World War II Propaganda Posters

About the Collection

Flaten Art Museum (FAM) holds a rare collection of 147 World War II propaganda posters and broadsides that are enhancing scholarship and undergraduate research at St. Olaf College and beyond. In the three months following D-Day, the posters were gathered by Major Duncan Emrich, Historian for General Dwight D. Eisenhower. The extensive collection came to St. Olaf in 2015 through the bequest of alumnus Richard Tetlie ‘43, who acquired the posters directly from Emrich.

“The St. Olaf collection is unusual. . . . Posters used in territories occupied by Germany are much rarer [than ones used in Germany], particularly posters issued toward the end of the war. . . . Since St. Olaf, should it receive a grant, intends not only to conserve the posters, but also make them available on the Internet (with background material), these posters will be accessible to the whole enormous audience of the Internet.”

–Randall Bytwerk, communications professor emeritus and expert in Nazi propaganda at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan

A majority of the posters and broadsides convey the Nazi regime’s policies and ideologies to non-German speaking audiences beyond Germany. They were produced for circulation in occupied nations, including France, Belgium, Luxembourg, and the Soviet Union. The material provides evidence of familiar Nazi efforts to encourage racial ideologies, foster distrust of the Allies, and rally Occupied peoples to the Nazi war effort. They also reveal how Nazis manipulated the traditions, anxieties, and political dynamics of Occupied populations in the service of pacification, persuasion, and terror. The collection also includes several posters from the Resistance movement, as well as Emrich’s written recollections and photographs of a 1945 exhibition of the posters at the Museum of Science and Industry in New York.

“Viewing the posters is a powerful tactile experience whether the chilling hate of the Jud Süss 20th century blood libel depicting the Jew eating matzoh sprinkled with blood or the joy of the Statue of Liberty poster in brilliant colors celebrating the Liberation of France.”

–Steve Hunegs, Director of the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) of Minnesota and the Dakotas

St. Olaf College is committed to preserving these posters so students and scholars can look critically at the dark motives and dire consequences of artful propaganda. Preserving, digitizing, and exhibiting this material ensures the lessons of history are not forgotten, but can be studied well into the future.

Read more about the story of these historic posters in an article published by the Star Tribune in June 2017.

Learn more about our values and commitments surrounding this collection.

Related Exhibitions

The Making Known

Benny Nemer is a Montreal-born, Paris-based artist, diarist, and researcher whose practice mediates emotional encounters with cultural material. In The Making Known, Nemer attends to the ethical questions that arise from the Tetlie Collection of World War II Propaganda Posters through an epistolary audio guide. Ethereal mobiles created from paper fragments sparsely populate the gallery and suggest an alternative future for the broadsides that diverges from archival aspirations to interrupt the trajectory toward deterioration.

Selections from the Tetlie Collection of WWII Propaganda Posters

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?

Transfer of Memory

Through color photography and narrative accounts, Transfer of Memory illuminates the lives of Holocaust survivors who came to live in Minnesota. Flaten Art Museum, together with the Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas (JCRC), presents Transfer of Memory to provide space to explore issues of tolerance, prejudice, and discrimination.

Teaching Guide

This teaching guide complements Selections from the Tetlie Collection of World War II Propaganda Posters, on view in Flaten Art Museum’s Object Study Room from February 18 through April 8, 2022, by providing opportunities for classroom reflection. The guide can also be used to study other posters in the Tetlie Collection of World War II Propaganda Posters.

Grants and Surveys

2019 IMLS Grant

In 2019 FAM received a Museums for America award from the Institute of Museum and Library Services to conserve, digitize, and frame 21 of the most significant World War II propaganda posters and broadsides in its collection. The 21 posters selected are in greatest need of conservation treatment and hold the most value for teaching and learning. Preserving them and making them discoverable and freely available through physical exhibition and digital means will allow Flaten Art Museum to more fully share its collection for the public good.

2016 MACC Survey

In June 2016, Flaten Art Museum contracted the Midwest Art Conservation Center to complete a Detailed Conservation Assessment of the collection. Full conservation treatment is required before the collection can be actively used for exhibitions, teaching, and learning across a myriad of disciplines. Stabilizing, conserving, and digitizing the collection will ensure that this invaluable collection enhances scholarship and undergraduate research for generations to come.