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German, French and Allied Broadsides

German Broadsides | French Broadsides | Allied Broadsides

German Broadsides

As its first move on the Western front, Germany occupied Belgium in August, 1914. The alleged atrocities committed during this occupation provided the Allies with ample material for anti-German propaganda and spawned numerous variations on the "Remember Belgium" theme in posters, prints and postcards. Dating from this period and throughout the occupation, the German broadsides in the Collection represent Germany's attempt to cement its authority over its occupied territories, which came to include portions of France as the war continued. In large, clear typescript on dark blue, green, red and gray paper, these broadsides represented one of the limited forms of contact between civilians and the occupying authorities. While the occupation broadsides were intended to relay information, they were also meant as warnings and therefore necessarily conveyed a small portion of the emotional impact of the propaganda poster. One such broadside, titled Avis (Notice) (L-008) lists the names of four residents of Lille executed for harboring an English pilot and aiding French soldiers. This event should serve as a warning to the public, the broadside announces. While such events were to be expected during wartime, one such execution, the announcement of which is included in the Collection, spawned an international controversy. Edith Cavell, an English nurse working in Belgium, allegedly helped hundreds of Allied soldiers escape into unoccupied territory. Her trial by a German military tribunal and subsequent execution earned her a place as a martyr in English folklore. Her death, portrayed as another German atrocity, became a popular motif in Allied propaganda. The broadside collection includes the announcement of Cavell's execution (XL-085) dated from the day of her death — October 12, 1915.

French Broadsides

Military announcements are included in the French broadsides as well. These are comprised of orders that were aimed at civilians in order to regulate the consumption of materials needed by the military. Signed by generals d'Espérey, Descoings and others, these broadsides concern diverse subjects such as the use of carrier pigeons, photography, alcohol and electricity. The General Mobilization Order (XL-063), an important military and governmental broadside, is also part of the collection. Another piece of the Williams Collection, the Mobilization Order was posted in French towns on August 2, 1914. Another notable group of broadsides is a collection of Third Republic posters bearing news of proceedings and policy decisions of the French Senate and Chamber of Deputies. Most are transcriptions of speeches made by members of the government or outlines of the proceedings and decisions made while in session. One such broadside (XL-037) contains the entire text of President Raymond Poincaré's August 1915 speech, in which he addresses the French people after one full year of war and insists on continued fighting until France has achieved complete security against future German ambitions.

Allied Broadsides

In addition to the French and German broadsides, the collection includes several pieces from the period of the movement of Allied soldiers into German territory. One such broadside (XL-065), an order from Maréchal Ferdinand Foch, supreme commander of the Allied armies from March 1918, warns German civilians against interfering with Allied movement into Germany. In three languages — French, English, and German — it announces that the Allies will respect German persons and property as long as the safety of Allied troops is completely guaranteed; all arms must be turned in within one hour after the posting of the order; anyone interfering with the movement or safety of Allied troops will be dealt with under marshal law; and any house from which civilians fire on Allied troops will be burned.

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