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‘Don’t be a Sucker’: WW 2 era film warning about fascism resurfaces after Charlottesville

The film, first released by the US Department of War in the 1940s and titled ‘Don’t be a Sucker’, begins with a man addressing a crowd on the importance of keeping jobs for the “real Americans”.

world Updated: Aug 19, 2017 12:40 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Charlottesville violence,World War 2,Nazi era
White nationalists carry torches on the grounds of the University of Virginia, on the eve of a planned Unite The Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.(Alejandro Alvarez/News2Share via Reuters)

A World War II-era US government film warning of the dangers of racism and fascism has resurfaced on social media websites after clashes between white nationalists and counter protesters during a rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.

The film, first released by the US Department of War in the 1940s and titled ‘Don’t be a Sucker’, begins with a man addressing a crowd on the importance of keeping jobs for the “real Americans”.

“I see Negroes holding jobs that belong to you and me. If we allow this type of thing to go on, what’s going to become of us real Americans? And I tell you friends, we’ll never be able to call this country our own, until it’s a country without. Without what? Without negroes, without alien foreigners, without Catholics, without freemasons,” the man shouts.

US President Donald Trump’s in his inauguration speech in January this year had promised US would safeguard its interests and the administration’s policies will remain dedicated to ‘Buy American and Hire American’.

A still from the film shows a man saying minorities are taking away Americans’ jobs.

The camera then shifts to a Hungarian refugee who pulls one of the spectators aside and warns him about the divisive propaganda of the Nazis in Germany and Europe, saying: “I thought Nazis were crazy people, stupid fanatics. But unfortunately that was not so.” Jews were savagely persecuted and six million were systematically killed by the Nazis till the end of the World War 2 in 1945.

“I was born in Hungary, you are a Mason. These are minorities... Your right to belong to these minorities is a precious thing,” the refugee says.

Don’t be a Sucker was released by the US government in the 1940s.

The 17-minute video, posted on Twitter by Michael Oman-Reagan, an anthropologist and researcher in British Columbia, has been retweeted more than 1.6 lakh times and liked by over 2 lakh users, The Atlantic reports.

The cautionary tale -- of learning from one of the largest genocides in history -- also becomes relevant after violence in Charlottesville where white supremacists, Ku Klux Klan members and neo-Nazis came together in a ‘Unite the Right’ march last week. A woman counter-protester was killed after a white nationalist plowed his car through a crowd in Virginia.

The refugee speaks to a spectator in this still from the film.

The US President’s decision not to unequivocally denounce white nationalists has been widely criticised across the world. “I think there is blame on both sides,” Trump said in a press conference days after the incident.

While the clip from ‘Don’t be a Sucker’ seems relevant to today’s America, an article in Vox points out that the film wasn’t that effective. A 1951 study conducted on the impact of the movie showed that many Americans -- even after the end of the World War 2 -- didn’t seriously believe propaganda similar to the Nazi agenda could be influential in the US, a Vox article says.

First Published: Aug 19, 2017 12:30 IST