Founded by the Hungarian émigré, Stefan Lorant and led by Tom Hopkinson, Picture Post was stauntly anti-fascist from its beginning. It published “Back to the Middle Ages,” a strong denunciation of Nazi Germany in November 26th 1938, when the magazine was less than two months old and many in the British establishment were still seeking to accommodate Hitler.
By the time the above issue, “What we are fighting for” was printed in July 1940, the war was well on its way, and not going well for Britain and her Allies. In late May, Belgium surrendered and Dunkirk was evaculated; one month later, France herself surrendered. The Battle of Britain had commenced and it seemed like the Nazi invasion of Britain itself was imminent.
The photoessay was stark, contrasting British values with those of the Nazis, comparing totalitarianism with democracy, what German Boys do with what British Boys do, and Britain’s King George VI with the Fuhrer. Lorant was no stranger to this sort of comparisons. Upon arrival in the UK, he published Lilliput, a quirky magazine whose regularly feature was comical photographic comparisons of people and events with the things they resembled (e.g., Chamberlain with a llama; Churchill with a bulldog; a bewigged attorney with a champion poodle). While the Picture Post story was grimmer, with photos of the Nazi officials who had been purged and executed and of the concentration camp inmates, there were touches of levity in pictures of goosestepping Nazis next to idyllic British pastoral scenes.