The Chicago Sentinel, 1934
This caricature depicts an elderly man, who appears to be a figure of authority, peering over a history book at a second character dressed in a rather humorous fashion: wearing a tutu, ballet shoes, a shirt with a picture of a swastika, and a Viking hat and bearing a crooked sword. The Viking hat reminds us of a barbaric, ancient, and irrelevant age in history. The crooked sword shows the uselessness of the character’s weapons. From the big nose, trademark moustache, and swastika the reader understood this character to represent Adolf Hitler.
The caption under the caricature reads:
“At the risk of talking nonsense, I will say that the Nazis will stay in power for a thousand years.” – Adolf Hitler.
At the top of the page is the single word, “So…,”possibly the elderly man’s remark.
This caricature was originally produced by well-known American cartoonist Carl Rose (1903-1971) for the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. The Jewish Telegraphic Agency was established in 1917 and still exists today with the goal of producing news relevant to Jews all over the world.
The caricature was printed on July 12, 1934 in The Chicago Sentinel, a weekly Jewish newspaper that was active from 1911 to 1996. Most Jewish newspapers at that time were written in Yiddish, but this English-language newspaper appealed to many immigrants who were beginning to integrate into society yet still wished to maintain a traditional Jewish lifestyle. Click here for more information about the newspaper.
Adolf Hitler was the leader of the Nazi party and became the chancellor of Germany in 1933. He immediately began restricting Jews from certain professions and limiting the number of Jewish children attending state schools. Public book burnings of works seen as un-German in spirit also began, and activists who dared to challenge Hitler were imprisoned in concentration camps and some even murdered. A number of racist laws were implemented and alternative political parties were banned.
The satirical nature of the caricature reflects the opinion of the artist and of Jews in America and, perhaps even the general public, at the time; namely, that Hitler was a joke. Hitler referred to the public perception of him in an interview with a British correspondent only one month prior to the publication of this caricature:
"At the risk of appearing to talk nonsense, I tell you that the Nazi movement will go on for 1,000 years! . . . Don’t forget how people laughed at me, 15 years ago, when I declared that one day I would govern Germany. They laugh now, just as foolishly, when I declare that I shall remain in power!"
This shows that Hitler was aware that he wasn't being taken seriously, and of course, reflects his flagrantly arrogant nature. At this point in his leadership, his policies seemed so absurd that the international community failed to see him as a potential threat.
Teachers should show the students the caricature while covering the quote at the bottom and ask them to guess who the characters are and when it was printed.
History teachers could use this cartoon to discuss the rise of Hitler and world opinion of him during his early rule. This cartoon could be used to show that Hitler was not regarded as a threat even after he gained initial power.
Teachers of Media Studies could use this caricature to discuss the role of the media in the years leading up to the Second World War and throughout the war both in Germany and in other countries. It could be used to discuss whether the role of cartoons has changed over the years by looking at examples of modern depictions of despotic leaders such as Saddam Hussein.
English teachers could use this resource to discuss irony. On the one hand, the artist mocks Hitler’s claim that Nazi rule would continue for a thousand years, but when it actually lasted only eleven. On the other hand, it seems that the artist and the rest of the world did not take Hitler’s threats seriously enough and did not perceive the danger his leadership posed.
“Early Warnings: How American Journalists Reported the Rise of Hitler,”Jennie Rothenberg-Gritz,The Atlantic , 13 March 2012
Describe the cartoon.
Who are the two characters?
What are they wearing?
What is the older character holding?
What symbols can you see? What do they mean?
Reading Between the Lines
What is a caricature?
Why does the artist draw Hitler in such ridiculous clothing?
What can this caricature teach us about how the world related to Hitler and his party in the early 1930s?
What does Hitler’s quote tell you about his personality?
Who do you think the elderly man is supposed to represent?
What is the meaning of the title on the book that he is holding?
What message does this character convey?
What is the title of this caricature and what is its meaning?
What is irony?
How does this caricature reflect irony?
Can you identify more than one form of irony?
This caricature shows that many didn’t see Hitler as a political threat.
Did anyone at the time actually predict Hitler as a real threat?
Could you imagine a similar caricature mocking a political figure appearing in a newspaper today?
Are there political figures or organisations which are seen as laughable but could potentially pose a threat if they were to gain power in the future?
What did you feel when you saw the caricature?
Did it make you laugh?
Did it annoy you?
Imagine that you were living at the time the caricature was printed. What might you have felt about the picture then? (Remember that this was printed before the Holocaust, when people could not imagine that Hitler would be responsible for such a tragedy.)
Look through the rest of The Chicago Sentinel newspaper from July 12, 1934 and find other articles about the Nazis and the situation in Germany.
Do these authors also see Hitler as a joke or do they see the situation as more threatening?
In the early 1930's approximately 400,000 Jews lived in Germany. Many were opposed to Adolf Hitler, some did not take him seriously and believed that he would not gain power in the country, and others thought that he was the leader that should lead Germany in its time of difficulty.
Imagine that you are a German Jew in the 1930's. Write a few diary entries that demonstrate your growing concern about Hitler and the Nazi party.