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"Patriotic Enlightenment" (May 10, 1917)

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Cooperation among all Sectors of Society.

Our enlightenment activity is addressed to all sectors of society, whether high or low, rich or poor. It is to strengthen again the will to sacrifice everywhere, to counter unjustified criticism, to sustain belief in the best intentions of our authorities, to spread the truth. Above all, we wish in our enlightenment work to point out again and again that the guilty party for our domestic difficulties is sitting across the canal on the British Isles. Our enlightenment work is addressed to all sectors of society, but it can fulfill its task only when it is promoted by all sectors of society; it cannot come from without; we need the cheerful participation of everyone.

Enlightenment as a Means of Waging War.

If the Supreme Command has now decided to promote enlightenment activities at home, it has done so not because it worries that our people will not persevere in the coming decisive months. Even without the work of enlightenment, we would get through the next months. However, the Supreme Command has recognized that the morale of the population is a very effective means of waging the war, and thus it is now harnessing the moral powers of the people in order to strengthen the force of all facets of our war effort during the final battle, in the sense that Hindenburg meant when he invoked the “Furor teutonicus.” Properly conducted, enlightenment will facilitate perseverance; it will remove much of the people’s suspicion, it will free our public life of much unnecessary tension and inhibition. If mutual understanding grows by virtue of our enlightenment work, if the barriers that fell as if by magic at the beginning of the war – barriers that we now, in the third year of the war, see being erected again in misunderstanding, malevolence, and mistrust among sectors of the populace – if these barriers break down, then our enlightenment work will not only contribute to securing victory, but it will also and above all accomplish valuable preliminary work for the critical period of demobilization, in which new and important goals will confront the enlightenment effort. All those who are active in the enlightenment should thus dedicate themselves to becoming, as it were, commissioners of the transitional economy of the spirit. If we go at our work in this spirit we will be successful. Then for us, too, Hindenburg’s promise will be fulfilled: “If the army on the home front holds out, we are certain of victory!

Source: Richtlinien für die Aufklärungs- und Propagandatätigkeit im Bereich des stellv. Generalkommandos des X. AK. [Guiding Principles for Enlightenment and Propaganda Activities in the Area of the Deputy General Command of the Tenth Army Corps], Hanover, May 10, 1917, Abt. II b 1 B. No. 1649 S, confidential! – Hauptstaatsarchiv Stuttgart, XIII AK, Abt. II, Vol. 69.

Reprinted in Wilhelm Deist, Militär und Innenpolitik im Weltkrieg 1914-1918 [Military and Domestic Policy in the World War, 1914-1918]. 2 volumes. Düsseldorf: Droste, 1970, vol. 2, pp. 816-22.

Translation: Jeffrey Verhey and Roger Chickering

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