Teaching With Documents, Volume 1

Contents:

German Propaganda Leaflets in World War I

Today, propaganda, like the gun, is a common weapon of war. It was not until World War I, however, that the U.S. Government developed its first massive propaganda campaign. Largely responsible for this effort was the Committee on Public Information created by President Woodrow Wilson. Headed by George Creel, the Committee mobilized citizen support for the war through patriotic speeches, poster campaigns, newspaper stories, films, and pamphlets. Abroad, the Committee operated a worldwide information service, distributed films, and with the U.S. Army directed propaganda materials at the enemy.

Germany also had a well-organized propaganda machine. At the start of the war, the Germans focused on keeping the U.S. out of the European conflict. In this country, German diplomats and businessmen and some German-American citizen groups waged a propaganda campaign that consisted primarily of the distribution of anti-British publications. On the battle-front, German military intelligence directed propaganda at Allied soldiers.

Generally, propaganda leaflets intended for use along the front were designed to demoralize the soldier so that he would lay down his arms and surrender. Materials prepared by the Allies emphasized the humanistic war aims of President Wilson and called on German troops to overthrow the Kaiser. The two leaflets presented here are examples of German efforts to encourage black and German Americans to give up the fight. Leaflets such as these were sent behind the lines in a variety of ways. Most often they were carried in hot-air balloons; other times they were dropped from airplanes or packed in shells and literally fired across enemy lines.

These documents are photographs 165-WW-164A-1 and 165-WW-164A-7 in Records of War Department General and Special Staff, Record Group 165.

Suggestions for Teaching

Before completing this activity, have the class discuss the meaning and use of propaganda.

The following questions are designed to help your students develop a written analysis of these documents. They may also be used as the basis for class discussion.

1. To whom are these documents addressed?

2. Who do you think wrote them?

3. What points are being made by the authors?

4. What arguments are used to make these points?

5. Do you find these arguments convincing? Why or why not?

6. Describe the tone of the documents.

7. Compare and contrast the two documents. How are they alike or different?


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8. What assumptions have the authors made about the people addressed?

9. How is the information in the documents organized? How does this affect the message?

10. Is there information in the documents that links them to a particular event in U.S. history?

11. Why do you think these documents were written?

12. Do you consider these documents to be examples of propaganda? Why or why not?

13. List examples of propaganda techniques used in the period in which these documents were created. How are they similar to or different from present-day techniques?

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Chicago: "German Propaganda Leaflets in World War I," Teaching With Documents, Volume 1 in Teaching With Documents: Using Primary Sources from the National Archives, ed. United States. National Archives and Records Administration and National Council for the Social Studies (Washington, D.C.: National Archives Trust Fund Board, 1989), 90–93. Original Sources, accessed October 15, 2019, http://originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=ESJ1U5L54N8RDID.

MLA: . "German Propaganda Leaflets in World War I." Teaching With Documents, Volume 1, in Teaching With Documents: Using Primary Sources from the National Archives, edited by United States. National Archives and Records Administration and National Council for the Social Studies, Vol. 1, Washington, D.C., National Archives Trust Fund Board, 1989, pp. 90–93. Original Sources. 15 Oct. 2019. originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=ESJ1U5L54N8RDID.

Harvard: , 'German Propaganda Leaflets in World War I' in Teaching With Documents, Volume 1. cited in 1989, Teaching With Documents: Using Primary Sources from the National Archives, ed. , National Archives Trust Fund Board, Washington, D.C., pp.90–93. Original Sources, retrieved 15 October 2019, from http://originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=ESJ1U5L54N8RDID.