David Low Second World War Political Cartoon Study


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A lesson for History 12 students using David Low cartoons to practice the interpretation of primary sources

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  • Austria / Czecho / Hungary / Poland / Rumania / Bulgar / Jugoslav / Greece / Turkey / 10 Little Nigger Boys Ten little niggers, (1939) by Agatha Christie Nursery Rhyme: Ten little niggers (1869) by Frank Green. ".... four little nigger boys going out to sea, a red herring swallowed one and then there were three, ..."
  • Printed on opposite page: "Stalin was restless about the rapid drift to Nazism in Rumania, for the U.S.S.R. was vulnerable in her southern territories and he didn't like Nazi movements near his Black Sea. Just to show he was no mere onlooker, Stalin got in early and snatched from Rumania the ex-Russian provinces of Bessarabia and North Bukovina." p.96.
  • Despite a common enemy, many people in Britain did not see Soviet Russia as an ally and were reluctant to support aid for Stalin.
  • News: June 11. Reports show German troop movements on the Polish Soviet border. Cartoon shows Hitler threatening Stalin with a hammer "Nazi army" and a sickle and telling him, "Do we get the wheat or don't we, Comrade?" Stalin sits behind his desk, puffing his pipe.
  • Rumania was an obvious target for any belligerent European power, possessing as it did rich mineral deposits and Europe's only viable oil fields (Ploesti Oil Fields). Bessarabia and Northern Bukovina had been claimed by Stalin in the secret clauses of the Nazi-Soviet (Molotov-Ribbentrop) pact of August 1939, which recognised Russian and German spheres of interest in Europe. After the fall of France in June 1940, once Rumania was entirely defenceless, Stalin pursued his claim. In addition, Bulgaria claimed Dobrudja and Hungary, Northern Transylvania.
  • A pact was announced between Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia by which (it transpired later) it was arranged to defeat and partition Poland. Germany invaded Poland, and Britain and France declared war." [Europe since Versailles by Low.]Republished in David Low, Low's War Cartoons, Cresset Press, 1941.The declared nature of the pact was a 'non-aggression' treaty; Russia and Germany would not fight each other. For Hitler, this removed the threat of a war on two fronts should he invade Poland. For Stalin, this operated in similar fashion to Britain and France's policy of appeasement in that it gave him time to prepare for conflict: Stalin was convinced that Britain and France would leave him to do all the fighting on the Eastern front, despite their promise to guarantee Polish neutrality, and he needed time to re-arm. For both parties, of course, the secret element of the treaty (the division of Poland) served to regain territory lost in the aftermath of World War I. Hitler and Stalin remained ideologically opposed, as the captions suggest. The Nazi-Soviet pact was merely a pragmatic gesture on both parts Poland is represented by the prostrate figure. THIS IS ONE OF LOW’S MOST FAMOUS CARTOONS.
  • Hitler and Stalin signed a pact in August 1939 which guaranteed non-aggression towards each other, despite their very different ideologies. This pact had secret terms which divided Poland between the two nations. Both parties had reasons for signing the pact that were nothing to do with friendship! Hitler wanted to ensure that invading Poland would not cause a war on two fronts, if Britain and France came to Poland's aid. Stalin knew he was not ready for war and was buying time. In addition, he was nervous about the long-term security of his western border and wanted to create a buffer zone out of Polish territory. The two men can be seen on the Eastern Frontier, walking together in apparent cooperation, but with obvious suspicion remaining. NOTE EACH HIDES A PISTOL.
  • Printed on opposite page: "First gains of the Nazi-Soviet deal were with Stalin. In return for the material help expected, Hitler had put away "Mein Kampf" and piped down anti-red propaganda. The Anti-Comintern Pact had been dislocated, and the Soviet back door in the Far East was safe, leaving Moscow with openings in the future for opportunist policy elsewhere." p.14
  • The Nazi-Soviet Pact of 1939 technically established non-aggression between these two nations. However, by 1941 it was clear that Hitler, having made lightning gains in western Europe and the Balkan region, was turning his attention to Russia. In Mein Kampf Hitler had declared his intention to pursue Lebensraum (living space) in the East. In an attempt to protect his 'backdoor' and to establish a Soviet sphere of influence in Europe, in accordance with the secret terms of the Nazi Soviet pact, Stalin had invaded Finland in 1939. He wrested some 16000 square kilometers of land from Finland in the peace treaty of March 1940. But, in an attempt to recover these lands, Finland agreed to fight alongside Germany in its war against the Soviet Union in June 1941. By May 1941 Stalin was aware of the growing danger and of Russia's encirclement by Nazi troops.
  • David Low Second World War Political Cartoon Study

    1. 1. David Low Cartoons 63 91-19 18 J Marshall, 2009
    2. 2. David Low Cartoons
    3. 3. Illingworth, Leslie Gilbert, 1902-1979
    4. 4. End