Teacher | Student
Originally produced in: Deutschland
Also available in: en

Curricular level

Grade 9 Gymnasium/ Realschule: Deutschland

  • The Onset and the Expansion of the War
  • Everyday Life in the Field and a Country House
  • The Outbreak and the Course of the War

Class 9:

  • Imperialism
  • German-French Relations during the War: Areas of Conflict in the European System of the Distribution of Power
  • New Dimensions of War: the Static Warfare, the Mechanized Warfare, Consequences for the Civilian Population


In the First World war, modern media like films and images, postcards and posters were used for different propaganda purposes. The population was confronted with it at many levels, which facilitated mental mobilization. The images were not only published in relevant magazines, like Simplicissimus or Kladderadatsch, but also used as decorations on everyday objects like stamps and porcelain. Children were also prepared for war by means of toys. Dolls and teddy bears with uniforms substituted conventional toys.

In addition, modern telecommunications allowed a quick spread of propaganda, so that, within the shortest time, the latest news could be announced all over Germany and worldwide. Intercontinental undersea cables, electricity and the world telegraphic network enabled worldwide exchange of information.

As regards various means of propaganda, one should differentiate between the propaganda which refers to one’s own land and the one which agitates against the enemy.

The image of Germany abroad was mostly that of the ugly German, the Hun, who violates the neighbouring states and turns them into ashes. As far as the style of representation is concerned, the French and British propaganda images directed against Germany were very similar. The self-image of the Germans was always positive, e.g. that of a peaceful population and a cultural nation.

Conceptual Objectives

  • The students should recognize the European dimension of propaganda and be able to distinguish it from the means of national propaganda.
  • The students should know the causes and consequences of the propaganda in the First World War.
  • The students should understand the new forms of propaganda and their spread in Germany and Europe.

Methodological Objectives and Skills

  • To analyze, to interpret and to compare pictures
  • To analyze, to interpret and to review historical sources and lyrical texts
  • To recognize interrelations between political events and their propaganda illustrations

Suggestion of Activities

Introduction: Why was the German depicted in the British and the French caricatures not as a civilized citizen, but as an ugly Hun? To help the students with this provoking thesis, the teacher may present such an image of the Germans and explain how it spread in the respective countries.

Picture analysis: The students should write down in pairs examples of manifestations of the initial war enthusiasm of the Europeans. They should then consider why the enthusiasm did not last long. In the follow-up group discussion, the initial attitude to the war should be examined and the Prussian wars of 1866 and 1870/71 should be mentioned.

Comparison of texts: The students should work on the texts on their own in silence. They should form an opinion on the relations between the soldiers representing the opposite sides and compare them with the war propaganda. Besides, one should address the personal attitudes of the soldiers. In the follow-up group discussion, the role of Verdun should be explained to them and the biography of the reservists should be taken into special consideration.

Caricature: To explain the stereotype of a German enemy promoted by the British even more thoroughly, other posters, postcards and caricatures can be also consulted.

Suggestion of Evaluation

To assess the knowledge of the students, it is recommended to answer the following questions:

  • Are the pupils aware that there were different forms of propaganda?
  • Can students distinguish between propaganda for their own nation and propaganda against the enemy and explain this difference by using examples?
  • Do the students understand why critical caricatures and propaganda develop particularly in the times of political crises?