A war about identity, a “crusade against evil” – World War I marks the first war which becomes a global media event, a battle for images and concepts. Those remaining at home, women, children, and the elderly, and not least the soldiers themselves experience a clash of images, a propaganda battle, which has never before existed in previous wars to such an extent. The new media of film and photography make this possible, and no side holds back from using the worst forms of slander of its enemies. Chauvinistic slogans and xenophobic rabble-rousing are distributed throughout the schools to indoctrinate even the youngest.
Still living eyewitnesses in Germany report on their first visits to the cinema and the effects of the propaganda films, English witnesses on Zeppelin raids on London, and how the propaganda stirred up hatred of the Germans, which erupts in aggression against German businesses. French eyewitnesses report on how chauvinistic slogans against the “Boches” found their way into school lessons.
The 45-minute film features a large wealth of currently available propaganda materials (war newsreels, propaganda motion pictures, posters, leaflets, toys, children’s and school books) from all countries involved in the war. The disastrous contents document and illustrate the mechanisms by which one’s respective opponents in combat were distorted and demonized.
Production: TAG/TRAUM Film Production GmbH, Cologne, commissioned by WDR/arte