SIGNAL: The Life Magazine of Nazi Germany

 

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1 August 1943, a helpful German soldier showing a copy of Signal in Greek to an orthodox resident of the ancient monastic state of Mount Athos. (photo courtesy of Andrew Zoller).

 

Many organizations in the Third Reich produced publications of every sort. Through late 1944 the Kriegsmarine produced its own highly sophisticated five color magazine. But the best known was the Life Magazine knockoff, Signal which was produced by the Ministry of Propaganda and Public Enlightenment.  This ministry was run by the evil, criminal and despicable toad, Joseph Goebbels.

All propaganda publications in the Third Reich, were written by professional journalists and illustrated by professional artists and photographers. Signal was quite a sophisticated publication and presented German soldiers as being tough against their military opponents but gentle and fun with civilians. Lots of photos show German soldiers playing with children who are usually blonde. This type of propaganda tried to counter the reality of the bloody, evil, and murderous nature of the Third Reich.

The famous US publication Life Magazine, whose format was copied by Signal,  was printed on glossy paper. The Germans didn’t have the capacity to produce large amounts of glossy paper for magazines so  Signal was printed on newsprint paper. I have about a dozen different copies I bought over the years mainly as curiosities. However, a number of people collect them and some have ammassed every single issue published.

Signal was published from April 1940 through May of 1945. This was a major propaganda effort by the Nazis and the scope of it is revealed in these statistics from the website of Signal researcher and scholar, Andrew Zoller.

Signal was published monthly in 30 languages at its peak, including English.

During the barbarous reign of the Nazi empire, approximately 32,000 news vendors in 20,000 towns and cities and  sold Signal.

Peak circulation of 2,426,000 copies came in May 1943.

160,000,000 copies were printed during the years of the magazines existence (estimated).

 

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Signal Magazine in French 1940 showing German soldiers walking on the beaches of Dunkirk from which the British Expeditionary Force was rescued and taken off at significant loss by the Royal Navy. (Heroic small boats played a role as well but 80% of the troop lift was done by the RN)
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a cover which depicts the takeover of all Europe by the Soviet Union, a fear the Germans constantly reminded Europeans about.
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Signal Magazine in Russian. I presume this cover shows a Russian soldier in the service of the German Armed forces. Estimates vary of the number of Soviet citizens who fought for the Germans. The low estimate is approximately one million with other estimates going as high as three million. The Ukraine was an especially fertile recruiting ground for the German Army and the SS.

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Union General U.S. Grant on the cover of a Signal Magazine in Dutch, 1944
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Signal Magazine in French
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Those ever friendly U-Boat Men–except when attacking Allied shipping— on cover Signal Magazine from 1943. (collection of author Charles McCain)

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Charles McCain

Charles McCain is a Washington DC based freelance journalist and novelist. He is the author of "An Honorable German," a World War Two naval epic. You can read more of his work on his website: http://charlesmccain.com/

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