What I Learned Today #1: Hitler showed a documentary to Scandinavia, and got them to surrender in 1940

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Hi Blog. This is the first in an occasional series talking about What I Learned Today.

As has been my hobby whenever possible since 1989, I have been reading through LIFE Magazines from the stacks of libraries from the very first issue under TIME’s Henry Luce in 1936. Because for decades I was nowhere near a library that would have these issues available, I’ve still only read up to 1940. But it’s been a wonderful journey, watching the rise of Hitler and Mussolini, watching the Spanish Civil War grow ugly and destroy Iberia, watching Japan change from a curiosity to an enemy, and seeing the swirl of WWII develop in real time, with only me as the reader knowing where things would historically end up.

What I Learned Today from LIFE Magazine was that Hitler actually showed a documentary named Feuertaufe (“Baptism of Fire”) on April 5, 1940, simultaneously to the governments of Denmark, Norway, and Sweden via German embassies before invading them on April 9.

The film depicted the destruction of Poland and its people for the cruelest purposes possible: As a warning of what would happen to them if they got in the way of the Blitzkrieg.

The film had the intended effect: The Nazis walked in and seized capital cities without a fight, according to Leland Stowe, who filed a long dispatch from Oslo in the May 6, 1940 issue of LIFE. With Scandinavia occupied, Germany was poised to invade Holland, Belgium, Luxembourg, and France, only one month later.

Believe it or not, you can see Feuertaufe in its entirety here. Dr. Debito Arudou

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