PICTURING THE GREAT WAR: A WORLD ON THE CROSS

In my book The Great and Holy War, I write at some length about the propaganda imagery of the war, and how thoroughly it drew on Christian imagery, especially Christ himself, and the Crucifixion.

Posters and cartoons depicted whole nations as the victims of crucifixion. Usually they were depicted in the form of women, and commonly nude.

One of the war’s most influential propaganda images concerned the Canadian soldier crucified by the Germans in 1915. (Long thought to be a silly myth, the story turns out to be true).

The more I explore the war’s visual heritage, though, the more such images I find, on all sides, and in a bewildering range of causes.

Commonly, the message was the same. If our enemies (whoever they are) claim to be Christian, why do they assume the role of Christ’s persecutors and executioners? Does this not utterly undermine their Christian status?

The Left and anti-war movements made much use of these themes. Lynching, for instance, was portrayed as crucifixion:

In 1916, Boardman Robinson’s cartoon “The Deserter” showed a war-resisting Christ facing a military firing squad:

Such an array of pictures reminds us forcefully of just how thoroughly immersed Western societies at that time in Christian rhetoric, and imagery.

Finally, here is Georg Grosz’ image from 1924.


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X