Outbreak of the war
End of the war
“War song 1914”, propaganda postcard

Copyright: Herta Rohringer


War of Words and Pictures: Propaganda in the First World War

In the First World War propaganda as a means of psychological warfare came to be exploited on an unprecedented scale. The fight for explanations, sympathy and legitimation was contested with striking images and emotionally exploitative words. Rabble-rousing messages radicalised the arguments, exposed hostilities and made an alternative to war seem unacceptable.

In order to intensify the effective scope of the propagandist messages, every type of media was incorporated into public communications: posters, for encouraging perseverance on the home front, caricatures for arousing people’s emotions, and flyers for destabilising the opposing troops.

The propaganda appealed to the population’s resilience and loaded an apocalyptic significance onto the outcome of the war. But the longer the war lasted the more the people slipped through the propagandist traces. The strikes and revolts of 1918 demonstrated the limitations of opinion manipulation. Dissatisfaction and distress had reached such a pitch that propaganda had little to counter them with.

Translation: Sophie Kidd