We watched in horror in the last days of the Third Reich as pubescent gun toting boys made a last ditch effort to defend Berlin from the Russian advance. We abhorred the hitler youth disapproving of the brain washing and contamination of young minds the Third Reich implemented. But, it has been said that the final stage of any mobilization is the seedcorn, the children. hitler understood and embraced this. By indoctrinating the children he secured his future as Fuhrer by ensuring that a generation of loyal supporters waited in the wings. As maniacal as it sounds, a similar more subtle process took place in the United States.

    The American war machine generated volumes of propaganda and companies produced thousands of items targeted at children. Perhaps the most effective means of influencing children was through toys. These homefront toys served several functions. Certainly they served to entertain but a more insidious process was at work. We taught children who our enemies were. They helped establish the most basic question a child might have; who were the good guys and who were the bad guys. Toys were created that allowed children to bowl over stand up caricatures of axis leaders, shoot toy guns at targets with axis leader faces, and to play pin the tail on the donkey with hitlers face on the rump. No mystery remained as to who the bad guys were.

    Other toys were created to train children to help the war effort. Examples include the various plane spotting toys that taught children to spot the silhouettes of axis planes. Cadres of trained children might formally and informally spot planes conducting air raids. Early warning might afford more time for civilians to seek shelter and result in less casualties. Some toys taught hand eye coordination which could benefit them later in a protracted war as soldiers. A myriad of other toys prepared children for war.

    Perhaps the most important function of toys with regard to propaganda was to cement a child's ideology. A generation of children programmed to uphold the blessings of liberty was sought. In a worst case scenario, if hitler had succeeded in securing the Western Hemisphere an era of darkness would certainly have followed. As the western children grew to be of age, the seeds of revolution may have been those sewn during the years of the Great War. Toys were decidedly pro-American cloaked in red, white and blue boxes with the father figure Uncle Sam prominently displayed. Games reinforced the importance of freedom and liberty. As a whole, toys were very effective in this regard. Coloring and paint books, and children's reading books also were very effective in this regard.

    Complete toys from the era are hard to find and quite expensive. Many collectors specialize in WWII toys. Some highly specialized collections exist such as Anti-axis toys. Two major collections exist of earth shaking magnitude. One is in Europe and the other in the U.S. both in privately held hands.


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