Sunday, 11 March 2018

midge at the mic

Earlier this week marked the anniversary of the identification and arrest of broadcast personality “Axis Sally” employed by Nazi Germany in order to spread propaganda and engineer public opinion and reception of the Allied war effort in 1949. Mildred Elizabeth Gillars, originally from Portland, Maine, was one of those Lost Generation types that came of age between the wars and was quite disaffected by the failure of her aspirations to become an actress. Not able to sustain a career in New York City, Gillars moved to Paris and then to Algiers before finding stable employment in Dresden in 1934 first as an English teacher and then with the Reichs-Rundfunk state media outlet.

The pursuit of fame often is expressed as infamy and Gillars’ case is perfect example. Though protesting that she signed an oath of allegiance under great duress after the attack on Pearl Harbor which pulled the US into the war and that she had no truck with Nazi ideology, under the influence of various Svengalis, Gillars’ prolific programmes turned pointedly vile, broadcasting under several pseudonyms and conflated with other parallel campaigns of disinformation and demotivation, with arcs of narrative aimed to engender homesickness for troops stationed overseas and suggest that prolonged absence did not make the heart grow fonder with sensational stories of infidelity while husbands were away at the front. For Midge at the Mic, Gillars would DJ a music hour with American songs with interstitials attacking the US government. Here is a link to an audio recording hosted on YouTube. Gillars was apprehended in Berlin running a second-hand furniture operation and was tried and convicted on a single count of treason (despite a litany of charges brought against her) for a broadcast that preceded the storming of the beach at Normandy by just a few days designed to make families question the worth of their sacrifice. Once discharged after serving a sentence of eleven years, Gillars confined herself to a convent and taught German, French and drama classes in an attached academy.