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The "Shahnameh" in World War II Anti-Nazi Propaganda

Iran During World War II Previous Oral Histories Next

The Book of Kings, or Shahnameh, is an epic poem that was composed by Abolqasem Ferdowsi between 980 and 1010. During World War II, artist Kimon Evan Marengo was asked by the British Ministry of Information to create anti-Nazi propaganda images based on the Shahnameh to appeal to Iranians.

In these illustrations, Hitler is Zahhak and Goebbels is Ahriman. The two snakes growing out of Hitler’s (Zahhak’s) shoulders are Benito Mussolini, leader of the National Fascist Party, and Hideki Tojo, general of the Imperial Japanese Army. In one of the cartoons, Hitler (Zahhak) has a nightmare where three heroes—Winston Churchill, prime minister of the United Kingdom, Franklin Roosevelt, president of the United States, and Joseph Stalin, leader of the Soviet Union—are coming to destroy him. In the final cartoon, Hitler (Zahhak) is tied to a horse, with Goebbels (Ahriman) hanging from the tail. They are escorted by a group of three Allies–Churchill, Roosevelt, and Stalin.