German Propaganda Archive Calvin University


Background: Signal was one of the major propaganda publications of the Third Reich, aimed at an international audience. It was a lavishly illustrated fortnightly magazine focusing on the war, but with other human interest stories as well. Most issues had some color photographs. It was published in 25 languages, the final issues appearing at the very end of the war. At its height, about 2,500,000 copies of each issue were printed. As late as February 1945, about 750,000 copies were still printed. Although distributed in foreign countries, it was also intended for the various foreign units allied with Germany. I have about 75 issues in my collection, and will add more material to this page over time. Reiner Rutz’s Signal: Eine deutsche Auslandsillustrierte als Propagandainstrument im Zweiten Weltkrieg (2006), based on his dissertation at the Humboldt University, includes a wealth of information on Signal.


Signal magazine cover This is the cover of an October 1940 issue. A German plane flies along the English coast.
Signal magazine illustration An interior photo from the October 1940 issue. The caption: “Over England’s rocky coast. British convoy routes pass alongside the White Cliffs of Dover. Day and night, German fighters and bombers flew above until England’s eastern harbors were closed to all shipping traffic. In hard battles in recent weeks, the Luftwaffe has won air superiority both here and over the island beyond the White Cliffs.”
Signal magazine cover This cover from July 1941 shows German airmen painting the British ships they have sunk on the tail of their aircraft.
Signal magazine cover This is the cover of the December 1941 double issue. The cover shows a German soldier writing to his mother from the Eastern Front. The lead article, titled “Decision in the East,” suggests that the Soviet Union is finished. There is considerable coverage of the Russian campaign. Another article claims that Hitler is much greater than Napoleon. There are further articles on glass blowing, dancing, and a new film.
Signal magazine cover This page from the December 1941 issue shows the top German military decorations.
Signal magazine cover This map from the December 1941 issue shows German military successes in the Russian campaign. The circles show Soviet troops, guns, and tanks destroyed in battles in those areas. The caption: “Here the Soviet army was defeated. In seven battles of annihilation (Bialystock-Minsk, Smolensk, Uman, Gomel, Kiev, on the Faso Sea, and Brjansk-Wjasma), the Soviet Union lost its best armies and the greater part of its tanks and artillery.... Their plan was for thousands of tanks to flood over the Weichsel River toward Central Germany, then further to the West. There they would join troops from the Lemberg area, where there were also substantial attack forces prepared to give Germany the death blow. That would have plunged Europe into unimaginable chaos, from which there could have been no escape.”
Signal magazine cover This cover from January 1942 shows captured Russians. An interior article explains what would have happened if the Bolshevists had carried out their plans to attack Germany. “As soon as Germany was eliminated as a military force, there would be no further resistance [in Europe]. German soldiers are fighting not for Germany alone. They defend with their bodies the European fatherland, those cathedrals that have not yet been converted to animal stalls.”
Signal magazine cover The cover of the 1. August 1942 issue shows German soldies attacking in the East. There are articles on the Kertsch and Karkov campaigns. Another interesting article shows Goebbels’s Propaganda Ministry at work.
Signal magazine cover This is the cover of the first issue for February 1943. The picture is of the scuttled French battleship Strasbourg in the harbor at Toulon (the French had scuttled their ships in Toulon to keep them from falling into German hands). An article covers a submarine base on the French coast. The defeat at Stalingrad is not yet announced, and there is no mention of Stalingrad in the issue.
Signal magazine cover This picture of Admiral Raeder is from the first issue in February 1943.
Signal magazine cover This is the cover of the first issue for May 1943. The caption: “School is done. Panzer officers during morning training.” The most interesting article in the issue is titled “Behind the Iron Curtain.” Goebbels is often said to have originated the phrase, but he only popularized it. There is a good Wikipedia article on the subject.
Signal magazine cover This is the cover of the first issue for December1943. The cover photo, titled “Countless,” shows torpedoed British seaman being helped ashore by the Portuguese. By December 1943, Allied bombing was having devastating effects on Germany. This issue has two articles that attempt to persuade readers that the situation is in hand. The first presents a “new weapon against bombers,” the second suggests that the Allies were suffering unsustainable losses.
Signal magazine cover This is the cover to a special edition that accompanied the #11/1944 issue. Released at the end of June, it was occasioned by the first V-1 rocket attacks on England. It provides scant detail, but suggests that Germany was simply taking just retaliation on England for its bombing of European cities.
Signal magazine cover This issue appeared in early August 1944, after the D-Day landing. The cover caption states: “Europe’s liberators have arrived. A picture from the battle in France.” There is an interesting article reporting converations with English and American POWs in France, the point of which is that they have no idea what they are fighting for.

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