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The Final Throw of the Dice. General Ludendorff: Morale, «Patriotic Instruction» and Imperial German Propaganda 1917-18

La campagne de la dernière chance. Le général Ludendorff: morale, «instruction patriotique» et propagande impériale allemande (1917-1918)
O último lançar dos dados. General Ludendorff: moral, «instrução patriótica » e propaganda imperial alemã 1917-18
David Welch
p. 99-121

Resumo

In order to counter reports of a widening gulf between state authority and popular feeling about the war, General Ludendorff launched a major propaganda campaign in July 1917 called Vaterländische Unterricht (patriotic instructions). Four major themes were identified: 1] The Causes of the War. 2] Confidence in Final Victory. 3] The Necessity and Importance of Leadership and 4] The Enemy. It was Ludendorff’s «last throw of the propaganda dice» and he assumed overall responsibility for both its conception and its implementation. However by September 1917, reports coming in to the OHL suggested that the «patriotic instruction» programme was failing to counter people’s negative perceptions of the war as the public viewed it increasingly as «cheap propaganda».

Para contrapor aos relatos de um abismo cada vez maior entre a autoridade do Estado e o sentimento popular sobre a guerra, o general Ludendorff lançou uma grande campanha de propaganda em Julho de 1917 denominada Vaterländische Unterricht (instruções patrióticas). Foram identificados quatro grandes temas: 1]As causas da Guerra. 2] Confiança na vitória final. 3] A necessidade e a importância da liderança e 4] o inimigo. Foi a última vez que Ludendorff lançou os «dados da propaganda» e assumiu a responsabilidade total tanto pela sua concepção como pela sua implementação. Contudo em Setembro de 1917, os relatórios que chegaram à OHL deixavam perceber que o programa de «instrução patriótica» não tinha conseguido combater as percepções negativas da Guerra uma vez que o publico a via cada vez mais como «propaganda barata».

Pour combattre l’existante d’un fossé qui se creusait entre l’autorité de l’Etat et le sentiment populaire à propos de la guerre, le général Ludendorff lança en Juillet 1917 une grande campagne de propagande, appelée Vaterländische Unterricht (instructions patriotiques). Quatre thèmes majeurs ont été identifiés: 1) les causes de la guerre; 2) la confiance dans la victoire finale; 3) la nécessité et l’importance du leadership et 4) l’ennemi. C’était la campagne de la dernière chance pour Ludendorff qui en assumait la responsabilité globale, du point de vue de sa conception comme de sa mise en œuvre. Toutefois, en Septembre 1917, les rapports de l’OHL suggéraient que le programme «d’instruction patriotique» ne parvenait pas à combattre les perceptions négatives de la guerre et que le public considérait de plus en plus cette campagne comme de la «propagande bon marché».

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1One of the most significant lessons to be learnt from the experience of the First World War was that public opinion could no longer be ignored as a determining factor in the formulation of government policies. Unlike previous wars, the Great War was the first «total war» in which whole nations, and not just professional armies, were locked in mortal combat. The war served to increase the level of popular interest and participation in the affairs of state. The gap between the soldiers at the front and the civilians at home was narrowed substantially in that the entire resources of the state – military, economic and psychological – had to be mobilized. In «total war», which requires civilians to participate in the war effort, morale came to be recognized as a significant military factor, and propaganda began to emerge as the principal instrument of control over public opinion and an essential weapon in the national arsenal.

  • 1 A. Hitler, Mein Kampf (London, 1939), p. 169. Hitler devoted two chapters in Mein Kampf to the stud (...)
  • 2 See D. Welch, Germany Propaganda and Total War 1914-1918. The Sins of Omission (Athlone, Rutgers U. (...)

2Adolf Hitler, writing in Mein Kampf, was scathing in his condemnation of German war propaganda and declared that Germany had failed to recognize propaganda as a weapon of the first order1. But the German government had, in fact, from an early stage in the war – certainly earlier than the Allies – developed a sophisticated notion of propaganda and its reception by different publics, and had established a national network of monitoring stations to provide feedback on the «pulse of the people». I have argued elsewhere that the moral collapse of Germany was due less to the failure to disseminate propaganda than to the inability of the military authorities and the Kaiser to reinforce this propaganda by responding positively to public opinion thus forging an effective link between the leadership and the people. The government and the military had constructed the means to read the mood of the people, but failed to act upon what it read. The German government’s contempt for the ordinary people and its failure to recognize the need for domestic political reforms were major factors in undermining civilian morale2.

  • 3 For an excellent analysis of the Burgfrieden and German public opinion at the outbreak of war, See (...)

3Three major problems hampered German war propaganda. Firstly, it was tied too intimately to German success on the battlefield; secondly, under the State of Siege of 1914 the Commanding Generals of the 24 corps districts took control of the means of communications but failed to appreciate the critical mood of the homefront; and lastly not all groups in Germany were prepared unconditionally to suffer food and social deprivations without concomitant political and social reform. The «third» Supreme Command of Hindenburg and Ludendorff [1916-18] viewed the public as an inert mass, and failed to appreciate that public opinion could (and will) assert itself. At the root of the Burgfrieden (political truce) of 1914 lay the notion of a short, defensive war3. However, under the leadership of Hindenburg and Ludendorff, and a compliant Kaiser, the «spirit of 1914» was transformed into a war of conquest with vast annexations and indemnities. No amount of propaganda could explain away the fundamental change in the nature of the war, from a defensive conflict to one culminating in a Siegfrieden (peace through victory).

  • 4 J. Kocka, Facing Total War. German Society 1914-18 (Leamington Spa, 1984), p. 131.
  • 5 M. Kitchen, The Silent Dictatorship. The Politics of the German High Command under Hindenburg and L (...)
  • 6 See K. Tschuppik, Ludendorff. Die Tragödie des Fachmanns (Vienna, 1931) and more recently, W. Venoh (...)

4Jurgen Kocka has argued that the war stimulated a new type of anti-parliamentary mass movement that pushed Hindenburg and Ludendorff towards a plebiscitarian military dictatorship4. Martin Kitchen has referred memorably to the politics of the third Supreme High Command (Oberste Heeresleitung, or OHL) as a «militarized form of bonapartism»5. Indeed, Ludendorff was virtual dictator of Germany during the last two years of the war. He was an intriguing character who, through considerable professional dedication, rose from Major General in 1914 to Senior Quartermaster-General in September 1916. While Hindenburg remained the popular hero of Tannenberg, his energetic and ruthless subordinate (Ludendorff) assumed the dominating role within the OHL. He shrewdly exploited the vacuum created by an indecisive and vacillating Kaiser and the frailty of the civilian leadership. Whether he set out to make himself indispensable is open to question. Politically he was more astute than the traditional Prussian type of officer. One of his earliest biographers claimed that a sense of dedication to what he believed to be the best interests of Germany, rather than naked lust for power, dictated his actions (this is certainly what Ludendorff claimed in his memoirs!). Ultimate responsibility for his mistakes must rest with the Wilhelmine system that allowed quasi-dictatorial powers to fall into the hands of a professional soldier patently ill-equipped to deal with such responsibilities6.

  • 7 Cf. Kurt Riezler’s diary entry: «The rising talents in the war, such as Ludendorff....immense energ (...)
  • 8 In his memoirs, Ludendorff equated Prussian militarism with «unselfish loyalty to the conception of (...)
  • 9 Ibid. p. 360. Ludendorff took a rather cynical view of mass psychology and believed that the people (...)

5While Ludendorff possessed the virtues and vices of the Prussian officer corps and embraced some of the conservative leanings of the late-nineteenth-century cavalry officer, he did not hanker back, unlike Hindenburg and other aristocratic officers, to the good old days of cavalry charges7. He was an annexationist and vehemently opposed to internal reforms. He firmly believed that Germany’s claims to control Belgium were justified to protect the Ruhr; and in the East, he favoured huge annexations of Poland and the Baltic to prevent Russia from invading East Prussia. Like most of his fellow officers in the OHL, he opposed the reforms of the franchise in Prussia («The connection between the franchise decree and the Russian Revolution was too obvious») and feared above all that an increase in parliamentary government could only be at the expense of the Prussian military tradition and its elevated position in the Reich8. But, in contrast to the aristocratic officers corps in the OHL, Ludendorff was a middle-class, radical technocrat – a modern-style advocate of «total war». He recognized the importance of industry, technology and propaganda in modern warfare and held the view that official propaganda should be employed more scientifically to uphold morale and exhort the population to fight on. For Ludendorff, morale was sufficiently important to be considered an adjunct of military strategy. «The German people», he wrote, «both at home and at the front, have suffered and endured inconceivable hardships in the four long years of war. The war has undermined and disintegrated patriotic feeling and the whole national morale»9.

  • 10 Section IIIb had been set up in 1870/1 when it developed out of section B of the Third (French) Sec (...)
  • 11 Cf. W. Nicolai, Nachrichten, Press and Volksstimmung im Weltkrieg (Berlin, 1920). See also Nicolai, (...)
  • 12 For further details of the War Press Office see Welch, Germany, Propaganda and Total War, pp. 36-40 (...)
  • 13 This evocative phrase is used by Philip Taylor in his introductory history to political propaganda. (...)

6Ludendorff was convinced that in order to achieve more effective control over public opinion, the organizational structures for the dissemination of propaganda needed to be reshaped and better co-ordinated. In August 1914 an organisational structure within the Supreme Command (Oberste Heeresleitung, or OHL) had been established for the dissemination of propaganda. This task was largely undertaken by Section IIIb, the News section, that was responsible for the military management of all questions dealing with censorship, public opinion and propaganda10. The head of Section IIIb for the entire war was the mysterious figure of Major (later Lieutenant-Colonel) Walter Nicolai11. Section IIIb responded to the demands of war with considerable efficiency. However it attempted to solve the problem of co-ordinating propaganda through the Zivilversorgungschein – penetrating civil society with military values. Like so much within the OHL it could never divorce itself from its military perspective – even when dealing with public opinion and propaganda. A classic example of this was the overburdened War Press Office (Kriegspresseamt, KPA). Established in October 1915 under the direct control of the OHL and Nicolai’s Section IIIb, the KPA was given duel responsibilities to supply war news to the press and maintain the morale of the German people and the troops12. Partly because it lacked a sophisticated understanding of the psychology of modern warfare it had failed to set up specialized units within its organization and, as a result, chose to concentrate on war news at the expense of morale. Moreover it was staffed by military personnel whose first priority was waging war. It appreciated too late that modern warfare required as much attention to the «munitions of the mind» as to planning battles13.

  • 14 R. T. Foley, German Strategy and the Path to Verdun: Erich von Falkenhayn and the Development of At (...)
  • 15 E. D. Bullitt, An Uncensored Diary from the Central Empires (London, 1918) p. 273.
  • 16 Extract from the Bavarian War Ministry to the Bavarian Minister of State on the Morale in the Army (...)
  • 17 Bundesarchiv-Militärchiv, Freiburg (MAF), RM3, Bd. 4, 10277. Meeting of Prussian War Ministry with (...)
  • 18 MAF, RM5, Bd. 2, 3722, Minutes of Meeting between Kultur-Bund and Representatives of the Deputy Com (...)

7By the time Ludendorff assumed control of the Supreme Command in August 1916, subtle, yet discernible shifts were taking place in public opinion. Food riots had been reported in Berlin and German electoral reform became an integral part of the discussion of the objectives of war – which continued to dominate the political landscape. 1916 was marked by the two great battles of Verdun and the Somme. Although Verdun had been launched by the German military with the intention of bringing France to its knees, Germany paid a fearsome price in the two battles with estimated casualties exceeding 330,00014. The battles imposed enormous strains on the German homefront to supply the necessary armaments for the armed forces and provide hospital care for the sick and wounded. Moreover the Allied blockade was beginning to affect the supply of food resulting in the «turnip winter», war-weariness and resentment. To outside observers, the nation’s morale appeared unaffected. Edward Bullitt, the American newspaper correspondent, wrote that in spite of war-weariness, the Germans remained «amazingly solid»: They have a habit, as have no other people, of obeying15.» However many of the reports filtering back from the Regional Army Commands to the OHL and the War Ministries in Berlin and Munich painted an alarming picture of dissatisfaction and social criticism. In February 1916, the Bavarian War Ministry conceded that low morale at home «might force us to conclude a premature peace treaty» and called for a concerted propaganda campaign along «patriotic» lines16. In March, the Prussian War Minister, von Wandel, asked the Prussian Minister of Education and Church Affairs to do more to raise morale. In May, the Württemberg War Ministry warned that unless action was taken to strengthen morale, the Burgfrieden could not be sustained through another winter. The time had come, it suggested, to establish a central propaganda organization17. The issue of a central propaganda organization resurfaced on 24 June when leading representatives of all the political and military authorities met with the League of German Scholars and Artists (Bund deutscher Gelehrter und Künstler (Kultur-Bund) to petition the Chancellor with a somewhat contradictory recommendation to set-up an independent propaganda office, indirectly controlled, but supported by Government and not private funding18.

  • 19 MAF, RM3, Bd. 4, 10280, Minutes of Talks Between Central Military and Civil Authorities at the War (...)

8Towards the end of 1916 reports were coming in that propaganda was in some sort of crisis. Furthermore plans to establish a quasi independent propaganda organization had failed to materialize. It was proving difficult to come up with the name for a director and also to agree where this new power constellation should reside. A major obstacle proved to be the power struggle that was taking place between Hindenburg and Ludendorff, recently appointed to the Supreme Command, and Chancellor Bethmann Hollweg. Undeterred, Ludendorff continued to press for more effective ways of disseminating propaganda. In November 1916 the OHL had called together civilian and military representatives from thenews gathering and information service. This proved an important meeting and the forerunner of more radical schemes that were to follow. Three areas of activity were identified as being in need of co-ordination: at home; at the front; and in neutral countries. The meeting established the ground rules for future strategy. «Enlightenment», not propaganda, should be carried out as unobtrusively as possible and that «truth» (although not excessive objectivity) be the guiding principle in all public enlightenment campaigns19.

  • 20 Discussion between Central Military and Civilian Authorities in the Prussian War Ministry over Meas (...)
  • 21 Ludendorff to the Imperial Chancellor, 17 December 1916. The document is reprinted in Ludendorff, T (...)
  • 22 Nicolai, Nachrichtendienst, p. 119 ff. See the review of 1916 carried out by the War Press Office t (...)
  • 23 The Government was particularly concerned to persuade SPD politicians that whenever they made speec (...)
  • 24 Major Stotten reported that over 1,000 Associations were helping the KPA in the campaign.
  • 25 It was reported at the meeting that the President of the Reichstag had been instructed to counter a (...)

9In May 1917 the Prussian War Ministry held a meeting chaired by Colonel Ernst von Wrisberg and attended by representatives from all the major ministries, including Major Nicolai representing the OHL. The meeting, which lasted for two days, was ostensibly to co-ordinate measures to counter anti-monarchist propaganda, but inevitably it covered a broader agenda20.
Recognizing that Allied propaganda was having a demoralizing affect on both the home front and troops, the meeting agreed to recommend a number of measures. A central agency would be set-up for the collection and co-ordination of propaganda and closer links were to be established with Section IIIb of the OHL (two measures that Ludendorff had urged in December 1916)21. Not only did this strengthen Nicolai’s position but it was also intended to overcome the endless conflicts that had bedevilled the military and civilian censorship bodies22. Funding was to be allocated for a new campaign of «patriotic enlightenment» that would enlist «important» individuals to write articles for the press, or give speeches to combat enemy propaganda and counter harmful rumours23. The churches, the schools, patriotic women’s organizations (Women’s Home Army) were all to be used as agencies for «enlightenment» providing meetings and lectures based on specially selected material sent by the War Press Office24. The meeting unanimously agreed that urgent measures were needed to restore the popularity of the Kaiser. In an attempt to engender better public appreciation of the work carried out by Wilhelm, the Kaiser, together with the Kaiserin, were to be placed in the forefront of the counter-propaganda campaign. The press was to convey in words and pictures his «extensive contribution to the good of the Fatherland25». For his part, the Emperor would be asked to make trips to the smaller towns and villages to raise his profile in the eyes of the people. He would also be given more credit for alleviating the food shortages and greater efforts would be made to establish a closer identification with the workers, particularly in the industrial conurbations.

  • 26 Telegram from Legation Secretary Freiherr von Lersner to Secretary of State Zimmermann. General Lud (...)

10The authorities had been concerned for some time at the declining popularity of the Kaiser and the increase in enemy anti-monarchy propaganda flooding into Germany. On 29 April in a telegram sent to Secretary of State Zimmermann, Legation Secretary Freiherr von Lersner outlined Ludendorff’s concern at the Allies’ attempt to drive a wedge between the German people and the monarchy26. Lersner reported that the military cabinet had received numerous letters from the public asking that the Kaiser abdicate and that Ludendorff had sent Nicolai to Berlin to confer with the Minister of War to counter anti-monarchist propaganda sentiments. Ludendorff favoured stringent censorship in the German press and as a result of Lersner’s telegramm, Major Erhard Deutelmoser, now installed as chief of the News Division in the Foreign Office, instructed the Censorship Office and the Post Supervision Office to classify anti-monarchy material as «dangerous» and to pass them on to the military censor, who had instructions to suppress such material from appearing in the press.

  • 27 In 1987 a colloquium was held in Munich to define the place of Wilhelm II in German history. Sixtee (...)
  • 28 John Röhl has compiled a number of his essays that attempt to analyse the nature of power in Wilhel (...)
  • 29 Marwick first constructed the «four-tier model» some years ago as a framework for analysing the imp (...)

11Attempts to determine the place of Wilhelm II in German history and to analyse the importance (or otherwise) of the Kaiser invariably involves the historian in making judgements about the so-called Sonderweg thesis and the conditions which permitted the rise of Hitler to power. Much of this debate, however, focuses on William II’s role in the pre-1914 period27. The outbreak of war marked a sharp decline in the personal influence of the Kaiser. The prestige of the monarchy had declined so much that by the time Wilhelm II had reluctantly acceded to public demand for the appointment of Hindenburg and Ludendorff, the «Supreme Warlord» (now an empty title) had been relegated into the background. Although Wilhelm II was inquisitive and enthusiastic by nature, he lacked the staying power to ensure that his ideas were translated into policy28. By the middle of 1916, popular acceptance of his constitutional infallibility had perceptibly waned. Aware of this, Wilhelm was less inclined to exert Imperial rule in the face of the challenge posed by Hindenburg and Ludendorff. The importance of «kingship mechanism», a term used by Norbert Elias to describe the desire within the governmental and administrative elite to procure the Kaiser’s favour, also became less important during the course of the war. Obsequiousness and servility remained a feature of court life and undoubtedly contributed to the poor quality of government in later Imperial Germany. But these were the vestiges of a political system that was failing to respond to what Arthur Marwick has referred to as the «test» of war29. Apart from periodic sabre rattling and the symbolic maintenance of hierarchical protocol, which was a characteristic of German society, Wilhelm II was very much a spent force. Nevertheless, for propaganda purposes, it was important to maintain the pretence that the Kaiser retained the support of his subjects.

  • 30 Bayerisches Hauptstaatsarchiv, Kreigsarchiv (BHStA), Monatsberichte (MB), IV 155/85 Mkr, 12851, Jul (...)
  • 31 E. Blücher, An English Wife in Berlin: A Private Matter (London, 1920), entry for June/July 1917, p (...)
  • 32 Quoted in H.P. Hanssen, Diary of a Dying Empire (Bloomington, 1955), entry for 10 July 1917, p. 226

12Unlike Bismarck, Hindenburg and Ludendorff had no intention of disguising their power under the constitutional cloak of monarchical authority. Wilhelm was aware of the seriousness of the threat to his own position posed by the populist Third Supreme Command but his shortcomings were such that he was unable to provide the constitutional balance between weak political leadership and the strength of the OHL. By 1917 the Kaiser’s reputation had slumped alarmingly; reports from the Deputy Commanding Generals refer to the open scorn in which he was now held by Germans. In Bavaria it was rumoured that he had been wounded in an assassination attempt in Austria. Bavarians, held him personally responsible for prolonging the war and cared little whether he survived or not, claiming: «Austria wanted peace, but the Prussian Swine keeps holding it up»30. In the summer of 1917 Princess Evelyn Blücher, an Englishwomen married to a German nobleman, wrote in her diary that, «the Kaiser is daily growing more and more the shadow of a king, and people talk openly of his abdication as a possibility very much desired»31. Hermann Gunsser, an Independent Deputy from Württemberg, boasted that: «Public opinion is at a high pitch in South Germany. If the Kaiser were to enter a village in my electoral district he would scarcely come out of it alive»32.

  • 33 The Sixth War Loan period of subscription was 15 March to 16 April. For details of the advertising (...)

13The extent to which the Kaiser had been replaced in the minds of his people by the populist figures of Hindenburg and Ludendorff can be gauged by the intensive propaganda campaign that was launched for the Sixth War Loan in the spring of 191733. The campaign was spearheaded by Bruno Paul’s famous poster «Times are Hard, But Victory is Certain» containing the monumental profile of Hindenburg as the new national symbol.

«Subscribe to War Loans. Times are Hard, But Victory is Certain.» Bruno Paul’s 1917 poster of Hindenburg as the national figure-head.

  • 34 The Erler poster was produced in three different sizes and also as a postcard. For brief descriptio (...)

14Another famous poster associated with the Sixth War Loan was Fritz Erler’s «Help Us Win! Subscribe to the War Loan», which became the most widely distributed German poster of the war. An infantryman wearing the steel helmet that was introduced in 1916 stares defiantly from the trenches. He is surrounded by barbed wire, a gas mask on his chest and two «potato masher» grenades in his pouch, the intensity of his eyes and his defensive position in the trenches captured the siege mentality of Germany in 191734.

Fritz Erler’s «Help Us Win! Subscribe to the War Loan» (1917)

  • 35 MAF, RM3/v, 10324, 21 March 1917.
  • 36 Ludendorff’s letter is reprinted in Ludendorff (ed.), Urkunden der Obersten Heeresleitung über ihre (...)

15The Admiralty played an important role in the campaign. A typical advertising statement was released by its News Department on 21 March: «The war is drawing to a decisive phase on land and sea and the words of Frederick the Great have special significance. He said, “to wage war, money, money, and more money is needed”. Let everyone think of this and contribute to victory by subscribing to the Sixth War Loan»35. The public response to the flotation was surprisingly enthusiastic, although it had been launched before the «July crisis» (and the resignation of Chancellor Bethmann Hollweg) and the Reichstag’s peace resolution, both of which had a dramatic effect on public opinion. Hindenburg and Ludendorff had already decided that the war could no longer be fought «in the purely military arena alone» and had threatened to resign if Bethmann Hollweg was not dismissed36.

  • 37 MAS, M77/1, Bü. 60, Memorandum from War Press Office to Military Office in the Homeland, 13 January (...)
  • 38 Cf report from OHL to the War Ministry, BHStA, Kr, MKr, 11484, 5 June 1917. For an example of how r (...)

16Despite the relative success of the Sixth War Loan, Ludendorff continued to argue that propaganda had failed to provide the German people with a sense of what they were fighting and dying for. Ludendorff insisted that poor morale was a consequence of the weak leadership of Beth-
mann Hollweg. By continuing to press for more centralized control
over the means of communication, Ludendorff was swimming against the prevailing public mistrust of state authority. Civilian and military authorities were encountering widespread aversion to their «enlightenment» campaigns immediately the public became aware that propaganda material emanated from official channels. An alarming challenge to government information control had developed since the winter of 1916/17 in the form of a «counter public» (Gegenöffentlichkeit) that subverted official news and information about the war with rumours, gossip, jokes, and criticisms of the war. Such opportunities presented themselves wherever people gathered in groups, be it in a food queue, a cinema, or an overcrowded train compartment. These channels of communication proved impossible to regulate although it had been made an obligation to notify authorities of the spreading of false information since January 191737. Municipal authorities and regional commands collected this information but could do little with it, while some Deputy Commanding Generals tried (unsuccessfully) to make the spreading of false rumour a punishable offence. Official responses varied from one region to another but there was widespread agreement that false rumours [that remained unchecked] contributed to the growing antipathy to the war. Rumours also acted as the catalyst for spontaneous collective action that could ignite into a food riot or even a strike38.

  • 39 MAF, RM5, Bd. 2, 3820, Order of the Chief of the General Staff of the Field Army to the Highest Com (...)
  • 40 MAS, 77/1, 63, Order of the Chief of the General Staff of the Field Army to the High Command of the (...)

17Unperturbed by reports suggesting a widening gulf between state authority and popular feeling about the war, Ludendorff decided to press on and cultivate his, and Hindenburg’s popular base, through a major propaganda programme of «patriotic instruction» (Vaterländische Unterricht). A start would be made on the troops and the campaign was launched by Ludendorff on 29 July 191739. On 17 July 1917, Ludendorff penned a memorandum claiming the success of the sixth war loan had been due to the organizational structure that the military had established for enlightenment purposes. This was to be the basis for a much wider campaign of «patriotic instruction» intended to raise the morale of the troops as the vanguard for a decisive victory40.

  • 41 At this stage, Ludendorff used the terms «patriotic instructions» and «patriotic education» as inte (...)
  • 42 See memorandum of 25 July 1917, signed by Quartermaster-General, Hahndorff, MAS, M77/1, Bü. 63. See (...)
  • 43 For «official» German responses to the torrent of Allied propaganda see files in the Military Archi (...)
  • 44 The War Press Office acted as a conduit, receiving information and forwarding it via five channels: (...)
  • 45 It was stipulated that for propaganda among the troops the material was disseminated by: a] lecture (...)

18Outlining the importance of «patriotic instruction», Ludendorff wrote that «a natural longing for home and family after three years of war had sapped the fighting spirit of the troops». The object of patriotic education was to impress upon German soldiers the realization that the «greater the burdens on the spirit of the army, the greater is the necessity that conviction, duty and whole-hearted resolution should become the army’s fighting strengths»41. For some time the OHL had claimed that sections of the army had been infiltrated by USPD (Independent Social Democratic Party) agitational propaganda and that this had lowered morale and undermined discipline amongst the troops42. To counter the duel problem of enemy propaganda and political agitation of the far-Left, an extensive organizational apparatus was established43. Ludendorff was to be in overall charge although Section IIIb (of the OHL) under Nicolai was responsible for the day-to-day running of the programme. A permanent coordinating organization was established at GHQ and in each army corps district a specialist propaganda officer was appointed who would receive advice and material from the War Press Office on how best to disseminate the patriotic propaganda in the district units44. These «directors of propaganda» were to be attached to the General Staff and would decide on the methods adopted according to the needs of individual units although the Commanding Officers would have ultimate responsibility for the patriotic education of the men under their command45.

19Ludendorff recognized that there was a direct correlation between the spirit of the army and the morale of the public. For this reason patriotic propaganda at home was to be brought in line with that of the army. «Patriotic instruction» would apply equally to the home front. Typically, the military decided on the same organizational structure for the dissemination of Vaterländische Unterricht to the civilian population.

  • 46 See memorandum of 25 July 1917, signed by Quartermaster-General, Hahndorff, MAS, M77/1, Bü. 63. See (...)

20Although the principle that governed «patriotic instruction» was that propaganda should be adapted to local requirements it was stipulated by Ludendorff that discussion should not be permitted. Instead patriotic instruction was to be confined to certain points and repeated many times46. Four themes were indentified:

  1. The Causes of the War. The economic development of Germany, its importance and the consequences of a lost war, particularly from the point of view of the working class.

  2. Confidence in Final Victory. The war was turning decisively in Germany’s favour and devotion to duty and manly pride are to be encouraged.

  3. The Necessity and Importance of Leadership (the army, the Government, civil administration, industry and commerce). Hence the necessity for authority and it corollary, obedience. There must be unflinching confidence in the Emperor and the princes of the federal states, as well as the military leaders.

  4. The Enemy, who is placing all his hopes on our economic and political collapse must be convinced that we cannot be beaten in the field.

  • 47 The letter, headed «personal» is dated 31 July 1917 and was sent to all commanding officers and sen (...)
  • 48 MAS, M I/3, 1001, Directives for «Patriotic Instruction» in the area for the Deputy Commanding Gene (...)
  • 49 MAS, M I/3, 498-500, contains numerous examples of such material. Two examples of recommended readi (...)

21The importance that Ludendorff attached to the campaign can be gauged by the fact that he addended a personal statement to the order of 29 July. Public morale had fallen to a low ebb, he argued, and this had affected the army as well («public opinion at home has in some cases actually infected the army already, as countless letters show».) Left-wing agitators and pacifists were predictably condemned for provoking discontent and what Ludendorff termed «rampant vulgar cares» were endangering the troops and final victory. Calling on all commanding officers to take the lead against «agitators, gamblers and weaklings» he promised that once the campaign had got off the ground, specialist army personnel («directors of propaganda») would be infiltrated into civilian life to raise the morale of the general public47. «Directors of propaganda» were appointed to each army unit and given the responsibility for organising compulsory lectures on specific themes at least twice a week. The content of these lectures, which were to be the focus of patriotic instruction, was strictly circumscribed and had to develop out of the guiding principle that: «the love of the mother country springs from the knowledge of the worth of the mother country.» This resulted in tortuous lists of instructions, constantly updated, of how the lectures were to be delivered. War aims and party politics were strictly forbidden; the war was to be portrayed as being forced on Germany by the unscrupulous Entente powers who were not interested in German offers of peace. A weak peace therefore meant economic disaster for Germany. The troops had to be taught the imperative need to fight on, convinced by jingoistic history lessons on past military triumphs and current U-boat successes that victory was assured (a whole spate of U Boat posters, postcards, calendars etc were produced to drive home this message). War profiteers were condemned and workers in the armaments factories who went on strike were accused of fratricide48. The lectures were supplemented by visiting speakers, film propaganda and mobile libraries stocked with nationalistic literature especially chosen by the Aufklärungstelle.(Enlightenment Office)49.

  • 50 Staatsarchiv, Potsdam (StA.P.), Bericht des Berliner Polizeipräsidenten, 85, 2398/10, 18 June 1917.
  • 51 G. Grosz, Ein kleines Ja und ein grosses Nein. Sein Leben vom ihm selbst erzählt (Reinbek, 1974), p (...)

22One of the first tests of the new programme was the flotation for the Seventh War Loan in the autumn of 1917. Interestingly enough having established a centralized organization for the dissemination of «patriotic instruction», the public’s response to the Seventh War Loan was lukewarm. This reflected the duration of the war, the demands of the military upon the civilian population and the unprecedented economic burdens that led to war weariness and a longing for peace. Unfortunately for the OHL reports were indicating that the public was no longer concerned with the question of war aims, rather when will the war end50. No amount of centralization could persuade the population to enthusiastically invest in war bonds if they believed such an act might prolong the war. As one official put it succinctly; «The people are saying that “enthusiasm is not a herring that one can salt.”»51

  • 52 MAF, RM5, Bd. 2, 3722, Extract from the Minutes of the War Press Office concerning the Discussion b (...)

23In August the War Press Office organized a conference to review the question of public morale. The Head of the WPO, Major Stotten, informed the participants that the Entente had been extraordinarily successful with slogans. Apart from «The Freedom of the Seas», Germany had been woefully inept at using slogans for propaganda purposes. He therefore proposed a contest and prizes for the best slogans («words which can illuminate ideas like a flash of lightning».) The Bavarian War Ministry suggested that more use should be made of the placard, claiming that in England, «entire houses had been covered with war loan posters». Stotten reaffirmed the importance of the «artistic poster» and cited Erler’s poster for the Sixth War Loan as an example of successful propaganda. The WPO, however, was reluctant to embark upon blanket coverage as posters were expensive, but it would continue to target station depots, factories, worker’s dinning rooms, etc52.

  • 53 Hindenburg was used in ephemeral material for the Seventh War Loan. Postcards of the Field Marshal (...)

24Although the Seventh War Loan campaign in October proved to be a disappointment for the OHL, it used some particularly striking posters. The campaign coincided with the celebrations for the 70th birthday of Hindenburg. Louis Oppenheim designed a poster with the Field Marshal’s massive head over a signed statement: «The man who subscribes to the War Loan is giving me the best birthday present. von Hindenburg53.» Another war loan poster showed a determined Teutonic knight brandishing a sword and shield but wearing an infantryman’s steel helmet. F. K. Engelhard’s poster, «No! Never!» showing a grasping, claw-like pose of an enemy soldier set to engulf Germany (depicted in terms of both town and countryside) was intended to be an unequivocal reminder of what capitulation and defeat would mean. A recurring theme in 1917/18 was that in prolonging the war and rejecting an unfair peace, Germany was fighting for freedom. Lucien Bernard’s poster of the mailed fist was a powerful symbol of aggression that throws down the gauntlet: «This is the Way to Peace – the enemy wills it so! Therefore subscribe to the War Loan!».

Lucien Bernhard’s powerful poster of the mailed fist for the Seventh War Loan (1917).

25A broad-sheet showed John Bull being toppled by the 13.1 billion marks that was collected in the campaign. Similarly, Gerd Paul encouraged the nation to subscribe by showing a Siegfried-like warrior beating a cowering British lion with the caption: «It takes the last blow to make victory complete».

26German propagandists were quick to employ children in the campaigns (as indeed were all the belligerent nations), often with the intention of embarrassing the adult population. Typical, was a propaganda leaflet which showed a group of German schoolchildren reading a rhyme in a book: «Everyone up «till the last row. Is joyfully subscribing to the War Loan. The young ones show themselves today to be cleverer than many grown-ups.» A later campaign used a conversation between a teacher and pupil to illustrate the point. Under the heading «The Subscribing Hour»:

27Teacher: How many War Loans have you subscribed to, Else?

  • 54 Examples taken from, Hauptstaatarchiv, Stuttgart (HSS), M 704 (Archiv-Verzeichnis der Licht-und Fro (...)

28Else (daughter of an innkeeper): I Miss? All Nine!54

«The Last Blows are necessary for Final Victory! Subscribe to the War Loans! (Gerd Paul, 1917)

  • 55 For reviews of the films see, Kinematograph, 561, 26 September 1917; Der Film, 29 September 1917. I (...)

29Film was also widely used for propaganda purposes. The most popular film used to promote the Seventh War Loan featured the leading German movie star, Henny Porten, in a Messter production entitled Hann, Hein und Henny. The «Henny» in the film is Porten playing herself. Hann and Hein are two U-boat sailors who have written to her for advice on how best to raise money for the war effort. Receiving them in an opulent apartment, Porten explains to the sailors with the aid of an animated dream sequence that they are not to worry as she has had a premonition that the public’s generosity will ensure that the Government’s target for the loan drive will be met. The film press reported that the film (referred to as a «Kriegsanliehe-Filme») was an «overwhelming success» with cinema audiences55.

  • 56 «The Magic Girdle» (a phase coined by Winston Churchill to explain the U-boat blockade of the Briti (...)

30In the spring and summer of 1917, the newly established Photographic and Film Office (Bild – und Filmamt – Bufa) released two U-boat films to coincide with the campaign of unrestricted submarine warfare that had been resumed in February. In March Ein Besuch bei unseren Blaujacken (A Visit to our Blue-jackets) was followed by the immensely impressive Der magische Gürtel (The Enchanted Girdle). These documentary films, which were acclaimed by both critics and cinema audiences, were intended to boost morale and support the official propaganda line that the controversial resumption of unrestricted submarine warfare would end the Allied blockade and bring a swift end to the war56.

  • 57 For an illuminating account of changing sexual conduct during the war see, Daniel, The War From Wit (...)
  • 58 Examples of all the incidents cited can be found of all MAS, MI/II (Kriegsarchiv), 1084, Volksaufkl (...)
  • 59 Cited in Verhey, The Spirit of 1914, p. 191.

31As Christmas 1917 approached it became obvious that the patriotic instruction programme was having little success. At the front, troops laughed at sermons that tended to consist of nothing more than chauvinistic claptrap. The home front had been urged to «think German» and avoid all foreign influences while continuing to suffer deprivations. Women were encouraged to use food substitutes, not to complain to husbands fighting at the front, and above all not to have sexual intercourse with prisoners of war57. As early as May 1917 it had been noted that there was a shortage of suitable teachers to provide suitably «patriotic» lectures – especially to the disorientated youth in the urban conurbations58. Meetings in the towns and cities were often held in exclusive bourgeois areas and attended by «respectable» middle-class citizens. Lectures in factories were rare and if used the lecture would invariably be given by the factory owner or a retired professional. One report noted that for a lecture in Suhl at a factory with 1,2000 workers only 70 workers collected free tickets, and even fewer came, even though they would have had a paid respite from the drudgery of factory work59. Thus the «patriotic instruction» failed to reach the lower middle-class and working classes – precisely the groups whose morale was at the lowest ebb. The exception was in the field of entertainment, and particularly film entertainment, where war-time developments were to have long-term implications for the German film industry. One of the ramifications of Vaterländische Unterricht was the increasing State intervention in the film industry. Throughout 1917, Ludendorff had been stressing the importance of film as a propaganda medium and calling for the industry to be centralised. As a result, a new umbrella organization financed jointly by the State and private industry was founded on 18 December 1917 and became known as Universum-Film-Aktiengesellschaft (Ufa).

  • 60 MAF, RM3, Bd. 4, 9901, Record of the Meeting Concerning the Foundation of Universum-Film-Aktiengese (...)

32The Imperial Government’s involvement in the founding of Ufa was set out in a secret meeting in January 1918 attended by all the major political and military representatives. Although the Government and the OHL were determined to keep official involvement in Ufa a secret, they were clearly excited by the possibilities offered by film in promoting its campaign of «patriotic instruction»60. Ufa was envisaged as the catalyst through which film production, facilities and film theatres would be improved and increased. Film production was no longer to reflect the lowest tastes of the masses. Film was now to have an educational and cultural role and would reflect sectional interests in German society – the armed forces, big business, trade unions, local authorities, the police, and even Germany’s colonial achievements.

  • 61 For the history of Ufa see, K. Kreimeier, The Ufa Story. A History of Germany’s Greatest Film Compa (...)

33Ufa was established too late to make a major contribution to the war effort. After the war, the German Government’s involvement in Ufa was exposed in a celebrated debate in the National Assembly where it was strongly criticised. The State was eventually forced to sell its holdings in the company. Even so, despite the turmoil in Germany in 1918, Ufa quickly asserted its independence in the field of film production. It rapidly became the largest film enterprise in Europe and four years after the war, Germany’s film production was second only to that of the United States61.

  • 62 MAF, RM5, Bd. 2, 3820, Chief of General Staff to the Highest Commanding Authorities of the Field Ar (...)
  • 63 In October these complaints reached their climax with a socialist interpellation in the Reichstag. (...)

34In September 1917 Ludendorff reviewed the «patriotic instruction» campaign, stressed again its importance to the war effort and seemed satisfied with it success. He agreed that terms such as «patriotic propaganda» and «propaganda officer» could be misconstrued as having political implications (sic) and should be substituted by «patriotic education» and «education officer». He also confirmed that there was no need for the campaign to remain secret62. Ludendorff remained sensitive to accusations that Vaterländische Unterricht was politically biased in favour of right-wing annexationist propaganda. Hence his concern that party politics should be kept out of the campaign. In practise, of course, it was a politically driven, undisguised attack on the Left. It conceived that the military «solution» to increasing polarisation was a Siegfrieden that would render democratic and socialist reforms unnecessary. Not surprisingly the patriotic instruction programme incurred widespread hostility from political opponents63.

  • 64 War Press Office to Bavarian War Ministry, 19 September 1917, BHStA, Kr, MKr 2335; Daniel, The War (...)
  • 65 MAF, MB. RM3, Bd. 2, 3 August 1917. The report claimed that women and adolescents in particular wer (...)

35Moreover, Ludendorff’s insistence that Vaterländische Unterricht was effectively countering people’s negative perceptions of the war was not shared by officials from within the War Press Office (who continued to produce much of the propaganda material) who reported that the programme had failed to imbue the people with a «strong national self-consciousness»; «Like children they must be told what they have to do»64. The Regional Deputy Commanding Generals were also expressing misgivings. One report suggested that attempts to manipulate opinion were doomed as the public viewed all attempts at enlightenment as «cheap propaganda»65. One of the long-standing problems was that the «enlightenment divisions» were often staffed by officers of the old school who had been called out of retirement and who instinctively believed themselves to be above propaganda and public opinion. Not only were these officers unable to communicate effectively with their audiences but, moreover, tended to choose speakers who were similarly out of touch. It is interesting to note that while advertising professionals were employed for the war loans campaigns, rarely would they, or journalists, be selected for «patriotic instruction».

  • 66 Ludendorff drew attention to this «syllabus» in a memorandum of 14 November 1917, Ludendorff, The G (...)
  • 67 MAS, M I/3, 498, War Press Office to the Württemberg War Ministry, 30 May 1917.
  • 68 Atrocities stories committed against German POW’s was intended to «stiffen» morale. For an example (...)
  • 69 L. Lewinsohn, Die Revolution an der Westfront (Charlottenburg, 1919), Forward. For examples of comp (...)

36Moreover, the programme of patriotic instruction was being constantly tampered with. In November, at the time that Reichstag politicians were calling for the dismissal of the new Chancellor, Georg Michaelis, Ludendorff commended a «new syllabus» for directors of patriotic education that was intended to refine the programme and make it more meaningful to the troops and the home-front66. A lack of suitable speakers, however, was proving a major obstacle to the successful implementation of the programme. The War Press Office had informed the War Ministries as early as May that the call-up of large numbers of teachers had created a crisis particularly for school and youth authorities67. In fact the problem was more profound than simply a lack of speakers, although this was important; the campaign was fundamentally ill-conceived and flawed from the outset, both psychologically and politically. As men and women were collapsing in the factories for lack of food, they were being subjected to the most banal and jingoistic claptrap. Soldiers who refused to believe that the war was almost won, were «fortified» by horrific stories of atrocities committed against German prisoners of war68. Writing after the war to discredit the Dolchstoss myth perpetuated by Right wing nationalist groups that the German army remained undefeated on the battle-field, Ludwig Lewinsohn painted a different picture of low morale among demoralized troops: «The means of strengthening their morale, defensive war from the homeland, was decried as a lie. The Vaterländische Unterricht, which was conducted by young officers, was laughed at. Hate was in the troops. Hate not for the enemy who were suffering the same, but hate for those who prolonged the war»69.

  • 70 While Ludendorff was favourably disposed to the work of the Deputy Commanding Generals he accused t (...)
  • 71 In his memoirs Ludendorff claimed that «patriotic instruction» was the OHL’s attempt to repair the (...)
  • 72 Reproduced in Ludendorff (ed), Urkunden, p. 477. Also cited in Verhey, The Spirit of 1914, p. 201. (...)

37The «patriotic instruction» programme that had been launched by Ludendorff in the autumn of 1917 was intended to counter the people’s negative perceptions of the war. The propaganda called for the people to sustain the «spirit of 1914» in order to secure final victory. Not only was the programme psychologically flawed it continued to be hindered by the OHL’s insistence on retaining organizational control and its refusal to distinguish between propaganda for the troops and for the home front. Ludendorff steadfastly refused to contemplate establishing a Reich Press Office responsible for civilian morale that would complement the War Press Office70. Such intransigence reflected Ludendorff’s organizational fetishism and his belief that the morale of the people could be transformed by new, centralized, organizational structures. Vaterländische Unterricht, and the organizational restructuring that accompanied it, was a desperate attempt to resolve complex political and economic problems from an increasingly eccentric and isolated general71. Ludendorff’s campaign came too late to regain the public’s trust. By appealing to national unity and patriotic notions of sacrifice, courage and faith – at a time of mounting casualties and food shortages – Ludendorff and the OHL had played out its hand. By the end of the war, «propaganda» had become a weapon invested with mythical power. In January 1918 a revealing memo to the German Chancellor drafted on behalf of Ludendorff recommended that: «the decisive military battle between Germany and England lies ahead….the extent to which the English home front is prepared to resist will decide the outcome of the battle….The right words are victorious battles and the wrong words are lost battles..»72

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Notas

1 A. Hitler, Mein Kampf (London, 1939), p. 169. Hitler devoted two chapters in Mein Kampf to the study and practice of propaganda. For an analysis of Hitler’s views on propaganda see, Welch, The Third Reich. Politics and Propaganda (London, 2nd edn 2002), pp. 10-13, 22-6; and Welch, Hitler. Profile of a Dictator (London, 2001), pp. 27-30.

2 See D. Welch, Germany Propaganda and Total War 1914-1918. The Sins of Omission (Athlone, Rutgers U.P., 2000), new, revised edition, Germany and Propaganda in World War I. Pacifism, Mobilisation and Total War (London, I. B. Tauris, 2014).

3 For an excellent analysis of the Burgfrieden and German public opinion at the outbreak of war, See J. Verhey, The Spirit of 1914. Militarism, Myth and Mobilisation in Germany, (Cambridge U.P., 2000). For a wider discussion of the «spirit of 1914» across Europe see, D. Welch «August 1914»: Public Opinion and the Crisis’ in G. Martel (ed.) A Companion to Europe, 1900-1945 (Oxford: Blackwell, 2005), pp. 197-213.

4 J. Kocka, Facing Total War. German Society 1914-18 (Leamington Spa, 1984), p. 131.

5 M. Kitchen, The Silent Dictatorship. The Politics of the German High Command under Hindenburg and Ludendorff, 1916-18 (London, 1976), p. 22.

6 See K. Tschuppik, Ludendorff. Die Tragödie des Fachmanns (Vienna, 1931) and more recently, W. Venohr, Ludendorff: Legende und Wirklichkeit (Berlin, 1993). See also his (second) wife’s account in M. Ludendorff, Als ich Ludendorff’s Frau war (Munich, 1929). Ludendorff met Mathilde von Kemnitz (nee Ludendorff), an eccentric religious philosopher in 1923, and together they founded the Tannenberg Bund in 1925 which propagated «German religion» and was vehemently anti-Semitic. Brief, perceptive comments on Ludendorff can be found in K. Epstein, Matthias Erzberger and the Dilemma of German Democracy (Princeton, 1959), pp. 157-8. For an analysis of Ludendorff’s military conduct during the war see, R. Asprey, The German High Command at War: Hindenburg and Ludendorff and the First World War (London, 1991). See also, R. Foley: German Strategy and the Path to Verdun: Erich von Falkenhayn and the Development of Attrition, 1870-1916 (Cambridge University Press, 2005).

7 Cf. Kurt Riezler’s diary entry: «The rising talents in the war, such as Ludendorff....immense energy, gross philistinism....ultimately an Americanised type....Hindenburg (by contrast)...completely a representative of Prussian particularism». Riezler, Tagebücher, Aufsätze, Dokumente, intr. and ed. by K.D. Erdmann (Göttingen, 1972); also cited in Kocka, Facing Total War, p. 134. Riezler was advisor to Bethmann Hollweg.

8 In his memoirs, Ludendorff equated Prussian militarism with «unselfish loyalty to the conception of the State» and argued that it had been responsible for «Germany’s brilliant development». However during the war: «People mistook externals for the substance of militarism, and failed to realize the national strength that issued from it. It should not have been resisted, but encouraged. Even high officials of the Government used the word reproachfully to me during the war, so that one can hardly blame the many who thought they were acting wisely in turning against “militarism”, even though they could not say exactly what it meant. True, many of them knew perfectly well what they were after in this struggle. Authority was at stake!.» Ludendorff, War Memories, pp. 447, 362.

9 Ibid. p. 360. Ludendorff took a rather cynical view of mass psychology and believed that the people could be easily swayed by slogans etc. He claimed, for example, that it should not have been difficult in 1914 to have weaned the workers away from the their Social Democrat leaders: «...this could have been achieved by enlightenment as to the nature of the war and the need for total victory, and, if necessary, of taking action against those working against these objective.» Ludendorff, Kriegführung und Politik (Berlin, 1922), p. 120.

10 Section IIIb had been set up in 1870/1 when it developed out of section B of the Third (French) Section of the General Headquarters. For a detailed analysis of the organization of German propaganda see, Welch, Germany, Propaganda and Total War, pp. 20-57.

11 Cf. W. Nicolai, Nachrichten, Press and Volksstimmung im Weltkrieg (Berlin, 1920). See also Nicolai, The German Secret Service (London, 1924). Nicolai is an illusive figure, although he was arguably the most important single individual associated with German propaganda. The surviving papers suggest that he was not a great innovator but a conscientious and devoted administrator. Cf Ludendorff’s comments Meine Kriegserinnerungen 1914-18 (Berlin, 1919) translated as My War Memories, 1914-18 (2 vols, London, 1919), I . p. 17.

12 For further details of the War Press Office see Welch, Germany, Propaganda and Total War, pp. 36-40; K. Koszyk, Deutsche Presspolitik im Ersten Weltkrieg (Düsseldorf, 1968).

13 This evocative phrase is used by Philip Taylor in his introductory history to political propaganda. See, P.M. Taylor, Munitions of the Mind. A History of Propaganda From the Ancient World to the Present Day (Manchester, 1995).

14 R. T. Foley, German Strategy and the Path to Verdun: Erich von Falkenhayn and the Development of Attrition, 1870-1916 Cambridge: CUP, 2005). Erich von Falkenhayn had intended to saturate the theatre with an artillery bombardment so intense that, «not even a mouse would survive.» Quoted in H. Afflerbach, Falkenhayn, Politisches Denken und Handeln im Kaiserreich (München: Verlag Oldenburg, 1994), p. 361.

15 E. D. Bullitt, An Uncensored Diary from the Central Empires (London, 1918) p. 273.

16 Extract from the Bavarian War Ministry to the Bavarian Minister of State on the Morale in the Army and at Home,
1 February 1916. Deist, Militär und Innenpolitik, I, pp. 294-99. In 1916, the government had started to censor soldiers’ letters because they discovered that some soldiers were urging their relative not to subscribe to war loans for fear that this would prolong the war. The idea of a campaign along «patriotic lines» was the forerunner of the much larger campaign instigated by Ludendorff in July 1917. For examples of reported worsening state of civilian morale, Cf. Deputy Commanding Generals Monthly Reports (Monatsbericten) for 3 March 1916, 3 June 1916, 3 October 1916, 3 December 1916, Bayerisches Hauptstaatsarchiv, Kreigsarchiv (BHStA), Monatsberichte (MB), IV 155/85, IV, MKr, 12851.

17 Bundesarchiv-Militärchiv, Freiburg (MAF), RM3, Bd. 4, 10277. Meeting of Prussian War Ministry with Representatives of the Deputy Commanding Generals, 9 June 1916. As for Wandel’s request to improve morale, the Ministry asserted (as they would continue to do), that all that could be done within their jurisdiction, had been done.

18 MAF, RM5, Bd. 2, 3722, Minutes of Meeting between Kultur-Bund and Representatives of the Deputy Commanding Generals re: Tasks of the Propaganda Organization to be Established, 24 June 1916. The executive board of the Kultur-Bund was made up of President Prof. Dr. Waldeyer, Vice President Hermann Sudermann and Dr Walter Rathenau, Rudolf Presber, Ludwig Fulda, Prof. Dr. Plank and Leo Frobenius.

19 MAF, RM3, Bd. 4, 10280, Minutes of Talks Between Central Military and Civil Authorities at the War Press Office on Maintaining the Confident Mood of the People, 20 November 1916.

20 Discussion between Central Military and Civilian Authorities in the Prussian War Ministry over Measures Taken to Counter Enemy Anti-Monarchy Propaganda, 25/26 May 1917, W. Deist, Militär und Innenpolitik im Weltkrieg 1914-1918, 2 vols, (Düsseldorf, 1970), II, pp. 824-834.

21 Ludendorff to the Imperial Chancellor, 17 December 1916. The document is reprinted in Ludendorff, The General Staff and its Problems, 2 vols, translated by F.A. Holt (London, 1921), II, pp. 401-3.

22 Nicolai, Nachrichtendienst, p. 119 ff. See the review of 1916 carried out by the War Press Office that hints at the ongoing conflict between military and civilian censorship agencies. Hauptsaatsarchiv Stuttgart, Militärarchiv (MAS), M77/1(Stellvertredendes Generalkommando XIII), Bü. 60, Memorandum of 23 January 1917.

23 The Government was particularly concerned to persuade SPD politicians that whenever they made speeches or wrote articles that they did so in the «spirit of August 1914».

24 Major Stotten reported that over 1,000 Associations were helping the KPA in the campaign.

25 It was reported at the meeting that the President of the Reichstag had been instructed to counter a recent anti-monarchy statement made by President Wilson in Congress with a strong supportive speech of his own. According to the minutes of the meeting he agreed to this «willingly».

26 Telegram from Legation Secretary Freiherr von Lersner to Secretary of State Zimmermann. General Ludendorff on How to Combat Anti-Monarchist Propaganda, 29 April 1917, Deist, Militär und Innenpolitik, II, pp. 813-14. The impossibility of a peace so long as the Kaiser remained in power in Germany was continually drawn to the attention of the German people. For an analysis of anti-monarchist propaganda employed by the Allies see, G.B. Bruntz, Allied Propagandana and the Collapse of the German Empire in 1918 (Stanford, 1938), pp. 130-141.

27 In 1987 a colloquium was held in Munich to define the place of Wilhelm II in German history. Sixteen papers were presented by distinguished historians of late nineteenth and early twentieth century German history. The essays were edited by John C. Röhl (ed.), Der Ort Kaiser Wilhelms II in der deutschen Geschichte (Munich: Oldenbourg, 1991). A more convincing confirmation of continuities between Wilhelmine Germany and the Nazis can be found not in a biography of the Kaiser but of August von Mackensen. See, T. Schwartzmüller, Zwischen Kaiser und «Führer». Generalfeldmarschall August von Mackensen (Paderborn, 1995). The centenary of the outbreak of World War I has resulted in a plethora of new works on the conflict and many more will follow as various landmark anniversaries are commemorated. German society was a highly complex hybrid of competing groups and interests and that to compare the Kaiser’s war aims in 1914 with those of Hitler’s in 1939 (as some British military historians have recently attempted to do) is far too simplistic. Far from being a ruthless dictator, the Kaiser constantly prevaricated and his political leadership was weak. Wilhelm II was no Hitler. Cf. C. Clarke, Kaiser Wilhelm II: A Life in Power (London, 2009), J. Rohl, Wilhelm II: Into the Abyss of War and Exile, 1900-1941 (2014,Cambridge,

28 John Röhl has compiled a number of his essays that attempt to analyse the nature of power in Wilhelmine Germany, including an essay on the Kaiser’s anti-Semitism. Röhl, The Kaiser and his Court. Wilhelm II and the Government of Germany (Cambridge, 1995). See also, W. Gutsche, Wilhelm II: Der letzte Kaiser des Deutschen Reiches (Berlin, 1991); L. Cecil, William II: Emperor and Exile, 1900-1941 (Chapel Hill, NC, 1996).

29 Marwick first constructed the «four-tier model» some years ago as a framework for analysing the impact of war on different societies. A. Marwick, War and Social Change in the Twentieth Century. A Comparative Study of Britain, France, Germany, Russia and the United States (London, 1974; second ed. London, 2006).

30 Bayerisches Hauptstaatsarchiv, Kreigsarchiv (BHStA), Monatsberichte (MB), IV 155/85 Mkr, 12851, July 1917. At the end of June a half-hearted «assassination» attempt was censored by the War Press Office. Apparently a drunkhard had thrown an object against the Kaiser’s car and damaged a headlight. BHStA, MB, IV 155/85 Mkr, 12851, 14 July 1917. See also U. Daniel, The War from Within. German Working Class Women in the First World War (Oxford, 1997). p. 245.

31 E. Blücher, An English Wife in Berlin: A Private Matter (London, 1920), entry for June/July 1917, p. 176. By the January 1918, Blücher was moved to write: «The feeling towards the Kaiser is steadily diminishing in loyalty and respect, and some people who greeted him so warmly a short time ago with “Ave, Caesar!” are now distributing leaflets in the back streets of Berlin proclaiming, “Down with the Kaiser, down with the Government,” and the police, when called upon to suppress the evil-doers, refuse to act, and are more than suspected of being behind the movement themselves», ibid, entry for January 1918, p. 190.

32 Quoted in H.P. Hanssen, Diary of a Dying Empire (Bloomington, 1955), entry for 10 July 1917, p. 226.

33 The Sixth War Loan period of subscription was 15 March to 16 April. For details of the advertising campaign see, MAF, RM3/v, 10323 (Propaganda für die Kreigsanleihe).

34 The Erler poster was produced in three different sizes and also as a postcard. For brief descriptions of these and other German posters see, J. Darracott and B. Loftus, First World War Posters (London, IWM, 1972) and P. Paret, B. Irwin Lewis and P. Paret, Persuasive Images. Posters of War and Revolution (Princeton, 1992).

35 MAF, RM3/v, 10324, 21 March 1917.

36 Ludendorff’s letter is reprinted in Ludendorff (ed.), Urkunden der Obersten Heeresleitung über ihre Tätigkeit 1916-18 (Berlin, 1922), p. 407.

37 MAS, M77/1, Bü. 60, Memorandum from War Press Office to Military Office in the Homeland, 13 January 1917. For a brief, but perceptive discussion of this «resistance» see, Daniel, War From Within, pp. 253-255.

38 Cf report from OHL to the War Ministry, BHStA, Kr, MKr, 11484, 5 June 1917. For an example of how rumours of alleged increased food provision in certain parts of the country could «trigger» civil disturbances in regions who felt that were being deprived see, MAF, MB. RM3, Bd. 2, 4670, 3 April 1917.

39 MAF, RM5, Bd. 2, 3820, Order of the Chief of the General Staff of the Field Army to the Highest Commanding Authorities of the Field Army. Guiding Principles for the Patriotic Education for the Troops, 29 July 1917. The following information is taken from this document. In his memoirs, Ludendorff claimed that the original proposal had come from Nicolai, Ludendorff, My War Memories, p. 460.

40 MAS, 77/1, 63, Order of the Chief of the General Staff of the Field Army to the High Command of the Army Groups about the Arrangements for an educational organisation for the Field Army, 17 July 1917. Wilhelm Deist has suggested that the patriotic instruction campaign was a response to the Reichstag peace resolution of 19 July 1917. See, Deist, «Der militärische Zusammenbruch des kaiserreichs. Zur Realität der “Dolchstosslegende,”» in U. Büttner (ed), Das Unrechtsregime. Internationale Forschung über den Nationalsozialismus (Hamburg, 1986), p. 104.

41 At this stage, Ludendorff used the terms «patriotic instructions» and «patriotic education» as interchangeable. This would change after 15 September 1917 when «education» was substituted for «propaganda». See below, Note 61.

42 See memorandum of 25 July 1917, signed by Quartermaster-General, Hahndorff, MAS, M77/1, Bü. 63. See also, Ludendorff, The General Staff and Its Problems, II, pp, 392-93. One of its recommendations was that Commanding Generals should use the powers bestowed to them by the Chief of the General Staff to censor letters «creatively» in order to gain an insight into the «currents of opinion among troops». In fact, the government had started to censor soldiers’ private letters as early as 1916, as some soldiers had urged relatives not to subscribe to the war loans for fear that this would prolong the war.

43 For «official» German responses to the torrent of Allied propaganda see files in the Military Archive, Freiburg, MAF, RM5 (Admiralstab der Marine) V, 3769-3771.

44 The War Press Office acted as a conduit, receiving information and forwarding it via five channels: a] the organs of the War Press Office (Deutsche Wochenschau and Deutsche Kriegsnachrichten; b] pamphlets; c] The Field Press Office at Charville, for articles and information from the occupied areas in the west; d] photographs and posters «such as the troops are likely to understand»; e] leaflets from aircraft. The «directors of propaganda» were instructed to keep the War Press Office informed of their experiences and for its part the War Press Office collated this information and circulated «Hints on Patriotic Propaganda» to all units.

45 It was stipulated that for propaganda among the troops the material was disseminated by: a] lectures, evening talks, field cinemas and theatrical performances, for which the Military Department of the Foreign Office provided material through the War Press Office; b] the chaplains; c] Army newspapers, particularly the Mitteilungen für den vaterländischen Unterricht a broadsheet specifically designed to disseminate «patriotic instructions» and distributed to troops at the front and the homeland; d] Field libraries; e] Field bookstalls under the direction the education officer. A detailed analysis of the Mitteilungen warrants further study as it covered every conceivable topic and provides an extraordinary insight into the military mind. A collection of the Mitteilungen can be found in, MAS, M77/1, Bü. 63. For interesting related material see, MAS, M1/3, Bü. 501/561.

46 See memorandum of 25 July 1917, signed by Quartermaster-General, Hahndorff, MAS, M77/1, Bü. 63. See also, Ludendorff, The General Staff and Its Problems, II, pp. 392-93.

47 The letter, headed «personal» is dated 31 July 1917 and was sent to all commanding officers and senior Divisional General Staff officers. Ludendorff, Urkunden, pp. 278-9; Ludendorff, The General Staff, pp. 398-9; Deist, Militär und Innenpolitik, I, pp. 332-4. The OHL placed considerable faith in the power of soldiers to encourage the home front to «hold out». So much so that the «more educated and reliable» soldiers were selected to take special leave to spread the gospel of Durchhalten («holding out»).

48 MAS, M I/3, 1001, Directives for «Patriotic Instruction» in the area for the Deputy Commanding General of 14th Army Corps, 15 December 1917.

49 MAS, M I/3, 498-500, contains numerous examples of such material. Two examples of recommended reading provide a flavour of the jingoistic literature; H. Beier Vom Bismarck zum Weltkrieg and K. Dietrich, Wir wollen sein ein einzig Volk und Brüdern. On the home front, librarians were recording that the public were no longer reading books on the war, but were much more interested in books on gardening! L. Moyer, Victory Must Be Ours. Germany in the Great War (New York, 1995), p. 222. See also, MAS, MI/II (Kriegsarchiv), 1084, Volksaufklärung während des Weltkriegs 1914/18 which contains a wealth of material relating to Vaterländische Unterrichts. One of the criticism levelled at the alleged failure of German propaganda in World War I was that military and civil authorities failed to invest enough money in the propaganda campaigns. A recurring theme in the Kriegsarchiv (1084) folder is how little speakers were paid and the bureaucratic zeal with which officials attempted to recover the smallest of sums.

50 Staatsarchiv, Potsdam (StA.P.), Bericht des Berliner Polizeipräsidenten, 85, 2398/10, 18 June 1917.

51 G. Grosz, Ein kleines Ja und ein grosses Nein. Sein Leben vom ihm selbst erzählt (Reinbek, 1974), p. 101; cited in Daniel, The War From Within, p. 233. The War Ministry was particularly concerned during this period at the anti-war activities of the German Socialist Youth Movement. Not only was this radical youth group distributing anti-war pamphlets urging «German youth, men and women» to undertake direct action and become «Soldiers of the Revolution» but it was also planning a demonstration against the war for the 2 and 3 September 1917. See surveillance details outlined in MAS, M 1/3, War Ministry to Commander-in-Chief in the Marks and all Authorities, 23 August 1917.

52 MAF, RM5, Bd. 2, 3722, Extract from the Minutes of the War Press Office concerning the Discussion between Military and Civilian Authorities and the «Education Officer» for the Deputy General Command re: Propaganda Questions’, 7-10 August, 1917. In September Ludendorff confirmed that encouragement to invest in war loans should be included among the aims of patriotic education: «Patriotic instruction and war-loan propaganda are working for the same end. Unity of aim and a tendency to supplement each other’s efforts will be the natural result». MAF, RM5, Bd. 2, 3820, Chief of General Staff to the Highest Commanding Authorities of the Field Army. Re; the organisation of «Patriotic Instruction», 15 September 1917.

53 Hindenburg was used in ephemeral material for the Seventh War Loan. Postcards of the Field Marshal were bought for 10 pfg and posters and picture memories (Errinerungsblatt) for 50 pfg. For examples see, MAS, M77/1, Bü. 63, 2 October 1917 – the day of Hindenburg’s birthday. For an analysis of German postcards as propaganda and the role of advertising see, R. Lebeck and M. Schütte, Propagandapostkarten, (Dortmund, 1980).

54 Examples taken from, Hauptstaatarchiv, Stuttgart (HSS), M 704 (Archiv-Verzeichnis der Licht-und Frontbildersammlung.

55 For reviews of the films see, Kinematograph, 561, 26 September 1917; Der Film, 29 September 1917. In fact the film -was so successful that it was re-released in 1918 to promote the Ninth War Loan. Porten together with other movie stars, such as Asta Nielson and Paul Wegener, would frequently appear in public to promote war loans.

56 «The Magic Girdle» (a phase coined by Winston Churchill to explain the U-boat blockade of the British fleet) was referred to by Kinematograph as providing a «calming yet uplifting sense of security… there will scarcely be a cinema whose public will not demand to see this film». Kinematograph, 559, 12 September 1917. The Imperial War Museum (London) hold a video/dvd copy of the film and have produced an excellent accompanying guide edited by Roger Smither. See also U. Oppelt, Film und Propaganda im Ersten Weltkrieg. Propaganda als Medienrealität im Aktualitäten- und Dokumentarfilm (Stuttgart, 2002), pp. 256-60.

57 For an illuminating account of changing sexual conduct during the war see, Daniel, The War From Within, pp. 138-57. For the relationship between German women and prisoners of war see, Chr, Beck (ed.) Die Frau und die Kriegsgefangenen, vol. pt. 2: Die deutsche Frau und die fremden Kriegsgefangenen (Nürnberg, 1919).

58 Examples of all the incidents cited can be found of all MAS, MI/II (Kriegsarchiv), 1084, Volksaufklärung während des Weltkriegs 1914/18. See also, below Note 61.

59 Cited in Verhey, The Spirit of 1914, p. 191.

60 MAF, RM3, Bd. 4, 9901, Record of the Meeting Concerning the Foundation of Universum-Film-Aktiengesellschaft (Ufa), 30 January 1918.

61 For the history of Ufa see, K. Kreimeier, The Ufa Story. A History of Germany’s Greatest Film Company 1918-1945 (New York, 1996).

62 MAF, RM5, Bd. 2, 3820, Chief of General Staff to the Highest Commanding Authorities of the Field Army. Re; the organisation of «Patriotic Instruction», 15 September 1917.

63 In October these complaints reached their climax with a socialist interpellation in the Reichstag. In the course of the debate on the new war loan, the OHL, the Fatherland Party and Pan-German groups were roundly attacked and accused of manipulating the patriotic instruction campaign for the purpose of annexationist propaganda. For the debate see, Verhandlungen des Reichstags, 6 October 1917, 3713-3765. Graf von Westarp, the Conservative Party’s parliamentary leader later wrote that Vaterländische Unterricht followed the same ideological programme as the German Fatherland Party. Westarp, Konservative Politik im letzten Jahrzehnt des Kaisserreiches, vol. 2, (Berlin, 1933), p. 621.

64 War Press Office to Bavarian War Ministry, 19 September 1917, BHStA, Kr, MKr 2335; Daniel, The War From Within, p. 252.

65 MAF, MB. RM3, Bd. 2, 3 August 1917. The report claimed that women and adolescents in particular were impervious to the Government’s attempts at manipulation.

66 Ludendorff drew attention to this «syllabus» in a memorandum of 14 November 1917, Ludendorff, The General Staff, p. 397. For the «syllabus» itself see minutes of the meeting which runs to 55 pages!, MAF, RM5/v, Bd. 2, 3821. The meeting of 4 November 1917 took place at Charville and moved the following day to G.H.Q. See also the new directives for the «patriotic instruction», 15 December 1917, Deist, Militär und Innenpolitik, II, pp. 889-893.

67 MAS, M I/3, 498, War Press Office to the Württemberg War Ministry, 30 May 1917.

68 Atrocities stories committed against German POW’s was intended to «stiffen» morale. For an example of suffering German officers in a French POW camp see, MAS, M I/3, 498, undated drawings. Further examples can be found in, MAS, MI/II (Kriegsarchiv), 1084, Volksaufklärung während des Weltkriegs 1914/18).

69 L. Lewinsohn, Die Revolution an der Westfront (Charlottenburg, 1919), Forward. For examples of complaints to various aspects of «patriotic instruction» see, MAS, M I/3, 561, Chief of the General Staff Re: «Patriotic Instruction», 7 October 1918.

70 While Ludendorff was favourably disposed to the work of the Deputy Commanding Generals he accused the civilian Government of failing to support «patriotic instruction» by remaining «absolutely aloof» from the programme. Ludendorff, War Memories, p. 464.

71 In his memoirs Ludendorff claimed that «patriotic instruction» was the OHL’s attempt to repair the damage caused by weak Chancellors who failed to provide leadership. According to Ludendorff, as the «soul of the nation» was bereft of political leadership the military’s patriotic instruction campaigns were «mere crumbs to the hungry». Ludendorff, War Memories, p. 371.

72 Reproduced in Ludendorff (ed), Urkunden, p. 477. Also cited in Verhey, The Spirit of 1914, p. 201. For a fascinating general analysis of 1918 see, D. Stevenson, With our Backs to the Wall: Victory and Defeat in 1918. (London, 2011).

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Legenda «Subscribe to War Loans. Times are Hard, But Victory is Certain.» Bruno Paul’s 1917 poster of Hindenburg as the national figure-head.
URL http://lerhistoria.revues.org/docannexe/image/737/img-1.png
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Legenda Fritz Erler’s «Help Us Win! Subscribe to the War Loan» (1917)
URL http://lerhistoria.revues.org/docannexe/image/737/img-2.png
Ficheiros image/png, 218k
Legenda Lucien Bernhard’s powerful poster of the mailed fist for the Seventh War Loan (1917).
URL http://lerhistoria.revues.org/docannexe/image/737/img-3.png
Ficheiros image/png, 139k
Legenda «The Last Blows are necessary for Final Victory! Subscribe to the War Loans! (Gerd Paul, 1917)
URL http://lerhistoria.revues.org/docannexe/image/737/img-4.png
Ficheiros image/png, 195k
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Referência do documento impresso

David Welch, « The Final Throw of the Dice. General Ludendorff: Morale, «Patriotic Instruction» and Imperial German Propaganda 1917-18 », Ler História, 66 | 2014, 99-121.

Referência eletrónica

David Welch, « The Final Throw of the Dice. General Ludendorff: Morale, «Patriotic Instruction» and Imperial German Propaganda 1917-18 », Ler História [Online], 66 | 2014, posto online no dia 20 Julho 2002, consultado no dia 23 Outubro 2017. URL : http://lerhistoria.revues.org/737 ; DOI : 10.4000/lerhistoria.737

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Autor

David Welch

Professor of Modern History and Director of the Centre for the Study of War, Propaganda & Society, University of Kent
D.A.Welch@kent.ac.uk

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Ler História está licenciado com uma Licença Creative Commons - Atribuição-NãoComercial 4.0 Internacional.

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