians, and undermine confidence in the government. His broadcasts were often filled with lies and distortions, and he was known for his distinctive voice and accent.

Joyce was eventually captured, tried for treason, and executed in 1946.

Fascism in inter-war Britain | The British Library (

Further reading