Current political disputes aren’t the first caused by cartoons. In this 2002 speech, Australian treasurer Peter Costello tells the story of New Zealand-born cartoonist David Low, a troublemaker in Britain during the 1930s:
Low’s regular depictions of the Fuhrer caused enormous diplomatic problems for the British Government, but they were to prove remarkably prophetic. Throughout the decade he portrayed the German dictator as a ludicrous, vain, pompous fool with unbridled ambition.
In 1933 the Nazis banned the Evening Standard and all newspapers carrying Low’s work because of a cartoon he had drawn depicting Germany’s withdrawal from the League of Nations.
In 1936 during the Berlin Olympic Games Low received his first request to tone down his depiction of Hitler in the interests of “good relations between all countries”.
In 1937 the British Foreign Secretary Lord Halifax visited Germany and met with the Propaganda Minister Goebbels, who told him that Hitler was very sensitive to criticism in the British press, and he singled out Low for attention.
Lord Halifax contacted the manager of the Evening Standard to see if Low could be toned down. He said:
“You cannot imagine the frenzy that these cartoons cause. As soon as a copy of the Evening Standard arrives, it is pounced on for Low’s cartoon, and if it is of Hitler, as it generally is, telephones buzz, tempers rise, fevers mount, and the whole governmental system of Germany is in uproar. It has hardly subsided before the next one arrives. We in England can’t understand the violence of the reaction.”
It wasn’t only Hitler complaining about Low. In 1938 Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain singled out Low while appealing to newspapers to temper their critical commentary of Germany. Chamberlain said:
“Such criticism might do a great deal to embitter relations when we on our side are trying to improve them. German Nazis have been particularly annoyed by criticisms in the British press, and especially by cartoons. The bitter cartoons of Low of the Evening Standard have been a frequent source of complaint.”
Weird to think, from our remove, that anyone would ever have taken complaints from Nazis seriously.
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