Nazi propaganda boy talks for the first time about meeting Hitler

In 1936, Gerhard Bartels didn’t realise he was posing with one of the world’s most hated dictators, but at the age of just four that isn’t surprising.

Eighty years later Gerhard has talked about his role as the Nazi’s poster boy for the first time. He featured on postcards, magazines, posters, books and on a range of campaign materials for use inNazi propaganda.

Gerard’s UncleIsidor Weiss was a Sergeant during World War One and Hitler was in his battalion.

Gerhard was the perfect symbol of the Nazi’s ambition to foster a true Aryan race. He had blue eyes, blonde hair and a face of innocence.

Having a photograph with Hitler became an annual event since his father and Hitler stayed in touch and the dictator would visit the family at their hotel in the Bavarian Alps.

Gerhard remembers how his parents would tell him to wear his best clothes whenever Hitler was due to visit. He wasn’t allowed to play with other children in the neighbour on the day of Hitler’s visit in case he dirtied his clothes, and Gerhard remembers how he hated that and just wanted to go out to play.

The photographer who took the photographs was Heinrich Hoffmann, who was Hitler’s personal photographer and followed him everywhere, the Mail Online reports.

Gerhard still to this day works at the same hotel in Bavaria owned by his parents. He now says that Hitler was a gangster and he feels used by the Nazi propaganda machine. He remembers how he refused to say ‘Heil Mein Fuhrer’ when Hitler arrived since he knew instinctively that he was being used.

Gerhard would receive a huge slice of apple cake after each photograph shoot to keep him happy. But says that he particularly remembers the photograph from 1936, since it was the same year that Germany went in and illegally retook the Rhineland.

The use of propaganda by the Nazis in the run up to and throughout Hitler’s rule of Germany was central to the party’s acquisition of power. It helped them to implement its policies and brought round popular opinion. It is the Nazis use of propaganda that gives the word its modern day negative meaning.

Hitler even dedicated several chapters of his manifesto ‘Mein Kampf’ to the use of propaganda.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE