Inciting local populations to act against one another, or to unite against a targeted enemy, remained a cornerstone of German propaganda in the occupied territories. German forces and their propaganda also sought to convince local populations that the Germans were there to help them against the Bolshevik “menace,” and while such efforts certainly invented no shortage of lies to this end, they were also eager to use examples of real atrocities and crimes committed by their enemies. In the Ukrainian village of Vinnitsa, the NKVD—Soviet Secret Police—murdered between 9000 and 11,000 citizens in 1937 and 1938. The mass graves of those murdered were discovered by the Germans in 1943, and German propagandists used this episode to their advantage with posters such as this one, which aimed to blame “Jewish Bolshevists” and thereby have the Wehrmacht gain the trust of local citizens. Initially, many Ukrainians believed the Germans would help them establish an independent Ukraine, and a number of them collaborated directly with the Nazis. The Nazis, however, planned to colonize all of Eastern Europe according to their “Generalplan Ost.” As part of this plan, the Germans had begun murdering Jews in the region immediately, and one of the most famous photos of the Holocaust—that of the last Jew being executed by the Einsatzgruppen—came from Vinnitsa.

Nazi Propaganda Poster Exploiting Soviet Atrocities in Ukraine (1943)


Source: 1) Poster, 1943. Unknown artist. United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of the Katz Family. See also the reproduction on Wikimedia Commons: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vinnytsia_massacre#/media/File:Vinnycia01.JPG
2) Photograph, 1941-43. Unknown creator. Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/cph.3a02440. See also the reproduction on Wikimedia Commons: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Last_Jew_in_Vinnitsa#/media/File:The_last_Jew_in_Vinnitsa,_1941.jpg