History of War

FAKE NEWS ON THE WESTERN FRONT

“PRÉVOT MADE THE GAZETTE DES ARDENNES AN EFFICIENT WEAPON OF PROPAGANDA. ITS READERSHIP WENT FROM UNDER 20,000 COPIES IN 1914 TO 180,000 IN 1918”

The German invasion of 1914 trapped 7 million Belgians and 2 million French people behind enemy lines. Communication between the occupied territories and the Allied zones became almost impossible, as the Germans proscribed all publications as well as civilian correspondence and banned radios, pigeons and telephones. Not surprisingly, occupied civilians wanted to hear about their relatives and receive news of the war – this was a problem for the Germans, who had not prepared for a long foreign occupation. The lack of propaganda structures aimed at enemy populations forced the occupiers to seek new solutions.

During the first months of the war, the German army authorised the distribution of periodicals, which was an unsatisfactory solution since only a minority of civilians spoke the language. The German army also tried to write various newspapers in French. These periodicals were seriously flawed and were mocked for their lack of understanding of Belgian and French mentalities and a limited mastery of the languages spoken in the occupied territories.

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