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Not only the German men were presented as barbarians, beasts who stopped at nothing in the countries they invaded, but also German women are described are being merciless and prone to laugh at the helpless and powerless wounded instead of helping him. The text reads: Wounded and a prisoner, our soldier cries for water. The German "sister" pours it on the ground before his eyes. There is no woman in Britain who would do it. There is no woman in Britain who will forget it" (www.firstworldwar.com) Thisis another analogy between opposite features of the two enemy nations and their character. British civilians at home must have been impressed by such display of inhumane behavior in a woman who swore to take care of the wounded and should have answered the cry of an invalid the only way the Red Cross members are supposed to: with compassion.
The last of the above series of posters presents a little girl holding her doll, coming out of the destroyed wall of her house. Below this image it reads: "78 Women and Children were killed and 228 Women and Children were wounded by the German Raiders. Enlist Now" (www.firstworldwar.com).Thisis another easy to translate message that does not need to be explained in depth. Men got the idea that in order for their wives, mothers and children to be spared the fate of those who were killed by the German Raids, they had to act immediately and join the army ranks in order to defeat the Germans and put a stop to war atrocities. All these posters are presenting the Germans as the complete image of evil, the representation of everything the British nation ever resented: lack of respect toward their prisoners, disregard of the war conventions from Geneva, killing and mutilating of civilian, children and women. The only correct answer to all these propagandistic presentations of the Germans was to join the British army against this common enemy who would stop at nothing on his way to conquer the world and spread the evil everywhere.
Between 1914 and 1916, there were several organizations that dealt with propaganda (domestic or destined for abroad). By 1916 these organizations have been regrouped and united under the same leadership. They were all subjected to the control of the Foreign Office. However, this reorganization was not satisfactory for some of the former activists in the various propagandistic fields. Robert Donald's report on the situation of the new organization showed what he considered some of the flaws in the system and their causes: "The condition into which publicity and propaganda work has drifted at the present time is due to the casual way in which it originatedand the promiscuous way it has expanded" (Donald, cited by Sanders 1975, 123).
Following the issue of the Donald report, the government decided it was imperative to establish a new and Department of State only for the purpose of propaganda. The head of this department was named John Buchan who was appointed as head of the department in February 1917 (Sanders, 1975). The propaganda against the Germans was conducted at the time by a special service of the War Department (Lumley 1933, 223).
As detailed above, the process of developing a propaganda on all fronts became more and more developed and evolved into a fully grown institution by 1917 in Great Britain. but, the first two years of the war when the propagandistic means and system were just beginning to evolve, were essential for the population persuasion part to approve of and become involved in the war effort. One of the most efficient means to attain this goal was to get the people convinced that the source of evil was coming from the Germans who were fighting on the negative side of the history. The Germans had to be depicted as the pure evil, while the British, the French and the Russians were the answer to world salvation.
One of the first reports destined to present the British people and the world at large with an image of the war atrocities German soldiers committed in Belgium belongs to a well-known and respected representative of the British government, former ambassador to Washington. His report appeared was published in the English press and in various other languages, in foreign countries. The committee that investigated the acts against the Belgian civilians committed under the German occupation was relaying for its report on one hand the depositions of those survivors from the Belgian civilian part, de depositions of British and Belgian soldiers and, on the other on the diaries left behind or found at the German soldiers taken prisoners (Wilson 1979, 372). The text of the report, published in more than ten languages, was accompanied by more or less explicit drawings that increased the impact of the message on those who were confronted with those acts of extreme violence described by the report. William Le Queux explained in one phrase what the essence of the propagandistic material issued by the Triple Entente was: "one cannot read a single page of this awful record... without being thrilled with the horror at unspeakable acts if civilized troops, who at the behest of their Kaiser,...have become simply the Huns of Attila" (Le Queux, cited by Gullace 1997, 715). He was also comparing the German armies to "one vast gang of Jack-the-Rippers" (idem).
In 1914, Charles W. Eliot wrote to James Bryce: "From my point-of-view, that violation of Belgian neutrality by Germany was a very fortunate happening for the cause of freedom and democracy; because it consolidated British opinion in favor of immediate war... It certainly was a most extraordinary display on the part of Germany of rashness, insolence, and lack of intelligence" (Eliot cited by Gullace 1997, 717). This certainly explains why the British chose to use every element they could extract out of what followed after the German invasion in order to make the public opinion at home and abroad surrender unconditionally to the idea that the war was as much necessary as it was inevitable for the future of the whole world.
The proportions British propaganda took based only on the German war atrocities in Belgium were unimaginable for someone just a few years before the World War started. "By June 1915, Charles Masterman, the director of propaganda, estimated that his bureau at Wellington House had circulated "some 2 1/2 million copies of books, official publications, pamphlets, and speeches in 17 different languages" concerning the "rights and wrongs of the war" (Masterman, cited by Gullace 1997, 717). Most of these publications were about Germans in Belgium and what the German troops supposedly did to children, women, old men and women, civilians.
Hitler once said that the Great War was actually won by the British propaganda. The fact is that an important part of the war was led in the trenches of the publicists. Typewriters were their weapons and those who mastered them were the unofficial generals of what was often an underground battle. Sometimes not even their own government was not aware of the whole situation when it came to means of misinforming and manipulating the public. Both sides in the war used the propaganda means effectively and it would ne hard to asses which of them was more successful in its field. The British nation was conquered by the negative information poured almost continuously on what was happening in the battle fields and behind the lines as well. The united efforts of politicians, writers, publicists, painters and caricaturists led to the first successful attempt to get the public's attention, approval and support almost instantly and unconditioned.
Gullace, Nicoletta F. Sexual Violence and Family Honor: British Propaganda and International Law during the First World War. The American Historical Review, Vol. 102, No. 3 (Jun., 1997), pp. 714-747
Heyman, Neil M. World War I. Greenwood Publishing Group, 1997
Propaganda Posters. 2005. Copyright Michael Duffy. 2000-2009. Retrieved: Mar, 14, 2009. Available at http://www.firstworldwar.com/posters/
Sanders, M.L. Wellington House and British Propaganda during the First World War. The Historical Journal, Vol. 18, No. 1 (Mar., 1975), pp. 119-146
Schramm, Martin. The British Press and Germany in the Era of World War I. Reviewd by Thomas Weber. 2009. H-German.
Wilson, Trevor. Lord Bryce's Investigation into Alleged German Atrocities in Belgium, 1914-15. Journal of Contemporary History, Vol. 14, No. 3 (Jul., 1979), pp. 369-383[continue]
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