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"Patriotic Enlightenment" (May 10, 1917)

By 1917, enthusiasm for the war was waning. Fearing the spread of the Independent Social Democratic Party (USPD), which called for an immediate peace, the German military sought to provide “enlightenment” to soldiers and citizens. The army intensified the program of propaganda among the troops, and directed a campaign of public lectures, films, and other forms of enlightenment on the home front.

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In the phase of the war that is now beginning, and which is in every sense decisive, sustaining the self-sacrificing and confident mood of the population is the first precondition of success. The Army’s Supreme Command has therefore decided to promote enlightenment activities at home in tandem with existing organizations, and to consolidate these activities under the unified direction of an Enlightenment Officer in the jurisdictions of each Corps Command.


With the absolute banishment of all contentious political questions, the Enlightenment Office of the Corps Command is to employ all means – press, brochures, pamphlets, lectures, churches, schools, associations, clubs, theaters, movies, etc., to disseminate clarification about the causes and the purpose of this war, to successfully counteract the incitement and disenchantment that exists in many sectors of society, in order to strengthen the confidence and self-sacrifice of the population and to increase understanding about the events of this war. Every German must learn to recognize the reasons that led to this war against Germany, that the war has to do with the existence or destruction of the German people, and that we must particularly hold out in the coming months, in order to gain the prize of victory for three years of sacrifice and privations.

Special Points of Consideration.

The following points are particularly relevant; they assuredly do not represent anything new, but in the field of enlightenment, we may not shy away from repetition. We must hammer the truth repeatedly into the hearts of our fellow citizens: the enemy is suffering from the same problems in the food supply. It is true that that peace is not the equivalent of bread. However, a lessening of the difficulties in the food supply is not to be expected from a quick peace, only from a good peace. After the war, the whole world will be hungry, among other things because of the bad harvest throughout the world, but we least of all. But after a bad peace, in which we shall be forced to pay indemnities and lose territory, workers would be unable to pay the high food prices, agriculture would not be able to blossom anew, the economic restraints that the enemy intends to impose would not be removed, and our economic life would not function again. As a result, it is necessary to do without now so we can have something in peacetime. Mutual understanding must be improved between the city and the countryside. Two aspects are especially important here: influencing the countryside so that it recognizes the urban population’s need and the necessity to turn over foodstuffs, and influencing the urban population so they understand that the productive capacity of the countryside is not unlimited. In order to raise morale, we must exploit our military victories, the activity of our submarines, which all competent observers agree will prove decisive in the coming months, and the knowledge that our battle fleet represents the victorious shield of our unharmed coasts.

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