by Christopher Kersting, Nanuet High School
Maura Ronan, Nanuet High School

In this WebQuest the students will learn about the the two types of propaganda; black (negative) and white (positive). The students will examine how both types were used as tools of the government and political parties to influence the general population and media in the years leading up to World War II and in the present.



Definition from Merriam-webster Online Dictionary

1: capitalized : a congregation of the Roman curia having jurisdiction over missionary territories and related institutions


2: the spreading of ideas, information, or rumor for the purpose of helping or injuring an institution, a cause, or a person

3: ideas, facts, or allegations spread deliberately to further one's cause or to damage an opposing cause; also : a public action having such an effect



"Beat back the HUN"
Anti-German Poster promoting Liberty Bonds during World War I

"Milk.. new weapon of democracy"
Pro-USA Poster Promoting the benefits
of the 1949
Berlin Airlift



Propaganda has been used as a tool of war since the early humans made loud noises to frighten their enemies. Over the centuries armies would employ various musical instruments, such as war drums, trumpets, and bagpipes, as they marched into battle, with intent of striking fear into the enemy.


The reputation and power of ancient Rome spread in advance of it’s marching legions. The Mongol horsemen of Genghis Khan, sometimes called ‘Huns,’ were known far and wide as the best riders and fiercest warriors in the world. The Vikings, who raided the coasts of Western Europe for during the Middle Ages, were feared so greatly that a Christian prayer asked God to ‘protect us from the fury of the Norsemen (Vikings).’


The United States Civil War (1861-1864), which was really a conflict over the economic future of the country, was made into a ‘holy war’ by the Union on the issue of slavery. "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" was sung at Northern street rallies and churches. The Southern states countered with their own song, "Dixie", which extolled the virtues of the agrarian society of the ‘old South,’ but did not mention that it was built on the backs of slaves.


By the time World War I (1914-1918) came the Europeans had begun to realize the power of mass media as a weapon of war. The Allied Powers (led by Great Britain and France, and included the United States) portrayed the Germans (the leader of the Central Powers) as blood thirsty ‘Huns’ (remember Genghis Khan?).  On the other hand the German government appealed to the people to defend the ‘Fatherland.’


In the years leading up to World War II the Nazi Party assumed power in Germany. Chancellor Adolf Hitler created the Ministry of Propaganda and Enlightenment. It was given control over radio, press, cinema, and theater and was led by Dr. Josef Goebbels.

The other future belligerents, among them Britain, France, United States, Italy, and Japan, would also make extensive use of propaganda to rally the populace and vilify their enemies.

The quotations below are from government ministries responsible for creating and spreading propaganda during World War II. Read them carefully. Can you tell which one came from Nazi Germany and which one came from Great Britain? The answer will be revealed later.


A. 'The object is to destroy the morale of the enemy and to sustain the morale of our Allies within enemy and enemy-occupied countries, we must be creating and sustaining the will to victory under whatever pressures the enemy may exert. That is the function of the much abused word "propaganda" ...'

B. "If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State."

During the Cold War, a period of hostility between Democratic nations, led by the United States, and Communist nations, led by the Soviet Union, that followed World War II, would see the continued use of propaganda.

The United Nations Commission on Propaganda will study the use of propaganda, both Black and White, in the past and in the present. It's primary concern will be to evaluate how nations and belligerent groups, such as Hamas, Al Qaida, and the Tamil Tigers, are using modern mass media to get their message (sometimes called their version of the 'truth') to the masses.