Throughout World War II the Nazis saturated German-occupied Europe with posters meant to manipulate the traditions, anxieties, and political divisions of defeated countries to serve the Nazi agenda of pacification, persuasion, and terror. Following the liberation of Europe, General Dwight Eisenhower assigned historian Duncan Emrich to collect posters as evidence of Nazi oppression. These very posters form the core of the Tetlie Collection of WWII Propaganda Posters held by St. Olaf College. Selected from over a hundred examples gathered from across Europe, the seven posters in this exhibition target occupied France. Six of the posters exemplify Nazi attempts to recruit French soldiers to fight the Soviet Union; to lure French people to do war work in Germany; and to make known the “enemy”: Jews, capitalists, and Communists. The first poster, in contrast, glorifies the resistance efforts of the French National Front party against Nazi tyranny.
This exhibition invites visitors to consider the posters as propaganda, as material culture, as historical evidence, and as a cultural act of collecting. This multi-disciplinary approach teases out meaning tied to a specific time and place, but also raises larger questions about our relationship to the past. What is the value of preserving such ephemera? What messages do the posters carry from the past to our present? How do the posters contribute to the complex discussion of systemic oppression and racialized violence in the 21st century?
Visitors are encouraged to first experience The Making Known in the Flaten Art Museum’s north gallery, then proceed to Selections from the Tetlie Collection of WWII Propaganda Posters in the Object Study Room. Photography is not allowed in the Object Study Room and visitors will leave mobile phones and devices at the entrance.