Cities are much more than a place to live, a place to visit, or a source of identity. Cities also play crucial roles in the inextricably linked worlds of warfare and propaganda.

Wartime strategic goals of conquering and destroying cities, especially an opponent’s capital, have been part of warfare since ancient times. The Nazi invasion of Poland that began World War II in September 1939 saw Warsaw fall and the Poles surrender in a mere 27 days of battle, by which time over 10 percent of the city was in ruins. When the Germans finally retreated from the city in 1945, 85 percent of the Polish capital had been destroyed.

The German capital of Berlin was a primary target of the British, American, French, and Russian air forces and was bombed numerous times during the war. After the Russians won the street-to-street fighting of the Battle for Berlin in April 1945, 80 percent of the city center was in ruins.

The 1939-1940 First Soviet- Finnish War was a precursor to today’s Ukrainian invasion. Back then, a much smaller Finland took on Stalin’s Russian armies and held them at bay.

Warren Bernard is an author/lecturer in the history of editorial-political cartoons and the executive director of the Small Press Expo

Wladyslaw Krawiec in Dziennik Chicagoski (1939). Caption Translation: Mother, Don’t Leave Us!

Jay “Ding” Darling in the New York Herald Tribune (1939). “Will the Little House of Brick and Stone Stand.” After taking half of Poland in fall of 1939, Joseph Stalin declared war on Finland.

Kazimiers Majewski in the Polish Daily Zgoda (1944). “Now they plead…” A beaten Nazi Berliner emerges from a bomb shelter to float a balloon with a message reading: “Appeal to pope to suspend air raids on Germany.” In one of the great exhibits of international audacity, after destroying numerous countries, the Nazis asked the Vatican to intervene to help stop the bombing of German cities.

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