In this painting, to understand the message the artist is passing, one has to check the political context when the painting was produced, his societal beliefs, Salvador's progression as an artist plus how bread has been used in this painting. Basket of Bread in history was used as propaganda mainly for the ERP (Recovery Program), which is also called the Marshall Plan (1947-1951). The ERP earned George Catlett Marshall Jr the Nobel Peace Prize, and it's credited with rebuilding nations in Europe by restoring industrial and agricultural production, hence restoring economic infrastructure and food supply in the aftermath of the Second World War.
Salvador wrote in the New York catalogue of the Bignou Gallery that he painted this painting in 60 days when the most sensational and staggering episodes of contemporary history occurred and finished a day before the war ended. The subtitle of the painting, Rather Death than Shame, took special significance during that time period. In the painting, the basket is precariously positioned on the edge of an uncovered table, against a crisp black backdrop, which is a sign of its sacrificial destruction.
On 30 April 1945, Adolf Hitler, Salvador's well-recorded subject, chose death instead of the inevitable shame of being captured. In Salvador's essay, which was written in 1935 entitled “The Conquest of the Irrational”, the artist spoke of the modern age “moral hunger” that the Germans sought relief through Adolf Hitler and Nazism.
Salvador wrote than the followers of Hitler were all systematically cretinised by ideological disorder and machinism, to which they seek, without being successful, to bite into the feeble and the plump's triumphant softness, militaristic, tender, atavistic and territorial back of all Hitlerian nursemaids. Hitler is portrayed as the loaf of bread's heel, on the edge of the precipice: this sums up Salvador's opinion of Adolf Hitler and his ultimate death.
Salvador also said that he painted the Basket of Bread the week that the atomic bombs were dropped on Japan. His objective was arriving at the pre-explosive object immobility. Taken in connection with Hiroshima and Nagasaki Atomic bombings, Rather Death than Shame can also mean that it is better to have perished a victim instead of bear the shame of being the one who dropped the atomic bomb.