The globe with a sign saying Psychopathic Ward on it.Herb Block attacked the isolationist policy of the United States government long before Pearl Harbor was bombed on December 7, 1941, because he understood that the fascists in Europe were an international issue. Block’s cartoons attacking Francisco Franco in Spain, Benito Mussolini in Italy, and Adolf Hitler in Germany demonstrated his matured style, with his deliberate and assured use of ink brush and pencil. The Depression and the war in Europe politicized Block, and he developed opinions that, at times, were at odds with those of his publishers. His editor at Scripps-Howard, Fred Ferguson, took exception to some of his cartoons and summoned him to New York in 1942. While he was en route, news broke that Block had won the Pulitzer Prize for editorial cartooning, which effectively prevented Ferguson from firing his star cartoonist. In 1943, Block left his NEA position for service in the Army, where he drew cartoons and wrote articles before mustering out in 1945.

Unchained!

Herblock uses the unchained figure as a metaphor for events that started the build up to World War II in Europe. During the autumn of 1935, Italian troops marched through Ethiopia toward the French Somaliland border, straining the alliance that England, France, and Italy had created against Germany. England sought assurances from Germany that no French invasion was imminent but sent their naval fleet into the Mediterranean near Italy. Feeling betrayed, Italy broke off diplomatic relations and sought détente with Germany.

Unchained! 1935. Crayon, ink, opaque white and paste-on over blue pencil underdrawing. Published by the Newspaper Enterprise Association Service, October 3, 1935. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (10.00.00). LC-DIG-ppmsca-19969

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Winged Victory

To express anger over civilian deaths, Herblock refers to the ancient Greek statue Winged Victory of Samothrace (ca.190 BC). On the eve of World War II, it was clear that the airplane had changed the nature of war. Armies, no longer dependent on ground forces, had the potential to eliminate hundreds of thousands of civilians from above in the name of combat. On June 3, 1938, in Washington, Sumner Welles, Acting Secretary of State, denounced aerial atrocities in Spain and China that killed many civilians.

Winged Victory, 1938. Crayon, ink, opaque white, and paste-on over blue pencil underdrawing. Published by the Newspaper Enterprise Association Service, June 11, 1938. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (11.00.00). LC-DIG-ppmsca-00212

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The Policy of the United States

The upright forms of Lady Liberty and New York skyscrapers counterbalance billowing clouds, zooming planes, and a military vessel cutting to the right, away from American shores. In this artful drawing, Herblock signals American movement toward international involvement in World War II. President Franklin Roosevelt began sending material aid to opponents of fascism in June 1940. Passage of the Lend-Lease Act by Congress in March, 1941, officially empowered him to aid nations deemed vital to U.S. defense.

The Policy of the United States, 1940. Crayon, ink, opaque white, and paste-on over blue pencil underdrawing. Published by the Newspaper Enterprise Association Service, March 12, 1941. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (12.00.00). LC-DIG-hlb-00371

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Psychopathic Ward

Floating in a tranquil corner of outer space, planet Earth is marred by the sign “Psychopathic Ward” that Block has placed over Central Europe, the site of newly erupted insanity, another war. Germany’s invasion of Poland on September 1, 1939, without formally declaring war marked the start of World War II. France and Britain declared war on Germany on September 3, and members of the British Commonwealth of Nations quickly followed suit.

Psychopathic Ward, 1939. Graphite, ink, opaque white, and overlays over blue pencil underdrawing. Published by the Newspaper Enterprise Association Service, September 1, 1939. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (13.00.00). LC-DIG-hlb-00673

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“Suffer the Little Children to Come unto Me”

In 1926, Mussolini nationalized the Opera Nazionale Balilla, named after the mythical boy who drove the Austrians out of Genoa in 1746, to promote fascism among children in Italy. By 1932 membership in the organization became compulsory. Children received real muskets and military officers trained them in the art of war. Herblock’s ironic title, using words spoken by Jesus in the Bible, contrasts Jesus’ concern for the welfare of children with Mussolini’s exploitation of them.

“Suffer the Little Children to Come unto Me,” 1934. Charcoal, ink, graphite, opaque white, and overlay over blue pencil underdrawing. Published by the Newspaper Enterprise Association Service, April 20, 1934. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (14.00.00). LC-DIG-hlb-00028

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“He Made the Trains Run on Time”

Europe’s first twentieth-century fascist dictator, Benito Mussolini, gazes pensively at a massive train filled with German soldiers on its way through Italy. In March 1941, he launched a major offensive by invading Greece as part of his larger, ill-timed bid to pursue a Balkan campaign. After the campaign failed Mussolini required German aid to disentangle his forces. In Herblock’s cartoon, the once-powerful leader who “made the trains run on time” appears alone and diminished.

“He Made the Trains Run on Time,” 1941. Crayon, ink, opaque white, and paste-on with scratching out over graphite underdrawing. Published by the Newspaper Enterprise Association Service, March 8, 1941. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (15.00.00). LC-DIG-hlb-00709

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The Nazis Enter Stalingrad

The German offensive for Stalingrad and the nearby Caucasus oil fields began on August 19, 1942. On February 2, 1943, the Soviet Army announced that more than 90,000 German soldiers and officers had surrendered. Their lines had been broken by the inhumane weather that sometimes equaled minus 30º F temperatures, starvation, and tactical errors that had left them encircled by the Soviets. The Allied victory proved to be a turning point in breaking Hitler’s military supremacy.

The Nazis Enter Stalingrad, 1943. Crayon, ink, and opaque white with paste-on over graphite underdrawing. Published in the Newspaper Enterprise Association Service, February 2, 1943. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (16.00.00). LC-DIG-hlb-00868

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What “Peace Now” Would Mean

Herblock became increasingly anti-isolationist long before Pearl Harbor, when the public attitude in the U.S. shifted and became pro-interventionist. World War II officially began in Europe when France and Britain declared war on Germany on September 3, 1939. Despite Germany’s blockade of Britain and its occupation of several nations to its east, discussions focused on peace. In January 1940, the Soviets were still allied with Germany and occupied Finland, giving Hitler the upper hand in Europe.

What “Peace Now” Would Mean, 1940. Crayon, ink, opaque white, and paste-on over blue pencil underdrawing. Published by the Newspaper Enterprise Association Service, January 3, 1940. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (17.00.00). LC-DIG-hlb-00925

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