Poster

Education for Death

A Wartime Short

Release Date : January 5, 1943

Running Time : 10:11

Synopsis

A rather depressing story as Little Hans, a young German youth, is indoctrinated into the Nazi way of life, with tragic results.

Characters

Brunhilde
Little Hans
Little Hans' Mother
Teacher
Witch II

Credits

Director
Gerry "Clyde" Geronomi
Animation
Ward Kimball
Milt Kahl
Bill Tytla
Frank Thomas
Layout
Herbert Ryman

DVD

United States
Disney Treasures : On the Front Lines

Technical Specification

Color Type: Technicolor
Animation Type: Standard animation
Sound Mix: Mono
Aspect Ratio: 1.37 : 1
Negative Format: 35mm
Print Format: 35mm
Cinematographic Process: Spherical
Original Language: English

Released by RKO Radio Pictures, Inc.

Comments

From Ryan Kilpatrick at The Disney Film Project : I’m not going to lie, watching these World War II propaganda shorts is difficult. Very difficult. It did not get any easier when watching Education for Death. Based on “Hitler’s Children” by Gregor Ziemer, this short traces the “education” of a child in Nazi Germany from birth to his enlistment in the German Army.

To start with, the animation in this short is simply stunning. It is feature quality, no doubt about it. The use of shadows and depth in the shot is remarkable, especially for a short. The way the shots are constructed, with either dim lighting and darkened rooms for the more serious scenes or the standard animation for the more light hearted scenes establishes the mood. In my opinion, this short showcases the talents of the Disney studio during the war like no other I have seen to this point.

That brings us to the subject matter. Although this was released in theaters as an “entertainment” short, it is most definitely propaganda. The scary thing is, in many, many ways, this short is true. Things that happen in the short, such as the government giving a list of acceptable names, interrupting sick children’s rest, the changing of fairy tales, etc. – these are all true stories, at least to some degree.

In that respect, this is a masterpiece short. It accomplishes the goal of showing what Nazi Germany is like, and does so in an entertaining way. It’s just not the same sort of entertainment you would have found in a Donald Duck short. Education for Death stands in stark contrast to something like Der Fuehrer’s Face, because the subject matter seems so real and terrifying, as opposed to mocking the enemy.

The exception to that is in the Sleeping Beauty sequence, where the animation begins in the same shadowy, realistic style that the rest of the short has been shown in, then switches to a more cartoony style when it’s revealed that the “prince” is actually Hitler. Hitler is portrayed in the same silly manner that He was in Der Fuehrer’s Face. The juxtaposition of this silly, trivial piece to the rest of the short only enhances the seriousness of Education for Death.

The most chilling shot in any piece of Disney animation has to be the end of this short. As the narrator lists off all the things that have been done to Hans, the child we have followed through this journey, he transforms from child to man, marching all the while. The perspective changes from a side view of Hans to an overhead view of the Nazis marching over the horizon. Slowly, the soliders transform into tombstones, showing a field of death.

It’s a frightening image, pulled off very well. Education for Death is a masterpiece of propaganda, and quite good as a piece of entertainment. It is nearly impossible to turn away from, riveting in both content and execution. It is, however, quite disturbing to think about, and very frightening.


From Kurtis Findlay : I'm not an expert on the history of Nazism, but while they existed as a party since 1919, they didn't really have any power over the country until 1933 when the Nazi Party gained enough votes to put Hitler in power.

Having Disney say that the soldiers had been bred since birth to be Nazis is a bit of a stretch since Nazi control and influence had only been around for about ten years. Yes, children since 1933 probably were indoctrinated, but most of the soldiers that fought in WWII were older than 10.

But that is what makes this cartoon a propaganda film. They skew the facts to create an emotional response.

Regardless, this is still an amazing film with excellent animation and very moving.


From Jerry Edwards : This propaganda short, released as a "entertainment" short, has the full title of Education For Death: The Making Of A Nazi. The cartoon opens with a satire on the Sleeping Beauty story: Prince Hitler arrives to awaken his true love, Princess Germania, an obese Valkyrie who resembles Herman Goering. Hitler's straining to lift Germania unto the saddle of his horse and the strain of the horse to carry them is hilariously done. The point is, of course, that Hitler is taking Germany "for a ride." Then the mood of the short darkens. A little boy Hans is shown growing up indoctrinated with Nazi philosophy - belonging not to his parents but to the state - his parents even have to get state approval for the name they give him. He is shown as nothing more than an innocent victim of a society rushing headlong into destruction. At school Hans' teacher scolds him for showing sympathy for a rabbit being eaten by a fox. Hans is forced to sit in the corner with a dunce cap on until he is sho wn the error of his ways - the rabbit should be despised for being weak, only the strong survive. As Hans reaches manhood, he becomes part of the German Army and, in the final scene, marches to his death along with other young soldiers, their helmets forming crosses in a cemetery.

While the fairy tale satire is quite hilarious, the story of Hans is quite frightening propaganda. Even today, after watching this cartoon, I'm angry at what Nazi Germany has done to this sweet, innocent child. Obviously very effective propaganda.

This cartoon was based on a book of the same title, by Gregor Ziemer.

While the Hans section disturbs me and I watch my Disney cartoons for pleasure, not hard reality, this is a top-quality short and very effective propaganda for the time.


From Ryan : This short had quite a strong message to it. It told the outside world what Nazi life was like from the birth of a baby to his manhood. Quite a tragic story, but truly a work of art.
From Lee Suggs : I can see why this short has never seen general release since World War Two. The beginning makes Germans look like ridiculous fools. The obese opera singer, that represents Germany, is gross and swoons over a gangly, wacky Hitler. The short then becomes very dark. The young German boy (Hans) is presented as sweet spirited and kind. He probably picked up these traits from his mother who is shown as being completely devoted to him. Adult German males are presented as hateful, violent caricatures. They beat the goodness out of Hans, creating an inhuman killing machine. The short ends with Hans marching out with millions of Nazi soldiers to destroy the world, at the cost of their own lives. Watching this short I was reminded of the movie "Swing Kids" where the Hitler Youth twist a fun loving teenager into a Nazi. It was just as frighting and saddening in this short. Not your typical Disney fare.
From Johan Forslund : Probably one of the most bizarre things I've ever seen in my entire life. Today the Disney short appears as foul as the massage it delivers. My jaw totally dropped when I saw it. I recognize the propaganda purpose of the movie but it is still a big thing to cope with these days. I like to think of my self as something of a second world war buff and seeing this short movie helped me to father get a understanding of how serious things where back in those days.
From Jayse Alan : I was rather shocked upon witnessing this animated propaganda film... though I must admit, the themes discussed and several of the examples given are more real-to-life than mere attempts to persuade the viewer. The children's lives, growing to adulthood in Nazi Germany, were far harsher than this short could ever show, but it does a fair job. I would hesitate to show it to a younger age group, but I think it does have amazing historical value. And while we can never understand exactly what the children of that time were doomed to, it does present us with the overall mood of a life forsaken to the awesome power of a tyrannical State.
From Shaunistheman : Excellent short. Let's not ban history, release this with a disclaimer or an introduction. Yes it's dark. Yes it is total propaganda. But it is history, Hitler was pure evil, why are we hiding this stuff??
From Badr : I found this cartoon last night on Kazaa, thinking it was a big joke of some sort I was, as most of the other people on this forum, shocked. Considering that Walt himself was part jewish must have made this piece really difficult to produce. No wonder it hasn't been officially released.

As Scary as it is, I have to comment on the humour behind some of the characters, and how all the men seem to not speak but scream til they are red in the face like Hitler himself.

I think it would be a good video for History students say 10th grade to graduating (A level/GCSE) because it shows them a classic example of propaganda, apart from the cartoon drawings found in the everyday papers.


From Chris Musslin : These films should be available for everyone. Kids should be able to see them and realize what children saw during war. I thought the scene in the classroom where the boy was being brainwashed very disturbing.
From Rick : A very useful piece for teaching KS2 children about propaganda (as required in the QCA Scheme of Work). Get's the message across in a safer way than most other sources of material available.
From Tadhg Christopher Bird : I actually came across Education for Death when looking for Charlie Chaplin films on Kazaa, and it was labled as The Great Dictator (I fixed the file name after watching).

I found it interesting that it had the familiar Disney opening of a book displaying its title, and opening the pages where the story begins. This motif also reappears for the telling of "Sleeping Beauty".

If you look closely at the "Verboten Names" list, it is topped with names Franklin, and Winston, the first names of the American President and British Prime Minister in 1943, Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill. Below that it seems to be mostly Hebrew names.

A dark, and effective propaganda piece. It entertains as it educates (indoctrinates?).


From Paul : I am a collector of second world war propaganda in any shape or form. I really enjoyed watching this short cartoon as it gives an insight to what the American public would of been watching as opposed to the German type of propaganda. Obviously if anyone knows their history then this cartoon is over indulgent in the NAZI views at the time but that is the point of propaganda. This is the first American media I have seen so far and would rate it at 8.
From Martin : Being 28 years of age, I of course did not experience those dark times. However, I (and my parents for that matter) were raised with the "collective guilt" dogma.

After watching this short, I ask myself, being manipulated, how guilty was Hans really? How guilty were my parents and grand-parents for that matter?

And finally: How guilty am I today, when western world is on war with other countries? Is the "Axis of Evil" reality or propaganda?

Maybe this is the biggest lesson we can learn from WWII: Don't blindly believe what politicians, teachers or any kind of leaders tell you, because then your mind is open to manipulation.


From Devon : I just saw this short in a certain um...class. I was shocked but it was an excellent short, very accurately made! It sucks though that there are 300 million people in the USA, and less then 200, have seen this short. I think it would have shocked people a couple of decades ago, but come on! Now a days we should learn to accept that, that was the way it happened, Disney just let it go!
From Torpid : Not all Germans were Nazis, this short doesn't attempt to show Germans as anything else but monsters, that's propaganda for you.

I'm surprised how many feel shocked at this animation. By today's standards it hardly compares with other films such as Schindler's list or the like. Look how many flock to watch a war movie and absorb themselves in it. What does annoy me is how countries like the USA could sit on their laurels and wait so long to put it to an end. Those who think the boys at the top didn't know are seriously mistaken. Shame on them.


From Colin : I guess I'm not sure what to say about it. I had no idea Disney made such films until I came across it on the internet. I found a copy watched it and was pretty umm .. I guess stunned would be the word but I'm not sure. It is truly worth seeing though, so I guess if I have to rate it then an 8.
From Youno : I came across this short in the internet and watched it twice, already. This short film can really make you stunned, but actually all things that happened in this movie are widely known all over the world right now. Actually I'm a Pole, living in Poland, and we know and learn these things in the school, perhaps that's why I was not so shocked watching this movie. Anyway, it is all true, even with this fairy-tale "Dornröschen" (Sleeping Beauty) - my grandparents told me about it many times. I think I can believe them, they survived this horrible World War II indeed. What I like in this film is the mother-heroine. She is German, but she loves her son and doesn't think the way that those Nazis did. She seems to be a person that isn't able to find herself in these whole Nazi conditions.

Anyway, I feel very gratetful to Disney for making such a wonderful movie, which shows all of this pure evil during the war.


From Michael : I teach an Advanced Placement European History course, and I found this film to be an extremely relevant piece of art and propaganda. The students were amazed to see this film from the WWII era corroborate what we had discussed in terms of the stark reality found in Nazi Germany. The students were able to differentiate the propaganda from the factual information we had studied from other sources in our course. However, it amazed my students that Disney was involved in getting this word out to the American public, via cartoons versus an actual documentary or real film. It's an outstanding piece of work that should be shown in high school courses to help students understand the crisis facing the American people in the face of this Nazi threat and empire.
From Bobby : I had heard of this film but was never able to locate a copy for many years. After being told by the Disney Archivist that it "would never be released officially by the studio" because of its subject matter, he then suggested that I could find it on the Internet. After a short search I found it at a web site and watched it. What can I say except that it is brilliant in its execution. As we follow a kind, gentle and caring "Hans" from his birth, through his childhood and into his fate as an adult Nazi we find ourselves wondering how a society could permit such horrid treatment of its children, raising them to be cannon fodder, but history shows that it did happen. The animation is obviously Ward Kimball's style and lends strongly to the emotional effect of this film. It is a dark and foreboding story that leaves one overwhelmed with anger and sadness that such atrocities were ever perpetrated upon innocent children, but that was the full intention of this masterpiece of the propaganda film genre. I would rate this film as a 10, if only for its message. By the way, this film is now available with many other Disney wartime films on a Disney DVD collection entitled "Walt Disney Treasures - On the Front Lines." I must say that the quality of the DVD copy is magnificent. The images are clean and the audio is clear and crisp. Thank you WDP for finally releasing this gem to the public.
From Andy : This little short is an appalling piece of propaganda. The sad thing is that people, mostly Americans, think this is the truth about Germany before and during the war. It couldn't really be further from the truth. Yes, Germany committed attrocitices, and they had the Hitler Youth and so on, but it was nothing like this. Nowhere is it mentioned what Hitler did for Germany before the war, or how he built the ruined and poor Germany into a war machine by 1939. If they really wanted to show something taken from reality, they should have shown the persecution of jews, slavs, and homosexuals. The "aryan" population was generally treated with care, and large parts of the population actually loved Hitler. It also shows a distorted version of the German soldiers. They're showed as killing machines without minds of their own. Again, this is a lie. The Wehrmacht soldiers (basically, 95% of the army), were normal soldiers, just like soldiers from other countries. The SS were the real killers. Lastly, the movie shows Hans from he's a baby till he's a fully trained soldier. Again, this has no root in reality, as the Nazi empire only lasted for 12 years... 10 years when the short was made. Basically, no baby born during the time Hitler was in power ever became a soldier.

Hitler may have been a madman, and the nazi ideology fundamentally wrong, but this short is pure propaganda and lies. It looks more like current day American, than nazi Germany.

I give this a 5, purely because of the high technical quality. It's ironic that Disney had such a high level of animation in 1943, while their animation today is downright terrible.

To anyone who thinks this short has any root in reality, please, read a few history books about life in Germany during the war.


From Choadly : This is an outstanding piece of propaganda - well executed, makes you sympathize with Hans and then outraged at all that befalls him...

In response to the last person "it's not a real image of Germany" well... Duh...

It's propaganda... which is never accurate - it's a caricature - and designed to foster sentiment/what have you against the enemy - as an example, see some of the Popeye shorts from WWII - like "Nip the Nips" - it's a caricature, plain and simple.

It doesn't change the fact that it's a marvelous piece of animation, and in the context of the times, very very effective.


From Alvaro : I am amazed at people's reaction to this cartoon. This cartoon, viewed today, is not about the evils of Nazi Germany. It shows how propaganda is used to influence people's thinking by the use of strongly emotive images rather than rational arguments. It appears that most people today react to this propaganda in much the same way that the WW2 target audience was intended to. I shudder to think how easily these people can be manipulated by propaganda that is actually targeted at them.
From waleska : This short surprised me when I saw it. My class is in the middle of studying Hitler and World War 2 and then we saw this. It made me understand how children went to school everyday, not to learn but to be manipulated into believing that Hitler was actually the German God. I learned to appreciate the right to freedom of speech!
From Chris M. : I watched this short after finding it on Kazaa. I knew that such films existed (as well as in the Warner Brothers catalogue), but also knew that Disney would shy away from releasing it (I was proven wrong by a recent anthology, by the way.) So I watched it with amazement. And while I can see the clear moments of propaganda, I can also see the great artistry in which it was made. I was impressed by the effort to hire German voice talent. I was a bit turned off by the Sleeping Beauty segment because it felt tacked on for the sake of comedic redemption. Honestly, it was jarring to see them take the low road in the midst of a very poignant, and dark piece. But, throughout the rest of the short, I was transfixed. I'd give it an 8/10, simply because of the transparent attempt to cast Nazism versus Christianity in the 'morphing' of the symbols montage (which was clearly supposed to drive the point home like anti-semitism somehow couldn't), and the Sleeping Beauty scene.
From Sara Sweden : I'm finishing of my school project now on Disney and his influence on the world.

Honestly, when I chose Disney as a subject I didn't realise that he had made propaganda films under the Second World War.

I find Education for Death rather extraordinary- it's humoristic in a cruel way- should one laugh or cry? You can't be untouched by this direct truth that lays behind the movie. It's cruel, it's true, it's an art.


From Carlo Santa Teresa : Indeed a very grim subject, this classic shows in great detail the complete control the Nazi government had on the German children. The graphic description of Nazi propaganda slowly rises in its detail as the movie reaches its end. There are a few comic parts in the short, but for the most part, it was a rather bleak cartoon as far as how the cartoon darkens as it progresses.

A must see for every Disney fan and World War II buff, I give it 10 stars. This cartoon, despite its subject matter, should not be locked up in the Disney vault, rather it should be available for historical purposes.


From Jeremy : I just watched this short today on youtube--and was so shocked that I watched it twice. I am sure that much of the propaganda is exaggerated, but it does what propaganda is supposed to do. It makes you think, and it shocks you as well.

But--my god! When you think of Disney, you think of Mickey and Dumbo, and here in the war years you have this short so dark and horrifying! The stuff at the beginning with Sleeping Beauty is the only light moment in the whole short (it's also the weakest for me, because it goes on a little too long, and is the only reason why I'm not giving this short 10/10). It's as effective propaganda as anything being released today.

The scariest thing of all was the first comment I read on the short on youtube, which read "the scary part is the story about the fox and rabbit is exactly what the US government believes today."

So maybe nothing has changed...


From Happy5482 : This short is terrifying on all levels. I tried to watch it many times but would get very upset and irate at how evil Nazis were, how manipulative and malicious Hitler was and how they destroyed Hans' childhood and spirit by making him evil. Somehow I managed to observe some scenes like the kids learning the tale of the rabbit and fox and the ending and I almost burst into tears. I understand this topic and propaganda is for historic purposes and to remind people to stop this from being repeated ever again, but when its talked about or seen on history channels, its still hard to watch. Disney had such gumption for doing this project and others during the war.

Referenced Comments