Images of German

Images of German

  • L'Illustration, August 29, 1914: "Their way of making war".

    LEMASLE Louis Nicolas (1788 - 1870)

  • Postcard "What there is in their noggin".


To close

Title: L'Illustration, August 29, 1914: "Their way of making war".

Author : LEMASLE Louis Nicolas (1788 - 1870)

Creation date : 1914

Date shown: August 29, 1914

Dimensions: Height 0 - Width 0

Storage location: Illustration

Contact copyright: © The illustration - rights reserved

L'Illustration, August 29, 1914: "Their way of making war".

© The illustration - rights reserved

Postcard "What there is in their noggin".

© Contemporary Collections

Publication date: March 2016

Historical context

Between 1914 and 1918, the intensive use of images representing the “cruelty of the enemy” in various forms (in books, newspapers, illustrated magazines, posters, postcards, in the theater, in the cinema…) and consisting in popularizing certain stereotypes to the point of raising them to the level of true commonplaces, makes it possible to wage war on a different front than on the battlefield: at the psychological level. Most of these representations use the dominant model that was forged during the Franco-Prussian conflict of 1870.
The resurgence of these images at the start of the Great War is therefore not surprising, especially since, during the offensives of 1914, atrocities were committed by the Germans everywhere (in Belgium, in the north and in France). east of France, but also in Russia and Serbia): rape of women, massacres of hostages, looting and destruction of villages.

Image Analysis

One of the first compositions referring to it is edited by The Illustration August 29, 1914. This is a drawing (Document No. 1) by artist Georges Scott, titled "Their Way of War". We see an enemy soldier, easily recognizable by his famous peaked helmet (the “Boche cover”, as one said then, considered as a lasting symbol of the “archaism” of Prussian militarism, is often used by the propaganda), who poses with pride, cynically, like a hunter in front of his game, in the middle of a mass of bloody bodies. We clearly recognize among the victims a young woman (her executioner has his foot on his chest), children and a priest. Finally, a burnt down town appears in the background, and on the right, other Germans can be seen shooting a group of civilians near the rubble of their homes. This synthetic and highly symbolic representation of the blind violence of the enemy aims to accredit the idea that his troops do not respect any international convention, that they behave like hordes of barbarians - the Teutons -, committing the worst horrors in the territory. invaded.

Document n ° 2, a print by the artist Domergue from the Red Book of German Atrocities published in 1915, is supposed to illustrate the violation of Belgian neutrality by the Kaiser. We see a German soldier in the guise of a rabid animal in the bedroom of a young woman (passed out or dead?) Whom he has just abused. This outrageous depiction of the opponent's supposed bestiality arousing fear and disgust, which is puzzling today, is not an isolated case. On the contrary, the theme of the physical degeneration of the enemy is frequently used at the time. This appalling monstrosity attributed to the German, which document no. 2 very well translates, proves how strong the hatred accumulated against him is.
Document n ° 3, entitled The Savage Brute, is quite comparable. This postcard design shows a close-up of a carnivorous German soldier, holding an artillery piece in one hand and the smoldering ruins of a church in the other. This composition refers to the propaganda discourse about the Germans' relentlessness to destroy monuments of the past, mainly religious buildings, without any valid military reason. The "martyrdom of Reims Cathedral" bombed many times throughout the war, to which the image directly alludes, is very often evoked to prove once again the barbarism of a loathsome and contemptible enemy who respects nothing, no even the sacred. The commentary located just below the drawing, in the form of a quote from the writer Jean Richepin, completes it in this sense.


As in 1870, from August 1914, the dissemination of numerous and diverse representations of the atrocities committed in France by German troops provoked lasting hostility towards the hereditary enemy. Of course, French propaganda exaggerates and distorts the facts: see in this connection the legendary accounts of children with severed hands. The fact remains that this hostility strengthens national cohesion and even becomes one of the fundamental reasons for accepting limitless investment in the conflict.

Presented as overwhelming proof, all these images of heinous crimes, coldly executed, help to legitimize the violence of war: it becomes necessary to defend civilization and destroy "adverse barbarism". In fact, any means are good to denigrate "the Other": science is even called upon to prove that the Germans are degenerates who dangerously threaten humanity. The ambient Germanophobia is also manifested in a "less serious" way, notably also through a multitude of caricatures in which the enemy is always crudely represented.

  • army
  • germanophobia
  • War of 14-18
  • fire
  • patrimony
  • propaganda
  • representation of the enemy
  • ruins
  • vandalism
  • rape
  • destruction
  • massacre
  • militarism


Pierre VALLAUD, 14-18, World War I, volumes I and II, Paris, Fayard, 2004.Ouriel RESHEF War, myths and caricature Paris, Press of the National Foundation of Political Sciences, 1984. Laurent GERVEREAU and Christophe PROCHASSON (dir.) Images of 1917 Paris, BDIC publication, 1987. “To represent the war of 1914-1918”, n ° 171 of the review World Wars and Contemporary Conflicts Paris, PUF, July 1993 Stéphane AUDOIN-ROUZEAU The Child of the Enemy Paris, Aubier, 1995.Annette BECKER Forgotten by the Great War: humanitarian aid and culture of war Paris, Noêsis, 1998.

To cite this article

Laurent VÉRAY, “Images of the German”

Video: Unpublished German WW2 colour photographs