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

  • You should study a little harder…. Germany never invaded Sweden and Germany’s invasion of Norway was precipitated by the British and French pressure on the Norwegian government to use their landmass and merchant navy in the war against Germany.

  • Dennis in Osaka says:

    Interesting Debito! Everybody (NOW) understands MSM was sending out propaganda to the masses, instead of providing trustworthy news. The provided example appears to be the tip of the iceberg.

    Any thoughts on which era was worse?
    NOW, with CNN, Fox, MSNBC, NYT, WAPO, Time, etc or
    LIFE, TIME, etc. during prewar/war?

    Kongens nei, which is about King Haakon VII’s refusal to surrender to Nazi German invaders in April 1940, has also won rave reviews and been nominated as among Norway’s candidates for an Oscar.


  • And Oslo did not fall to the Wehrmacht without a fight. Several thousand KIA on each side during the entire Norwegian campaign in 1940 – I wouldn’t exactly call that “without a fight”, although TIME might have…

    — Fair enough. Later issues of LIFE pointed out the resistance. I guess I was just amazed at the power of the propagandistic documentary, and was surprised that I had never heard of it before. I’ve amended this blog entry.


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