During World War II, Walt Disney entered into a contract with the US government to develop 32 animated shorts. Nearly bankrupted by Fantasia (1940), Disney needed to refill its coffers, and making American propaganda films didn’t seem like a bad way to do it. On numerous occasions, Donald Duck was called upon to deliver moral messages to domestic audiences (see The Spirit of ’43 and Der Fuehrer’s Face). But that wasn’t the case with Education for Death: The Making of Nazi, a film shown in U.S. movie theaters in 1943.
Based on a book written by Gregor Ziemer, this animated short–streamable at Archive.org–used a different lineup of characters to show how the Nazi party turned innocent youth into Hitler’s corrupted children. Unlike other topics addressed in Disney war films (e.g. taxes and the draft), this theme, the cultivation of young minds, hit awfully close to home. And it’s perhaps why it’s one of Disney’s better wartime films. (Spiegel Online has more on Disney’s WW II propaganda films here.)
If you’d like to support Open Culture and our mission, please consider making a donation to our site. It’s hard to rely 100% on ads, and your contributions will help us provide the best free cultural and educational materials.