Outbreak of the war
End of the war

The films made by the film department for the War Press Office had several functions: to support the war and the military activities and to put the treatment of prisoners of war, the ‘cultural status of the Monarchy’, the feeding of the population, the war industry, ‘the natural beauty of the Monarchy’ and the imperial household in the best possible light.

Visual reporting was designed not only as a topical means of propaganda both within the empire and in other countries, but also ‘to provide material for the future’ required by historians and the arts ‘to glorify the great achievements of war’. Thus, the idea of processing and showing the war after it had ended – in victory, of course – was already implanted.

Film propaganda was intended on the one hand to strengthen cohesion and belief in the Monarchy and the successful outcome of the war, both at home and among the troops. It was also designed to enhance the image of Austria-Hungary in neutral and allied foreign countries and in the occupied territories. It showed military, economic and cultural achievements with the aim of gaining long-term strategic and economic advantages. Austro-Hungarian productions were shown systematically for this purpose in the Netherlands, Switzerland, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Romania, the Balkans, Turkey and initially also in the USA.

To safeguard film distribution and projection, the War Press Office called for targeted publicity, the exertion of pressure on distribution companies, and the direct promotion of the films with cinema companies. It had to be ensured that the films were not shown in public places in neutral countries so as to avoid the possibility of objections, discussion, loud protests or even acts of violence. The projections were to take place in closed rooms in which ‘the attention and interest remained concentrated on the images’. Military representatives were required to report regularly to the War Press Office on the success or failure of film propaganda.

Estimates differed on the effect of Austro-Hungarian films. Whereas people in the Netherlands complained about the ‘short and inferior films’ from Austria-Hungary, it was reported from Switzerland that the films were very popular and regarded as ‘the best of their type’. The reports were particularly euphoric from the Asian part of Turkey, where pictures of the Austro-Hungarian commanders and war films in particular were shown and attracted great interest. The war alliance between the Ottoman Empire and Austria-Hungary and the German Reich no doubt helped to influence the positive public reaction. The newsreel reported accordingly on the War Demonstration by the Population at the Fatih Mosque (D 1914) in Constantinople.

Translation: Nick Somers


Mayer, Klaus: Die Organisation des Kriegspressequartiers beim k. u. k. AOK im Ersten Weltkrieg 1914–1918, Diss., Wien 1963

Schmölzer, Hildegund: Die Propaganda des Kriegspressequartiers im Ersten Weltkrieg 1914–1918, Diss., Wien 1965

Contents related to this chapter


  • Aspect

    War and art

    Many artists, intellectuals and writers welcomed the outbreak of the First World War. They saw it not as an apocalypse but as the opportunity for a change for the better. As such they joined in the patriotic fervour of the first weeks and months of the war. What motivated them not only to devote their artistic energies to the fatherland but also to take an active part in the fighting? How were anti-war sentiments articulated by artists? What other forms of relationship were there between art and warfare during and after the First World War?

  • Aspect

    Guiding the masses

    Guiding the mood of the masses was an important aspect of warfare during the First World War. Considerable information and communication work was carried out to persuade the population of the “true facts”. All areas of life were influenced by propaganda in a way that had not been seen hitherto: reports in the newspapers, posters on the walls, even teaching material in schools now communicated controlled information. What methods and media were used? How did the various warring nations attempt to influence public opinion? What was communicated and how effective was the propaganda?

Persons, Objects & Events

  • Object


    All Quiet on the Western Front was released in 1930. It was the film of Erich Maria Remarque’s novel of the same name about the experiences of a soldier during the First World War. Remarque’s book and the film adaptation are classic anti-war statements. Alongside the patriotic, glorified heroic epics and “authentic” documentation of service for the fatherland, this was just one way in which the First World War was portrayed in literature and films – a medium that had come into being only twenty years before the outbreak of war.

  • Object

    Prisoners of war

    In May 1916, Anton Baumgartner sent a POW postcard to his son Otto in Novo Nikolayevsk POW camp in Siberia (now Novosibirsk). Otto Baumgartner is only one of hundreds of thousands of soldiers who fell into enemy hands during the First World War. One in thirteen German soldiers, one in ten French and Italian, one in five Russian and almost one in three Austro-Hungarian soldiers ended up in captivity.

  • Object

    Depicting the war

    The photo by Alexander Exax shows a scene in the trenches in Galicia in 1915. The title “im Feuer” [“under fire”] gives the impression that the picture has been taken in the middle of the action. Dynamic photos like this were typical of the pictorial iconography of the First World War. The illustrated weeklies were among the most important distribution media, but there were others: exhibitions and posters, picture postcards and cinemas collaborated with private picture agencies and the official propaganda to provide a visual depiction of the war.


  • Development

    The Habsburg myth – the dynasty before and after 1918

    The Habsburg-Lorraine dynasty formed the ideological basis for the Habsburg Monarchy, since the existence of the multi-ethnic state was primarily a product of the dynastic history of this ruling house.

    In the latter days of the Habsburg Monarchy, Emperor Franz Joseph personified the imperial idea, although towards the end of his sixty-eight-year reign he was reduced more and more to an abstract symbol, a kind of father figure. His death in November 1916 left a vacuum at the head of the dynasty, which his successor Karl could no longer fill.