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Playing cards have been with us since the 14th century, when they first entered popular culture. Over the centuries packs of cards, in all shapes and sizes, have been used for games, gambling, education, conjuring, advertising, fortune telling, political messages or the portrayal of national or ethnic identity. All over the world, whatever language is spoken, their significance is universal. Their popularity is also due to the imaginative artwork and graphic design which is sometimes overlooked, and the “then & now” of how things have changed.

In der Fuehrer’s Face

“In der Fuehrer’s Face” playing cards designed in 1945 by Antonio Arias Bernal, a Mexican artist, but not published until 2002.

“In der Fuehrer’s Face” playing cards

designed by Antonio Arias Bernal (Mexico)

“In der Fuehrer’s Face” playing cards were created between 1943-45 by Antonio Arias Bernal, a Mexican artist and political cartoonist for the U.S. Government as a series of propaganda posters of World War II. They were originally intended to be distributed in Central and South America by the US government as part of a propaganda campaign to bring the South American countries into the war in order to speed up its conclusion. However, the end of WW2 brought diminished interest and funding and the project was shelved before publication. The few copies of the posters lay forgotten in library drawers until the deck was rediscovered and published in 2002 by Bill Schroeder & M.R. Steele. Disguised as simple playing cards, these works of art capture the spirit of the Allied Nations’ resistance to the plague of Nazism.

the “spontaneous” kiss

Above: model based on the famous photograph of the “spontaneous” kiss depicting the joy when it was announced in Times Square, New York, that the Second World War was over.

Above: “In der Fuehrer’s Face” playing cards designed in 1943-45 by Antonio Arias Bernal, a Mexican artist. By a twist of fate as soon as he had begun the paintings the war in Europe began to go the way of the Allies. Also around the same time six South American countries declared against the Axis powers so the need for the playing cards was really gone. But as he had been paid already Bernal decided to complete the task which he did by 1945. The cards follow the career of Hitler chronologically beginning with the ace of diamonds, through clubs, hearts and spades to the final King showing Emperor Hirihito crawling away from Hiroshima. However, they were not published until Bill Schroeder rediscovered them and published them in 2003. Bill Schroeder named the pack from the well known song “Der Fuehrer’s Face” by Spike Jones and his City Slickers released in 1942. This was a taunting and disrespectful parody of the Nazi song “Horst Wessel Lied” which included a lot of “raspberry blowing”. Published by Bill Schroeder & M.R. Steele, Banner Publications, Finksburg Maryland USA. Images courtesy Rex Pitts.

Right: the box cover has the same image as the back design →

 the box cover

“In der Fuehrer’s Face” playing cards designed in 1943-45 by Antonio Arias Bernal
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By Rex Pitts (1940-2021)

Member since January 30, 2009

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Rex's main interest was in card games, because, he said, they were cheap and easy to get hold of in his early days of collecting. He is well known for his extensive knowledge of Pepys games and his book is on the bookshelves of many.

His other interest was non-standard playing cards. He also had collections of sheet music, music CDs, models of London buses, London Transport timetables and maps and other objects that intrigued him.

Rex had a chequered career at school. He was expelled twice, on one occasion for smoking! Despite this he trained as a radio engineer and worked for the BBC in the World Service.

Later he moved into sales and worked for a firm that made all kinds of packaging, a job he enjoyed until his retirement. He became an expert on boxes and would always investigate those that held his cards. He could always recognize a box made for Pepys, which were the same as those of Alf Cooke’s Universal Playing Card Company, who printed the card games. This interest changed into an ability to make and mend boxes, which he did with great dexterity. He loved this kind of handicraft work.

His dexterity of hand and eye soon led to his making card games of his own design. He spent hours and hours carefully cutting them out and colouring them by hand.

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