By the late spring of 1944, Nazi Germany was badly losing World War II. The Allies had successfully landed troops in France on D-Day (June 6, 1944) and were pressing towards Paris, while the Soviets were gaining ground every day against the Wehrmacht along the Eastern Front. In Nazi-occupied Slovenia, where the present posters were directed, the Partisans were slowly taking over the countryside, their numbers swelling with new recruits, while the collaborationist Slovensko domobranstvo (‘Slovenian Home Guard’) was suffering defections. It was a depressing time for supporters of the Third Reich.
However, Germany had one last trick up its sleeves, after years of development, Hitler’s best scientists had perfected the the V-1 flying bomb, known in German as the Vergeltungswaffe 1, or ‘Vengeance Weapon 1’), or colloquially in English as the ‘Buzz Bomb’ or ‘Doodlebug’. The V-1 was the world’s first operable cruise missile, and unlike other aerial bombs which needed to be dropped from planes, the V-1 could be launched from the ground and could power itself with jet propulsion.
The German plan was to terror bomb London, in order to break the British sprit and force a more favourable outcome for the war (i.e. a negotiated solution that would allow Germany a face-saving peace).
The first V-1 missiles started falling on London on June 13, 1944 – only a week after D-Day. With a weight of 2,150 kg and range of only 250 km, V-1s had to be launched from coastal Netherlands, Belgium, or extreme northern France, and could barely make it past London. However, they
immediately proved devastating and terrifying, and the British air defences were relatively helpless to intercept them.
Between June and October 1944 (when most of the V-1 launch sites were overrun by the Allies), 9,500 V-1s fell on south-eastern England, destroying 1.27 million buildings and killing 23,000 people, making
the V-1 raids proportionally more destructive than the Blitz (viz. the length of time of the two events). It is estimated the British air command occupied up over 25% of their planes and manpower trying to interdict the V-1s, often in futile endeavours. On the other side, the Germans suffered literally ‘zero’ casualties from their V-1 programme, making it perhaps the most efficient offensive operation of the entire war.
While the V-1 attacks succeeded in making life in London a misery, and briefly gave Hitler a good burst of propaganda, the V-1 campaign almost entirely petered out in less than 3 months. After the V-1s stopped falling, the British could redirect more of their energies against Germany, bringing home the final defeat of the Third Reich in May 1945.
While the V-1 missiles arrived too late in the war to save the Axis side, the unbelievably advanced technology behind the missiles was adopted by NASA for their space programme, while also forming the basis of military ballistic research internationally going forward.
The Posters in Focus
The present pair of posters were made on the orders of the Nazi occupation regime in Slovenia in the summer of 1944 to promote the Germans’ new reprise against the Allies, the V-1 missile attack on London. While likely published in Ljubljana, they may also have been printed in somewhere in Austria, such as Klagenfurt. The posters were part of an ongoing propaganda war in Slovenia between the regime and the Partisan insurgents, resulting in many fabulously designed pieces, often commissioned from academic artists. The posters, printed on fragile wartime paper, have a very low survival rate, and both of the present posters are very rare, with only a few examples of each recorded in Slovenian collections.
Odgovor Nemčije. [Germany’s Reply]
[Slovenia or Austria, Summer 1944].
Colour off set printed broadside (Very Good, old folds, some light spots of toning and creasing, small point of loss to blank margin in lower left corner), 62.5 x 42 cm (24.5 x 16.5 inches).
This finely composed art Deco poster, entitled ‘Germany’s Answer’ shows a visibly rattled Sir Winston Churchill speaking at a podium adorned with a Union Jack, while V-1 missiles whirl down upon a burning London. In the foreground, angry members of media rage against the Prime Minister and his seeming helplessness.
References: Gornjesavski musej Jesenice (Upper Sava Museum, Jesenice, Slovenia): GMJ;M-0003525.
V1 razbija srce Anglije. [V1 is Demolishing the Heart of England]
[Slovenia or Austria , Summer 1944].
Off set printed broadside, orange colour on yellow paper (Very Good, some creasing along old folds), 60.5 x 42 cm (24 x 16.5 inches).
This textual poster, entitled ‘V1 Broke the Heart of England’, features a series bullet points, each headed by ‘V1’. The rhetoric is irreverent and biting towards the Allies and their leadership. Some of the highlights include (roughly translated): ‘V1 is attacking London all the time. The news about Germany winning the war will soon come out’ and ‘V1 – Churchill the old crook and liar” will soon lose the confidence of his people; and ‘V1 – the newspapers are starting to the tell the truth’.
References: Gornjesavski musej Jesenice (Upper Sava Museum, Jesenice, Slovenia): GMJ;M-0003526.