Mocking cards of the  Centrals 
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Interpreting Central Powers "Mocking" propaganda

To the German ethos of the early 20th century,  their strength was manifest in the superiority of German "Kultur" (culture). For the German masses this was defined in large measure by the regimentation and loyalty demanded by the dominant Prussian values and systems of governance. It was believed that this Kultur of industriousness and unity of purpose is what gave the German people their superior moral fiber and national strength. The concept of "Mit vereinten Kräften" (with united strengths) lay at the heart of this belief. From this emerged a fervent belief that Germany was superior to the enemies which sought to diminish and thwart her national destiny. To the very end of the war, German propaganda was successful in instilling the belief in the mass of Germans that their national strength was such that they could not lose the war. The German masses believed fervently in the superiority of German technology and arms, the superiority of her fighting men in terms of loyalty, fortitude and discipline, and the superiority of her national and military leadership. The negative propaganda of the Centrals therefore persistently displays these two intermingled themes reflecting upon the concept of strength: Germanic invincibility and Allied inferiority.
These dual themes are clearly revealed in how the Centrals graphically portray their enemies. They are expressed in five general themes to be found in Centrals' mocking or negative propaganda. We would like to briefly summarize these to help in the interpretation and appreciation of the cards shown in this section. 

Note how frequently the Allies are portrayed as being subjected to punishments reserved for children and animals in normal circumstances. The chastising German or Austro-Hungarian soldiers use switches and their hands or feet as would be used in those days upon a misbehaving child, a dog or weakling adult. Note the frequent good humor on the faces of the Centrals' soldiers as they chastise the enemy - demonstrating effortless physical superiority. This ease over the enemy is clearly conveyed by the use of the German mythical figure "Michel". This is the fellow in many of the cards who is not wearing a uniform, and has on a sleeping hat.

Michel is the symbolic representation of the soft, sentimental and careless side of the German character. This theme of immunity from the ineffectual enemy is made all the more potent by the fact that one or two Central soldiers inevitably chastise not one or two, but half a dozen nations.

A second widely used method to diminish the Allies is to portray them as animals. The image is stark and clear - the very human Germans are fighting nations whose character and behavior do not even deserve the honor of bearing a human face. This is blund edged "dehumanizing" propaganda serving to demonstrate the inferiority of the enemy. Certain such animal symbols were widely used in diverse German propaganda. Look for Russia as a bear, France as a rooster, Serbia as a pig (her main prewar export commodity), Britain as a (bull)dog  and Japan as a monkey.  

A third more direct propagandistic device to convey the Centrals' strength was to portray the enemy as being ineptly lead. In communicating this theme, the Germans reserved a special vehemence against the Russians and their military. While we often see a portly British "John Bull" getting thoroughly trashed, or a bedraggled French general with tail between his legs, the Russian officer corps was mercilessly flayed by Centrals' propagandists. Note in the cards how the Russian officers are frequently pictured with a whip. It was a common belief in Germany, based indeed to a certain extend on fact, that the Russian officers drove their men forward into battle with whip and pistol. This contrasted starkly with the Centrals' propaganda line that their soldiers fought willingly and loyally out of patriotic conviction, not fear of their own government and its agents.

These portrayals of the whip bearing Russian officer are also fleshed out by the recurrent portrayal of the Russian officer corps (and often the common soldiers) as being hopeless alcoholics. If a Russian officer is portrayed, he will inevitably be shown with either  a whip or a bottle of vodka or both. 
Part and parcel of this theme of ineptness was to show the enemy as bloodied as the objects of continual and effective chastisement by the Centrals.

The Allied armies and navies are shown as helpless in the face of the Centrals' men and weapons of war. Allied soldiers are inevitably portrayed  with bandaged feet or limbs, blackened eyes or dripping blood, or missing shoes and their uniforms in tatters. The British are shown as thin to the point of anorexia, the Russians as fat and slovenly and the Japanese as dwarfs with monkey-like faces and posture. The German or Austro-Hungarian soldiers on the other hand are always well-fleshed, strong specimens in impeccable uniforms. Another aspect of this theme of Allied weakness is to show the helplessness of the Allies in the face of the superiority of German military technology. The Zeppelin (airship) and submarine are symbols frequently used to effectively convey this message.

A fifth and last major theme that we would like to highlight in the Centrals' anti-Allies propaganda has to do with denigrating the moral stature of the nations opposing Germany and Austria-Hungary.  This demonstration of the "evil" nature of the Allies is far less prevalent and effectively portrayed by the Centrals than it was by Allied propagandists against Germany. (Allied propagandists developed into high art the protrayal of German militarism, German "Kultur" and "Kaiserism" as rankly evil.) At any rate, insofar as German propagandists realized the explicit expression of evil amongst the Allies, it was in terms of , and was directed primarily against Great Britain (England) and Italy which were considered betrayers and corrupters. We also see some cards specifically targeting Tsar Nicholas II who by taking Russia to war betrays his fellow "divine rightist"  emperors in Germany and Austria-Hungary.

Germany/Austria-Hungary versus "The Triple Entente"


Germany/Austria-Hungary versus the Allies


Germany/Austria-Hungary versus Belgium


Germany/Austria-Hungary versus France


Germany/Austria-Hungary versus Great Britain


Germany/Austria-Hungary versus Italy


Germany/Austria-Hungary versus Japan


Germany/Austria-Hungary versus Russia


Germany/Austria-Hungary versus Serbia/Montenegro


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