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Vol. 11 No. i (2023): Spring 2023

Propaganda Cartoons: Germany and Japan in the Eyes of America, 1920s-1940s

January 18, 2024


Anti-immigrant sentiment was rampant in America on the eve of the 20th century. The Chinese Exclusion Act had been passed in 1882, leading more Japanese to immigrate to the United States for labor opportunities. This uptick in Japanese immigrants created space for more xenophobia. With the Thind v. United States Supreme Court Case decision as well as the Alien Land Laws, Japanese immigrants were not allowed citizenship or land ownership. German immigration began much earlier, but these immigrants were European and therefore held in a higher esteem. By 1924, all Asian immigration was barred; this is seen in immigration restrictionist political cartoons. Over the course of the 1920s through the 1940s, American propaganda about these two groups changed significantly.
While Americans were wary of Germany in the 1930s, the propaganda from the 1940s reflects more fear towards Japan. In studying the American attitudes towards Germans and Japanese, it is evident that the discrimination towards Japanese immigrants stems from a racialized hatred, despite both countries’ roles as enemies to the U.S. in World War II. Americans have viewed Japanese immigrants as
subhuman since the beginning of Japanese immigration. After comparing cartoons about Germans and Japanese, I theorize that the hatred towards Japan during World War II originated from the consistent characterization of Japanese people as barbaric and animalistic, while the attitude towards Germany was that of a once great nation now fallen.