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The Making of the Nazi (1943)

This Film is an animated propaganda short film produced by Walt Disney and directed by Clyde Geronimi. It was released when Disney was under a U.S. government contract to produc 32 animated shorts from 1941–1945. These wartime propaganda films saved the studio from bankruptcy.

The film features the story of little Hans, a boy born and raised in Hitler’s Nazi Germany. He’s brainwashed into becoming a Nazi, and ultimately dies at the battlefield, as thousands of his fellow Germans did. His attitude about the value of human life degrades as he is exposed to Hitler Youth and other Nazi organizations and attitudes.

The short is based on the non-fiction book of the same name by American author Gregor Ziemer. The dialogue of the characters is in German, neither subtitled nor directly translated by Art Smith’s English language narration.

At the beginning of the film, a German couple prove to a Nazi supreme judge that they are of pure Aryan blood and agree to give their son, whom they name Hans at the approval of the judge, into the service of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party. They are given a copy of Mein Kampf by the judge as a reward for their service to Hitler; their passport contains spaces for 12 more children (a hint that the couple is expected to produce a large family for the Fatherland).

This is followed by the only extended comical section of the cartoon, the tone of which is very light compared to the rest of the film. The audience is told that as Hans grows up, he hears a distorted version of Sleeping Beauty depicting Hitler as the knight in shining armor rescuing Sleeping Beauty, an obese Valkyrie representing Germany, from a wicked witch, representing democracy. (The narrator sarcastically comments that “the moral of this story seems to be that Hitler got Germany on her feet, climbed onto the saddle, and took her for a ride.”) Thanks to this kind of distorted children’s story, Hans becomes fascinated with Hitler as he and the rest of the younger members of the Hitler Youth give a portrait of him dressed as a knight the Hitler salute.

In the following segment, the audience sees Hans sick and bedridden. His mother prays for him, knowing it will only be a matter of time before the authorities come and take him away to serve Hitler. A Nazi officer bangs on the door to take Hans away, but his mother says he is sick and needs care. The officer orders her to heal her son quickly and have him ready to leave, implying if Hans does not get well, he will be euthanized. He orders her not to do anything more to him that will cause him to lose heart and be weak, explaining that a soldier must show no emotion, mercy or feelings whatsoever. Hans eventually recovers and resumes his “education” in a school classroom, where Hans and the rest of his classmates all in Hitlerjugend uniforms, after giving portraits of Hitler, Hermann Göring and Joseph Goebbels the Hitler salute, watch as the teacher draws a cartoon on the blackboard of a rabbit being eaten by a fox, prompting Hans to feel sorry for the rabbit. The teacher, furious over the remark, orders Hans to sit in the corner wearing a dunce cap. As Hans sits in the corner as punishment, he hears the rest of the classmates “correctly” interpret the cartoon as “weakness has no place in a soldier” and “the strong shall rule the weak”. This sparks Hans to recant his remark, and agrees that the weak must be destroyed.

Hans then takes part in a book-burning crusade, burning any books that oppose Hitler, replacing the Bible with Mein Kampf and the crucifix with a Nazi sword, and burning a Catholic Church. Hans then spends the next several years “Marching and heiling, heiling and marching!” until he reaches his teens (wearing a uniform similar to that of the Sturmabteilung) still “marching and heiling” until he becomes an adult or “Good Nazi” (now in Wehrmacht uniform) embroiled in hatred towards anyone else who opposes Hitler, “seeing nothing but what the party wants him to see, saying nothing but what the party wants him to say, and doing no more than the party wants him to do.”

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