Tuesday, December 18, 2012

National Geographic Maps Bias During World War II

National Geographic is sometimes dinged for its pre-World War II support for Nazi Germany.  Its head management was progressive pro-Fascist/anti-Communist during the Great Depression, according to the excellent book Explorers House.  In fact, Douglas Chandler, writer of the 1937 article Changing Berlin (photos on Flickr, full article republished on French-language pro-Nazi website) defected to Nazi Germany to be a propagandist during the war.

However, once the United States entered the war the society quickly became solidly pro-Allies.  The legacy of the switch to pro-Allies is apparent when one examines the maps National Geographic produced.

For the October 1939 issues (map made probably right before the start of the war) shows all Nazi controlled lands including Germany and annexed Austria, Czech lands, and a portion of Lithuania as part of Germany.

For the May 1940 map Poland is still marked but its lands are given to Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union. In June the Soviet Union invaded the Baltic states and annexed them.

Once the United States entered the war the map changed.  The June 1933 map show newly German-annexed lands in the Low Countries as belonging to their pre-war owners.  Poland was completely restored and the Baltic countries remained untouched despite the Soviet claim of annexing them.  Even Danzing is reverted back to a free city.  Interestingly though pre-war gains by Nazi Germany stayed on the map.  The war was illegitimate but National Geographic still gave diplomacy its due.

National Geographic reverted back to recognizing on the ground reality with its 1949 Europe map which had the Baltic states as part of the Soviet Union.

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