Education for Death: The Making of the Nazi–Walt Disney’s 1943 Film Shows How Fascists Are Made

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 the Nazi, a film shown in U.S. movie the­aters in 1943.

Based on a book writ­ten by Gre­gor Ziemer, this ani­mat­ed short 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.)

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Relat­ed Con­tent:

How Walt Dis­ney Car­toons Are Made: 1939 Doc­u­men­tary Gives an Inside Look

Sal­vador Dalí & Walt Disney’s Des­ti­no: See the Col­lab­o­ra­tive Film, Orig­i­nal Sto­ry­boards & Ink Draw­ings

Disney’s 12 Time­less Prin­ci­ples of Ani­ma­tion Demon­strat­ed in 12 Ani­mat­ed Primers

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Comments (3)
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  • Mike Lewinski says:

    It’s worth remem­ber­ing the mad props Hitler gave our pro­pa­gan­da efforts in Mein Kampf:

    The war pro­pa­gan­da of the Eng­lish and Amer­i­cans was psy­cho­log­i­cal­ly sound. By rep­re­sent­ing the Ger­mans to their own peo­ple as bar­bar­ians and Huns, they pre­pared the indi­vid­ual sol­dier for the ter­rors of war, and thus helped to pre­serve him from dis­ap­point­ments. After this, the most ter­ri­ble weapon that was used against him seemed only to con­firm what his pro­pa­gan­dists had told him; it like­wise rein­forced his faith in the truth of his gov­ern­men­t’s asser­tions, while on the oth­er hand it increased his rage and hatred against the vile ene­my For the cru­el effects of the weapon, whose use by the ene­my he now came to know, grad­u­al­ly came to con­firm for him the ‘Hun­nish’ bru­tal­i­ty of the bar­barous ene­my, which he had heard all about; and it nev­er dawned on him for a moment that his own weapons pos­si­bly, if not prob­a­bly, might be even more ter­ri­ble in their effects.

  • Brandi says:

    I saw this car­toon like 7 years ago crazy

  • Paul H says:

    Yet iron­i­cal­ly, it was the Com­mu­nists on the left who first attempt­ed to accuse Roo­sevelt of fas­cism.

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