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Dr. Seuss Versus Hitler

Big D Reads is using The Sneetches to convey the themes of The Diary of Anne Frank to a younger audience, but Dr. Seuss actually had much more to say about Hitler and the Nazis both as a children’s book author and before.tumblr_mmjdnkPEmN1r1rgjfo1_1280

Dr. Seuss may be known for clever rhymes and fantasy drawings, but as Theodor Geisel, his given name, he also used that same talent to protest against the Nazis and fascism.  Before the beginning of World War Two and in its early years, Geisel was a regular contributor to the New York newspaper PM.  While the great majority of these cartoons were standard war propaganda fare, such as encouraging readers to buy war bonds, a number of them expressed political opinions that went at the heart of Nazi and fascist ideology.

Before the War started, Geisel saw the evil of Nazism as infecting the whole world including the United States.  He demonstrated this idea in a number of ways.  One way was in is condemnation of those Americans who he believed favored Hitler and Nazi ideology.  Geisel’s sight fell on Charles Lindbergh most heavily, who agreed with the Nazi’s anti-Semitism.  In a number of cartoons, Geisel portrayed Lindbergh as an ostrich who buries its head in the ground in refusing to see the evil that is in front of it.  Hitler is the only figure depicted more frequently than Lindbergh in his cartoons before the war.  In addition, he frequently criticized radio priest Walter Coughlin as being a dupe for Hitler and the Nazis.

Geisel also criticized American society and its views towards some groups of its citizens when he sees parallels between the Nazis and the United States.  In a number of cartoons, Geisel equates the Nazi’s discrimination laws to Jim Crow laws in the United States, equating the racist anti-Semitism of the Nazis with the racism of many in America.  This idea, while not expressed politically, is reflected in The Sneetches, published after the
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He claimed that with his children’s books he left his political activity behind, but one can see the influence of his political opinions expressed in his children’s books, particularly Yertle the Turtle.  Yertle the Turtle is a stand-in for Hitler, and in an early edition of the book, he even gave Yertle a Hitler mustache. Other books that make a political statement, whether or not intended, include The Lorax, Horton Hears a Who!, Marvin K. Mooney, and The Butter Battle Book.

— Rob Huttmeyer, Dallas Public Library

Sources/More Reading

Belinfanti, Tamara C. “The Origin: Opening Remarks to Exploring Civil Society Through the Writings of Dr. Seuss.”  New York Las School Law Review.  2013/2014 (Vol. 58, No. 3), P. 501-506.

Casey, David.  “What Can We Learn from Star-Bellied Sneetches?,” Profiles in Diversity.  May/June 2009 (Vol. 11, No. 3).  P. 12.

Chused, Richard H.  “Dr. Seuss as a Vehicle: An Introduction.”  New York Las School Law Review.  2013/2014 (Vol. 58, No. 3), P. 495-499.

Held, Jacob M, ed.  Dr. Seuss and Philosophy: Oh, the Thinks You Can Think!  New York: Roman and Littlefield, 2011.

Metz, Walter C .  “’Show Me The Shoah!’  Generic Experience and Spectatorship in Popular Representations of the Holocaust.”  Shofar: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Jewish Studies.  Fall 2008 (Vol. 27, No. 1) Pp. 16-35.

Minear, Richard H.  Dr. Seuss Goes to War: The World War II Editorial Cartoons of Theodor Seuss Geisel.  New York: The New Press, 1999.

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