Prior to Wilson’s swearing in as the 28th President of the United States in 1913, America had a favorable opinion of Germans immigrants. Germans who became American citizens was celebrated and welcomed as new Americans. When WWI broke out the following year, Americans had no interest in getting involved, which forced Wilson used as justification to remain neutral. He wanted to guarantee the United States come in on the side of the French, which he viewed as more civilized than the Germans.
At Wilson’s direction, propaganda was used to lead Americans not of German descent to believe that German culture could not mix with American culture. They went from being viewed as any other Americans to not fully American and incapable of ever truly being Americans. The names of German sounding towns changed, as did German sounding food. Tremendous pressure was brought to bear on orchestras to stop playing German compositions, which included Beethoven and Mozart.
The German language was banned throughout the country and German clubs were shut down. Government paid thugs targeted German speaking ministers and beat them in the open without repercussion. Almost the entirety of the newspapers did Wilson’s bidding, since reporters were among the many political prisoners he had arrested before the United States went to war.
Despite the vast amounts of propaganda and growing violence against Americans of German descent, he had not fully turned the United States against Germany within his first term. Wilson’s reelection slogan was, ‘He Kept Us Out of the War.’ It was months after he was sworn in a second time before the United States entered the war on the side of the French.
George Creel was a journalist who wrote a book in favor of Wilson’s reelection wrote a letter about having a better idea than military censorship of journalists at the start of war. Wilson was so impressed by the letter that Creel became his chairman on the Committee of Public Information. The job was essentially the chief propagandist for Woodrow Wilson.
The CPI created propaganda posters and leaflets and ensured everything met with Wilson’s approval. They wanted to show the American military as crusaders against a German foe who was shown as something less than human. Their creation of the Gibson girls was based on what the ideal American woman looked like.
The CPI controlled Hollywood productions to ensure only their propaganda would be seen by the American public. Documentary’s, like Pershing’s Crusaders were filmed at their direction. Any film that showed a negative image of America was forbidden from being exported to any other country, which included western that showed bandits. Hollywood was used to put pressure on other countries to not show any German production.
The CPI did all those things and far more. They were so successful under Creel’s control that Goebbels was given a playbook ready for his own propaganda. All the same tactics that were used to target Americans of German descent were used by the National Socialists to target Jews. All Goebbels had to do was alter a few things, but mostly kept the effective strategy untouched.
Hatred of Germans was changed to hatred of Jews everywhere National Socialism touched, which extended beyond Europe. In Baghdad, a 2700-year-old Jewish community was targeted, and the Jews eventually pushed out of Iraq altogether. North Africa saw an increase in attacks through anti-Semitic propaganda.
Creel’s propaganda returned to the United States in the form of the German American Bund. It’s suspected that at their height gave them an approximate membership of 25,000 with about 8000 uniformed SA, more commonly referred to as Brown Shirts. Most Americans of German descent who belonged did not support Hitler, but remembered what had happened with the CPI. It was seen as safety in numbers.
Steel’s propaganda did not die with Goebbels, but lives on with groups like BDS, whose founders do not believe Jews are human and have no right to live. Most of those who are members have grown up hearing propaganda over facts. They have spent their entire lives hearing falsehoods about Jews and continue the falsehoods to this day.