You Can’t Do Business with Hitler

Office for Emergency Management, 179-WP-28,

The Office for Emergency Management created several radio series for the American homefront during World War II. Among these was You Can’t Do Business with Hitler. We in the Moving Image and Sound Branch branch have recently worked to process this and other freshly-digitized materials from the OEM. You Can’t Do Business with Hitler built upon Douglas Miller’s 1941 book of the same name about his years as the commercial attachĂ© to the American embassy in Berlin. The information he collected in his official role heavily informed the November 18, 1940 confidential memorandum from the National Resources Planning Board to the Roosevelt administration entitled “Public Works Planning: Germany.”

“Public Works Planning: Germany,”

Miller originally meant his title more literally, in the sense that American businesses should not be involved with Nazi Germany, as several infamously were. After American entry into the war, “You Can’t Do Business with Hitler” came to mean something more like “You Can’t Accept a Conditional Surrender from Hitler.” Every issue of the radio program begins with Miller’s avowal that “There can be no such thing as a military stalemate that would result in the survival of Hitlerism.” Each episode covers a topic related to Nazi Germany, such as forced labor, medical pseudoscience, and religious repression. The episodes offer dramatized scenes, usually inspired by the sources Miller cites as further reading.


Episode 26, “Hitler is My Conscience,” demonstrates the ways in which fanatical devotion to Nazi ideology undermines a person’s basic moral conscience. The title quotes Hermann Goering. The main drama in this episode involves a refugee boy from Germany who arrives in Norway during World War I. His new mother and brother welcome him warmly. But upon the Nazi invasion of Norway in 1940, he joins with the invaders and kills his foster brother. (The program doesn’t attempt to explain this sudden heel-turn.)


Episode 24, “The Living Dead,” refers to the people of Nazi-occupied Europe, who had been rendered powerless by Nazi oppression. This episode covers many countries, depicting resistance against the Quisling government in Norway and Nazis conspiring to starve civilians into working in Poland. The most urgent drama involves the French Resistance. It depicts their heroic bravery in securing just a small cache of arms from the Germans, but carries the message that the Resistance’s efforts will all be in vain without foreign intervention against the Nazis.

Adding titles and other description metadata to sound recordings has been some of the most productive work Special Media staff have been engaged in during periodic closures of our building due to COVID-19. Stay “tuned” to the catalog in the upcoming year!