Sunday, February 14, 2010

BMW's "We Make Joy" Campaign

I wonder if the ad-makers for BMW's new advertising campaign, "We Make Joy" (see ad above), debated whether to use that particular slogan, given the ugly history of the Kraft durch Freude ("Strength through Joy") program, and its associations with the German auto industry under the Third Reich:
From 1933, [Kraft durch Freude ("KdF")] provided affordable leisure activities such as concerts, plays, libraries, day-trips and holidays. Large ships, such as the Wilhelm Gustloff, were built specially for KdF cruises. Above all, KdF was supposed to bridge the class divide by making middle-class leisure activities available to the masses.

Borrowing from the Italian fascist organization Dopolavoro ('After Work'), but extending its influence into the workplace as well, KdF rapidly developed a wide range of activities, and quickly mushroomed into one of the Third Reich's largest organizations....

The Nazis also sought to attract tourists from abroad, a task performed by Hermann Esser, one of the Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda's secretaries. A series of multilingual and colorful brochures, titled "Deutschland", advertised Germany as a peaceful, idyllic, and progressive country, on one occasion even portraying the ministry's boss, Joseph Goebbels, grinning and hamming in an unlikely photo series of the Cologne carnival.

KdF managed to set up production of an affordable car, the Kdf-Wagen, which later became known as the Volkswagen Beetle. Buyers of the car made payments and posted stamps in a stamp-savings book, which when full would be redeemed for the car. Due to the shift to wartime production, no consumer ever received a Kdf-Wagen (although after the war, Volkswagen did give some customers a 200DM discount for their stamp-books). The Beetle factory was primarily converted to K├╝belwagen (the German equivalent of the Jeep) production. What few Beetles were produced went primarily to the diplomatic corps and military officials.

Below, a fascinating 1943 U.S. war-effort propaganda cartoon, featuring Donald Duck, and parodying the Nazi's "Strength through Joy" leisure programs.

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