PROPAGANDA GUMMED LABELS OF WWII

SGM Herbert A. Friedman (Ret.)

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Sampling of USA prepared labels

Note: Several variations of this article were written by the author over the past thirty years, probably the most complete in The American Philatelist of April 1987. We place the article on the Internet to make it more accessible to researchers.

Millions of propaganda leaflets in hundreds of different forms were prepared during World War II. Political messages, cartoons, safe conduct passes, newspapers, booklets, posters — all were designed and printed by both sides, to be distributed in enemy territory by any means possible. Although agents as well as the mails were used to carry these leaflets, the majority of them were delivered by aircraft.

Among this variety of propaganda materials were leaflets in the form of per­forated, gummed labels. Some of these were given denominations, so that they appeared to be postage stamps. Others simply bore portraits, cartoons, or patriotic slogans. All of them were meant to be used by the peoples of occupied countries in a “pin-prick” propaganda campaign. They could be stuck on tables, mirrors, or walls, on cars, or in public buildings. Undoubtedly, some were even placed on envelopes.

These labels could not win the war. They could vanquish no enemy soldiers. But they could remind those under occupation that there were still patriots who had not surrendered. The stickers were a challenge to fight on, a sign of hope and eventual victory.

This is the story of those gummed propaganda labels, the paper bullets we might call “spy stickers.”

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British Propaganda Labels

Great Britain was by far the greatest single wartime producer of gummed and perforated propaganda labels, and the Royal Air Force dropped them over much of occupied Europe. The American Office of Strategic Services literally produced hundreds of small gummed labels with anti-Nazi slogans and cartoons. They were carried behind the lines by Allied agents, mailed behind the lines as part of “Operation Cornflakes,” carried by anti-Nazi German prisoners-of-war under “Operation Sauerkraut,” and numerous other methods. Toward the end of the war, Nazi Germany retaliated by producing a number of gummed labels designed to strengthen morale in its fading Axis partner, Italy.

There is no way of knowing the exact number of perforated stickers produced and disseminated during World War II. Many of the records relating to them are still classified or secret, and a final count has never been published. German labels in particular are still being discovered. This article will list, discuss, and illustrate labels known at present.

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Unofficial U.S. Patriotic Labels

These labels are not official propaganda pieces produced by the government. They are civilian-made for morale purposes. As they say on the sheet, their purpose for use is:

Gay and colorful stamps mailed on letters from the U.S. Armed Forces make the home folks feel good.

It is important to note that these are not the common, inexpensive, patriotic and fund-raising labels produced by various organizations during World War II. These are the official, classified, government propaganda labels meant to be used as part of the war effort — as stepping-stones to final victory. They are official psychological warfare products, produced both as black and white propaganda.

Many of the British labels were prepared by Department EH, which, beginning in 1938, operated from Room 207, Electra House, Victoria Embankment. The department was called “Electra House,” later shortened to Department EH. It produced numerous “white” leaflets, items readily identifiable as British propaganda. The unit later became part of the British Special Operations Executive (SOE), and in mid-1941, the agency was absorbed by the Political Warfare Executive (PWE). Thereafter, the unit produced gummed labels for Norway, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, and the Netherlands.

For Norway

Among the earliest of these labels are the four British Special Operations Executive (SOE) sheets dropped over Norway in 1941. These are the most stamp-like of the British productions, and the only parodies to bear denominations.

Code numbered EH-N-811, the four labels are listed as "the Norwegian stamp collection." All of the labels were prepared in sheets about 132 x 215 mm in size, printed on white, unwatermarked paper. All were at­tached to a larger gummed sticker printed with the same vignette. The sheets were numbered 1 through 4 and labeled “Utkast til den norske frimerkekonkurranse — Tre andre utkast folger pr. luftpost” (Essay for the Norwegian postage stamp competition — Three other trial designs follow by air mail).

In the case of these air-dropped leaflets, there is often disagreement over such fine distinctions as color, size and perforations. But bear in mind that many lay on the ground for days or weeks before they were picked up. They may have been wet — more than once — with dew, rain, or snow, and then warmed by the sun. Normal shrinkage and expansion make measurements unreliable.

They were prepared 7 June 1941, and were circulated in Norway by agents and through two air drops. 200,000 sheets were printed by rotogravure, probably 50,000 of each type. Proofs of the leaflets were available on 9 May 1941. It is probable that the date of first drop was to have been 17 May 1941, Norwegian National Day, but delivery was delayed, and the drop was made over Bergen in daylight on 7 June 1941. The remaining stock was to have been destroyed on 19 July, but the sheets survived, to be used in a second drop on 19-20 September. In addition to Bergen, leaflets were found in Askoy, Osteroya, and Fusa Fjord. I first described these stamps in an article entitled “Those scandalous Scandinavian labels,” S.P.A. Journal, July 1967.

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All for Germany

The first label is a 15-ore blue-green, perforated 12 x 10 1/4, with text reading Alt for Tyskland! (“All for Germany!”). This was a parody of the King’s slogan, “All for Norway.” The vignette depicts a fat Nazi officer con­fiscating a Norwegian farmer’s livestock. The lower corners of the labels show “S.S.S,” which is thought to be an abbreviation for “S.S. Swine” The sheet has the 120 x 76 mm large label at the top and four perforated 60 x 38 mm labels below in the form of a 2 x 2 block.

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We’re sailing against England

The second label is a 30-ore blue, perforated 12 x 10 1/4, with text reading Wir fahren gegen Engelland! (“We’re sailing against England!”). The vignette depicts Hitler wearing a horned Viking helmet and swimming with the aid of a life preserver. This sheet has the large 119 x 141 mm label on top and three 40 x 46 mm labels below in a horizontal line. The stamp ridicules Hitler’s ‘‘Operation Sea Lion;” his plan to cross the English Channel, and the famous German marching song of the same name, which featured the words:

Our flag waves as we march along
It is an emblem of the power of our Reich.
And we can no longer endure
That the Englishman should laugh at it.
So give me thy hand, thy fair white hand
Ere we sail away to conquer Eng-el-land.

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We’re sailing against England Sheet

We could show all of the Norwegian labels in full sheets but choose to show this one just to give the reader an idea of how the sheet looked when dropped by the RAF and found by the Norwegians.

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The Lofoten Raid

The third Norway label depicts a sailor stuffing little Nazis into his sea bag, with the text reading Lofoten 4 Mars 1941 / bidrag til mulkten (“Lofoten 4 March 1941 / Contribution to the fine”). The stamp-like label is a 20+20-ore red-orange, perforated 9 1/2 x 12. The sheet has the large 73 x 117 mm label at the upper left, the three 39 x 63 mm perforated gummed labels to the right in a vertical line.

This label commemorated the 4 March 1941, raid on Lofoten by British Comman­dos and Norwegian Marines led by Brigadier General J. C. Haydon. The islands produced large quantities of cod liver and other fish oils, important to the German war effort for the production of nitrogenous explosives. The Allied force destroyed six processing plants, captured a number of German troops, and freed 300 Norwegian patriots.

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Quisling’s conduct

The final label of this series is a 30-stk solv (pieces of silver) blue, perforated 9 1/2 x 12. The text reads Vanaere og forakt har Quislings faerd ham bragt (“Quisling’s conduct has brought him dishonor and contempt”). The vignette shows Vidkun Quisling, the Norwegian collaborator, head of the pup­pet government and leader of the Nasjonal Samling (Norwegian Nazi Party), with a hangman’s noose around his head. The sheet has the large 72 x 102 mm label at the upper left and the three 41 x 64 mm labels in a vertical line at the right. This message proved prophetic. At the end of the war, Quisling was tried for high treason and was executed on 24 November 1945.

At one point during the war, a British intelligence officer was given a set of these labels by a Norwegian who had been picked up at sea. The British routinely interviewed defectors to determine if they were, in reality, German spies. The young freedom-fighter had carried the labels, at great risk, across Norway during his flight from his native land to prove his patriotism to the British.

A cover bearing a Norwegian stamp and one of each of the labels surfaced in 1996. The cover is dated 9 May 1945 (the day after the Germans surrendered in Norway) and hand-addressed to Kjell Brekke, N. Skogvn 36a, Bergen. Three lines of handwritten Norwegian text appear on the front: “Please cancel all of the stamps nicely. / Victory of justice / over the violence of dictatorship.” It is presumed that this cover was prepared by a Norwegian patriot as a souvenir, probably with the help of a friendly postal clerk, but that it did not go through the mails.

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EH-N-828

The British also prepared another sheet of four different perforated, gummed labels for use in Norway. Coded EH-N-828, this sheet was dropped from 9 January to 29 April 1941. Each of the four labels depicts a different Allied leader and a statement from that person on a colorful background reminiscent of the Norwegian flag. The leaders shown are Norwegian King Haakon, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, American President Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Soviet General Secretary of the Communist party Josef Stalin.

King Haakon says:

Thank you for your faith in our country. Fight as firmly and as proudly in the new year as you did in the past year.

President Roosevelt says:

We will win the war and then we will win the peace.

Winston Churchill says:

Do not despair brave Norwegians; your country will be liberated not only from the German hordes but also from the evil collaborators who are the tools of the Germans.

Finally, Josef Stalin says:

The German hordes desired a war of extermination. They will get it.

Dates for all British aerial drops are from A Complete Index of Allied Airborne Leaflets and Magazines, 1939-1945. The dates given here indicate the first day an aircraft carrying the leaflets left Great Brit­ain, and the last day a plane on a similar mission returned. Because most such mis­sions were flown during hours of darkness and, thus, took place over two days, I have arbitrarily used the takeoff and touchdown dates.

For Belgium

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EH-B-210
Courtesy of Rod Oaklandwww.war-images.com

Sheets of four labels, each picturing two British bombers, were dropped over Belgium from 4 February to 22 February 1940. The labels are orange with black British bomber silhouettes. Their code is EH-B-210. Although the text on all four labels is identical, it is written in French on two of them, and in Flemish on the other two. The Flemish-language labels are inverted on the sheet. The French text is Courage, amis belges! L’Angleterre se bat pour vous delivrer Elle Vaincra! The Flemish text is Belgische vrienden, houdt moed!Engeland strijdt om u te verlossen het zal zegevieren!” (“Courage Belgian friends! England is fighting to free you. She will be victorious!”).

A second group of four leaflets for Belgium was coded EH-B-215a, but, according to the Index, they were not dis­seminated, perhaps because they were rather wordy. The British might have felt that a more picturesque leaflet with less text was desirable. Each of these four labels was different. Once again, two are in French, two in Flemish. The title at the top reads Courage, amis belges, on les tient! (“Courage Belgian friends, we are coming!”). Roosevelt’s “Arsenal of Democracy” statement is printed on two of the labels, in French and in Flemish, while the other two bear quotes from Roosevelt and Admiral Leahy, also in French and in Flemish.

The British prepared a similar set of four labels coded EH-B-215b. The major difference is that these bore messages from Roosevelt and Churchill in French and Flemish. These, too, were quite wordy and were not disseminated.

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EH-B-217
Courtesy of Rod Oaklandwww.war-images.com

Another set of six gummed and perforated labels aimed at Belgium were coded EH-B-217 and disseminated from 6 April to 6 August 1941. These are more in line with the eye-catching style that propagandists desire. The colors were black and red on a yellow background. The sheet was made up of two large labels and four smaller ones. All had the same vignette — a large “V” and the words Victoire/Vrijheid (“Victory” in French, “Freedom” in Flemish).

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1918

A fifth British PWE gummed and perforated leaflet for Belgium contained eight labels (2x4) showing a torn scrap of paper with the text “1918.” On the gummed back, the leftmost four labels are in French, and the rightmost labels are in Flemish. The French-language labels each have the title Meilleurs Souhaits Pour 1943; the Flemish-language labels each have the title Beste Wenschen Voor 1943 (“Best wishes for 1943”). Each horizontal pair of French and Flemish labels has a multi-line message consisting of anti-German propaganda about 1918. Little is known about these labels and they have been described as “British black propaganda.” The four propaganda messages on the back are:

Message 1 - The best wishes for 1943, re-issue of 1918. A quarter century ago, in 1918, Germany entered the fourth year of war. It was the year of her annihilation. In 1943, Germany again enters the fourth year of war. It will be the year of her destruction.

Message 2 - Best wishes for 1943, the year of liberation, as it was 25 years ago in 1918. A quarter century ago, in spring 1919, Germany began two powerful offenses which were carried out first at the Somme and then at the Marne, like it was done in the first months of the war. The breakdown followed in August.

Message 3 - Best wishes for 1943, the date of destruction of the Nazi hordes like in 1918. A quarter of a century ago, after four years of war, the wearing down of German industry, the destruction of all means of transportation, the labor shortage, the sinking morale of the Homeland, in a word – the blockade, breached the German wall and our troops forced their way in.

Message 4 - Best wishes for 1943, the date of the breakdown of the military machinery of the Nazis, like in 1918.Thinking of 1918 prosecutes the Nazis – many parallels between yesterday and today come involuntary to one’s mind. The vast front in Russia which is worse than the front in France, the immense production of the Allies, the material and moral wearing down of Germany by the blockade in this fourth year of war. Hitler, however, represses the ghost of defeat and proclaims in a November speech “the events of 1918 will not be repeated.” But 1918 repeats itself. The events are proof.

For France

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EH-F-55

The British prepared a set of four labels for occupied France coded EH-F-55 and colored red, blue, and black on white paper. An attempt has been made to give the impression of the French tricolor flag. These leaflets are similar to the undisseminated Belgian labels, but to these designs the British added color and an il­lustration to make them brighter and easier to read. The title of all four labels is “Courage amis francais / Ca va mieux! (“Courage French friends / Things will improve!”). The upper left label has a drawing of Roosevelt, the other three are all text. Each bears a different quote from a radio speech by President Roosevelt. The upper two labels bear a text from his speech of 29 December 1940:

I firmly believe that the Axis powers will not win the war. This firm belief is based on the latest and best information.

We must be the great arsenal of democracy…nothing will weaken our determination to support Great Britain.

Text on the lower two labels is from a speech Roosevelt made to the American Congress on 6 January 1941:

Tell all the democracies that we Americans are deeply interested in the struggle you are waging. We will always support you with a vast number of ships, aircraft, tanks and cannons. This is our aim. This is our obligation.

We are obligated to give supplies to all peoples who are determined to resist aggression.

There is some debate about the distribution of these labels. Klaus Kirchner says in Flugblatt-Propaganda im 2.Weltkrieg that they were prepared in February 1941 but not disseminated, while a French expert says that they were dropped by balloon. The Index of Allied Airborne Leaflets and Magazines states that they were airdropped by the Royal Air Force from 23 February to 25 February 1941.

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Liberate France

British researcher Lee Richards found this pair of propaganda stamps while searching through Political Warfare Executive files in the British Archives. They were found in two different files, one on operations in Algiers, another on propaganda to Corsica. The stamps would certainly also be used in France. At the lower left there is a printer’s mark: Imp La Typo-Litho Alger, which implies that they printed by a commercial printer in Algiers. A memo found in the files dated 16 April 1943 reads in part:

We have received Sergeant Steedman's posters and stamps, and we have congratulated him on them. We are using the posters in the Courrier de l'Air [An Allied propaganda newspaper to France], and are reprinting the stamps for dissemination in France. We are eager to receive such material as frequently as possible, because as you can see from the above we can make good and immediate use of it when it is found appropriate for use beyond North Africa.

Sergeant Steedman would seem to be the PWE Algiers artist who designed and drew the image on these propaganda labels.

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Long live Clemenceau

The final group of four leaflets for France was coded EH-F-68 and colored gray, red, and black on white paper. Each label bears the text Vive Clemenceau! (“Long live Clemenceau”) and a photograph of the Georges Clemenceau, French statesman whose determination and courage urged his country on to victory in World War I. The labels were dropped over France from 17 April to 13 May 1941.

For Germany

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The Day is Coming

Among the most graphic of all the gummed leaflets are a group of four labels prepared for dissemination in Germany. It was coded EH-485 or H-259a and colored red, gray, and black on white paper. Each label is different.

The first shows a swastika hanging from a gallows and the German text, Es kommt der Tag! (“The day is com­ing”). The second pictures a worker refusing to accept the orders of a Nazi boss. The text reads Der Endsieg (“The final victory”). The third shows a worker fighting an octopus shaped like a swastika and the text, Es kommt der Tag! (“The day is coming”). The fourth label shows the Nazi war machine rolling over the bodies of straining workers and the words Durchhalten! (“Stick it out!”). These leaflets were prepared in 1941 but never disseminated.

The code number of this sheet of labels is in question. The Index of Allied Leaflets mentions EH-485 produced in March 1941 as “The sticker.” However, there is no way to prove that “the sticker” is this label sheet. R. G. Auckland wrote a book entitled British Black Propaganda to Germany 1941-1945 where he mentions Es kommt der Tag! as H-259a. Of course, this text was used on more than one propaganda item, so we cannot tell if this is the sheet of labels either.

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The “Austria” Label

There is a second label that is relatively unknown. This label was found in a folder in the National Archives in Washington D.C. along with some Ellic Howe British propaganda items. That would seem to indicate that it is a British product. This label was produced in two sizes, 4.6 x 6.3 cm imperforate, and 2.25 x 3.15 cm perforated. The vignette in both cases depicts a crucified soldier hanging on a swastika. Beneath the image is the word Osterreich (Austria).

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Folk Comrades

Like the Americans, the British also prepared a great number of gummed labels with propaganda messages to be stuck on walls as anti-Nazi propaganda. Several are depicted in Ellic Howe’s The Black Game. This all-text leaflet above says:

Folk Comrades!

Don’t worry about the Fuehrer.

If we go down the drain a long distance aircraft or large U-boat is always there to rescue him to Japan or the Argentine.

Be of good cheer!

There is a second label that is relatively unknown. This label was found in a folder in the National Archives in Washington D.C. along with some Ellic Howe British propaganda items. That would seem to indicate that it is a British product. This label was produced in two sizes, 4.6 x 6.3 cm imperforate, and 2.25 x 3.15 cm perforated. The vignette in both cases depicts a crucified soldier hanging on a swastika. Beneath the image is the word Osterreich (Austria).

For the Netherlands

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EH-H-17

Four sets of labels were produced for use in the Netherlands. The first, a sheet of six, was printed on both sides and coded EH-H-17. On the front is a daisy, in natural colors, and the number “31” in orange. On the gummed side of the label, there is the code H.17 and an explanation of how to use the gummed labels. “Distribute these leaflets among your friends. Save them until 31 August and then affix them.” 31 August was “Queen’s Day,” the birthday of Queen Wilhelmina. These labels were pre­pared in 1941 but not disseminated.

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EH-H-703

A second set of Dutch stickers was prepared in sheets of six, coded EH-H-703, and colored black and orange on white paper. I first wrote about these in an article entitled “Those doughty Dutch decoys,” The American Philatelist, October 1970. These were dropped over Holland from 8 February to 29 August 1941. The vignette shows the black numeral “6 1/4” crossed out by an orange “X.” The meaning is simple: The words six-and-one-quarter in Dutch are pronounced the same as the surname of Dr. Arthur Seyss-Inquart, Reich Commissioner of the Netherlands. He would be destroyed by the Dutch (orange is their national color). On 10 August 1944, a British newspaper pictured these labels with a caption that read:

A laugh at Hitler stooge. Thousands of labels like this — the cross strokes are in orange (Dutch national colour) — have been dropped by the R.A.F. in Holland. . . . The labels have gummed backs. Patriots stick them on Nazi buildings, on the bonnets of German staff cars, and even inside officers’ caps in restaurants.

As in the case of the Quisling label, the British were hinting that Seyss-Inquart would soon have to answer for his crimes. Once again, the labels proved prophetic. Seyss-Inquart was arrested in May 1945 and executed.

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EH-H-710
Courtesy of Rod Oaklandwww.war-images.com

The third sheet of labels prepared for the Netherlands was coded EH-H-710. Each of four labels is titled Houdt moed, Hollandsche vrienden! (“Courage, Dutch friends”) and shows a medieval lion and a quotation from an Allied leader. The quotes are from President Roosevelt (29 December 1940,  January 1941), U.S. Secretary of War Henry Stimson (29 January 1941), and Winston Churchill. The Royal Air Force dropped these labels on the night of 25 March 1941.

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EH-H-727

The final sheet prepared for the Netherlands consists of twenty-eight triangular labels. This sheet is coded EH-H-727, colored orange and black on white paper. It consists of equal numbers of two types of labels, one showing a medieval heraldic lion and the text “31 Aug;” the other showing a large “W” with a crown above and “31 Aug” below. As I noted earlier, 31 August was Queen Wilhelmina’s birthday. These labels were air-dropped on the night of 27 August 1941.

For Italy

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EH-I-722

The British also prepared gummed labels for use in Italy. Sheets of six 7 x 7 cm labels coded EH-I-722 were dropped on the night of 12 January 1941. The stickers bore the Italian language slogan, “Greece, Taranto, Libya . . . Mussolini is always right.” These labels called attention to Il Duce’s military failures. First, the disastrous attack on Greece that led to so many Italian defeats that Marshal Pietro Badoglio was forced to resign as chief of staff and the Germans were requested to come to the aid of the Italian army. Second, the British air attack on the Italian naval base at Taranto, where a handful of obsolete torpedo aircraft from the carrier Illustrious crippled the Italian battleships Conte di Cavour, Littorio, and Duilio. Finally, the drubbing the Italians were taking in Libya. By January 1941, the Italians had lost eight divisions in North Africa, forcing Hitler to send two German divisions to the aid of his allies.

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For North Africa?

We are not sure of the source of these labels. They could be British or they could be American, both countries having been part of the North African campaign. The printing and color is very good and that does seem to imply a professional printer rather than an amateur preparing a patriotic label. They are perforated and gummed, six labels to a sheet, and each label has a caricature of a German skeleton with an “X” over his chest at the left and the message in English, French or Arabic, “The only good Nazi is a dead Nazi.” An attached label at the right is all text and says in one of the three languages, “Germany cannot win!” We would love to know more about these labels if any reader can help.

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American Propaganda Labels

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Away with the..

Die for Hitler?

Freedom! Peace!

 

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Nazis Out

Peace on Earth
not peace under the earth

Later is too late

Selected U.S. Propaganda Labels to Germany with Translations

The Office of Strategic Services (OSS) offices in Rome and Berne produced hundreds of different “pin-prick” gummed labels as part of their mission to destroy the morale of the German people and military and to make the Nazis believe there was a vigorous underground movement. I show a group of such leaflets from the Rome office at the top of this article. Most of these labels had short messages, sometimes with an illustration, and they were all meant to be stuck on tables, walls, mirrors, etc., wherever the Germans congregated so they were daily reminded of the folly of the war and the evil of the Nazi regime.

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The OSS Rome Printing Plant

This photograph gives an example of all the various types of PSYOP products produced in the OSS printing plant in Rome. We see posters, letters, leaflets, and at the far left, gummed propaganda stickers to be placed on walls and windows.

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An OSS envelope with Propaganda Contents

Sometimes the OSS would mail propaganda letters to Germans using agents and letters that were written in Rome or Switzerland and then smuggled into the Third Reich. The envelope above contained propaganda stamps, a leaflet, and two gummed labels. The first label is:

Ein Volk: Osterreich ein Reich: Osterreich Kein Fuehrer! (“One people: Austria; one Empire: Austria, No Leader!”).

This is a parody of the German Nazi Party slogan Ein Volk, ein Reich, ein Fuehrer (“One people, one Empire, one Leader”).

The second is:

Freiheit! Frieden! (“Freedom! Peace!”) with the “F” being formed by a broken swastika.

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Number 13 - Perseverance…

The Berne labels seem rarer. They are often stamped with a blue or black number or letter, indicating that they are file copies that were removed after the war and sold to collectors. The first I show is from a set of three. It has red text on creme-colored paper and is from a set filed as 12, 13 and 14. The texts of the three labels are:

12: If all continues this way we soon will get: butter instead of cannons

13: Perseverance, stamina, shut up!

4: Only who knows yearning thinks: It will start soon!

Number 12 implies that the war will soon be over with Germany’s defeat. Number 13 implies that whereas other nations have free speech and the right to criticize leaders, in Germany you are expected to just persevere and shut up…or else.

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Number 37 - Germany must live…

The second Bern leaflet is black text on a red background (the Nazi colors) and from a set of seven labels filed as 35 through 41. The texts of number 35 through 37 are:

35: No bread, no home, bombed out, emaciated, smashed, pale – this is Adolf´s “Himmler Empire!”

36: We have to thank the Führer for war and defeat

We have to conquer a free Germany without him!

The war is still lost

The peace can still be gained!

37: Germany must live, that´s why Hitler must fall!

Note: “Himmler-Empire” in number 35 is an allusion to the German word Himmelreich which means “God´s Empire in Heaven.” The two leaflets depicted above are from the extensive collection of my friend Dr. Rod Oakland.

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The Dead Generals Live

The third gummed label is from a large series showing various cartoons, mostly in blue on a white background. The cartoons are filed from 279 to 296. Number 283 depicts a gallows and the text “The dead generals live,” probably referring to the generals that were murdered after the failed plot on Hitler’s life. The above leaflet is from the research of my friend Lee Richards.

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Sleepwalking…

The next three gummed labels were owned by Rod Oakland, the respected British collector. The first OSS label depicts Hitler walking off a cliff followed by German soldiers. The OSS file number stamped on the gummed label is 120. The text on the label is:

With the certainty of a sleepwalker, 'HE' leads Germany towards the abyss...!

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For the security…

This OSS gummed label numbered 121 shows a prisoner in a concentration camp tied and gagged and the text:

For the security of the German people the leader has thought of everything

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To Freedom…

The final Oakland label is numbered 122 and depicts Hitler swinging from a gallows. The text is:

The only way - to freedom

U.S.P. Labels with flags over Swastikas

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U.S.P. Labels with flags over Swastikas

The next group of propaganda labels is a bit of a mystery. The vignette depicts the flag of one of the various nations occupied by Germany during WWII painted almost as graffiti over a Nazi swastika. The image usually appears on a poster. However, Lee Richards, editor of the Psywar Society’s publication Falling Leaf says in a July 2007 article entitled “Mystery Stickers,” that the image also appears on gummed labels which may be American or British products. Lee found a red-white-red Austrian flag version with the code U.S.P., which would seem to be an American Office of War Information (OWI) production. It is 12 x 17.5 cm in size. Doing further research at the British National Archives, he found a red, white and blue Czech flag label coded USP/C 1A and printed by Waterlow & Sons in early January 1945. It was amongst other leaflets in a file of the Political Warfare Executive. He wonders if the labels were produced by the Americans, the British, or prepared by the PWE on behalf of OWI. At least one more such label exists, this with the red, white, blue flag of the Netherlands. I would assume that a label was prepared for every occupied nation, just as the United States prepared a set of 13 commemorative postage stamps in 1943 for the occupied nations of WWII.

The OSS – OWI Gummed Labels for Germany

The OSS prepared at least two colorful gummed labels (two larger identical propaganda postcards were also produced) attacking the Axis in conjunction with the U.S. Office of War Information. All the reference material says that the labels were an OWI project, but both of these labels have been found with OSS letter file codes stamped on them, so there is some question about whether it was the OSS or OWI really behind this project. Both labels were prepared in Bern, Switzerland about 1943 and feature vignettes by the famous Polish caricaturist Arthur Szyk. Syzk had authored a book of his anti-Fascist caricatures called The New Order in 1941. In it, he printed 38 of his illustrations. Both Colliers and Esquire Magazine used some of Szyk’s drawings as cover illustrations.

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Pact of Steel

The first label depicts Hermann Göring, Hideki Tojo, and the Grim Reaper leading a chained and reluctant Benito Mussolini. Notice that the Japanese leader Tojo wears a Nazi Party swastika armband. This vignette was originally on a 1942 Szyk Esquire Magazine 4.6 x 7-inch postcard; (Set 6 - Esky No. 3) entitled “Il Duce.” The propaganda postcard tells us that the title for this image is “Pact of Steel.” This treaty between Germany and Italy was signed on 22 May 1939. Although these labels are usually considered to be products of the Office of War Information, the OWI and the OSS often shared the same printing plant in Switzerland. The OWI printed white propaganda during the day and the OSS secretly printed black propaganda after dark. They had to be very careful because Switzerland was neutral and the Swiss police often raided the printing plants. These cards have an OSS file code. Usually such codes are numeric, but this card is coded with the file letter “R.”

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Triumph

The second label depicts two individuals wearing swastika armbands riding on horseback. Traditionally they have been identified as Heinrich Himmler and Hideki Tojo but closer inspection shows that the “Himmler” figure is wearing a Wehrmacht uniform and an Iron Cross rather than SS paraphernalia so it is more likely that this is someone like Field Marshall Wilhelm Keitel, head of the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht (High Command of the Armed Forces). The Tojo figure again wears a swastika, but the indications that he is Japanese are the Imperial chrysanthemum crest on the horse’s bridle and the samurai sword he carries. Mussolini lags far behind on what may be a mule. In front of the Axis leaders we see various collaborators and puppet troops being forced toward the war zone by a Gestapo member. Hidden away on their armbands, saddle bags, belts and even one animal’s body are tiny German words that identify the individuals and their nations: “Spain;” “Hungary;” “Romania;” “Italian;” “Japan;” “Gestapo;” “Vichy;” and “Finland.”

Overhead a symbol of death holding forth a swastika sits astride a vulture. There is no text on the front, but we know from the propaganda postcard that the title of the drawing is Triumphzug Unter den Linden Berlin 1943 “(Triumphal Procession under the Linden Trees, Berlin 1943).” The Unter den Linden is a wide boulevard in the Mitte district of Berlin. It is named for its linden (lime) trees that line the grassed pedestrian mall and was sometimes used by the Nazis to stage parades and marches. The vignette was originally on a Szyk Esquire Magazine 4.6 x 7-inch postcard (Esky Set 6 - No. 2) entitled “The New Orderlies.” The OWI/OSS file code for this propaganda label is “Q.”

Both illustrations depict Mussolini as a weak and ridiculous leader. The OWI selected these pictures to discredit the German-Italian alliance and to divide the two allies.

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French Propaganda Labels

This propaganda label was used to aid in the conduct of business during the liberation of France. I first wrote about this item in an article entitled “Parodies of WWII French stamps,” Linn’s Weekly Stamp News, 11 April 1966.

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DeGaulle label

The blue label depicts DeGaulle full-face and the inscriptions “Poste Speciale / F.F.I // M.L.N.”. M.L.N. stands for Mouvement de Liberation Nationale (National Liberation Movement). It was prepared in Paris and used on covers to transport mail during one week of August 1944 when the normal post was not functioning and the Resistance took control. Many envelopes were prepared as souvenirs at that time and later.

An FFI document exists entitled Explications des adresses portees sur les enveloppes (“Explanation of addresses used on envelopes”), presenting coded addresses for 14 FFI/MLN functions. The document further states that for reasons of security during the period of their clandestine activities, the FFI could not use the real addresses of service units. Some other addresses are; Credit Agricole pour la Region de l’Eure is really the Centre d’Action des Resistances Etrangeres, the Credit Foncier Lyonnais is the Corps Francs de la Liberation, and the Direction Affaires Orientales is the Direction de l’Action Ouvriere.

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German Propaganda Labels

The Germans also produced propaganda labels, but to under­stand their propaganda campaign, we must look briefly at the situation in Italy toward the end of World War II.

Benito Mussolini, the Italian dictator, was overthrown by the Fascist Council on 25 July 1943. On the very same day, he was imprisoned by King Victor Emmanuel. After the king’s loyalists had moved him several times to forestall any rescue attempt, Il Duce was finally taken to the hotel Campo Imperatore on the slopes of the Gran Sasso d’Italia, the highest mountain in the Apennines.

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Mussolini and Otto Skorzeny after Gran Sasso's liberation

In the meantime, Italy broke the “Pact of Steel” and signed a separate peace with the Allies on 8 September 1943. Hitler was enraged at the betrayal. He sent Secret Service Captain Otto Skorzeny and a select SS detachment of 108 men to the rescue. Skorzeny led a daring glider assault on the mountain fortress and freed Mussolini on 12 September 1943.

Hitler then set up his former partner as the head of a puppet government, the Repubblica Sociale Italiana (RSI), to control those parts of Northern Italy still under German occupation. Mussolini called on his old Fascist comrades to join him in con­tinuing the war and eventually fielded four Italian divisions. These were reinforced by twenty-six German divisions.

This was the situation the German propagandists were faced with: A divided Italy; with the great majority of her people wanting peace and an end to the fighting. The propaganda campaign that was finally ap­proved was designed to convince the Italian people that they should uphold their pact with Germany; that Germany was still strong and would be victorious; that German blood was being shed to protect the Italians; that the Allied soldiers were fiends and murderers.

Several hundred leaflets were prepared using these themes, many of them in the form of gummed, perforated labels. Be­cause few multiples survived the war, it is impossible to give the size or the design of the sheets, but I can describe the vignettes, the text, and the codes of the individual labels that have been found.

Numerous German propaganda detach­ments produced leaflets in Italy, among them the Propaganda Abschnitts Offizier Italien, the Propaganda Einsatz Fuhrer, and the Propaganda Abteilung Italien. In fact, there were probably at least a dozen units turning out this material, although their names are still unknown. One detachment coded all of its material with a zero with a slash through it. This organization produced at least four series of leaflets, coded 0I through 0IV. For convenience, I call this unit the Propaganda “0” Staffel.

For Italy

One of the earliest and most attractive pairs of labels was coded “0I/163” and “0I/164.” These German stamp-like propaganda labels for Italy, without denominations from the “I” series of leaflets prepared by a Propaganda Staffel (Propaganda Detachment) of the Wehrmacht were prepared in perforated sheets, horizontally setenant. The labels appear as printed triangles within perforated rectangles. I have seen a multi­ple of six stickers, with three of the “164” in a vertical strip at the left and three of the “163” in a vertical strip at the right. It is possible that they were prepared in sheets of this size.

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0I/163

The first label, “0I/163,” depicts the head of a German soldier in brown, with eagle-and-swastika symbols at right and left. The text reads E vincera malgrado tutto! (“Despite all, he shall be victorious!”).

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0I/164

The second label, “0I/164,” depicts the head of a German soldier in brown, with sword-and-wreath symbols at left and right. The text reads Egli combatte, e tu? (“He is fighting, and you?”).

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A Sheet of Six Labels

This 0I/163 text is reminiscent of that of the 1943 German semi-postal stamp issued to commemorate the Munich Beer-Hall Putsch with the text: “And despite all, you were victorious.”

Another set of German labels was directed to Italian workers. They are all in black and white, approximately 37 x 63 mm. Five are known at present, coded 0II/43 to 0II/47. The text is in Italian.

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0II/43

0II/43: An Italian worker at a lathe is in the foreground and several civilians working in background. Text: Il tuo lavoro coopera alla ricostruzione dell’Italia (“Your work contributes to the re­construction of Italy”).

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0II/44

0II/44: An Italian worker is operating a pneumatic drill gun in a factory with his family at dinner in background. Text: Il lavoro e pane e benessere per la tua famiglia (“Work brings bread and well-being to your family”).

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0II/45

0II/45: An Italian blacksmith is in the foreground with patriotic symbols in the background. Text: Il lavoro, non le chiac­chiere, fa riprendere all’Italia il suo posto nel mondo (“Work, not words, can lead Italy to re­claim its place in the world”).

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0II/46

0II/46: An armed German soldier is in the foreground and an Italian worker in front of a map of Italy in the background. Text: La Germania protegge l’Italia dagli invasori anglo-americani. Contribuisci col tuo lavoro alla ricostruzione della tua Patria (“Germany protects Italy from the Anglo-American invaders. Con­tribute with your work to the reconstruc­tion of the fatherland”).

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0II/47

0II/47: An Italian worker is shaking hands with a German soldier; in the background, two German soldiers in a battle scene. Text: Il soldato germanico e il tuo amico e combatte per te. Il tuo lavoro ti rendera deqno di lui (“The German soldier is your friend and fights for you. Your work will make you worthy of him”).

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Large label of Set Two - 0II/26

A second rarer set of the five labels exist coded 0I/22-0I/26. These labels are not perforated and larger at 80 x 119 mm, thus making the layout of the text slightly different.

A third set of labels was produced by the same German detachment, all with a black and white foreground and a red background. The known codes are 0II/60 to 0II/65. The size of the leaflets is approximately 37 x 62 mm. In those cases where we have the actual label we depict it in red. In those cases where we only have a photocopy, we depict it in black and white. Once again, the text is in Italian.

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0II/60

0II/60: A German soldier in the foreground pointing at a burning Tower Bridge over the Thames River of London in the background. Text: Con precisiono cronometrics lo nuovo armi germanische culpiranno sempre maggiormente l’Inghilterra a ne provocheranno il collasse (“With clocklike precision the new German weapons continue to strike England a mortal blow, which will cause its collapse”).

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Envelope bearing 0II/60

Although this envelope bears proper franking to be mailed, an Italian has added one of the German propaganda labels on an envelope which was mailed on 17 November 1944 from the Italian submarine base near Bordeaux, France.

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0II/61

0II/61: An Italian blacksmith forges a sword with a German soldier and globe in the background. Text: Soldati e operai combattono per la Vittoria finale (“Soldiers and workers fight for the final victory”).

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0II/62

0II/62: A weeping Italian woman in the fore­ground with an American bomber attacking a city in background. Text: Questa e la guerra che gli anglo-americani preferiscono (“This is the war that the Anglo-Americans prefer”).

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0II/63

0II/63: An Italian worker is in the foreground with two German soldiers attacking in the back­ground. Text: Milioni di uomini combattono. Lavorando contribuirete alla salvezza dell’Europa (“Millions of men fight. By working, you shall contribute to the salva­tion of Europe”).

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0II/64

0II/64: Italian and German soldiers are attacking in the foreground with patriotic symbols including a war goddess in the background. Text: Fianco a fianco sino alla Vittoria finale (“Side by side, until the final victory”).

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0II/65

0II/65: A German soldier’s head and ques­tion mark in foreground; the background depicts a burning Tower of London. Text: Il ‘V.1’ ripaga gli inglesi del terrorismo aereo. Nuove armi stanno per essere impiegate (“The V-1 is repaying the English for their air terrorism. New weapons stand ready for use”).

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Large label of Set Four – 0II/54

A fourth set of the labels exist with the codes 0II/54 to 0II/59. This variation is not perforated, bears the same vignettes in a different order and a slightly longer propaganda message. In addition, the labels are larger at 80 x 119 mm.

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0II/82

Another handsome full-color label coded 0II/82, it is the only one known in this form, and it may not be part of a larger set. It is approximately 40 x 55 mm in size and shows a German and an Italian soldier pointing at the reader. The Italian-language message is, E tu..cosa fai?( “And you..What are you doing?”). It is believed that the labels were printed in sheets of 32 (8 x 4 copies). The exact same vignette is printed on a propaganda postcard coded 0II/84.

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OII/83

There is some evidence that 0II/83 also bore the text E tu..cosa fai? Although we cannot say with certainty that this label showing only a German soldier is 0II/83, I believe that it is.

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Germany for the Germans

In wartime every nation prepares propaganda labels to raise the morale of their own people. The Germans were no different. Above you see a sheet of 12 propaganda labels, each image taken from a popular German wartime poster. Most show the German soldier as a hero who fights to save the Fatherland. Of course, the 12th stamp shows an anti-Semitic poster. They had to get at least one piece of anti-Jewish propaganda on that sheet. The letters and numbers at the bottom of each one is JDEPE sammelmarken Reihe 2 (1-12) Bild [the number of that particular label].

These IDEPE collector stamps were part of the very popular propaganda campaign for collecting raw or recyclable material to compensate the import losses during the war. Everyone, especially children, was expected to collect things like bones, grease, potato peels, metal, fabric, etc. In the United States, Boy Scouts collected newspapers, aluminum pans and other products that could be used for war. The German children were given prizes such as these collector labels. They could stick them in albums and received special prizes such as books, toys, etc. for accumulating 1000 or 2000 labels. Most of the IDEPE series consisted of 12 labels in a sheet. There are series illustrating Medals, Knight’s Cross Holders, women at work in the war, navy battleships, etc.

Series 2 (above) has the best propaganda effect, the other series display portraits or medals or the like. There was a new series every month. I believe they were made about 1942 to 1943. We do not know the meaning of IDEPE.

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OII/84

The German propaganda postcard produced for dissemination in Italy using the same vignette as propaganda label 0II/82.

Uncoded Axis Labels

A number of other perforated and gummed but uncoded labels were also produced by the Axis, but it is not known if these were strictly Italian in origin or prepared under the sponsorship of the Germans. One sheet of six labels has three vertical pairs showing famous anti-Allied vignettes by the Italian artist, Gino Boccasile (1901-1952). These same vignettes have been found on leaflets, posters and postcards.

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Fratricide!

One label shows an Italian child standing over a dead playmate, with an American B-17 Flying Fortress bomber overhead. The second label shows a Black American and a White British soldier laughing at an Italian soldier. The word Fratricido! (“Fratricide!”) or murder of a brother) below the vignette refers to the possibility of civil war, should those Italians who joined with the Allies attack their Fascist brothers who marched under Mussolini’s banner in the mountains of the north. The third label shows a black American Army corporal with his arm around the statue of Venus de Milo with a $2 price tag on it. These labels are uncoded. However, they were discovered in the Fascist print­ing plants of Verona, side-by-side with known German propaganda material.

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Venus de Milo - $2

The Italian artist Gino Boccasile painted the vignette of Venus de Milo with the black American soldier. It was also prepared as a propaganda postcard and a poster.

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A Post-Free Military Envelope Bearing the “Venus” Propaganda Label

The military envelope did not need postage to go through the mails. However, someone thought that it would be interesting to place one of the German propaganda labels on it as a stamp. It was mailed on 22 November 1944, addressed to Milan, Italy.

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American B-17 Bomber and Child

Although we have been unable to locate the original German propaganda labels in color, this image was also used on a propaganda poster prepared by Mussolini’s Italian Social Republic backed by German troops in Northern Italy.

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Fratricide!

The Italian Social Republic in the North of Italy also prepared this poster depicting an italian soldier attacking while two Allied  soldiers laugh at him in the background.<

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The Viktoria Label

The Germans also prepared a Viktoria (“Victory”) propaganda label in 1941 for use in Norway by the German Ministry of Propaganda as a part of its effort to counteract the Allied “V-for-­Victory” campaign. The intent was to persuade that the ubiquitous “V’s” in the occupied countries really stood for Viktoria, and were an expression of European support for the Nazis! The label, red with a large black “V”, was used on letters by Germans and sympathizers in Norway. For young readers who do not understand the significance of this label; the British had strongly pushed the use of the “V for Victory” slogan all over occupied Europe. The Letter “V” was painted on walls and fences and reminded the people enslaved by the Germans that the Allied victory was coming. Even the British Broadcasting System started its European news broadcasts with the first four bars of Beethoven’s Fifth Sympathy, a direct connection to “V” in the Morse code “dot-dot-dot-dash.” The Germans tried to fool the Norwegian people into believing that all those painted letters on the wall really meant that Germany would be victorious. A foolish plan, but an interesting label.

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Viktoria Label on Envelope

In this case the user has placed a Viktoria label on a feldpost letter and addressed it to a German officer. This letter required no postage, so the label is just for propaganda and morale purposes. 

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Germany's Victory

Another example of the German use of the "V" symbol is this 1942 postcard showing a German soldier striking down the red dragon of Communism. The text at the bottom of the picture is:

Germany's Victory, Europe's Freedom

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Anti-Christ Bolshevik

These two interesting anti-Communist labels were found on a General Government registered cover mailed from Bircza to Krakau. Poland had been invaded by Germany early in WWII and was now renamed the General Government, occupied and governed by German troops and officials.

The labels show a Communist thrusting a knife into the side of Jesus, just as Barabbas had done with a spear almost 2000 years earlier. The labels are tied to the cover with a Krakau 1942 cancel. Text on the labels is:

Anti-Christ Bolshevik

German Parole der Woche

I have decided to add the gummed German Parole der Woche (Slogan of the Week) labels to this article only because they have been described and sold as leaflets, stamps, and by numerous other names. These parolen were prepared for several war years by Germany as morale-builders, usually very colorful with a strong pro-Fascist or anti-Allied or anti-Jewish theme. The Parole was a Reichpropagandaleitung (Nazi Party Central Propaganda Office) program that took many forms. They published a weekly poster designed for bulletin boards and a smaller gummed version, about the size of a playing card that could be collected or placed on envelopes and sent through the German mails.

They were used within Germany, sometimes stuck to various objects, and occasionally sent overseas affixed to the back of an envelope. What is even more interesting is that the British propagandists prepared a number of counterfeit gummed Parole in an attempt to country the German propaganda.

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The Cat’s out of the Bag

This cover has gone through the mails from Germany to occupied Denmark during WWII and bears both a hand stamp and “censored” tape that shows that it has been opened for inspection. The sender has placed Parole der Woche 23/1941 on the back of the envelope. It is entitled "The Cat's out of the bag!" It depicts an individual at the left and explains that Mr. Frank Knox, Roosevelt's Secretary of the Navy [1940-1944] recently said that America can be sure that when Germany is beaten in this war, a new Hitler will arise within 20 or 30 years. Knox feels that this can only be prevented if at the end of this war the Allies continue to police Germany over a longer period of time than they did after WWI. The parole concludes with a promise to Mr. Knox that the German armed forces will see that this war ends differently.

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British Parody 46/1943

5,000 copies of this parody, British PWE code H.662, were prepared by the SOE on 22 November 1943. Another 20,000 copies were prepared for the SOE on 1 December 1943. They were dropped on Norway and Denmark. The text is from a speech given by Adolf Hitler on 8 November 1943:

If the German people should collapse beneath its present burden, I would shed no tears for it - it would deserve its fate..

Conclusion

In ending, I remind readers that hundreds of other gummed labels were produced by the warring nations during World War II. The American Office of Strategic Services (OSS) and the British Political Warfare Executive (PWE) printed a large variety of insulting black stickers that attacked Nazism and high Party leaders.

However, in this article, I have arbitrarily chosen to illustrate and discuss only those labels that were gummed and perforated, and made in the general form of postage stamps. Readers with more information or comments on this subject are urged to write to the author at Sgmbert@hotmail.com.