Here’s yet one more proof that Nazis — especially Goebbels — were cunning manipulators. Or perhaps stupid manipulators. Look at these propaganda leaflets that tried to convince American and British forces to desert by appealing to their most basic instincts.
The leaflets — conserved at the US Army Combined Arms Research Library at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas — were distributed to Allied troops in France and Italy from 1944 to 1945, just at the end of the war, when desperate times in the collapsing Nazi regime called for desperate measures.
Most leaflets appealed to the soldiers’ jealousy. Headlined The Girl You Left Behind, these glossed endlessly about how their wives and girlfriends were most probably screwing someone at home while they were fighting in Europe. Of course, that someone was a shady-looking Jewish character called “Sam Levy”, a crude allusion to a Nazi-imagined connection between the American government and some kind Jewish power in Washington and Wall St.
The Nazis wanted to convince the soldiers that the Sam types were also profiteering from selling weapons while they weren’t messing around with their women — and that’s why they wanted the war to keep on going, they argued.
Some of them — titled While You Are Away — tried to turn British soldiers against the Americans, arguing that the US forces stationed in the United Kingdom were getting inside the knickers of the Brits’ lasses.
They were other strategies, like appealing to motherly love, claiming that vets had a horrible future, or arguing that President Roosevelt lied to them. Some actually asked them to turn themselves to the Germans to get into prisoner camps, announcing that “all German PoW Camps are run on the Geneva Convention plan”. How nice of them.
The real desertors
Fortunately, these leaflets had little effect on American or British forces. Only 21,000 US military personnel were convicted and sentenced for desertion, and that was for the three and a half years of the United States’ participation in the conflict, which included the Pacific theatre.
The number is absolutely ridiculous compared to the 16 million people who served in the United States’ armed forces during the conflict. 49 of those 21,000 were sentenced to death, and only one was executed.
By comparison, tens of thousands deserted the Wehrmacht alone, with 15,000 German men executed, many without trial. Most of those were in the Russian front. On that front the Soviet troops didn’t need any propaganda to desert. Given the extreme conditions, many tried to run away. Stalin gave the order to kill anyone who would abandon their post by adding a second line to shoot anyone who didn’t follow orders. The Soviet army finished the war killing 158,000 soldiers of their own. [US Army Combined Arms Research Library (PDF) via Public Intelligence]