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The truth is...

T he world has changed a lot since the dark days of World War One. The problem with this set is it shows us all just how far it has all changed.

So how many of you are now finishing the title 'The truth is...' with the rather battle weary cliche, 'the first casualty of war.' It well might, great shame it is not the only casualty. More likely though it seems the truth is whatever the winners say it is.

Louis Raemaker was a Dutch cartoonist whose sharp pencils got him on the wrong end of a contract on his life issued by the German Kaiser, or so the story goes. He gets his photo on card one of the series. Carreras, Raemakers War Cartoons [1916].

Two things to note about this series, at 140 cards it is a serious venture in collecting (and represents a fair bit of smoking in the days when that was how you got cards) and the second thing it comes in two varieties. One issued by Carreras and the other advertising the Carreras brand, Black Cat. The Black Cat branded cards being rather more difficult to acquire.

Although issued in 1916 on the reverse of the cards on the top is the slogan, 'Lest we forget'. I would suggest there was little chance of that happening in 1916 so perhaps Carreras had an eye to the future on this one.

The man himself

The style of the cartoons is very dark and as you can imagine this is not a set of cartoons which is going to make you chuckle out loud, or even inwardly.

We all pretty much know what happened in the First World War and you would hardly expect me to run through all that. Now all this is one big can of worms on a global medium and it is best to keep a level head on the whole propaganda thing 80 odd years after the event.

Cigarettes are now sold with health warnings and right and proper that is too, should be engraved on the side of every beer glass and liqour bottle too. Whilst the legislators are at it why not get it sprayed into the dashboards of cars. I think this page should have something of a warning too, the whole point of propaganda is that it should be inflammatory, if it is not it isn't propaganda.

massacre of innocents

It starts right in with card 3, 'We wage war on Divine principles.' Here the Kaiser is shown averting his gaze from Christ on the cross representing his breaking of every Christian ideal. The point is driven home on card 5, 'Satan's partner.' Bernhardi having been illustrated in this position.

There were some Germans against the war but these were quickly put into their place on card 6, Liebknecht being the socialist-deputy against the war from the outset but the card claims his desire to stop the war being on purely materialistic ground. Having 'no more sympathy with the cause of the Allies than any other German.'

So in the first 6 cards Louis has managed to turn the enemy into disciples of the devil, even the ones which were against the war.

Remember this is 140 card set so we have set of at a cracking pace.

Card 7 shows the German Chancellor twisting in front of the mirror of truth concerned when the German public will find out the truth of the situation.

Card 8: 'On many occasions, early in the war, the German troops forced the civilians of Belgium and Northern France to form shields for their advance against the Allies.'

Card 9 and 10 deals with the massacre of innocents, the first card depicting Priests, the second, women and children.

Card 21, 'A pitiful exodus': 'The flight of the refugees from Antwerp formed one of the tragedies of the war, reducing prosperous citizens to absolute poverty…'

Card 27 identifies the fact that atrocities committed by German troops were not by troops getting out of hand but by direct order.

Card 28 shows German troops realising that some of the promises that have been made by their leaders are not true.

In a number of the following cards Raemaker hold up German sympathisers to ridicule for their foolish ways.

Card 48 depicts 'The new Dutch oil line' this shows the enforcement of the British blockade to ensure oil supplies do not get to the Germans via Holland.

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Card 50 shows the spreading of leaflets by the Germans refuting the claims made by the Allies about the atrocities of war.

Card 56 shows Holland extending the hand of friendship to the Belgian refugees crossing the border fleeing the German invaders. Card 60 reminds the world Germany has its eyes on Holland also, just in case we all thought it to be a local squabble not affecting us. The cards often note England is at least on the Kaisers 'must invade' list.

A number of the following cards deal with the wheeling and dealing the Kaiser was involved in too keep neighbouring countries from joining the Allies cause and the fact Germany was in considerable financial debt from the war effort.

Card 84 deals with the general rejoicing in Germany at the sinking of the Lusitania. By card 86 this act is likened to the murdering of innocents as practised by King Herod and the sinking was a deliberate act.

Card 88 shows the German submariner keener to sink an un-armed ship than an armed one, 'even if she has only one gun, [she] is practically free from attack now.'

Card 89 is rather interesting because it shows a deliberating President Wilson:

Mr Wilson: "If they give me another black eye I'll do something."

Mr Bryan: "My dear Wilson why complain! Your eye is not at all black, it's only purple."

The rest of the card text explains the deliberation of President Wilson was greatly misunderstood both in this country [England I presume] and Holland.

Wilson gets it in the neck again in card 133: "Quick, quick, bring me my typewriter! I must word another despatch.' He is seen as saying over the 'Ancona' incident.

A good many cards show the Germans were not keen on fighting a legal war, card 94 being a prime example. 'In defiance of international law, Germany began the sea war by strewing the seas with floating mines, which wrought far more damage on merchant vessels than on war ships, and from the beginning of the war showed that the enemy intended to ignore all laws.'

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The following cards deal with the land mine, barbed wire, gas and Liquid fire.

Card 106 shows Germany amazed to discover Russia has not yet fallen, a card that could well have served well to remember a few years later.

Card 111 / 112 /113 drives all this home very hard, card 111: 'After boasting of getting through to Paris, to Calais, and even to England, the enemy concentrated huge forces against little Serbia, and then boasted of the 'magnificent victory' accomplished in the overthrow of this tiny state.

Card 112 / 113 follows the same vain. Are we all sitting as comfortably as we were 30 seconds ago?

Card 117, 'One characteristic of the German peace offer is that they have been put forward in underhand ways, and utterly denied by official Germany as soon as the Allies have refused to consider them.

So there you have it a rather condensed version of this set and I hope we all see just how much the world has changed. It is all so different now. Had Raemaker been alive today he could have just changed the odd name brought the armaments up to date and you would have had a modern propaganda war which is a bit depressing really.

One final thought and fittingly it is the final card:

'One of the minor troubles of Germany in the war arose out of the prohibition of export of German corn to Austria on account of which export of Austrian cattle to Germany was strictly prohibited, in spite of the urgent need for meat in Germany.

So there you have it.

The enemy demonised.

Woman and children brutalised.

Human shields.

Leaders lying to its citizens.

Fleeing refugees.

Neighbouring countries extending the hand of hope to those refugees.

Oil blockades.

Use of illegal weapons.

A country driven close to bankruptcy due to war.

Etc etc.

Sometimes you get so close to the lessons of history it is difficult to see the wood for the trees.