For the fist year of the war many propaganda feature films were made that unrealistically portrayed the war.
Germany produced less propaganda articles or posters than Britain or France. German news coverage and propaganda lacked effectiveness compared to British propaganda.
From the end of 1915 German filmmakers reverted to more popular film genres such as detective stories and Westerns. Feature films were generally shown after newsreel footage of the war that would give people limited perspective on conditions at the front. The government hoped cinemas would show footage that did not show bad news from the front. Ludendorff did not start to control newsreel footage and feature films until 1917.
Censorship First, Propaganda Second
Not only was German propaganda promoted through the press and the cinema, postcards and posters were produced that urged civilians to contribute to the war effort by investing in war loans and government bonds. The German government was hampered due to the political parties being unable to agree upon the country’s war aims, there was disagreement as to whether they were fighting a war of containment or fighting for financial or territorial gains.
The German government seemed merely to want to tell the German media what it could not print or broadcast that it missed the opportunity to ensure that propaganda and information was presented in the most effective manner. The government left the decision of how to present information about the progress of the war to the newspaper editors. The style of writing and presentation of newspapers were adapted to the tastes of the people that brought the newspapers.Hidden Bad News Increased Shock of Defeat
To a certain extent official information and propaganda was able to disguise bad news from the front yet perhaps it was only effective due to wishful thinking or naivety on the home front. German propaganda and censorship however could not hide food shortage form the German people, those that were not in the army or did not live in agricultural areas had to make do with 50% less food than in 1914.
As well as food shortages there were fuel shortages, especially of coal. Coal was the main domestic and industrial fuel, as well as being used for fuelling trains. The lack of coal hampered arms production, slowed down the transport of munitions and food supplies. For civilians being cold added to the misery of hunger.
It was also difficult to cover up increasing political divisions over the conduct of the war. The divisions within the Social Democrats would have the most political significance. Perhaps foolishly the government had not banned public discussions about national war aims, or whether Germany should find ways to end the war through peace talks. The government could not hide the splits of the Social Democratic Party (SPD) either.
Chickering R (1998) Imperial Germany and the Great War 1914 – 1918, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge
Colvin J, (2004) Decisive Battles, Headline, London
Crystal D, (1998) The Cambridge Biographical Encyclopedia, 2nd edition, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge
Stevenson D, (2004) 1914 – 1918 A History of the First World War, Penguin, London
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