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04 - Dire et montrer la guerre, autrement

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Jean-Claude Gardes

German caricatures during the First World War

Le Temps des médias n°4, printemps 2005, p.151-161

As early as 1910, German caricature, influential amidst a flowering satirical press, took note of raising international tensions. With the start of hostilities in 1914, the satirical press threw its full weight behind the German war effort and in aid of a fatherland under threat. Even pens that had been known for their criticism of the government followed the call by Emperor Wilhelm II for a “holy union”, and depicted the war as a defence of German culture against the onslaught of barbarism. In their initial enthusiasm, they promoted the image of a ridiculous, incompetent, rude and cruel enemy that would almost instantly disintegrate. Russia, and to a lesser degree England, is the target of its most scathing insults; France is pictured as following the others’ lead and sometimes even as a victim of her alliances. As the war wears on, less committed caricaturists resort to justificatory sketches, little or not at all satirical, and neither of mobilising nor inciting character, or they turn towards a inconsequential satire of cultural mores. Conservative artists continue to churn out virulently partisan material, while liberal and socialist artists, hoping for peace even while they continue to support the German war effort, introduce new characters, such as the war profiteers and the French soldier, the “Poilu”, depicted with a certain respect. DrapeauFrancais

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