Friday, 12 April 2013

The End of Hitler and other odd Wartime memorabilia

A match for Hitler! (author's photo)
In a previous edition of this blog, we looked at the cult wartime BBC radio show, ITMA and touched on how despite everything, the British sense of humour generally prevailed during the wartime years. It was not only ITMA and other radio shows that helped keep people smiling and a recent search through through some of my photo archive (looking for something else, of course) brought to light some of the more bizarre, if not downright tacky pieces of wartime memorabilia, which somehow typified the defiant British attitude towards the Nazis during the wartime years. 

The first item that came to light was at first sight a fairly unremarkable book of matches, which on one side shows the simple slogan "A match for Hitler!" When the book is reversed, we see staring out at us a likeness (not a very good one, it has to be said) of Winston Churchill, complete with trademark cigar. Not exactly side splitting humour but perhaps a surprising piece of trivia and one which may have caused the odd smile on the way to work, or in the pub.
Churchill! (author's photo)

The next item that came to light can only be described as a simple novelty item along the lines of "What the butler saw" which has a "pull-out" section. Simply described as "The End of Hitler" the item is shown in it's final pulled out format and probably needs no further description!

It is unclear if this item was sold as a novelty or some sort of 'give away' item and if it were sold, then it is unclear just who would buy something like this. The humour can only be described as basic but leaves one in no doubt as to the true feelings towards The Fuhrer.

The End of Hitler! (author's photo)

Another piece on similar lines was what appears to be a simple two sided card which again featured Adolf Hitler but this time with his likeness superimposed on the rear end of a pig. Unkind to the pig perhaps but the humour of the captions "A CHARACTER STUDY" and "Why HITLER is not at the Front" although more than a little strained, makes clear the feeling at the time. Once again, it is unclear whether this card was sold as a novelty item, or whether it was part of some kind of give away perhaps in a newspaper.

A Character Study (author's collection)



If the humour on the front of this card appears strained, then that on the rear is bordering on the puerile. It consists of a list of Hitler and his henchmen, with the names of Hitler, Goering, Goebbels and Ribbentrop presented as acronyms, with a fresh insult against each letter of their names. The final part of the 'joke' is explained on this side of the card as to why Hitler is not at the Front. The answer is that he was at the Rear!

Hitler and his gang (author's photo)

The final piece of humour on display here is a Christmas novelty item of the 'pull out' variety and is illustrated below in both formats. What starts off as an innocent enough looking little ditty 'To Adolf, from Tommy' pulls out to reveal a quite risque (for it's time) image of a First World War style 'Tommy' with the message 'Kiss My Aunt' pinned to his backside!

To Adolf (author's photo)




From Tommy (author's photo)

Perhaps these novelties were aimed at the lowest common denominator in British humour but even with the benefit of some seventy years distance from when they were issued, it is unclear how much appeal they would have had and who exactly they were aimed at. This writer has never seen these or anything like them anywhere else and we are to be grateful to the excellent Greenwich Heritage Centre who have preserved these items in their archives.

Propaganda takes many forms and despite the crudity and poor standard of much of this humour, it has to be said that this innocent 'end of the pier' version of anti-Nazi propaganda is much more preferable to the more sinister variety practiced by Dr. Goebbels and his Ministry.

Unpublished Sources:

Material from Greenwich Heritage Centre

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