Saturday, February 25, 2012

Nazi/German Propaganda Board Games


“You can judge a society by how they treat their weakest members.”

-          Mahatma Gandhi 

Since Gandhi’s utterance, the above comment has also been applied by various interest groups to women, animals, disabled, the elderly and the homeless.  

Let me add another:  “You can judge a society by its board games.”  

It makes sense that one of the West’s most popular games is Monopoly, very symbolic.

Whilst browing some other topics I came across a reference to a WW2 German board game called “Juden Raus!” (“Jews Out!), which led me to look into the topic a bit deeper. 

Hitler very early on grasped the PR value of image, propaganda and publicity.  The Nazi Party and the Third Reich relied heavily on indoctrination, of adults, of children, of populations and of individuals.  The Third Reich had a Department of Propaganda with Joseph Goebbels as the Minister of Propaganda.  Like Hitler, he was attuned to the value, potential and methodology of propaganda.  

The Hitler Youth was an unsubtle means of indoctrinating young minds.  Another was by the use of board games, which had the added benefit that they were played by adults and/or with adults.

Here are some of the board games.

Juden Raus! (1936)

Only two copies of the game are known to exist today. One copy is currently on display at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York City, the second is in the collection of the Institute of Contemporary History and Wiener Library in London.

Juden Raus! was a board game that was created and distributed by Gunther & Co in 1936, one year after the Nuremburg Laws were enacted.  Those laws defined who was Jewish according to ancestry, deprived Jews of German citizenship, prohibited marriage and sexual relations between Jews and Germans and denied Jews participation in German civic life.

Like Monopoly, the game consisted of a board, a pair of dice and figurines.  Unlike Monopoly, there were also figurines with pointed Medieval Jewish hats, the players rolled dice to advance and the aim of the game was to gather as many of the Jewish figurines as possible to send them off to Palestine through the gates of a walled city. Written on the game board were the words  “If you manage to see off 6 Jews, you’ve won a clear victory!”

The game was advertised as "entertaining, instructive and solidly constructed.”

Juden Raus! was not an official Nazi product.  Instead, it was a commercial item from a private manufacturer.  Were the Nazis pleased?  Hardly!  According to an SS publication, the game trivialised the serious Jewish problem that existed and hijacked the Nazi slogan Juden Raus for commercial gain.  “Jews out! yes of course, but also rapidly out of the toy-boxes of our children, before they are led into the dreadful error that political problems are solved with the dice cup.”

Further reading:

 Bomber über England (1940)

Bomber über England (“Bombers over England") was a pinball style game that featured a map of England and part of Northern Europe. The map contained holes in the location of key cities such as London, Liverpool and Newcastle, as well as various points representing targets in the North Sea. 

Players shot spring-driven balls representing "bombs" at these targets and were awarded various points for hitting the enemy targets: a maximum 100 points for landing on London, while Liverpool was worth 40.”  If players bombed locations under the control of Nazi Germany such as Brussels and Amsterdam, players would be deducted points. Indicative of the game having been produced in the early part of WW2, France is not shown as an occupied country.

The game came to public attention when a collection of such games was offered for sale in England in 2007. 

Apart from Bomber uber England, the above collection of games included:

 Fallschirmjager Spiel  

The name means Paratroop Game.  It is a game where players drop weighted paratroopers onto a representation of the English countryside and obtain points according to where they land.


Mit “Prien” gegen England

The game, With Prien Against England”, is based on the exploits of Gunther Prien, a German U-boat commander who entered Scapa Flow in 1939 and sank the British Battleship Royal Oak. The game has 6 metal submarines that follow points on a track around the North Sea based on the roll of the die. Players must follow the instructions of special spots they enter.

The game is similar to Snakes and ladders.  Players sail from Germany, need to deal with obstacles in the North Sea, destroy enemy ships and targets, then make it back to Germany.


Jagd auf Kohlenklau (1944)

Jagd auf Kohlenklau ("Hunt on Coaltheft") was a roll-and-move board game produced by Lepthian-Schiffers in Nazi Germany during the later years of WW2.   The game was part a Nazi propaganda campaign that was launched in 1942, under the slogan "Kampf dem Kohlenklau" or "fight the coal thief."  This campaign sought to promote energy conservation as a means to save the country's dwindling resources for the war effort. The visual representation of the Kohlenklau, or "coal thief," became an iconic image of Nazi Germany and was often featured in newspapers, magazines, posters, and films. At the height of its popularity, there were over four million games of Jagd auf Kohlenklau in circulation.

The game board itself was made from flimsy cardboard and required players to travel 50 spaces in order to be declared the winner. The youngest player starts by rolling a dice and moving their game piece that many spaces. If the player lands on one of the 12 red spaces, they are penalized for committing an action that wastes energy by losing a turn or being set back a number of spaces. If the player lands on one of the 15 black spaces, they are rewarded for actions that conserve energy. If the player lands on a white "neutral" space, they would not receive any extra reward or punishment for their turn. Players take turns until one finally reaches the end and is declared the winner.

That is not to say that there have not been Western board games that have been racist, sexist and a lot of other -ists as well.  They will probably be the subject of a future Bytes.  The difference between those games and the games above is that the others were not government sponsored or initiated with the intention of indoctrination according to government policy.

“What good fortune for governments that the people do not think.”

-  Adolf Hitler


  1. What about Gas Who?, Connect Fuhrer and Nahtzee?

  2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.


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