April 12, 2018
Hitler’s black ‘toothbrush’ moustache is an easily identifiable feature of this dictator’s face. Numerous cartoonists satirise his distinctive features. David Low, a prominent New Zealand political cartoonist and caricaturist living in the United Kingdom earned fame for his merciless satirising of German dictator Adolf Hitler, Italian dictator Benito Mussolini and other leaders of the time. His depictions of Hitler and Mussolini led to his work being banned in Germany and Italy and being named in The Black Book – the list of those the Nazis planned to arrest in the aftermath of an invasion of Great Britain.
Recently, a visitor to the Museum donated a souvenir that is a good example of toilet humour dealing with a serious matter. It is a miniature ashtray in the form of a chamber pot, designed to revenge the German invasion of Poland. Inscribed ‘Flip your ashes on old nasty’, it invites the user to stub out a cigarette on the face of Hitler. But the shape of a chamber pot invites one to symbolically do more: empty ones bowels on Hitler. The caricature of Hitler inside the pot is the work of David Low.
The chamber pot contains all the ingredients of anti-German propaganda, starting with ‘Jerry’, the traditional nickname for Germans and a common term for a potty. Mocking Hitler was common in Britain during the 1930s and early in the war, but satirical propaganda such as this became less common as the seriousness of Hitler’s actions became apparent and death tolls increased as the war progressed. As Charlie Chaplin later said, their crimes were too immense for comedy.
This propaganda ashtray was produced in the period between the invasion of Poland in September 1939 and the Battle of Bardia in January 1941. Although widely imitated, the originals, like this example, were made by Fieldings of England.
They were always regarded as being in bad taste and cheeky, but the public loved them.
Author: Roslyn Sugarman, Head Curator