In 1943, the United States War Department released a 17-minute, anti-Nazi propaganda film warning against complicity in the face of prejudice. Some 70 years after its initial run, “Don’t Be a Sucker”—as the film was titled—has found a new audience. As Derek Hawkins reports for the Washington Post, the film's popularity has ballooned in the wake of the white nationalist rally that took place in Charlottesville, Virginia, this weekend, where one counter-protestor was killed and at least 19 others were injured.
A snippet of “Don’t Be A Sucker” first went viral after Michael Oman-Reagan, a Canadian anthropologist, posted a snippet of “Don’t Be A Sucker” to Twitter on Saturday night. As of Monday morning, the clip had been retweeted more than 135,000 times from his account alone.
The short film, which was updated and re-released during the Cold War in 1947, is available to watch in full on the Internet Archive. It opens with a young man who stops to listen to a blustering soapbox speaker railing against various minorities.
“I tell you, friends, we’ll never be able to call this country our own until it’s a country without,” the speaker cries. “Without what? Without Negros, without alien foreigners, without Catholics, without Freemasons.”
Another member of the audience, who speaks with a slight foreign accent, turns to the young man and says, “I’ve heard this kind of talk before, but I never expected to hear it in America.” He explains that he is a Hungarian-born professor who once worked in Berlin, where he witnessed the rise of Nazism.
In a flashback narrated by the professor, the film then delves into a capsule history of Nazi Germany. In a scene that patently parallels the soapbox speaker’s diatribe at the start of the film, now another crowd of men are gathered, this time in front of a Nazi speaker, who blames the country’s ills on Jews, Catholics and Freemasons. The footage cuts to a montage of Nazi atrocities: a Jewish shopkeeper is beaten, a priest is carted away by Nazi officers, an academic is arrested.
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