This well designed German propaganda broadside shows the Offensive of Gorlice-Tarnów, fought during WWI, in Galicia, today in South Poland. The action, which was was initially conceived as a minor German offensive to relieve Russian pressure on the Austro-Hungarians to their south on the Eastern Front, resulted in the Central Powers’ chief offensive effort of 1915. It caused the total collapse of the Russian lines and their retreat far into Russia.
Bodo Zimmermann’s Merkblätter zum Weltkrieg Series: Intellectual Propaganda
In the early months of 1918, as Germany was loosing World War I to the Western Allied Powers, German officials and publishers were looking for ways to lend succour to the nation by highlighting the many impressive victories that the Central Powers had notched up, in an effort to soften the fact that the overall conflict had headed south. Indeed, the weird phenomenon of the war is that Germany never ‘lost’ in a conventional sense; it was never crushed by its enemies, it simply ran out of steam, allowing the Allies to declare total victory. Along the way, Germany and Austria-Hungary had actually racked up many big wins in various theatres, and the German war machine wanted the populous to remember that.
Captain Bodo Zimemrmann (1886 – 1963) was a career officer and highly decorated veteran of the war, having won the Iron Cross, in addition to any other honours. Professionally, he was a military instructor, with a keen interest in battle plans and the historical recording and recounting of military events. Zimmermann later attained infamy as Nazi general during World War II.
Zimmermann proposed making a series of well-designed and informative broadsides that would highlight the various Central Power victories. With the full support of the Deutsches Heer, Zimmermann created the Merkblätter zum Weltkrieg series, with each broadside showcasing a different Central Powers victory. With bold and easy to understand graphics, backed by concise text, the broadsides give factual information about each battle, appealing to readers’ intellectual curiously, as a route towards summoning their latent patriotic sentiments. Unlike many propaganda pieces, the Merkblätter zum Weltkrieg broadsides were factually accurate in and of themselves; the series’s only element of deception was in that Zimmermann purposefully omitted any coverage of the Central Powers’ defeats. The series thus gives the impression that, in spite of the rumours otherwise; Germany had actually been going from strength to strength ever since the beginning of the war.
The series was divided into ‘Osten’ [Eastern Front]; ‘Westen’ [Western Front]; and the ‘Seekrieg’ [Sea War] sub-series, although each broadside is a self-contained publication.
The communications department of the Deutsches Heer funded the series, and the broadsides were published and distributed under the auspices of Karl Siegismund, the official book dealer to Kaiser Wilhelm II.
A Note on Rarity
The present broadside is very rare; we are ware of only a handful of institutional examples, while the examples from the Merkblätter zum Weltkrieg series very seldom appear on the market.
References: Imperial War Museum (London): Art.IWM PST 7637