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"For the Fatherland" (c. 1918)

The postcard pictured is an example of propaganda material that promoted war service as a heroic sacrifice for the Fatherland. A wounded German soldier on a battlefield is depicted in the foreground; he is surrounded by fallen comrades. The figure of Germania appears to him as the embodiment of the Fatherland and bestows the Iron Cross upon him. Held high in her left hand, a victor’s crown symbolizes the glorious and victorious battle. The Iron Cross, of which there were three classes, had been awarded in Prussia since 1813 as the highest military decoration. On orders by Kaiser Wilhelm II, however, the Iron Cross was awarded so frequently during the First World War (more than 5 million times) that it lost its significance. This postcard is from around 1918, in the last months of the war, as soldiers increasingly began to realize the German Reich's desperate situation and their role as mere “cannon fodder”; they were sacrificed to satisfy the pride of the Kaiser and his generals.

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© Bildarchiv Preußischer Kulturbesitz