The Mediatization of War and Peace: The Role of the Media in Political Communication, Narratives, and Public Memory (1914–1939) 9783110707373, 9783110707366

During the First World War, mass media achieved an enormous and continuously growing importance in all belligerent count

237 106 2MB

English Pages 300 Year 2021

Report DMCA / Copyright


Table of contents :
On the Mediatization of War and Peace since 1918/19
I. Visualization of War – Narratives of War
European War Literature in a Transnational Perspective
When History Went Public
Visualizing the War
Mechanical Vaudeville
II. Peace Illusions – The Media as Postwar Prophets
“Where Did the Fourteen Points Go?”
Woodrow Wilson in Europe: December 1918–February 1919
Asserting Czechoslovak Authority in Slovakia
Conceiving a “Just” Peace for Trentino
III. From Hope to Disenchantment
The Media and the Transition from War to Peace
Media, Propaganda, and Revolution
The Italian Paradox: The Italian Media and the Myth of the Mutilated Victory
Devastated Victors
IV. The Memory of Peace and the Media – National and Regional Contexts
Visions of Stability and Anxiety
The Failed Exit from the War
When the Decline of Europe Turned Topical
The Execution of Cesare Battisti
Recommend Papers

The Mediatization of War and Peace: The Role of the Media in Political Communication, Narratives, and Public Memory (1914–1939)
 9783110707373, 9783110707366

  • 0 0 0
  • Like this paper and download? You can publish your own PDF file online for free in a few minutes! Sign Up
File loading please wait...
Citation preview

Christoph Cornelissen, Marco Mondini (Eds.) The Mediatization of War and Peace

Studies in Early Modern and Contemporary European History

Edited by FBK – Istituto Storico Italo-Germanico/ Italienisch-Deutsches Historisches Institut

Volume 2

Christoph Cornelissen, Marco Mondini (Eds.)

The Mediatization of War and Peace The Role of the Media in Political Communication, Narratives, and Public Memory (1914–1939)

ISBN 978-3-11-070736-6 e-ISBN (PDF) 978-3-11-070737-3 e-ISBN (EPUB) 978-3-11-070739-7 ISSN 2629-3730 Library of Congress Control Number: 2020950094 Bibliographic information published by the Deutsche Nationalbibliothek The Deutsche Nationalbibliothek lists this publication in the Deutsche Nationalbibliografie; detailed bibliographic data are available on the Internet at © 2021 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston Cover illustration: D’Annunzio über Wien von Fritz Schönpflug, aus der Zeitung „Die Muskete“ vom 29. August 1918, © Österreichische Nationalbibliothek Printing and binding: CPI books GmbH, Leck

Contents Christoph Cornelissen and Marco Mondini On the Mediatization of War and Peace since 1918/19 


I. Visualization of War – Narratives of War Marco Mondini European War Literature in a Transnational Perspective 


Christoph Cornelissen When History Went Public. German Historians and Their Journalistic Work during the First World War and Its Aftermath  35 Hannes Leidinger Visualizing the War. World War I as a Caesura in the History of (Visual) Media: A Relativization  51 Federico Mazzini Mechanical Vaudeville. Popularization of Science and the Trivialization of War in the US (1915–1918)  61

II. Peace Illusions – The Media as Postwar Prophets Michael S. Neiberg “Where Did the Fourteen Points Go?”. The American Media and the Shantung Controversy  79 Leonard V. Smith Woodrow Wilson in Europe: December 1918–February 1919. The Mediazation of Radicalized Liberalism   93 Étienne Boisserie Asserting Czechoslovak Authority in Slovakia. Context and Obstacles in the Immediate Aftermath of the Great War   109 Mirko Saltori Conceiving a “Just” Peace for Trentino. Aspirations, Disputes, Boundaries   125



III. From Hope to Disenchantment Laurence van Ypersele The Media and the Transition from War to Peace. The Role of the Media in the Popular Violence of November 1918, Belgium  147 Giovanni Bernardini Media, Propaganda, and Revolution. France and the International Spread of Bolshevism in the Wake of World War I  159 Angelo Ventrone The Italian Paradox: The Italian Media and the Myth of the Mutilated Victory 


Pierre Purseigle Devastated Victors. Reconstruction and the Urban Transition from War to Peace in Western Europe   197

IV. The Memory of Peace and the Media – National and Regional Contexts Peter Haslinger Visions of Stability and Anxiety. The Mediatic Building of Nations and Border Regions, 1918–1930   215 Barbara Bracco The Failed Exit from the War. The Problematic Return of Veterans and War Wounded in the Media (1918–1945)    239 Gabriele D’Ottavio When the Decline of Europe Turned Topical. From World War I to Peace  249 Maurizio Cau The Execution of Cesare Battisti. Representation and Memory of a Media Event  265 Contributors Index



Christoph Cornelissen and Marco Mondini

On the Mediatization of War and Peace since 1918/19 1 Introductory remarks During the First World War, the modern mass media achieved an enormous and continuously growing importance in all belligerent countries. Established media like newspapers and illustrated magazines, pamphlets, posters, and postcards began to thrive in a measure unknown before 1914. At the same time, the more recent forms of media (like photography and cinema) expanded quickly, becoming the new theater of imagery for a mass public1. However, major segments of the urban as well as the rural populations continued to consult the periodical press in greater numbers than ever before, which rapidly resulted in a veritable “paper barrage”2. On the French market this meant, for example, that the sale of newspapers doubled. Here the “Petit Parisien” reached one and a half million copies sold every day, and also the “Matin” printed roughly one million copies a day3. Generally, however, the total number of newspapers decreased due to the introduction of strict censorship, whereas the circulation figures continued to rise steeply4. In many other respects, the First World War brought on a media revolution. Thus, it was the first conflict to be photographed in detail by all the participants and the first one in which photography was actively exploited and controlled in support of the war effort5. In parallel, the newsreel became an increasingly popular source of information, not only in the German Reich but also in other countries, and cinemas at the military fronts began to attract audiences by the thousands on all sides6. All of these endeavors can be rounded out by aesthetic representations in the visual arts, furthermore by countless musical and theatrical ventures, many of which were exploited for the war effort by the belligerent powers. 1 Y. McEwen, Introduction, in Y. McEwen / F.A. Fisken (eds.), War, Journalism and History. War Correspondents in the Two World Wars, Oxford 2012, p. 3; L. Veray, La Grande guerre au cinema. De la gloire à la memoire, Paris 2008. 2 C. Didier (ed.), Orages de papier 1914–1918. Les collections de guerres des bibliothèques, Paris 2008, p. 12. 3 C. Charle, Le siècle de la presse, Paris 2004; M.K. Stockdale, The Press and Propaganda in War and Revolution, in The Press and Propaganda in Russia’s Great War and Revolution [special Issue], “Russian Studies in History”, 57, 2018, 1, 4 F. Keisinger, Press/Journalism, in 1914–1918-online. International Encyclopedia of the First World War, edited by U. Daniel et al, DOI:10.15463/ie1418.10258; B. Rosenberger, Zeitungen als Kriegstreiber? Die Rolle der Presse im Vorfeld des Ersten Weltkrieges, Köln 1998. 5 G. Paul, Bilder des Krieges, Krieg der Bilder. Die Visualisierung des modernen Krieges, Paderborn 2004. 6 Cf. A. Kelly, Cinema and the Great War, London 1997; P. Sorlin, Film and the War, in John Horne (ed.), A Companion to World War I, Oxford 2010, pp. 353–367.


 Christoph Cornelissen and Marco Mondini

2 The media during the war and the mediatization of warfare Right from the outset, the war triggered a boundless mediatization propelled by the unprecedented development of networks of communication and information7. The beginnings of these changes, which were to become so decisive for the mediatic history of the war and its aftermath, can be traced back to the first stages of the battles when both established and new media began engendering patriotic enthusiasm. It was exactly this motive that guided the president of the Italian press association, Salvatore Barzilai, when he placed his institution at the service of the government on the day his country entered the war8. Moreover, this seemingly spontaneous act of self-mobilization in the name of patriotic interest proved to be a common characteristic all over Europe. Thus, the war transformed both old and new media into weapons, which helped many people – socially and psychologically – to endure manifold emergencies on the one hand, while on the other hand military planners harnessed the power of the media to close the ranks of the nation against all putative enemies. In this sense, the German Kaiser had publicly announced as early as August 6, 1914: “We will end this war victoriously against a world of enemies”. To achieve this, he needed the media, and the same holds for the political and military leaders of all the other belligerent countries9. For obvious reasons this constellation led to many concessions by the media makers towards their leadership. Overall, the different media genres played a considerable part in insulating millions of European men and women from an event that involved unprecedented levels of social hardship and personal suffering, both on the military and home fronts. But more generally, it can also be said that the mass media experienced the First World War as a highly duplicitous event. On the one side, they increasingly became the object of state control, which was executed by all kinds of agencies (propaganda offices, communication committees, military, and civil press staff, and – of course – censorship offices)10. On the other hand, most of the key players of the media world of the time enthusiastically endorsed their role as “myth makers”, although this could engender a series of conflicts. Thus, the editors in chief of the major national newspapers more or less willingly accepted the strict limits imposed by censorship, whereas their prominent reporters or embedded journalists at the mili7 A. Rasmussen, Mobilising Minds, in J. Winter (ed.), The Cambridge History of the First World War, vol. 3, Cambridge 2014, pp. 390–417, here p. 391. 8 E. Falco, Salvatore Barzilai. Un repubblicano moderno tra massoneria e irredentismo, Roma 1996. 9 R. Chickering / S. Förster, Great War, Total War. Combat and Mobilization on the Western Front 1914– 1918, Cambridge 2000. 10  F. Altenhöner, Kommunikation und Kontrolle. Gerüchte und städtische Öffentlichkeiten in Berlin und London 1914/1918, München 2008; M. Farrar, News from the Front. War Correspondents on the Western Front 1914–1918, Sutton 1998.

On the Mediatization of War and Peace since 1918/19 


tary fronts often tried to bypass these regulations. Furthermore, the newly established film studios met with generous financial support from governments or the military leadership11. This situation turned the media into patriotic agencies that were meant to implement and to bolster the widespread social consensus of the early months of the war. At the same time, these agencies were regarded as instruments to create an acceptable and optimistic narrative of current events. In other words, their aim consisted in banalizing the war experience, to quote a phrase by George Mosse. Furthermore, the media did their bit to strengthen the popularity of military leaders and to build tacit consent between the wider public and its military leaders12. It might even be possible to claim that the decisions on how the war was carried out or when a standstill was called hinged to a conservable extent on the influence of the mass media13. At the same time, the relationship between the media and governments remained highly ambivalent. Thus, they became instrumentalized by the authorities in a process that transformed the Great War not into the first “media war”, which had happened already during the Crimean War, but into the first mediatized war in history. One of its precursors might already be identified in the Russo-Japanese War14. But according to Andrew Hoskins’ and Ben O’Loughlin’s definition, only the First World War can be understood as the first of a new set of paradigms “in which the mediatization makes possible more diffuse causal relations between action and effect, creating greater uncertainty for policymakers in the conduct of war”15. It cannot come as a surprise, therefore, that governments quickly came to appreciate the necessity not only of military and economic mobilization but also of the “national mobilization” of the masses. This meant that all those in responsible political and military positions “sought to stimulate and control “opinion” and “morale” (civil as well as military) to a degree and in hitherto inconceivable ways”16. To achieve this aim, they turned to 11 P. Knightley, The First Casualty. The War Correspondent as Hero and Myth Maker from the Crimea to Iraq, Baltimore MD 2004. 12 M. Connelly / D. Welch, War and the Media. Reportage and Propaganda, London 2007; A. Bauerkämper / E. Julien (eds.), Durchhalten! Krieg and Gesellschaft im Vergleich 1914–1918, Göttingen 2010. 13 G. Hirschfeld, Die Medialisierung des “Großen Kriegs” in Deutschland, in M. Quentmeier / M. Stupperich / R. Wernstedt (eds.), Krieg und Frieden 1914–2014. Beiträge für den Geschichts- und Politikunterricht, Schwalbach/Ts. 2014, pp. 48–67; M. Karmasin, Krieg, Medien, Kultur. Konturen eines Forschungsprogramms, in M. Karmasin / W. Faulstich (eds.), Krieg, Medien, Kultur. Neue Forschungsansätze, München 2007, S. 11–34. Cf. U. Daniel / A. Schildt (eds.), Massenmedien im Europa des 20. Jahrhunderts, Köln 2010. 14 M. Sweeney / N.T. Roelsgaard, Journalism and the Russo-Japanese War: The End of the Golden Age of Combat Correspondence, Lanham MD 2020. 15 A. Hoskins / B. O’Loughlin, War and Media. The Emergence of a Diffused War, Malden MA 2010, p. 3; T. Morse, Mediatized War and the Moralizing Function of News about Disruptive Events, in “Journalism”, 2018, 19, p. 384–401. 16 J. Horne, Introduction: Mobilizing for “Total War”, 1914–1918, in J. Horne (ed.), State, Society and Mobilization in Europe during the First World War, Cambridge 1997, pp. 4 f.


 Christoph Cornelissen and Marco Mondini

the media. This can partly be attributed to the challenges of a military confrontation which mobilized hundreds of thousands of soldiers, many of whom stayed away from their homes for years. Apart from their first-hand experiences at the military fronts and letters from their families and friends, their knowledge of the war depended on the restricted access to media granted to them by their military leaders17. The same can be said of the populations whom the soldiers had left behind at their respective home fronts. In their case, the media did all they could to draw positive images of an imagined war which was bound to end with a victory. In this sense, the political pressure to raise and foster a broad social consensus pushed the media again and again to come up with fake news and distorted images of a war which, in reality, was much more brutal. Thus, the media regularly reported only low rates of casualties and lost soldiers to dispel anger about the massive carnage in the trenches. The same pertains to news about social unrest or other disturbances at the home fronts. Many of these events were either publicly ignored or only briefly mentioned18. Such an approach led to countless reports which highlighted the military successes of national troops. At the same time, it resulted in constant praise of the respective military leaders and more generally a boundless cult of heroism. It therefore cannot come as a surprise that a broad range of social strata suffered a deep shock when the veil of these media illusions was drawn away towards the end of the war. All of this was not necessarily the result of rules imposed by the military authorities, but rather the consequence of a communication strategy followed up by newspapers and illustrated magazines. However, the role of the media cannot be reduced to blatant propaganda, and the relationship between governments and the media remained much more intricate than such a description suggests. This was partly the case because in many countries the system of censorship proved to be much less effective than was envisaged by legal and administrative rules. For this reason, attentive readers and spectators could detect much more than outright propaganda in the contemporary press or other media. Furthermore, this led to structural tension between the military authorities who wished to curtail news, while editors, press magnates, and other important figures of the media market strove to keep their readers informed. The press, in particular, acted as a major political player and resented undue restrictions19. At the same time, commercial motives also weighed heavily – for obvious reasons. In any case, the governments began to understand quite quickly that they

17 St. Audoin-Rouzeau, Men at War, 1914–1918. National Sentiment and Trench Journalism in France during the First World War, Oxford 1995. 18 A. Fiori, Il filtro deformante. La censura sulla stampa durante la prima guerra mondiale, Roma 2001. 19 J. Lee Thompson, Politicians, the Press and Propaganda. Lord Northcliffe and the Great War, 1914– 1919, Kent OH 1999. See also D. Welch, Germany, Propaganda, and Total War, 1914–1918, New Brunswick NJ 2000, p. 30; J.P. Flood, France 1914–1918: Public Opinion and the War Effort, New York 1990; G.S. Messinger, British Propaganda and the State, New York 1994; D. Monger, Patriotism and Propaganda in First World War Britain, Liverpool 2012.

On the Mediatization of War and Peace since 1918/19 


needed both the power of the media and the fiction of their independence to achieve a social consensus to support a long-lasting and bitter war. It also became clear to them that the absence of news stood the risk of feeding untoward rumors in societies that had become accustomed to information and public opinion long before the outbreak of the war20. In this sense, the media cannot be seen only as tools for disseminating war propaganda after 1914, but they also acted as important agencies for holding up public morale in a war that surpassed all previous experiences of mass violence. This role of the media was, of course, also the consequence of an increasingly severe system of censorship, but at the same time the fact cannot be overlooked that many senior editors and most journalists did not need this kind of direct or indirect “exhortation”. Rather, right from the onset of war, proprietors, editors in chief, and journalists strove to assist their own “nations in arms” by all means at their disposition. Many of these attempts were geared towards the veritable and long-lasting clash of ideas centering on the division between “civilization” and “Kultur”. In retrospect it can be said that the Entente powers acted much more efficiently in this field than the Central Powers. Thus, the view that the Great War was the result of aggressive German expansionism was commonplace in the international press, not only in the Entente states but also that of the Neutral powers by 1916. But all these attempts should not be reduced to their propagandistic side, because at the core of these mediatic inventions we can detect a much more deep-seated clash of values, representations, and imaginings which were to have lasting effects until long after the end of the war21.

3 On the contents of this book Even though the role of mass media – above all, press, cinema, and photography – in promoting and nurturing a war-ready climate has been examined by historical research in various studies, we still do not know enough about their impact during the war when they systematically put themselves at the service of their respective national causes22. This is the case because the conventional analysis of this topic has always preferred a national approach, and – more often than not – the focus of these studies has remained limited to one single type of medium, with little or no attention to transnational or multimedia questions. In considering these omissions, the articles presented here seek to follow a comparative and multidisciplinary perspective.

20 J. Horne, Public Opinion and Politics, in J. Horne (ed.), A Companion to World War I, Oxford 2012, pp. 279–294, here p. 281. 21 A. Rasmussen, Mobilising Minds, p. 390. 22 A. Becker / N. Beaupré, The Social History of Cultural Life, in J. Winter (ed.), The Cambridge History of the First World War, vol. 3, pp. 386 f.


 Christoph Cornelissen and Marco Mondini

Generally, we aim to initiate a new debate both on the role and the influence of media during the war and the ensuing phase of transition from war to peace. The first section, “Visualization of War – Narratives of War”, focuses on some of the main agencies which paved the way for the master narratives on the First World War. The authors debate not only their widely shared languages but also the continuities and ruptures in comparison to the media revolution before 1914. Marco Mondini presents a synoptic survey of European First World War literature through a re-examination of two questions. The first one investigates the “status” of veterans as the only and “genuine” witnesses of the war, whereas the second one tries to account for the creation of a close emotional bond among combatants via the media. In their talk of a “brotherhood in arms”, the camaraderie or cameratismo represents, as Mondini argues, a transnational pattern of the war experience in which the media played a central role. Thereafter, Christoph Cornelissen focuses on the German academic mobilization, particularly the community of historians. He argues that the challenges of the war of the minds, in which “basically nobody could define what Germany was morally fighting for, except for its preservation and the maintenance of its position as a leading power in Europe”, had a fundamental impact on this group. Countless academics underwent a process of self-mobilization and turned into public intellectuals, writing for newspapers and magazines, publishing pamphlets, and giving public speeches. All of this was done in the name of a supposed “German freedom” and the right to defend it against “a world of enemies”. Although this message went down quite well with large sections of the wider German public, it also hardened the view on the opposing side about the authoritarian structures of the German Reich. The contribution that follows, by Hannes Leidinger, proposes to relativize the idea of the First World War having an innovative role as the mainspring of media evolution and propaganda. In contrast to this well-established view, he highlights the continuities of the growing cinematographic industry since the Belle Epoque, thus in the phase in which cinema was already well on the way to becoming the new “theater of imagery”. Leidinger also reminds us of the limits of the new visual arts between 1914 and 1918, both as a military tool and as a source of entertainment for civilians. The final contribution of this section analyzes the extent to which the rapid technological development of the war years became one of the main themes of a wider cultural war. Federico Mazzini considers the media popularization of war technologies in the United States as part of a more general process in the trivialization of violent conflicts. He demonstrates the great extent to which numerous popular magazines regarded the war as the cradle of – and a stage for – new technological wonders, thus delivering images to their readerships of a war that in reality was much more brutal and devasting. The second section of the book deals with the role of the media as post-war prophets. If “mediatization” denotes “the possibility of the media to influence and change institutions and models of interaction”, as Stig Hjarvard argues, this holds true not

On the Mediatization of War and Peace since 1918/19 


only for the conduct of the Great War but also for the ways and means by which the events of the war and its coming to an end were made understandable to a wider public. To put it briefly, in the transitory period from the armistices to the peace negotiations in Paris, the media shaped the expectations and hopes of millions of people. Bearing this in mind, the authors of the second section strive to shed new light on the reactions of the public to the diplomatic and political maneuvers in the “capital of the world”. More generally they discuss the question of how looking more closely at the role of the media might enable us to understand the high degree of resentment which beset public attitudes, both among the vanquished and the victors23. This is all the more important given a time beset with rumors, reproaches, and claims for retribution for the untold hardships during the war years. Already the final year of the war had led to a mediatic barrage in all belligerent countries because every side attempted to achieve the best available peace for its co-nationals. In France, for example, this was demonstrated by the fact that the final months of the war and the return to the offensive of the Allied armies coincided with the intensification of a media campaign calling for revenge and hatred against the assailants and destroyers – the “boches”. At the same time, newspapers, but also magazines, photo books, and films from all the Entente countries began to remind the public of the destruction caused by the German occupiers in Belgium, which had just been liberated. Pressure on the Central Powers increased when the press of the so-called “oppressed nations”, which had fought alongside the Entente as national legions (especially in the Czech case), developed concurrently into a central platform for asserting their national aspirations. This campaign continued in the final months of 1918 and during the long peace negotiations in Paris in 1919, when countless journalists made a strong case for these nations to promote their right to publicly use their native language. Furthermore, leading Czech, Serb, and Romanian politicians asked their national newspapers and magazines to underwrite far-reaching territorial claims for their national brethren, while the Austrian and Hungarian media published harsh complaints about the unjust decisions their countries had to endure. Media messages were, however, by no means limited to winning popular support for specific war aims but rather continued to do all they could to enhance the circulation of more general ideas and values about the culture of war. We might even claim that the media acted, on the one hand, as generators of their nations’ expectations of peace and aspirations in war, while on the other hand whipping up public emotions about a “just peace”. In this sense the media can be regarded as the most important source of the global popularity of American president Woodrow Wilson at the beginning of the peace process, as Michael Neiberg and Leonard Smith argue in their contributions. According to Smith, Wilson was both a politician and a true media

23 S. Hjarvard, The Mediatization of Society: A Theory of the Media as Agents of Social and Cultural Change, in “Nordicom Review”, 2008, 29, pp. 105–134.


 Christoph Cornelissen and Marco Mondini

star at the opening of the Paris peace conference in January 1919; since the end of 1918, “his words and images circled the globe, thanks to print journalism, early photojournalism, and newsreels” and his role is hard to imagine without the deep impact of him as the prophet from the New World, a public icon created by a widespread multimedia campaign. “Immense crowds greeted Wilson […] newsreels recorded Europeans’ adoration of the messenger”, as Smith recalls. However, if the extraordinary (yet ephemeral) success of the “Wilsonian moment” owed much more to the myth of Wilson created by the media than to the reception of the real Wilsonian project, its decline depended on the media as well, as Michael Neiberg argues in his contribution on the Shantung controversy. The question turned into a political problem because of the Japanese occupation of the Chinese peninsula just after the War. This brought to the fore not only the internal contradictions of the Wilsonian project, as the American president gladly neglected his principle of national self-determination and tried to promote a personal Realpolitik to keep Japan a member of the League of Nations, but it also demonstrated the power of the media in orientating public opinion: “Before 1919, few Americans knew anything at all about Shantung […]. In 1919, however, with Americans anxious for news from this unfamiliar but suddenly newsworthy place, articles on Shantung rose to more than 10,000” and “most of them expressed negative views, even outright condemnations, of American policy in East Asia”. These views reflect a growing American discomfort with the way the post-war world had begun to develop, and they also reveal how early American disillusionment with the Treaty of Versailles and the League of Nations set in. However, the great expectations for a “just peace” and the other keywords of the Wilsonian rhetoric continued to influence the transition to a new global order for some time, even if they constituted a stark contrast to the real solution of borders and national controversies in Europe. Both Étienne Boisserie, analyzing the newly born Czechoslovak State, and Mirko Saltori with a focus on the Trentino (the Italian speaking province of Trento, which had been annexed by the Italian national state) argue that the Wilsonian slogans played a pivotal role in numerous ways. In the troubled phase of the construction of Czechoslovakia, the duo “democracy and republic was […] a major theme of propaganda”, to legitimate the new order. “All sorts of formulations declared that the Czechoslovak republic was fundamentally incapable of committing the injustices endured over the centuries by the Czechs and the Slovaks” under the Austro-Hungarian tyranny. Simultaneously, the flag of self-determination was being waved in Trentino, where adherents of democratic and nationalist parties clashed over the question of the new Italian border. In this propaganda war the media played a pivotal role. The final choice of the Brenner Pass as the northern boundary, which led to the annexation of the primarily German-speaking district of Bolzano, the so-called “Alto Adige”, as well as the stubborn persistence of Rome in exclusively pursuing the 1915 manifesto of nationalist aims, was only one instance in a far wider panorama which reveals the global “fiasco of Wilsonian-

On the Mediatization of War and Peace since 1918/19 


ism”24. Thus, Wilson lost a diplomatic battle on the one hand, but on the other he was also the victim of a series of media campaigns that ferociously turned against him. The third section of the book deals with the more general change from hope to disenchantment. This was to be very profound because especially during the last phase of the conflict, millions of people had literally begun to believe that the war had been fought to bring an end to all wars for good. Furthermore, the media played their part in making the great masses expect that they would be compensated for all the wrongdoings they had endured in the preceding years. Public emotions were riding high about these questions in all countries, but soon the discussions reached fever-pitch when the focus turned to the famous or rather infamous “guilt clause” of the Versailles Peace Treaty. It laid the groundwork for an ongoing war of words, and above all the press did its share of stirring up hatred. In close collaboration with other media, the press in all formerly belligerent countries supported public declarations to severely punish all those who were thought to be responsible for the outbreak and the waging of the war. In England this led to vociferous calls to “Hang the Kaiser”, which turned into one of the most popular slogans of the time, but the criminalization and dehumanization of the enemy continued in many other respects as well, both regarding old “external foes” and “internal enemies”. In Belgium, this led to many acts of violence, sometimes even collective riots, perpetrated against real or supposed traitors, against men and women who were reported to have fraternized with the Germans during the long occupation. As Laurence van Ypersele shows in her contribution, the media coverage of those outbreaks of violence was very ambiguous. Initially, the press looked sympathetically to these events legitimating “the popular fury” against those who had betrayed the “suffering common identity” of Belgium as the heroic victim of a brutal invader. But soon the newspapers began asking for the efficient restoration of public order25. The development remained complex and the air was full of rumors. In such a situation the media could not simply invent information, and whipping up emotions always ran the risk of being counter-productive. But after several years of constant war propaganda the public in most countries readily accepted both the radicalization of language and the images used by the different media genres. In 1918/19 this brought forth a series of national catalogues with rather different wishes, hopes, and illusions, which led to manifold flights of fancy and false beliefs. The long-lasting concerns – not to say the obsession – of the French authorities regarding the penetrating power of Bolshevik propaganda may be understood as a case in point. Here many politicians in responsible political positions thought the danger of an international revolution to be imminent. The fact that they did so can be explained, as Giovanni Bernardini argues, by their reliance on sensationalistic reports in the national press. The Italian case developed in a different fashion, but it

24 A. Tooze, The Deluge. The Great War and the Remaking of Global Order, London 2015, p. 309–312.


 Christoph Cornelissen and Marco Mondini

also demonstrates how the media helped conjure up a rather hysterical perception of the end of the war. Because of this situation, many people believed Italy simply had not received the reward promised to the country when its leaders decided to enter the European war. The media, above all the traditional patriotic block of the big bourgeois newspapers together with the radical nationalist magazines, played a pivotal role in engendering a massive deception in the wider public of the Italian peninsula. The fact that Italy was not even awarded the symbolic recognition of great power status on an equal footing with the members of the Entente added fuel to the fire. As Angelo Ventrone recalls in his article on the myth of the so-called “vittoria mutilata”, for large strata of the population the war – far from being celebrated as a national, consensual triumph – ended as a moral deception. In contrast to this “moral trauma”, the British media focused on other topics. In their case the promise of “homes fit for heroes”, launched by Prime Minister David Lloyd George at the end of the war, turned into a prominent issue. It can be regarded as typical of a much more general debate which mainly focused on the social consequences of the First World War. This also explains why the quest for German reparations dominated the headlines of all the major papers in the Anglo-Saxon world. However, despite the significance attributed to the reparations, and the Allied contributions for fast restoration of the combat ravaged territories (especially in northern France and formerly occupied Belgium), the transition to peace also represented an immense disappointment for the inhabitants of these devastated regions, as Pierre Purseigle argues in his chapter on the reconstruction in Western Europe. Again, the media widely reported on these problems, summoning deep resentment when, in just a few months, large strata of the population were forced to recognize that they would not be granted an elevated status in the post-war world. This stood in clear contrast to many war-time media discourses on inter-allied solidarity for the people of these regions. While many Belgians thought they had into entered into a covenant which was to give them satisfactory compensation for the hardships they had endured, they had to realize “they were merely part of a strategic coalition”. The same could be said of many Frenchmen. “After the efforts and sacrifice, the disappointment is immense”, as “Le Journal des régions dévastées” proclaimed in May 1919. This widely shared feeling of disenchantment played a decisive role in spreading the idea of a victoire endeuillée26. In Germany, in turn, hopes for a mild peace according to the guidelines of President Woodrow Wilson remained high in the public debate until the official presentation of the draft of the Versailles Peace Treaty in May 1919. Again, the media played their part in engendering countless misunderstandings and illusions in the German public, which heightened the “trauma” of a population that had been insulated

25 R. Gerwarth, The Vanquished. Why the First World War Failed to End 1917–1923, London 2017, p. 6. 26 B. Cabanes, La Victoire endeuillée. La sortie de guerre des soldats français 1918–1920, Paris 2004.

On the Mediatization of War and Peace since 1918/19 


against the realities of the war and its consequences right up to the end of the Paris peace negotiations27. During the same phase, numerous and politically diverse groups in many countries shared the hardly less illusionary belief that the end of the war would finally enable those politicians who were now in power to establish a new and peaceful world order for good. In the final section entitled “The Memory of Peace and the Media. National and Regional Contexts”, this volume offers a transnational survey of the different ways in which these expectations were interpreted and implemented. This must be seen against the backdrop of a situation in which the Bolshevik Revolution and the subsequent bitter disappointments of the final months of the war had given rise to a sharp polarity based on the opposition of “pattern” and “counter-pattern”. In this sense the Fourteen Points that Woodrow Wilson enunciated before the American Congress in January 1918 represented only one of the available programs for a just peace, but as it turned out, the statement of principles was to become very popular worldwide whereas the aspirations of the central powers, based on the proposals of a “German order” in the new Europe, proved to be rather short-lived. They simply lacked universal attractiveness. In contrast to them, the idea of transforming the political map of the continent by doing away with multi-ethnic states and drawing new national borders became very popular. In this context the media – especially in the former Habsburg Reich – proved to be very important, both as an outlet for making national aims widely known and as propagators of the new borders. Many of these remained highly contested during the negotiations of the Paris peace conference, as Peter Haslinger shows in his article analyzing the mediatic construction and the cartographical representation of the successor states in the interwar years. It was, therefore, anything but a coincidence that hundreds of journalists gathered in Paris when the peacemakers came together in the French capital to negotiate the conditions for a future world order28. There, the representatives of the media served, on the one hand, as transmitters of messages conveyed by responsible politicians and their staff. On the other hand, they acted as independent actors claiming to represent the people’s voice. In this way they managed to exert considerable influence on the course of the Paris peace negotiations. But that was by no means everything because the influence of the media did not remain confined to outright political purposes. The mass media also began to shape the ways and means by which many contemporaries remembered and narrated their personal war experiences after 1919.

27 G. Krumeich, Die unbewältigte Niederlage. Das Trauma des Ersten Weltkriegs und die Weimarer Republik, Freiburg i.Br. 2018; B. Barth, Dolchstoßlegenden und politische Desintegration. Das Trauma der deutschen Niederlage im Ersten Weltkrieg 1914–1933, Düsseldorf 2003. 28 J. Leonhard, Der überforderte Frieden. Versailles und die Welt 1918–1923, München 2018, pp. 674– 687; M. MacMillan, Die Friedensmacher. Wie der Versailler Vertrag die Welt veränderte, Berlin 2015, p. 94.


 Christoph Cornelissen and Marco Mondini

In this sense, the master narratives on the First World War began to depend heavily on what the media declared to be essential pieces of information. This is shown by Gabriele D’Ottavio, who analyzes the impact of several leading Italian intellectuals and their ideas of finis Europae on the public debate. Thus, under the influence of the old and the new, mass media ideas of a decline of Europe met with a huge social response after the end of the war. D’Ottavio also suggests that several leading intellectuals managed to consolidate their roles as transnational opinion-makers by taking advantage of the mass media of their time. Barbara Bracco – on the other hand – demonstrates the impact of stories about the “impossible return” of Italian veterans and how these narratives began to imbue post-war culture. All these changes were part of a much larger process. Thus, the emergence of the new media facilitated the use of alternative forms of expression, which then began profoundly changing the representations of the war. In this sense, radio broadcasts began to create new commemorative practices starting in the 1920s, whereas cinema and photography, as Jay Winter recalls, rapidly became the new “theatre of imagery”29. In this context, the case of the trial and death of Cesare Battisti represents an important example. In his article, Maurizio Cau analyzes the stages of Battisti’s past: born a member of the Italian speaking community in the Dual Monarchy, he went on to become a socialist member of the Parliament in Vienna and went to war as a volunteer in the Italian Army in 1915. Cau offers a painstaking analysis of the role played by photography in the mediatization of his protagonist, who became the martyr par excellence of the Italian war effort in the public imagination. His execution was extensively publicized, both in Italy and abroad, and led to Battisti acquiring an almost immortal status. The mediatization of the events transformed Battisti’s death into a case of noble martyrdom, thus becoming the basis of a struggle for national self-assertion, especially in the ranks of the so-called “irredentisti”.

4 Final observations All the studies contained in this book demonstrate the deep impact of the mediatization of the First World War, both when it took place and during the transition from war to peace, which was to be followed by a highly ambiguous era of remembrance30. In sum, this is evidence of the ambiguous status of the media in all three phases. On the one hand, they managed to claim a central place for themselves, as a prime source of information, but also as interpreters and as a “theatre of imagery” which exerted a

29 A. Keil, Media Discourse after the War, in 1914–1918-online, DOI: 10.15463/ie1418.11205; J. Winter, Remembering War, New Haven CT 2006. 30 D. Williams, Media, Memory and the First World War, Montreal 2009; J. Winter, War beyond Words. Languages of Remembrance from the Great War to the Present, Cambridge 2017.

On the Mediatization of War and Peace since 1918/19 


lasting influence on people’s ideas about the First World War. On the other hand, the media makers and their organs increasingly became an integral part of the national war effort after 1914. This meant that most of them lost the political and cultural independence many of them had claimed for themselves in the years before 1914. Furthermore, the media underwent a political radicalization which was to produce massive repercussions on the use of language and images during and after the First World War. After 1919 their reporting had a huge impact on how people tried to come to terms with the consequences of the First World War, both among the ranks of veterans and other witnesses of the war, but even more so among the members of the post-war generations. Thus, the mediatization of war and peace increasingly began to replace first-hand experiences31. To us, this complex relationship is also highly relevant for many other war scenarios. Therefore, it might be fruitful to consider the arguments presented in this book when looking more deeply into the question of how the different media genres dealt with issues of war and peace.

31 For the complex relationship between war experiences and war memories cf. C. Cornelissen / A. Weinrich (eds.), Writing the Great War. The Historiography of World War I from 1918 to the Present, New York 2021.

I. Visualization of War – Narratives of War

Marco Mondini

European War Literature in a Transnational Perspective 1 A writing bulimia. European output from the War “Oh, what a literary war!”, Paul Fussel exclaimed, commenting on the extraordinarily literary language with which British troops narrated, assessed, and imagined the First World War1. Position warfare, inevitably involving long hours of idleness in the trenches and a complete lack of entertainment at the front, consistently encouraged the Tommies fighting on the Western Front (most of all the young, well-cultivated reserve officers) to read and write. Britain was the country with the most literate male population at the beginning of the twentieth century, with a large market for novels and poems adapted for the lower classes at economic prices. It is therefore no surprise that the literary production in the English linguistic sphere (mostly English by nationality but with some Irish contributions) was prominent. More often than not, His Majesty’s infantrymen held some kind of qualification (no matter how basic) and their letters home could draw on widespread popular imagery of romantic inspiration, depicting war as a crusade against evil, or themselves as paladins on a quest to slay a dragon and restore peace, although in reality they were plagued by lice and fighting knee-deep in mud2. The battlefield ceased to be a place of anonymous cruelty and meaningless destruction, instead developing an implicit comparison with an arena in which Christian knights could showcase their warlike virtues of valor, courage, and justice under God’s benevolence3. In addition to a massive production of poems published by veterans (at least 800 titles), the war story was also well established in the cultural scenario by the 1930s when Cyril Falls compiled his annotated bibliography of First World War, noting about 700 titles. Nowadays this listing is considered methodologically unreliable because it mixes ego-documents, novels, official histories, and regimental diaries, but it does still give a measure of the role played by the war genre in the interwar period. The publishing industry was initially reluctant to accept them, but books describing the war experience (in particular memoirs and autobiographic novels) soon enjoyed considerable success4. 1 P. Fussel, The Great War and Modern Memory, Oxford 2013, p. 168 (1st 1975 by Oxford University Press). 2 S. Goebel, The Great War and Medieval Memory. War, Remembrance and Medievalism in Britain and Germany, Cambridge 2007. 3 B. Ulrich, Die Augenzeugen. Deutsche Feldpostbriefe in Kriegs- und Nachkriegszeit 1914–1933, Essen 1997, particularly pp. 16 ff. For a more recent account of the fictionality of letter writing in modern warfare, cf. V. Didczuneit / J. Ebert /T. Jander (eds.), Schreiben im Krieg. Schreiben vom Krieg, Essen 2011, pp. 297–401. 4 V. Trott, Publishers, Readers and the Great War. Literature and Memory since 1918, London 2017, p. 21.


 Marco Mondini

The British experience was not unique, and even though to date there is no global (or European) census of World War I literature, individual national case studies can help establish the extent of a writing (and publishing) bulimia that was not limited to the more literate nations5. According to the most recent surveys, and even considering only published items (ego-documents, memoirs, diaries, fiction, or poems) circulating in the editorial market after 1914 and written by veterans and/or dedicated to the war experience, the numbers are remarkable even if approximate. In the 1920s, in his seminal work on war writers as witnesses, Jean Norton Cru proposed a corpus of 246 authors for an overall total of 300 prose works. Cru applied a very restrictive definition to decide who could be considered both an écrivain combatant (soldier writer) and a témoin (witness). He excluded all forms of fiction and those reporting only personal experience, as well as all poetic production (known to be massive already during wartime)6. This methodological choice was later widely criticized. In July 1919, the Association des Ecrivains Combattants (AEC) was founded by 80 veterans who claimed to act on behalf of more than 500 writers killed “on the field of honor”, whose works were collected and published by the AEC between 1924 and 1926 in a five-volume anthology. In his more analytical comparative studies of French and German war literature, Nicolas Beaupré recorded 239 French speaking war authors who published their memoirs before 1920, and while the data remain uncertain, there is no doubt about the orages de papier that overwhelmed the French literary sphere7. The German language world was similarly characterized by what was baptized as “die Textmasse”. Not surprisingly, as one of the states with the most advanced media and entertainment industries (as well as one of the most comprehensive scholastic systems), the German case is a good demonstration of the compulsive boom in writing (and publishing) starting immediately after the declaration of war. According to Julius Bab, who compiled a critical anthology of German poetry during early postwar period, the wave of enthusiast patriotic poems in the first months of the conflict could be estimated in the millions8. A bibliography compiled by a group of scholars in 2008 recorded 7,973 titles classed as war literature published in Germany and German speaking Austria between 1914 and 19399. Even in Italy, a semi-literate nation where more or less half the population could not read or write in 1914, the 5 N. Beaupré, Soldier-writers and Poets, in J. Winter (ed.), The Cambridge History of the First World War, vol. 3: Civil Society, Cambridge 2013, pp. 445–474. 6 J. Norton Cru, Témoins, Nancy 1993; C. Prochasson, 14–18. Retours d’expériences, Paris 2008, pp. 167–207. 7 N. Beaupré, Ecrits de guerre 1914–1918, Paris 2013; C. Didier (ed.), Orages de papier 1914–1918. Les collections de guerre des bibliothèques, Paris 2008. 8 The calculation by J. Bab (Die Deutsche Kriegslyrik 1914–1918, Stettin 1920) is quoted by N. Beaupré, Soldiers-writers and Poets, p. 485. 9 K. Flasch, Die Geistige Mobilmachung. Die deutschen Intellektuellen und der Erste Weltkrieg, Berlin 2000; T. Schneider et al., Die Autoren and Bücher der deutschsprachigen Literatur zum Ersten Weltkrieg, Osnabrück 2008, p. 9.

European War Literature in a Transnational Perspective 


Great War likewise triggered a bulimic season of writing. A recent survey of books dealing with World War I lists more than 1500 items for the two decades between 1919 and 1940. This corpus could be summed with the mass of memorial brochures celebrating the fallen, a popular literary genre in Italy after 1915, of which about 2300 have been catalogued. However, it would be misleading to confuse these materials with the corpus of eyewitness literary accounts and narrations of the conflict in circulation. These remained the hegemonic genre of the Italian publishing market at least until the 1960s with a canon of no more than 300 titles10. In an innovative essay in 2014, Nicolas Beaupré noted the mass mobilization through universal conscription of millions of citizens from the highest levels of European society who had undergone a long period of mass education, even if varying from state to state. He suggested that because of this (and for other reasons), the First World War witnessed the rise of a new figure across Europe, the protagonist of mass warfare, the soldier poet and novelist (or soldier writer): “who was distinguished from his predecessors […] in having front-line experience of the war […], a phenomenon which, under particular national conditions, developed in many of the belligerent countries”11. Notwithstanding some peculiarities due to differences in public investment in mandatory education, and unequal development of publishing markets, it is still fair to say that across Europe the Great War was, to quote Paul Fussel, “not merely literate but vigorously literary”12. However, historians need to be wary of apparently obvious similarities. The semantics of war language is strongly influenced by national cultural traditions and the meanings of the words are not always the same. A prior familiarity with the true level of violence of modern warfare should not be underestimated. In continental societies, the intellectual milieu and in general the educated young people representing the majority of soldier writers had often undergone military training as conscripts before the war. They had at least a vague (often very vague) knowledge of the new weapons and their lethality, but certainly understood that modern warfare would require collective sacrifice in the name of national security. At the beginning of the twentieth century the possibility of war was well established in the French, German, Austrian, and even Italian consciousness, a possibility (and sometimes a desire) that appeared to be increasing in probability with the arms race and deterioration of international relations in the years up to 1914. In some of these countries the majority of the adult male population was (more or less) trained in the use of weapons, and some had battlefield experience, for example in Italy, which had fought a major colonial campaign in 1910/11)13. In contrast, after the destruction of the professional section of the (small) British Army between summer and autumn of 1914, most British soldiers and officers went to the front with very little psychological 10 M. Mondini, La Guerra italiana. Partire, raccontare, tornare 1914–1918, Bologna 2014, pp. 163–210. 11 N. Beaupré, Soldier-writers and Poets, p. 484. 12 P. Fussel, The Great War and Modern Memory, p. 170. 13 D. Herrmann, The Army of Europe and the Making of the First World War, Princeton NJ 1995.


 Marco Mondini

preparation and no idea of the extreme levels of violence that awaited them. “There were memories and portents of the horrors of warfare, ancestral memory of the battlefields of Waterloo and Crimea and […] painful reminders of more recent ordeals during the Boer War”, while the menace of a terrifying German invasion had been popular in English fictional novels since the end of the nineteenth century, but the young men in uniform who would become war poets and writers left for France carrying “all the innocence of a civilization that […] had little knowledge or experience of the realities of mass slaughter”14. While the First World War, with its industrial killing and mass destruction, was a traumatic and unparalleled experience for most Europeans, there is no doubt that the British cultural tradition was particularly unprepared for dealing with modern warfare. For most of the young British citizen-soldiers and enthusiastic volunteers of the “pals battalions” who would bear the brunt of combat and losses on the Western Front, in summer 1914 the war, combat, and death were still essentially abstract aesthetic ideals15. From another point of view, Jay Winter has spoken about a decline in the conventional glorious perception of combat and death in the English tradition. He explained the different development of traditional martial codes in 1914–1918 French and British literature by applying quantitative analysis of prewar literary languages. Whereas the canonical heroic lexicon remained strong in the French national cultural sphere, among other reasons because of the persistence of a revolutionary public rhetoric based on the male-warrior virtues of glory, duty, and courage, according to Winter this was already (slowly) declining in the English literary tradition before 191416. This gradual weakening of the epic and glorious view of war matches the role of the group of British war-poets (like Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon) during the interwar period, followed by their subsequent denunciation of the patriotic “old lie” (sacrifice in war as “sweet and honorable” – dulcis et decorum – and death in combat as “noble”). Even if their influence was minimal during the conflict, it was marked and lasting on successive British generations: “the war poets helped to disseminate a non-glorious lexicon about war. The ground had been prepared for them to do so”17. From another perspective, the fluid and varied nature of the “war experience” in 1914–1918 should be seen and interpreted not only according to the accounts left by British, French, and German soldiers in the corpus of texts based on the experience of the Western Front, which established a predominant (almost exclusive) perception that has persisted in First World War historiography. “Italian and Habsburg soldiers

14 F. Field, British and French Writers of the First World War, Cambridge 1991, p. 106. 15 M. Favret, War at a Distance. Romanticism and the Making of Modern Wartime, Princeton NJ 2010. 16 J. Winter, Beyond Glory? Writing War, in M. Mondini / M. Rospocher, Narrating War. Early Modern and Contemporary Perspectives (Annali dell’Istituto Storico Italo-Germanico in Trento. Contributi/ Beiträge, 28), Bologna / Berlin 2013, pp. 133–153; J. Winter, War Beyond Worlds. Languages of Remembrance from the Great War to the Present, Cambridge 2017. 17 J. Winter, War beyond Words, p. 103.

European War Literature in a Transnational Perspective 


on the Alpine front, men in the wartime service of the Ottoman Empire, Slovenian soldiers in the forces of the Habsburg Empire”, as well as British and French soldiers belonging to the expeditionary forces in Gallipoli, the Middle East, or on the Salonica Front, “spoke different languages, in both the literal and the figurative senses, and experienced the war in many diverse ways”18. Some degree of generalization is nevertheless possible, at least as regards ego-documental narratives by combatants. Diaries and memoirs published (especially between 1919 and the Second World War) by front line veterans are not necessarily authentic descriptions of reality “wie es ist gewesen”, and certainly are not absolutely “genuine” and “realistic”, as attributed by Norton Cru. Careful analyses have demonstrated that deformations of truth, fictional content, and sometimes total falsifications often occur even in the most acclaimed memoirs (Le feu by Henri Barbusse or Un anno sull’altipiano by Emilio Lussu are two good examples)19. Nevertheless, they do offer the most accurate, generally sincere, and often non-ideological representations of everyday life in the war zone (and in particular on the front line), the experience of combat, the physical and emotional impact of fear and suffering, and the cultural context and psychological landscape of the combatants (the Frontkämpfer, to use the German term for them). According to Richard Bessel and Dorothee Wierling, “ego-documents contain a huge amount of information about what we might call the everyday of war”, which still today can help to compare (or even contrast) the war as represented in official military reports and/or official propaganda publications, which often idealized for the wider public with the aim of raising consensus20. Finally, all the accounts of the front line share at least two topoi: the traumatic encounter with death (the everyday fear of death in the trenches, death endured and death delivered), and the redemptive discovery of a community of comrades. Unfortunately, the traditional qualitative (not quantitative) approach to war literature has seen scholars privileging close analysis of a small number of canonical texts rather than taking a prosopographic or sociological perspective of the entire prose or poetic production. Furthermore, the analysis framework has always been strictly national, limiting the possibility for 1914–1918 war literature from becoming a transnational response to the trauma of modern, total war. While it is true that there are national nuances with linguistic and imaginative peculiarities, there are also numerous common traits, key words, topoi, and clichés. A good example of the traditional approach is The Cambridge Companion to the Literature of the First World War (2005), which is split into three parts dedicated, respectively, to the British case (British war 18 R. Bessel / D. Wierling, Inside World War One? Ego Documents and the First World War, in R. Bessel / D. Wierling (eds.), Inside World War One? The First World War and its Witnesses, Oxford 2018, pp. 3–25, quotation p. 5. 19 L. Smith, The Embattled Self. French Soldiers’ Testimony of the Great War, Ithaca NY 2007. 20 R. Bessel / D. Wierling, Inside World War One?, p. 14.


 Marco Mondini

memoirs, British novels, lyrics, women, modernism), “other” literatures (French, German, American), and postwar myths and imagery. While the second part is titled as a “Pan-European View”, this is pan-European oddly without British literature, and a truly comparative view can hardly be expected21. The following pages will focus on two topoi of 1914–1918 European war literature in the specific form of first-hand experiences of combat, suggesting that these represent the most obvious (even if not unique) common denominators for transnational war literature. Adopting Pierre Bourdieu’s approach, these are seen to be stimulated by the collective, traumatic (but multifaceted) experience of modern, industrial mass death. First was the (controversial) issue of the status of veterans as the only genuine witnesses, while discrediting any other voices trying to speak about the meaning of the First World War. Second was the creation of close emotional bonds between combatants (the “brotherhood-in-arms”, camaraderie, and cameratismo) as a genuine transnational pattern of war experience, especially evident in the narrative structures of the 1914–1918 memoirs. A feeling of duty towards a community of brothers-in-arms, especially for the commemoration of the fallen with the aim of making them immortal, was often one of the main motivational triggers for composition.

2 Who is entitled to speak? Death as a legitimation of the eyewitness “People who have not suffered, people who have adored the Motherland from home or from the rear lines, have no right to cast the first stone on my book, nor the last for that matter”, declared Carlo Salsa, a young reserve officer and among the most successful authors of Italian war literature22. One of the most recurrent contentions shared by all the national war literatures is the question of legitimacy. Who can narrate the war? In other words, who is a true witness? During the interwar period a moral canon quickly developed in Europe. Enlistment, wearing a uniform, or even having been a volunteer alone were insufficient for the right to speak truth about the war. Combat experience, suffering, wounds, and perhaps direct experience of death (killing, the loss of friends and comrades), became the criteria for establishing the legitimacy of a war writer. It was not merely a gender and social issue (being a man and a soldier deployed in a war zone) but a moral authority assigned to front line veterans23. Naturally the 1914–1918 literary output was not all written by front line combatants. A great mass of texts (mostly poems, dramas, and novels) were produced by a

21 V. Sherry (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to the Literature of the First World War, Cambridge 2005. 22 C. Salsa, Trincee. Confidenze di un fante, Milano 1982. 23 N. Beaupré, Ecrits de guerre, pp. 92–98.

European War Literature in a Transnational Perspective 


variety of intellectuals and amateurs, both civilian and in uniform, who never had direct experience of combat, but wanted to take part in the patriotic effort (even if only with their words). The efforts by combatants to establish a monopoly on authenticity had already begun during the war with the Frontdichter (front line poets), the war poets, and the écrivains combattants, and they quickly achieved widespread success over any unqualified competition. “Being there” was the unique legitimization for a genuine war narrator: “the man who does not know this, has not understood anything”, wrote David Jones, a veteran of the battle of the Somme, quoting the Chanson de Roland at the end of his poem In parenthesis24. Pierre-Alexis Meunier lived through the battle of Verdun, and his expression “La guerre seule parle bien de la guerre” (Only war can speak fittingly of war) established a formula that every 1914–1918 veteran can share, regardless of nationality. Paolo Monelli was one of the most esteemed soldier writers of the Italian “1915 generation” and he expressed something similar, “Solo chi ha visto la battaglia può raccontarla” (Only he who has seen the battle can describe it)25. These claims frequently had little to do with patriotic fervor or the intention to create heroic, glorious, or merely consolatory narratives of the front lines. Not all veteran writers tried to idealize combat experience and life in the trenches, as a well know poem by Wilfred Owen26 demonstrates: If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs, Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues, – My friend, you would not tell with such high zest To children ardent for some desperate glory, The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est Pro patria mori.

In his celebrated novel All Quiet on the Western Front (1928), Erich Maria Remarque creates a similar ideological perspective using not dissimilar terms to stress the gap between the true combatants, the young generation of the naive sacrificed volunteers, and the false patriot war enthusiasts, the “draft dodgers” of the older generations: “while they went on writing and making speeches, we saw field hospitals and men dying, while they taught that the duty to the State is the greatest thing, we already knew that death-throes are stronger”27. Remarque’s book, an unusual but not unique example of mixed genre (simultaneously fictional and autobiographical, largely 24 In S. Hynes, The Soldier’s Tale. Bearing Witness to Modern War, New York 1997, p. 1. 25 P. Monelli, Le scarpe al sole. Cronache di gaie e tristi avventure di alpini, di muli e di vino, Milano 1971. 26 W. Owen, Dulce et decorum est, in The Poems of Wilfred Owen, edited by J. Stallworthy, London 1984, pp. 117–119. 27 E.M. Remarque, All Quiet on the Western Front, New York 1987, p. 103.


 Marco Mondini

based on the author’s real front line experiences in 1916–1918), is often cited as the most remarkable and successful example of pacifist literature in the 1920s, even if more recent critics have expressed doubts about the exclusively pacifist nature of the narrative. According to Thomas Schneider, even though it still stands today as a symbol of the senseless cruelty of the First World War, a non-ideological analysis of the text instead reveals Im Westen nichts Neues to be a neutral description of the illusions, enthusiasm, and above all disenchantment of the romantic and patriotic “1914 generation” thrown into the reality of an attritional, industrial, inglorious mass conflict, leaving all moral interpretations of war to the reader28. From another point of view, Leonard Smith noted that the common perception of Paul Bäumer, Remarque’s protagonist (and alter ego) as the archetype of the soldier as simple victim of modern war machinery, is a rather monolithic identity, usually set in opposition to “the brute”, the contrasting archetype represented by Ernst Jünger, the storm-trooper who comes to love violence by internalizing a warmongering ethos: “paradoxically, the duo of victim and brute seemed to close down rather than invite further investigation by historians”29. In any case, the rapid international success of All quiet on the Western Front is beyond dispute, in spite of censorship stopping its distribution in Germany after 1933 and in Italy after the first (and for a long time unique) edition of 193130. With around 40 million copies sold in more than fifty languages, and its widespread adoption as a school reading text in a number of European countries, the book is probably still the best known First World War narrative today. Its favorable global reception was also partly due to the great success of the film of the same name, directed by Lewis Milestone, released in 1930 and winning Academy Awards for best movie and best direction the same year. This was the first (but not last) example of how transmediality between publishing and cinema played a pivotal role in promoting First World War literature31. Remarque’s success is often credited as strongly fostering the war book market throughout Europe, and indeed across the globe. After ten years of relative decline of the “war memoirs” genre, the late 1920s and early 1930s represented a pan-European golden age for the publication of autobiographical writings on 1914–1918. Several of British war literature’s best sellers were published at this time, among them Siegfried Sassoon’s Memoirs of a Fox-Hunting Man (1928) and Memoirs of an Infantry Officer (1930), Max Plowman’s A subaltern on the Somme (1928), Edmund Blunden’s Undertones of War (1928), Robert Graves’ Goodbye to All That (1929), Charles 28 T. Schneider, Erich Maria Remarques Roman ‘Im Westen Nicht Neues’. Text, Edition, Entstehung, Distribution und Rezeption (1928–1930), Tübingen 2004. 29 L. Smith, The Embattled Self, p. 10. 30 B. Schrader, Der Fall Remarque. Im Westen nichts Neues: Eine Dokumentation, Leipzig 1992; G. Bonsaver, Censorship and Literature in Fascist Italy, Toronto 2007. 31 A. Kelly, All Quiet on the Western Front: The Story of a Film, London / New York 2002; L. Veray, La Grande guerre au cinema. De la gloire à la memoire, Paris 2008.

European War Literature in a Transnational Perspective 


Edmond’s A Subaltern War (1929), each of them influenced to different degrees by the harsh realistic style and narrative structure of All Quiet32. Not all these memoirs can be considered “pacifistic”. In Alan Patrick Herbert’s Secret Battle (1919), the conflict was seen as “a necessary but disgusting business”, in which the naive, sentimental illusion of war had to be demystified and the real life conditions and sacrifice had to be remembered, but service to the country and loyalty to comrades in the trenches remained a moral duty. Only veterans of the firing line were deemed capable of understanding and honestly narrating wartime experience33. This “sober truth” of the real combatant, to quote the words of Winston Churchill in the introduction to the second edition (1928), could serve as an epigraph for more or less all war memoirs, regardless of nationality. In Ludwig Renn’s Krieg, the invisible boundary between who deserves the right to recount the war, and all others (die Fremden), also extends through the army. Only the community of front-line infantrymen (Frontkämpfer) can be considered real soldiers, whereas the huge galaxy of shirkers and false combatants, even if in uniform and armed (high command officers, rear line soldiers), should remain silent because “they did not see the trenches”34. Renn was the son of a noble dynasty and a veteran of the Western Front. After the War he became involved with the German Communist Party (KPD), which he joined in 1928. He managed to escape from Germany in 1933, just after the Nazis rose to power, beginning a long exile as an anti-Nazi militant. His words and assumption of a tangible and irreducible difference between the Frontkämpfer and the rest of the population would undoubtedly be shared by many of the infantrymen who fought in 1914–1918, regardless of their ideological allegiance. When Renn spoke of the “extraneous”, for example the meticulous, rigidly formal, but ultimately cowardly career officers or NCO’s who came to the front lines directly from their barracks or high commands and were totally inadequate, the reader can easily recognize some archetypes. For example, Himmelstoss, the former mailman promoted to drill sergeant in the German Reserve Army, who tyrannized Paul Bäumer and his companions in All quiet during their basic training, but was revealed to be a coward without grit when transferred to the front. Renn’s perspective on the army, unspoken rules of military life, and ultimate meaning of war were entirely shared by the Italian Paolo Monelli even though he was on the opposite side of the ideological spectrum and extremely conservative. After the war he joined the nationalist veteran association against the (imaginary) threat of a Bolshevik revolution in Italy, enjoying a brilliant career as a journalist during the interwar period. He spoke German and spent some time in Berlin as a reporter. In 1929 he translated Renn’s Krieg, which was eventually published by 32 R. Stevenson, Literature and the Great War 1914–1918, Oxford 2013, pp. 86 f. 33 A.P. Herbert, The Secret Battle, Oxford 1982, p. 51. 34 U. Broich, “Hier spricht zum ersten Male der gemeine Mann”. Die Fiktion vom Kriegserlebnis des einfachen Soldaten in Ludwig Renn: Krieg (1928), in T. Schneider / H. Wagener (eds.), Von Richthofen bis Remarque. Deutschsprachige Prosa zum Ersten Weltkrieg, Leiden 2003, pp. 207–216.


 Marco Mondini

Treves. In the introduction to the Italian edition, Monelli enthusiastically praised the realism of the book, […] free from the usual chauvinist propaganda and all literary sophistication […] a powerful memorial for every soldier who fought with rifle and grenades […]. While I was translating, it felt as though I was rewriting my war diary […] The situations were the same […] Renn too, like us entering the battle of Ortigara, sees the eyes of idle soldiers, soldiers who didn’t fight, and he doesn’t care […]35.

The embusqués (shirkers) are singled out for criticism in many war memoirs, but it was Henri Barbusse with Le feu (Under Fire) who launched the crusade against false combatants. It was originally published serially in the newspaper “L’Oeuvre”, then in a volume in 1916 as Le feu. Journal d’une escouade. It enjoyed immediate success, selling 200,000 copies over 1916–1918 and was awarded the Prix Goncourt “for its realism”, going on to become a classic not only of French literature36. Many of its motifs would recur in later war memoirs, especially its harsh attack on those who had never been in the trenches or combat, but after the war would declare their heroism and the right to recount the impressive true experiences of warriors: – Is it the shirkers you want to talk about? – By God! – He had thrown the rest of his beef over the parapet, and this cry, this gasp, escaped violently from his mouth as if from a valve […]. – all those individuals fiddle-faddling and making believe down there, all spruced up with their fine caps and officers’ coats and shameful boots, that gulp dainties and can put a dram of best brandy down their gullets whenever they want, and wash themselves oftener twice than once, and go to church, and never stop smoking, and pack themselves up in feathers at night to read the newspaper—and then they say afterwards, “I’ve been in the war!”37.

“Seeing” is “knowing”. Direct experience of the front line raised combatants to a higher level, as the young Ernst von Salomon reluctantly had to admit: “Then what did we know? What did we know of these men, of the front line, of our soldiers?”38. In November 1918 he was still a 16-year-old cadet at the Royal Army Academy in Berlin and so too young to be enlisted in a combat unit. With his intense patriotic fervor and sense of duty, von Salomon is a rare but interesting voice from the opposite camp, highlighting the invisible but tangible line that differentiates veterans from the rest of humanity, for whom the true nature of war will always remain unintelligible. Veterans also realized that trying to describe the reality of combat, death, suffering, and fear of soldiers under fire can be (and often is) hopeless. War remains for the most part inexplicable, above all because those who never fought on the front line tend 35 P. Monelli, Prefazione, in L. Renn, La guerra, Milano 1929, pp. IX f. 36 N. Beaupré, Ecrits de guerre, pp. 94–96; D. Pernot, Presentation, in H. Barbusse, Le feu. Journal d’une escouade, Paris 2014, pp. 7–43. 37 Ibid., p. 137. The translation from the French is mine. 38 E. von Salomon, I proscritti, Milano 2001, p. 12. Translated from the Italian edition.

European War Literature in a Transnational Perspective 


to keep imagining the aesthetic romanticized depictions of scholastic and popular texts. “A qui raconteras-tu la verité?” wrote Gabriel Chevallier, in his autobiographical anti-heroic novel La peur: “To whom will you tell the truth? To people who profited by the war […]? They don’t care about the truth. You are a victim, none cares about a victim […] in a couple of years we will all look like fools […]”39. In Jean Norton-Cru’s monumental 1929 anthology Témoins, he insisted on first-person eyewitness accounts as the only possible source for an authentic social memory of war. He also applied an implicit hierarchy to his acceptable sources (diaries, memoirs, meditations, letters, novels) based on the degree of “genuineness” of the authors and their credentials as witnesses40. There has been heated methodological debate over the years about war literature in general, and Norton-Cru’s approach in particular, effectively proving that rigid classification of war literature according to genres is virtually impossible. While memoirs and diaries were indisputably the dominant form of European war narrative in the aftermath of 1918 (and would continue to be for two further decades), at the same time these compositions were powerfully influenced by the author’s pre-existing cultural background41. Even if a first-person account is “real”, in the sense of “truthful”, it is always couched in the literary language of the author. Very often the shocking realities of life and death in the trenches are ameliorated with stylistic refinements (the vast use of euphemism in the memoirs of British soldier-writers is a case to point). The atrocities of modern warfare were often attenuated through the use of heroic-chivalric imagery that trivialized tragedy and allowed the construction of heroic self-images42. As Leonard Smith observed, the issue at stake in literary texts that purport to record the experience of the Great War is not the elusive line between fact and fiction, as it was in Norton-Cru’s time. The real question is understanding how certain literary artifacts that tradition has somehow accepted as “true” have been shaped by narrative clichés deriving from the writer’s academic and literary education, his wish to establish himself as a bona fide “author” by interiorizing the received rules of good prose (what Pierre Bourdieu would term the “rules of the field”), and his need to suppress negative memories to promote a more favorable image of himself43. 39 G. Chevallier, La peur, Paris 1998, p. 400. The translation from the French is mine. 40 J. Norton-Cru, Témoins, Nancy 1993. 41 P. Fussel, The Great War and the Modern Memory, Oxford 1975; C. Prochasson, Les mots pour le dire, in “Revue d’histoire moderne et contemporaine”, 2001, 4, pp. 160–189; C. Prochasson, La littérature de guerre, in S. Audoin-Rouzeau / J.J. Becker, Encyclopédie de la Grande Guerre 1914–1918, Paris 2004, pp. 1189–1203. 42 M. Girouard, The Return to Camelot: Chivalry and the English Gentleman, New Haven CT 1981; A. Watson / P. Porter, Bereaved and Aggrieved. Combat Motivation and the Ideology of Sacrifice in the First World War, in “Historical Research”, 2010, 83, pp. 146–164. 43 L. Smith, Le récit du témoin. Formes et pratiques d’écriture dans les témoignages sur la Grande Guerre, in C. Prochasson / A. Rasmussen (eds.), Vrai et faux dans la Grande Guerre, Paris 2004, pp. 277–301.


 Marco Mondini

3 Comradeship In his book about the emotional survival of British soldiers in the First World War, Michael Roper devotes a few pages to the perception of the army as a “domestic institution”, or simply as “a new family”. In war memoirs, especially the junior officers’ roles were often described as “housewifery” or “mothering”: “the habit of describing the subaltern’s work as housewifery or ‘mothering’ was more than a linguistic quirk, for there were structural similarities between these roles”44. Roper’s analysis is an effective point of entry for another common theme in First World War ego-documents, the creation of close emotional bonds between combatants: a real panEuropean pattern of war experience, evident above all in the narrative structures of the 1914–1918 memoirs45. In the British case, this reconstruction of a new “we”, a close group with the traits of a family, was favored by the military traditions of the regimental system, with its strong emphasis on unit identity and close relations between comrades (depending, of course, on social background and rank), and by the centrality of group cohesion in public schools, which the great majority of officers and writers had attended. Both these elements would be essential for the moral cohesion of the new armies created after the summer of 1914 and based on mass recruiting of volunteers. Even though the folkloristic “pals battalions” of the new Kitchener Army were quickly reorganized and trained according to the rigid criteria of established professional discipline, there is no doubt that a well rooted cult of comradeship, based on a mix of traditional male values like loyalty, courage, altruism, and self-sacrifice was crucial to the soldiers’ ability and willingness to fight on, remaining the best explanation for the remarkable resistance and cohesion of the British infantry even in terrible moments like the Battle of the Somme46. Not surprisingly, a homage to the centrality of this psychological male bonding was widespread in all the war literature, regardless of the ideological acceptance of a traditional, heroic, or patriotically naive vision of the conflict. Herbert Read was a poet and veteran reserve officer decorated for bravery on the Western Front. He would later become a militant pacifist and very effectively described the centrality of this aspect of military culture in his well-known poem My Company (1919): But, God! I know that I’ll stand Someday in the loneliest wilderness, Someday my heart will cry For the soul that has been, but that now

44 M. Roper, The Secret Battle. Emotional Survival in the Great War, Manchester 2009, p. 165. 45 On the category of “ego-documents” and the historiographical debate about the 1914–1918 war, see R. Bessel / D. Wierling, Inside World War One? Ego Documents and the First World War, in R. Bessel / D. Wierling (eds.), Inside World War One? The First World War and its Witnesses, Oxford 2018, pp. 3–28. 46 A. Watson, Enduring the Great War. Combat, Morale and Collapse in the German and British Armies 1914–1918, Cambridge 2008.

European War Literature in a Transnational Perspective 


Is scatter’d with the winds, Deceased and devoid. I know that I’ll wander with a cry: “O beautiful men, O men I loved, O whither are you gone, my company?”47

Robert Graves’ Good Bye to All That (1929) is usually explained as an affirmation of the nonsense of the war, and consequently as a radical rejection of the old patriotic and Victorian values. However, it also highlighted regimental loyalty as a new “circle of the we”: “we [officers] all agreed that regimental pride remained the greatest moral force that kept a battalion going as an effective fighting unit […]”48. According to Graves, loyalty to comrades in the small world of the trenches was the only moral force sustaining the will of the combatants: Patriotism, In the trenches, was too remote a sentiment, and at once rejected as fit only for civilians, or prisoners. A new arrival who talked patriotism would soon be told to cut it out. As “Blighty”, a geographical concept, Great Britain was a quiet, easy place for getting back to out of the present foreign misery; but as a nation it included not only the trench-soldiers themselves and those who had gone home wounded, but the staff, Army Service Corps, lines of communication troops, base units, home-service units, and all civilians down to the detested grades of journalists, profiteers, “starred” men exempted from enlistment, conscientious objectors, and members of the Government. […] Hardly one soldier in a hundred was inspired by religious feeling of even the crudest kind. It would have been difficult to remain religious in the trenches even if one had survived the irreligion of the training battalion at home […]49.

In Memoirs of an Infantry Officer, “we”, the small, compact group of comrades, was an emotional refuge enabling moral and psychological endurance. The brutal experience of the front could only be understood by members of the restricted community of the trenches: “We were the survivors […] We were carrying something in our heads which belonged to us alone, and to those we had left behind us in battle […]”, Sassoon wrote50. This text was undoubtedly one of the most widely successful books in the war literature genre, strongly influencing literature even outside of the English language sphere. Faber, his publisher, had already had remarkable public success with the English translation of Arnold Zweig’s Der Streit um Sergeanten Grischa (1927 and published in England under the title The Case of Sergeant Grischa in 1928). This was the story of a Russian soldier shot for desertion and among the first and harshest antiwar novels to receive a pan-European reception. It enjoyed an unexpected commer-

47 In P. Fussel, The Great War and Modern Memory, pp. 208 f. 48 R. Graves, Goodbye to All That, London 1998, p. 166. 49 Ibid., pp. 167 f. 50 S. Sassoon, Memoirs of an Infantry Officer, London 1997, pp. 161 f.


 Marco Mondini

cial success with more than 300,000 copies sold by 1930 and this favorable response encouraged Faber to continue publishing provocative rather than conventional patriotic texts51. The war book boom in the 1920s and 1930s actually favored more critical and often provocative war memoirs, legitimized by widespread anti-war feeling and an ideological context of cultural demobilization (the so-called “spirit of Locarno”). Good Bye to All That also enjoyed remarkable commercial success with more than 20,000 copies sold within weeks52. The focus on the emotional bonds between brothers-in-arms in the trenches was largely repeated by every war author, independently of nationality, ideological inclination, or social background. The best-known representation of the centrality of comradeship as an oasis of meaning and affection in the midst of the irrational and senseless horror of mass carnage on the front line is probably Remarque’s All Quiet: To judge by the tone that might be Kat talking. At once a new warmth flows through me. These voices, these quiet words, these footsteps in the trench behind me recall me at a bound from the terrible loneliness and fear of death by which I had been almost destroyed. They are more to me than life, these voices, they are more than motherliness and more than fear; they are the strongest, most comforting thing there is anywhere: they are the voices of my comrades. I am no longer a shuddering speck of existence, alone in the darkness;– I belong to them and they to me; we all share the same fear and the same life, we are nearer than lovers, in a simpler, a harder way; I could bury my face in them, in these voices, these words that have saved me and will stand by me53.

Remarque was only one of many authors who highlighted the comradeship of the trenches, a friendship based on solidarity, faith, mutual respect, and loyalty between individuals of different social backgrounds during the self-sacrifice before death, standing in counterpoint to the traditional rhetorical conceptions of patriotic and romantic heroism depicted in scholastic texts. He described this as the most precious memory of his own youth in arms and finally as a seminal experience towards becoming an adult54. This camaraderie / cameratismo / Kameradschaft, a deep emotional relationship with a primary group of friends with whom soldiers could share fear and sufferance was seen to emerge in war literature of all nationalities not only as an outcome of how military training emphasized close collaboration between soldiers, not only for psychological support against the horror of everyday trench life, but also to find an answer to the fundamental question of why to continue fighting. In war 51 V. Trott, Publishers, Readers and the Great War: Literature and Memory since 1918, London 2017, pp. 30 f. 52 J. Horne, Locarno et la politique de démobilisation culturelle, in J. Horne (ed.), Démobilisations culturelles après la Grande guerre [special issue], “14–18 Aujourd’hui – Today – Heute”, 5, 2002, pp. 72–87. 53 E.M. Remarque, All Quiet on the Western Front, p. 165. 54 T. Schneider, “Then Horror Came into Her Eyes”. (De-)Constructions of Masculinity in German Literary Anti-War Text on World War I 1914–1918, in C. Glunz / T. Schneider (eds.), Then Horror Came into Her Eyes. Gender and the Wars [special issue], “Krieg und Literatur / War and Literature”, 10, 2014, pp. 135–148.

European War Literature in a Transnational Perspective 


stories, especially from the interwar period, comrades themselves are presented as the most important reason for enduring the atrocious levels of violence and suffering in the trenches, and desertion was inhibited above all by the reluctance to abandon the closest sincerest friends of a lifetime55. The endless time spent in the trenches was a powerful social leveler, observes Barbusse, but perhaps even more so a forge for emotional bonds: “dans notre groupe disparate, dans cette famille sans famille” (in our ill-assorted flock, in this family without family) human ties were created, stronger than any situation in civilian life. In this home without a hearth at which we gather, there are three generations side by side, living, waiting, standing still, like unfinished statues, like posts. Our races? We are of all races; we come from everywhere. I look at the two men beside me […]. Yes, we are truly and deeply different from each other. But we are alike all the same. In spite of this diversity of age, of country, of education, of position, of everything possible, in spite of the former gulfs that kept us apart, we are in the main alike. Under the same uncouth outlines, we conceal and reveal the same ways and habits, the same simple nature of men who have reverted to the primeval state56.

On the Italian front, like all the others, a soldier’s trench (or team or platoon) -mates quickly became an emotional microcosm and the relationships with comrades the focus for the sentimental world of the combatants, and most importantly their main psychological support57. Most Italian war memoirs and diaries attested to a rapid evaporation of pre-war political outlooks, soon to be replaced with the theme of war as an existential experience. When the authors joined the “nation in arms”, they discovered a new dimension of life, a community in which they could grow and regenerate through discovery (or rediscovery) of the traditional values of the warrior ethos: courage, strength, loyalty, and spirit of sacrifice. In many respects this was the Italian version of a typical transnational notion of war culture: the conflict as an opportunity for the emergence of a “generation of fire”58. In the Italian experience, however, the narration of the Great War assumed the more specific form of a collective Bildungsroman, a discursive construction in which accounts of real events and descriptions of actual fighting are comparatively marginal. What stands out most is the memory of a small group of comrades with whom the narrator shared the dramatic and unique experience of the war, and to whom he looks back with a mixture of pain and nostalgia. The writers of 1915–1918 tended to present themselves as survivors, with a responsibility to describe war exactly as it happened: a crucible of suffering, sacrifice, and

55 A. Lafon, La Camaraderie au front 1914–1918, Paris 2014, pp. 59–83. 56 H. Barbusse, Le feu, pp. 12 f. The translation from the French is mine. 57 M. Mondini, La guerra italiana. Partire, raccontare, tornare 1914–1918, Bologna 2014, pp. 163–213. 58 B. Cabanes, Génération du feu: aux origines d’une notion, in “Revue Historique”, 2001, 1, pp. 139– 150; A. Erll, Wars We Have Seen: Literature ad Medium of Collective Memory in the Age of Extremes, in E. Lamberti / V. Fortunati (eds.), Memories and Representations of War. The Case of World War I and World War II, Amsterdam 2009, pp. 27–45.


 Marco Mondini

sorrow, but also a place of bonding, enthusiasm, and brotherhood. As elsewhere (for instance in French literature, analyzed by Carine Trevisan), telling the story is presented as something the survivors owe to the fallen, whose memory they wish to immortalize, but also as a vindication of truth in the face of “gratuitous patriotism” and the illegitimate rhetoric of false heroes59. The authors of testimonials were convinced that people who had never fought could never completely understand the reality of the front line and the ambivalent nature of military life, the death and suffering, the horror and repulsion, but at the same time the bonds of loyalty, dedication, bravery, even joy: “war does not consist only of death […] war like everything else […] is horrible but also beautiful”60. This ambiguity, considered incomprehensible to most people, was revealed in La prova del fuoco by Carlo Pastorino (1926). The author felt morally obliged to dedicate his memoirs to his brothers-in-arms with whom he had shared suffering, death and imprisonment, but also an unbreakable fraternal bond, which they still “remember together”, even as they “are walking on different paths” in their everyday post-war lives61. Mario Mariani dedicated Sott’la Naja to his “war comrades” while the war was still raging. Had he not done so, the true fighters would have remained unknown, unlike the “false hero” mannequins celebrated by journalists and in propaganda. The author claimed to have written purely out of duty, in order to pay homage to his brothers-in-arms62. The irreverent, ironic writing of Giuseppe Personeni, a public notary who served as an infantry officer and whose war memoirs were popular immediately after the conflict, was also dedicated to “my brothers-in-arms”: “I will be rewarded enough if I know that in those remembrances they see the good and bad moments of our odyssey”63. Personeni’s belief that his comrades were his real audience (because only they were capable of fully understanding him) was widely shared. Michele Campana, another young reserve officer who went on to become a successful author and a journalist, wrote: “only my brothers-in-arms can understand and love this book, because they created it with their blood”64. The inability of combatants to truly express their experience of war to “others” (those on the home front, shirkers, pacifists, women) was rather paradoxically one of the most characteristic topics of the twentieth century European war narrative. War veteran writers sincerely believed that their audience could only be a small circle of comrades, and that the general public would be unable to hear or understand their truth, leaving them effectively incapable of expressing their own life experiences, a sort of “aphasia” that traumatically affected their return to civilian life. In some cases, the consequences of this impossibility could be extreme: in Roland Dorgelès’ Le Réveil 59 C. Trevisan, Les fables du deuil. La Gramde Guerre: mort et écriture, Paris 2001, pp. 149–172. 60 L. Bartolini, Il ritorno sul Carso, Milano 1934, p. 24. 61 C. Pastorino, La prova del fuoco. Cose vere, Trento 2010, p. 10. 62 M. Mariani, Sott’ la Naja. Vita e guerra di alpini, Milano 1918, p. 5. 63 G. Personeni, La guerra vista da un idiota, Bergamo 1966, p. 9. 64 M. Campana, Perché ho ucciso?, Firenze 1918, p. 5.

European War Literature in a Transnational Perspective 


des morts (1923), a veteran who survived the carnage of the western front was unable to endure life haunted by the ghost of his friend André, killed in action during the conflict. While postwar society was trying to forget the dead, the dead remained an omnipresent persecution in the memories of the survivors65. War writers were typically unable to forget and overcome the guilt of having survived their dead comrades. In his introduction to Le scarpe al sole Paolo Monelli gives his rendition of this experience: […] either lost in the dreary routine of bourgeois life or living as hermits in a secluded mountain pass in the Alps, they must be still living somewhere, my old comrades-in-arms, who went through those humbling years of war without pomp and glory, and whose hearts are heavy with nostalgia. To them I offer this book, unceremoniously, as people once offered a glass of wine and a song for the road to the passer-by whom they beckoned to their hospitable table66.

4 Conclusions Many of the European Great War authors believed that, for all its bloody horror, war retained a holy, sacred aura and their memoirs were pivotal to establishing a myth of the war experience, to quote the well-known formulation of George Mosse, even though their literary memory shared little or nothing with the traditional patriotic code of 191467. In most cases they did not represent themselves or their comrades as victims but asserted their roles as active heroes within the great tragedy of conflict. Even in British literature, which contains the harshest critique of traditional models of honor and glory, the experience of comradeship in the trenches redeemed “the sordidness and stupidity” of war (as Basil Lidell Hart declared in 1933), transforming the waste of human life into a spiritual rebirth68. In general, European literature at the time did not echo the bitter British tone. In French and German war literature, widespread disillusion with traditional, institutional, and rhetorical assumptions about the beauty of sacrifice in battle did not repress a desire to depict life in the trenches in colors that were not relentlessly dark, even among the most realistic and caustic writings about the Western Front. Blaise Cendrars (J’ai tué, 1918, and of course the better known La main coupée 1946), Roland Dorgeles (Les Croix de Bois, 1919), and Henry Barbusse did not only describe the hard-living conditions, incompetence of leaders, and grotesque feeling of pointlessness shared by most soldiers. Their writings also included touching images of the personal virtues of soldiers as they faced the relentless, omnipresent shadow of death. Their commitment to the necessity of

65 C. Trevisan, Les fables du deuil, pp. 140 f. 66 P. Monelli, Le scarpe al sole, pp. 5 f. 67 G. Mosse, Fallen Soldiers: Reshaping the Memory of the World Wars, Oxford 1990. 68 S. Cole, Modernism, Male Friendship and the First World War, Cambridge 2007, pp. 140 f.


 Marco Mondini

personal sacrifice for their community (often identified as a small group of brothersin-arms rather than the national homeland) is often clearly evident. As Leonard Smith noted, many of the texts generally regarded as “pacifist” should probably be reread instead as the accounts of sophisticated writers describing the war as an apocalypse overwhelming their lives, a seminal experience that transported them into a different reality (sometimes into a different season of their lives). Many of them strove to describe it without hypocrisy or embellishment, but also without any need to repudiate their own decisions to fight69.

69 L. Smith, Apocalypse, Testimony, and Tragedy. French Soldiers in the Great War, in M. Mondini (ed.), La Guerra come apocalisse (Annali dell’Istituto Storico Italo-Germanico in Trento. Quaderni, 106), Bologna 2016, pp. 176–198.

Christoph Cornelissen

When History Went Public German Historians and Their Journalistic Work during the First World War and Its Aftermath

1 Introduction Many historians complain that the representation of history to the wider public in our time is increasingly deleterious, however in reality this is hardly a new phenomenon. Already in the decades before the outbreak of the First World War, historians were making widespread use of the mass media of the time, especially when working as journalists for the daily or weekly newspapers and other organs (magazines, journals, or specialist publications) in a rapidly expanding market. This phenomenon became much more pronounced after 1914 and increased in intensity as the war progressed from one year to the next. After the armistice in November 1918, numerous wellknown historians from all the belligerent nations continued to play the same role as they conducted a historical, legal, and moral examination of a war which had caused such devastating consequences for all the European states involved. In Germany, this generated a plethora of highly emotional tracts by historians who hurled emotional resentment against the victors and their ideas for achieving a lasting order of peace. While the authors of these texts dissimulated sober and detached historiographic reflection founded on critical examination of all available facts, their propensity to intrude into the domain of public history seriously diminished their professional integrity. Within this scenario, many of them mutated into a kind of hybrid academic that I like to refer to as “historians-cum-journalists”. Within the wider history of the mass media, this represents a rather minor phenomenon, but the developments that emerged from it deserve a much closer look than merely a side note. It is well-known that internationally many famous representatives of the historical sciences contributed to the propaganda campaigns during the First World War and the interwar period to help justify the war efforts of their respective countries1. However, the critical media channels they exploited for this purpose and the historiographic side-effects of their activities have largely eluded the attention of historical research to date.

1 Members of the Oxford Faculty of Modern History, Why we are at War. Great Britain’s Case, Oxford 1914. Cf. H. Pogge von Strandmann, The Role of British and German Historians in Mobilizing Public Opinion in 1914, in B. Stuchtey / P. Wende (eds.), British and German Historiography 1750–1950. Translations, Perceptions, Transfer, Oxford 2000, pp. 335–372. A ground-breaking study for the German side remains K. Schwabe, Wissenschaft und Kriegsmoral. Die deutschen Hochschullehrer und die politischen Grundfragen des Ersten Weltkrieges, Göttingen 1969.


 Christoph Cornelissen

The Heidelberg mediaevalist Karl Hampe provides a good starting-point for this discussion. In the German Reich he belonged to a group of well-known representatives of a discipline that was proud of its internal cohesion as a “guild” and widely held in high esteem for its good academic standards. Several years ago, a scientific edition of Hampe’s “war diary” was published, containing numerous important entries for the purpose of this article2. Under the date of January 22, 1918, are the following jottings: A new request for a study on Belgium. Goetz from Leipzig publishes a book on peace issues with Teubner in order to mould a dispassionate and calm opinion on this topic among the public. I have been asked to deal with Belgium. The purpose seems good to me, the task, however, is not easy, the date: February 20 is too close for me […] Nevertheless, I can hardly refuse entirely.

As was to be expected, Hampe accepted and delivered the product requested by his clients: a justification for the German invasion of Belgium3. The seemingly sober reflections of the author of this diary reveal only a glimpse of an ongoing conflict of goals that intensified during the course of the war. In this process, external political pressure and personal devotion to the German war effort prompted many German historians to seek as wide a public resonance as possible during and in the aftermath of the war. It is interesting to note in this respect that almost all the members of the “guild” ventured into the sphere of public history even though many of them – Hampe being a case to point – were experts in completely different fields of research and contemporary history was relatively foreign to them. But this did not inhibit them the slightest from participating in a “war of culture” that lasted from August 1914 well into the 1920s4. Their commitment involved a substantial presence in the mass media, which in practice meant writing mainly for the daily and weekly press, but also articles for publication in journals and other pamphlets. Although the collaboration experienced numerous ups and downs between 1914 and 1918/19, it is noteworthy how this involvement intensified considerably when discussions about the future order of peace ignited in 1918/19, when public interventions by German historians reached their quantitative maximum. In the final months of 1918 and over the following year countless members of this professional group participated in public campaigns to re-establish the truce that was developing so many cracks under the military and social strains of the preceding war years. The publication of the allied peace conditions in spring 1919 added even more fuel to this fire.

2 K. Hampe, Kriegstagebuch 1914–1919, ed. by F. Reichert and E. Wolgast, 2nd ed., München 2007, p. 648. 3 K. Hampe, Das belgische Problem in historisch-politischer Betrachtung, in W.W. Goetz (ed.), Deutschland und der Friede. Notwendigkeiten und Möglichkeiten deutscher Zukunft, Leipzig 1918, pp. 341–362. 4 For a contemporary definition of the term “war of culture”, cf. E. Troeltsch, Der Geist der deutschen Kultur, in O. Hintze (ed.), Deutschland und der Weltkrieg, Leipzig 1915, p. 52. See also H. Lübbe, Politische Philosophie in Deutschland. Studien zu ihrer Geschichte, Basel 1963, pp. 192 f.

When History Went Public 


In Germany, it provoked a highly emotional public debate about a “dictated peace” in which the historians played a prominent role. Recently, the reigning intellectual and social climate of these months has been described as traumatic, in the sense that large sections of German society were not at all prepared to accept the consequences of military defeat. It is also noteworthy that in this highly charged emotional atmosphere many politicians, intellectuals, military leaders, entrepreneurs, and university professors appealed for a final resistance against the occupying powers of the west, despite the high cost such an attempt might entail5. However, at the same time there were other dissenting or more skeptical voices. One of these was Hermann Oncken, another historian from the University of Heidelberg, who expressed his uneasiness in an article as early as June 1918. In his view, the historical profession had forfeited its authority for developing balanced, well-founded historical judgments. Oncken observed that their “whole world view” through which they were accustomed to formulating judgments “went into flux”, and everything founded on it, “the way we view the state and even our deeper reasoning are affected by a revolution the results of which can only be seen more clearly after the war”6. The quotes from Hampe and Oncken indirectly illustrate the points that will be dealt with in the following article, without being able to explore them exhaustively. First, it sets out to delineate the position of German historians from a media-historical perspective. Secondly, it concentrates on their major lines of argumentation advanced within a wider “war of culture”, during the final year of the military conflict and over the months following the ceasefire. The idea of a specific “German freedom” deserves special attention because it continued to serve as a kind of beacon in many of the public debates during the transition period from war to peace. Thirdly, the “impact” of their public historiographic interventions will be measured. For this purpose, a cursory review is provided of some examples from popular historical literature.

5 A recent book by G. Krumeich, Die unbewältigte Niederlage. Das Trauma des Ersten Weltkriegs und die Weimarer Republik, Freiburg i.Br. 2018, has aroused some controversy for the claim that these appeals for resistance were not utterly unrealistic and their realization might even have prevented the emergence of the “stab-in-the-back legend”. In contrast to this postulate, for a long-time historiography had underlined the futility and political short-sightedness of such a line of thinking. 6 H. Oncken, Die geschichtliche Bedeutung des Krieges, in W.W. Goetz, Deutschland und der Friede, pp.  462–489, see pp. 462 f. Cf. C. Cornelissen, “Schuld am Weltfrieden”, Politische Kommentare und Deutungsversuche deutscher Historiker zum Versailler Vertrag 1919–1933, in G. Krumeich (ed.), Versailles 1919. Ziele, Wirkung, Wahrnehmung, Essen 2001, pp. 237–258.


 Christoph Cornelissen

2 The role of the “historians-cum-journalists” in the media context of 1918/19 Starting from the outbreak of war in August 1914, numerous well-known German historians regarded themselves as intellectual soldiers in a deep-reaching cultural conflict. The most famous and perhaps notorious instance of these interventions appeared as early as October 4, 1914, when ninety-three prominent German scholars and artists published an appeal An die Kulturwelt! (To the world of culture). In six structurally repetitive passages, each beginning with the words, “Es ist nicht wahr …” (It is not true …), the undersigned academics and artists denied all foreign reproaches blaming Germany both for triggering the war and for committing war crimes in Belgium. Although historians did not play a leading role in this initiative, this certainly does not mean they did not agree with the message. They published countless brochures and books during the war that were intended to support the arguments of the appeal and make them well-known across the wide social strata on the home-front7. The historians proved themselves to be diligent authors in the rapidly expanding market for scientific and cultural journals, while their articles also appeared regularly in the daily and weekly press. Furthermore, they gave countless public talks during the war years in support of their “nation in arms”. This proved to be extremely important since these were societies in which academics were still considered authoritative and their cultural hegemony was accepted with widespread social consent. Many historians had the reputation of being “objective” and “reasonable”, two highly valued qualities in a context characterized by rumors and anxiety. Against this background, it is hardly surprising that well-known representatives of the discipline, and even their less-well-known colleagues, regularly attracted large audiences when they spoke in public. The press reported widely on these talks, which considerably extended their resonance. The lecture audiences appear to have been quite attentive and large numbers gathered whenever the experts made appearances in university lecture halls, churches, or municipal lecture rooms. The autobiographical literature and private papers of many German historians make abundant references to these events8. An entry in Hampe’s war diary provides an interesting description. On February 9, 1918 he mentions a lecture by Hermann Oncken in Heidelberg

7 J. von Ungern-Sternberg / W. von Ungern-Sternberg, Der Aufruf “An die Kulturwelt!”: Das Manifest der 93 und die Anfänge der Kriegspropaganda im Ersten Weltkrieg. Mit einer Dokumentation, Stuttgart 1996. On the idea of “deutsche Freiheit”, cf. W.J. Mommsen, Die “deutsche Idee der Freiheit”. Die deutsche Historikerschaft und das Modell des monarchischen Konstitutionalismus im Kaiserreich, in “Staatswissenschaft und Staatspraxis”, 3, 1992, pp. 43–63. Cf. K. Flasch, Die geistige Mobilmachung: Die deutschen Intellektuellen und der Erste Weltkrieg; ein Versuch, Berlin 2000. 8 W. Eucken, Lebenserinnerungen, Leipzig 1921, p. 99; H. Schäfer, Mein Leben, Berlin 1926, p. 239. Cf. F. Ringer, Die Gelehrten, Der Niedergang der deutschen Gelehrten, 1890–1933, München 1987, p. 170.

When History Went Public 


on the role of Russia in the war. According to Hampe, “the lecture was a bit intellectual and cool and passed over several difficulties. But the large university auditorium was packed despite the entrance fee”9. Hampe himself was also an assiduous public speaker, as was the much more nationalistic historian and adherent of the political right-wing, Dietrich Schäfer. The names of a large number of German historians could be added to this list. Their private papers and publications reveal how they tried to use all the media channels available at the time to disseminate their historical-political interpretations of the military struggle to a wider public. Simultaneously, numerous historians visited the military fronts where they held lectures to “make sense” of a war that was beginning to be questioned on both the home and military fronts in 1917/18. Intellectual initiatives of this kind continued right to the end of the war. One of Germany’s most renowned historians, Friedrich Meinecke from Freiburg, travelled to Tournai for academic lectures in December 1917. On his return he stated: “At that time, there was a constant to and fro of German historians all over the Reich, but they also visited rear-guard areas of the military fronts in the West, East, and South. They gave talks and tried to soothe the souls of highly attentive listeners”10. German historians continued publishing articles in the press, benefiting from a burgeoning market for war magazines, cultural journals, and countless blatant propaganda projects. The overall magnitude of all these activities is difficult to quantify. However, the fact that many public talks were distributed in printed versions, and that they were often also published in a more practical field-post format, suggests that they even found their way into the trenches. In addition, numerous historians undertook journeys to the multi-ethnic provinces of the German Reich where they hoped to strengthen the German cause with public talks against the interests of other ethnic groups. Again, these activities continued until the end of the war. A series of lectures organized by the Herzog-Albrecht Army Group in Strasbourg in the winter semester of 1917/18 can be taken as a typical example of this kind of publicity work. It would appear that the Strasbourg series was quite successful with more than one thousand listeners regularly attending lectures on the “German State and German Culture”11. At the same time German historians naturally continued working as teachers and aca-

9 K. Hampe, Kriegstagebuch 1914–1919, p. 655. 10 F. Meinecke, Autobiographische Schriften, edited by E. Kessel, Darmstadt 1958, pp. 286 f. Cf. C. Cornelissen, Politische Historiker und deutsche Kultur. Die Schriften und Reden von Georg v. Below, Hermann Oncken und Gerhard Ritter im Ersten Weltkrieg, in W.J. Mommsen (ed.), Kultur und Krieg. Die Rolle der Intellektuellen, Künstler und Schriftsteller im Ersten Weltkrieg, München 1996, pp. 119–142. 11 Deutscher Staat und deutsche Kultur. Auf Grund an der Kaiser-Wilhelms-Universität in Straßburg gehaltenen Vorträge, edited by Heeresgruppe Herzog Albrecht, Straßburg 1918, p. VII. Cf. C. Cornelissen, The Attack on Belgium and the Defence of “German Freedom”: German Historians and their Involvement in a War of Culture since August 1914, in E. Lemonidou (ed.), Cent ans après: La Mémoire de la Première Guerre Mondiale, Athènes 2018, pp. 77–94.


 Christoph Cornelissen

demic mentors for their students, but this part of their work progressively declined in significance as young men were increasingly drafted as soldiers, and they sought compensation through public appearances and increased media exposure. Speeches at public memorials or celebrations provided regular occasions for inculcating large audiences with their historical interpretations of the ongoing war. Likewise, they published a plethora of short and easily intelligible pamphlets, articles, and appeals through all the available media channels. In this sense, German historiography went public to an extent unknown before 1914. Notwithstanding their bewildering range of activities, it is hard not to notice that the formulation of their historical judgements increasingly depended less on serious scholarship, and ever more on the rules and constraints of the media market. Furthermore, when the sources are considered of the privileged information that the historians ostensibly shared with their public, it is clear how much the historians themselves had begun to depend on private and professional contacts with people in the higher echelons of German politics and administration in order to gain access to internal discussions. Hampe’s war diary again offers valuable insights in this respect, revealing that the Heidelberg professor had many direct and indirect contacts with members of governing circles in Berlin as well as Baden where he lived. This close collaboration meant that Hampe literally depended on intimations from his political interlocutors. As a result, his studies on the aims and the “meaning of the war” betray clear signs of politically commissioned texts. It can also be shown that his historically painstaking research into the “Belgian question” became more and more influenced by political biases deriving from his friends and acquaintances in German politics. Hampe’s war diary reveals how the rising conflict between supporters and opponents of the idea of a relentless war, which since 1917 had hinged on a sharp political contrast between a right-wing conservative camp, and a more moderately liberal-conservative counter-grouping, had begun to weigh heavily on the public appearances of German historians. In final analysis, the shift towards public history was paid for at terrible cost, with historiography losing much of its professional autonomy during the war years. Max Weber mockingly commented on this consequence shortly after the end of war: “Academic teachers have betrayed a lack of political judgment, especially during the war, that exceeds anything that existed before”12.

12 M. Weber, Das preußische Wahlrecht, in M. Weber, Zur Politik im Weltkrieg. Schriften und Reden 1914–1918, edited by W.J. Mommsen in collaboration with G. Hübinger, Tübingen 1984, pp. 229 f.

When History Went Public 


3 The intellectual mobilization of historians in a media-based war of culture Many German historians including Hampe were well aware of their loss of credibility, but this did not prevent them from intervening energetically in public discussions when the struggle of war reached its climax in 1918. Hampe should not be considered on a par with the numerous German hotheads who already early in the war were suggesting far-reaching visions for a future Belgian state under German hegemony. He was also not among the clique of German academics, scientists, and experts who viewed the outbreak of war as a welcome opportunity for plundering cultural assets in Belgium and other regions of Europe occupied by German troops. But Hampe was hardly as detached an observer of the war as he claimed to be. Like so many others he also allowed himself to get carried away whenever the German military achieved a successful advance, however temporary it might prove to be. Friedrich Meinecke was one of the few who managed to insulate themselves against being absorbed into the reigning war culture. As early as in 1917 he called for an intellectual demobilization, but the majority of German historians continued to work as public historians in the same vein as before, raising the success of German culture above an abstract and vilified concept of “western civilization”. One of the major challenges in this Krieg der Geister (War of the minds) – the phrase actually dates back to a book title by Hermann Kellermann in 1915 – was that fundamentally nobody could really define what Germany was fighting for morally, beyond its own preservation and maintaining its position as a leading power in Europe. In contrast, England and France could appeal to the universal ideals of equality and freedom right from the beginning of the war, effectively the ideals of 1789. They could claim to be fighting for democracy, although they had to remain rather muted about the allied Tsar of Russia. The Germans could not easily distance themselves from these universal values, but although the German constitution and political culture was certainly neither democratic nor parliamentarian in the western sense, many academics and intellectuals tried to navigate a way out of this impasse by emphasizing Germany’s singularity and its specific rendition of political freedom. Others spoke about the ideals of 1914, which they counterpointed to the ideals of 178913. As a result, the idea of a “deutsche Freiheit” (German freedom) became something of a rallying call during the war, and was molded into a propaganda formula that supposedly helped legitimize the attack on Belgium, France, and the other co-belligerents. The idea of a specific “German freedom” was partly based on philosophical and more general ethical considerations, many of which combined Fichte’s 13 The following is a quote from C. Cornelissen, The Attack on Belgium, p. 77. Cf. J. Ungern-Sternberg, Making Sense of the War, in http://encyclopedia.1914–1918– War_(Germany).


 Christoph Cornelissen

moralism with the pronounced anti-western attitudes of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries in German political culture. However, to a large extent it relied on historical interpretations, all of which classed the semi-autocratic political culture of Imperial Germany as a case on its own, supposedly enjoying the support of all strata of German society. For example, in August 1914 the conservative-liberal-minded historian Meinecke argued that the Germans were a chosen Kulturvolk (people of culture), who had gone to war in order to defend their specific understanding of political freedom14. Many more would adopt the same line of argument. Decades later, in the 1960s, the Freiburg historian Gerhard Ritter still argued that the intellectual interventions by his predecessors during the First World War and its aftermath should be ranked as “politically harmless attempts by a modern nation of culture” to come to terms with the implications of total war15. Both during the First World War and in the ensuing period, the interplay of “culture and war”, or variations on this complex theme, was an enduring focus for innumerable historical publications in books and journals16. It is striking how much the media increasingly absorbed the work of historians. This applied right across the political spectrum to the extent that cultural-political essays became one of their favorite modes of expression. The core subject was a defense of the German dualistic constitutional framework of 1871. To this end, German historians released countless publications destined for a wider market while also supporting official and semi-official publication projects. These included an anthology of historical articles from 1915, which was intended to win over the neutral powers to the German Reich under the title Deutschland und der Weltkrieg (Germany and the World War). This example is noteworthy because it clearly illustrates the multitude of problems that beset historians once they got involved in semi-official historiographic projects of this kind17. Some of the letters exchanged by the historians involved were quite revealing. Hermann Oncken gave vent to his frustrations in a letter to Friedrich Schmidt-Ott as early as 1917: We historians cannot live up to the expectations of either side. Due to the many demands of the editors, I was forced to make concessions in my article. As a result, historians regard my work as a kind of official-apologetic diplomacy; while diplomats berate me for not knowing and not saying what was really important.

14 F. Meinecke, Politik und Kultur, in F. Meinecke, Deutschland und der Weltkrieg, Darmstadt 1958, pp. 76–82. 15 G. Ritter, Staatskunst und Kriegshandwerk, vol. 3, München 1964, p. 39; cf. C. Cornelissen, Gerhard Ritter. Geschichtswissenschaft und Politik im 20. Jahrhundert, Düsseldorf 2001. 16 H. Schumacher et al. (eds.), Deutschland und der Weltkrieg, Leipzig 1915. 17 The following is a quote from C. Cornelissen, The Attack on Belgium, pp. 85–87.

When History Went Public 


Ultimately this left the historians in a very uncomfortable position18. In addition, the war generated permanently changing constellations that they found difficult to integrate into their historical arguments. In final analysis, the project did not achieve the wider political aims invested in it, with the American translation being met with only scant and predominantly negative response. As a consequence, both the Ministry of Culture and the German Foreign Office lost interest in developing historiographic projects of this type any further. The failed Germany and the World War-project was just one example of many others that mobilized German historians via official channels. All of them betray a constant interplay between official orders on the one hand and self-mobilization on the other. Friedrich Thimme from Berlin had a hand in several of these projects, above all when German historians began to dwell on the advantages of the “German social kingdom”. These ideas were strongly supported by the works of national economists like Gustav Schmoller and the Weber brothers. Meinecke, Delbrück, and Oncken, along with the Leipzig historian Walter Goetz, also played a prominent role in highlighting the advantages of Germany’s early welfare state in comparison with foreign examples. As early as 1915, Thimme together with leading social democrats and trade unionists started a book project entitled Die Arbeiterschaft im neuen Deutschland (The labor force in the new Germany), which was meant to attract members of the educated working class in particular. Again, the project failed to achieve its aims, since the historians continued to feel very uneasy working together with representatives of the organized labor movement. Radical right-wing historians, like Hermann Schäfer and Georg von Below, instead turned out to be much more efficient in whipping up public political sentiments. This can partly be explained by their willingness to make use of modern methods of mass political participation, whereas more politically moderate historians continued to favor traditional media channels. When Bethmann Hollweg’s government was overturned in July 1917, the moderate wing lost much of its political influence, but the interplay between the semi-official mobilization and self-mobilization of German historians nevertheless continued. When Walter Goetz launched another project in 1918, entitled Deutschland und der Friede (Germany and the peace), an obvious corollary to the aforementioned Germany and the World War, this signaled a new variant in this category. Basically, the book can be understood as a kind of historical research “holding operation”, aiming to save at least some of the idea of “German culture” in the face of impending defeat. However, the project proved hopelessly outdated when it finally appeared19. Hampe’s war diary relates what happened. On July 14, 1918, he noted: “My Belgian article from March is gradually becoming obsolete and is losing its effectiveness due to the long delay. Under the current circumstances, journalism is no longer a real plea-

18 Quoted by C. Cornelissen, Politische Historiker, pp. 138 f. 19 H. Goetz, Deutschland und der Friede.


 Christoph Cornelissen

sure”20. When the publication of the book was announced for mid-October 1918, he added that the article could now even prove to be harmful, and he would have preferred not to see it published at all. After its publication in the middle of 1918, the book only served to compromise the German peace attempts since many contributors argued for moderate German war aims in a situation in which the German army had already lost its final major battle. Ultimately, many of the historians who had participated in writing public history must have realized that by letting themselves be drawn into semi-official propaganda work of this type they had seriously violated the criterion of academic objectivity. This was one of the reasons for their surprising silence about real historical events in their war narratives composed in the years after 1918. Another reason was the fact that the traditional concepts of historiography simply did not enable authors to write history from personal experience. While many historians possessed a detailed knowledge of the events, either as writers in the shadow of the front lines, or as soldiers with firsthand experiences of combat, they remained rather silent about the general hardships of war and their individual experiences. After the war, this lacuna contrasted starkly with their willingness to maintain their roles as public historians. Many of them continued to provide newspapers and journals with their expertise and they took part in numerous journalistic campaigns during the period between the ceasefire and the highly emotional debates in Germany about the terms of the allied peace conditions. In this phase, which the theologian Ernst Troeltsch called the “dreamland of the armistice period”, the majority of German historians adhered to the authoritarian ideas of a special German political path. This complied with a more or less social-Darwinist conception of a “people’s war”, postulating the inviolable unity of the German people, even though revolutions in various regions demonstrated that exactly the opposite was true. Like so many other representatives of the guild, Hermann Oncken continued to act as a public orator during this time because he firmly believed it was necessary to provide an example of clear academic leadership under these disturbing circumstances. He even believed the World War had turned into a “wrestling match” between different types of states and “complexes of civilization”. He argued that this would lead to victory only for those nations that were able to assert themselves and demonstrate that their individuality would enrich international life21. At the same time, Oncken and Hampe tried to instil a more democratic note into the concept of “German freedom”, with both of them striving to promote a spirit of “progressive reform and a bridging of opposites” in 1918/19. In Hampe’s words, what was now at stake was a “strong link between the intelligentsia and workers”22, but his

20 K. Hampe, Kriegstagebuch 1914–1919, p. 712. 21 H. Oncken, Die geschichtliche Bedeutung des Krieges, p. 487. 22 K. Hampe, Kriegstagebuch, p. 656.

When History Went Public 


position was harshly and effectively criticized by politically right-wing historians. In terms of media history, it is particularly revealing how quickly this altered the reasoning of the more moderate historians, who were literally overtaken by the dynamics of the events. The aforementioned book project Deutschland und der Friede can be understood as a telling example of the difficulties they faced. The period after the armistice had many more bitter disappointments for the German side in store. First of all, the military defeat, which could no longer be publicly denied, so that all the historical narratives from the preceding months and years had to be re-written once all the expectations for a glorious victory had ended in shambles. In addition, the “historians-cum-journalists” became increasingly aware of their plight as members of an elite that was now kept at a clear distance by those in political power. Hampe again serves as a proto-typical case for this phenomenon: on February 16, 1919, he confessed to himself that he “hardly wanted to open the newspapers anymore”, and the preference expressed for Wilson in the German press aroused his outright rejection (entry from October 10, 1918). In general, reading the newspapers “disgusted” him more and more23. Consequently, he declined an official assignment on November 7 when the Reichsmarineamt asked him to publish a newspaper article in favor of a “legal peace” and against a peace that violated the right of the German nation to assert itself. Hampe reasoned with himself that the time had come to move on to different things, that it made more sense to address long-term developments rather than becoming embroiled in current events. This approach appeared much more appealing to him than the role of public historian. In brief, as historian he was declaring a return to his core business, as Hampe noted in his war diary on January 31, 191924.

4 Impact and long-term effects Shortly after the armistice it quickly became clear that the call to turn away from the dual existence of being academic historians and journalists was actually more a pretense than a practice. The circumstances in the final months of the war and the revolutionary developments in its aftermath induced German historians to think they were still needed as interpreters of the immediate past, and in order to indicate the right path into the future. As the very emotionally-charged debates about the “guilt” for the outbreak of war and the demands for reparations grew, they gained additional impetus. The result was that most members of the German “guild” maintained their public roles in the media as fervent supporters of the nation. This culminated in public outcry when the peace terms were handed to the German delegation in Versailles in May 1918. Innumerable German historians expressed their shock at its 23 Ibid., pp. 755, 832. 24 Ibid., p. 826.


 Christoph Cornelissen

contents and for the underlying historical reasoning that had been carefully adjusted by the victorious powers. Many of them typically reasoned that this was no time for detached scholarship but instead for effective media campaigns25. Herrmann Oncken was one of the first to enter the fray and he even came up with a detailed program of reform. He argued that German historiography should pave the way for a “national socialism”, as this would allow the promotion of a constitution that was “peculiar to the Germans, but superior to the democratic capitalist bourgeois system of the West”26. However, his reasoning was overtaken by events after the victorious powers handed over their conditions for a peace treaty. Against this background, the young Freiburg historian Gerhard Ritter commented bitterly that the “appalling peace conditions become more terrifying the more you delve into the details”. He thus pleaded to the German government not to sign. In his view, the document downgraded the German Reich to a “brutally exploited colony”. He added in June 1919 that it was an attempt, “to drain the life blood of seventy million people”27. The indignation underlying Ritter’s statements was symptomatic of the public assessments published by plenty of other German historians. Their anger was fueled even further when selected historical files from the German Foreign Ministry were published in the “Berliner Tageblatt”, appearing to prove the German government had willingly started the war. In response, Hampe resentfully commented in his war diary that it was all a huge “mess”28, and he was certainly not alone in his feelings of sorrow and anger. The media history of this period shows that great efforts were made so that these emotions could filter almost unmitigated into the historiographic studies published by experts in journals, pamphlets, and most of all the press. Disappointment, bitterness, and even a lust for revenge were the dominant themes of these messages, that occasionally even made it to the headlines of the daily newspapers. All of this would have a massive impact on history textbooks in universities and schools. In 1923 the authoritative handbook of German history, the so-called “Gebhardt”, explained to its readers: “The dictated peace meant nothing more and nothing less than the cold-blooded strangling of Germany. Gallic vengeance, Anglo-American business greed, and Italian predatory instincts celebrated real orgies”29. The public outcry 25 Cf. C. Cornelissen, “Schuld am Weltfrieden”: Politische Kommentare und Deutungsversuche deutscher Historiker zum Versailler Vertrag 1919–1933, in G. Krumeich (ed.), Versailles 1919. Ziele, Wirkung, Wahrnehmung, Essen 2001, pp. 237–258. 26 H. Oncken, Bürgerliche Geschichtsschreibung und Klassenkampf – Vom Nutzen und Nachteil des Antitraditionalismus, in M. Asendorf (ed.), Aus der Aufklärung in die permanente Restauration. Geschichtswissenschaft in Deutschland, Frankfurt a.M. 1974, p. 279. 27 G. Ritter, Ein politischer Historiker in seinen Briefen, edited by K. Schwabe, Boppard a.Rh. 1984, Letter by Gerhard Ritter to his parents from May 18, 1919, pp. 209 f. 28 K. Hampe. Kriegstagebuch 1914–1919, p. 902. 29 G. Schuster, Der Friedensvertrag von Versailles, in Gebhardts Handbuch der Deutschen Geschichte, edited by A. Meister, vol. 3/3, 6th ed., Stuttgart / Berlin / Leipzig 1923, pp. 689–692, quote p. 690.

When History Went Public 


by German historians persisted into the interwar years, inducing them to continue working as journalists and publicists. It was remarkable how effectively the struggle against Versailles reunited opponents across the political spectrum. The historian Hermann Oncken played a prominent role in this intellectual truce and already in the final months of the war he was advocating a program of domestic and social reforms in order to unite the German people, although these ideas were soon drowned out by his tireless struggle against the provisions of the Versailles peace treaty. Academics from all political camps closed ranks in this effort. Oncken, like so many of his colleagues, abstained from a dispassionate analysis of the concrete territorial and material consequences of the treaty package, opting instead for a political and moral campaign that focused on the concept of violation of German “honor”. From Oncken’s point of view this was necessary because the opponents of the German Reich were attempting to use the new order of peace to “split our souls, poison the memory of our deeds, dishonor our leaders and distort all the values of our past”30. For this reason, he argued, historians had to raise all the available historical arguments to “completely destroy the moral justification of the peace dictate”. This missionary stance remained foremost in German public historiography during the Weimar years. The termination of the war certainly did not mean that the “war of the minds” was over31, on the contrary it persisted and considerably escalated when debate about German atrocities in Belgium re-emerged. Numerous books, articles, and pamphlets were published on the subject in the 1920s and 1930s32. Many of them were written by specialists in international law or publicists, but historians played a central role in this revisionist movement right from the very beginning. This included a public appeal designed by the historian of antiquity, Eduard Meyer, amongst others. It was issued in 1919 and demanded “honor, truth and justice” for Germany, followed by a treatise by Walter Goetz of the University of Leipzig on the war atrocities, Die Kriegsgreuel, published in 192233. At the same time there were numerous other historiographic and juridical papers arguing against the “unfounded reproaches” against German barbaric deeds in Belgium. More or less all of them arrived at the conclusion, already formulated by Walter Goetz in 1918, that the reproach for German atrocities was completely unsubstantiated and would soon dispel as a myth. He postulated the same for Germany’s supposed responsibility for the outbreak of war.

30 H. Oncken, Gedächtnisrede auf die Gefallenen des großen Krieges, in H. Oncken, Nation und Geschichte. Reden und Aufsätze 1919-1935, Berlin 1935, pp. 1–14, see p. 10. 31 The following is a quote from C. Cornelissen, The Attack on Belgium, p. 87. 32 J. Horne / A. Kramer, German Atrocities, 1914. A History of Denial, New Haven CT 2001. The topic continues to arouse controversy. Cf. U. Keller, Schuldfragen: Belgischer Untergrundkrieg und deutsche Vergeltung im August 1914, Paderborn 2017. 33 E. Meyer (ed.), Für Ehre, Wahrheit und Recht. Erklärung deutscher Hochschullehrer zur Auslieferungsfrage 1919; W. Goetz, Die Kriegsgreuel, Frankfurt a.M. 1922.


 Christoph Cornelissen

German historians diligently exploited all the media available to them in 1918/19 to support these arguments, and it was their express intention to make them as widely known as possible. They thus helped to inform the German public of the urgent and controversial political issues of the time, but in a manner that, in retrospect, suffered from considerable shortcomings and at times was decidedly biased. This is not to suggest that partial approaches and underlying attitudes were unique to Germany, but overall the military-academic and political-academic complex in Germany proved to be much more influential compared to other countries. This mechanism contributed decisively to the result that the German public only belatedly learned the facts of the outcome of the war. By whitewashing German responsibilities in scientific studies and popular journals, the historians-cum-journalists had done everything they could to inculcate widespread illusions and false expectations. After 1919, this role was bolstered institutionally when the Ministry of Foreign Affairs commissioned several historians and members of other disciplines to collaborate with the newly founded “war-guilt department”, the express purpose of which was to systematically demonstrate Germany’s impartiality in the July crisis of 191434. A profusion of historical books and articles were published in support of the political aims of the commissioning parties. These failed to achieve the same social response as the series of publications by the general staff in collaboration with amateur historians in the 1920s, with their peculiar mixture of military historiography and fiction, but nevertheless the more politically themed publications by the historians did achieve significant impact35. On one hand, they lent the political “campaigns of innocence” a seal of scientific objectivity, on the other hand, the historians filled the textbooks of their time with clear and easily intelligible messages. Deep hatred was expressed for former military opponents, and claims for a territorial revision were advanced. Even a relatively liberal-minded author like the Munich historian Franz Schnabel categorically rejected the peace treaty in a textbook he published himself. He claimed that the Versailles treaty delivered “an entire people into bondage and slavery”36. This was typical of the descriptions of the end of the war and its consequences in German textbooks. Subsequent textbooks introduced by the Weimar Republic discussing the world war and peace terms did nothing to diminish the desire for revenge against the former enemies.

34 U. Heinemann, Die verdrängte Niederlage. Politische Öffentlichkeit und Kriegsschuldfrage in der Weimarer Republik, Göttingen 1983. 35 M. Pöhlmann, Kriegsgeschichte und Geschichtspolitik. Der Erste Weltkrieg. Die amtliche deutsche Militärgeschichtsschreibung 1914–1956, Paderborn 2002. 36 F. Schnabel, Geschichte der neuesten Zeit. Von der französischen Revolution bis zur Gegenwart, 6th ed., Wiesbaden 1928, p. 172.

When History Went Public 


The “historians-cum-journalists” described here played a significant role in bringing this about. Their work as public historians provided ammunition for the arguments that made it feasible and reasonable for politicians, teachers, and the wider public to continue their struggle for a “German freedom” in the interwar period. Almost all the actors involved regarded this as a mission that needed to be sustained in order to pave the way for Germany’s re-emergence as a powerful and internationally respected state after 1918.

Hannes Leidinger

Visualizing the War World War I as a Caesura in the History of (Visual) Media: A Relativization

1 Change and propaganda “The rise of propaganda to become the world-dominant form of communication seems to be inseparably linked to World War I”, wrote military historian Klaus-Jürgen Bremm. He continued: “Just like a mountain the seminal catastrophe divides every kind of phenomena and expression into before and after”1. Bremm was not alone in his judgement. The wave of memory due to the centennial commemoration of the assassination in Sarajevo and the outbreak of the war in summer 1914, contributed in many ways to underline the perception of an elementary break2. More specifically, the First World War represented at very least a learning stage in media history, an idea that will be critically discussed in the following pages using the example of visual media. First of all, it can be generally noted that the new mass medium of cinematography was more suited to entertainment and distraction, as a form of escapism to elude the grim everyday reality of war. Atrocities on the front lines and hardships in the hinterland were marginalized in news reels and documentaries. The production of “fiction” and feature films served this public demand beyond the time horizon of 1918 with the national regime clearly having learned from this lesson3. The “war itself” as subject proved to be non-competitive compared to the “civilian” repertoire during the military conflict. Developments in all the different countries during the First World War were similar. 114 war related movies produced in Great Britain up to 1918 constituted only a small part of the national output4. France or Germany generated even fewer moving images depicting the ongoing fighting5. In the Tsarist empire 50 out of 106 films dealt with the armed conflict and its conse-

1 K.-J. Bremm, Propaganda im Ersten Weltkrieg, Darmstadt 2013, p. 165. 2 G. Hirschfeld / G. Krumeich, Deutschland im Ersten Weltkrieg, Frankfurt a.M. 2013, p. 99. See also G. Hirschfeld, Der Erste Weltkrieg als mediales und museales Ereignis 1914–1933, in R. Rother / K. Herbst-Meßlinger (eds.), Der Erste Weltkrieg im Film, München 2009, pp. 13–27, here p. 13. 3 Regarding the Situation in Germany and France until 1918, W. Kruse, Der Erste Weltkrieg, Darmstadt 2009, pp. 90 f. 4 G. Paul, Krieg und Film im 20. Jahrhundert. Historische Skizzen und methodologische Überlegungen, in B. Chiari / M. Rogg / W. Schmidt (eds.), Krieg und Militär im Film des 20. Jahrhunderts, München 2003, pp. 3–78, here p. 8. 5 Ibid.


 Hannes Leidinger

quences between August and December 1914, but in 1916 the war movies totaled just 13 out of 500 films in all6. The Western, Austrian part of the Dual monarchy produced the following: in 1914, 11% of the 61 feature films were above all concerned with military efforts and operations; the 1915 and 1916 productions amounted to 26% and 17% of only 30 and 24 movies; in the last years of the war about 10% of 142 films related on current developments in the combat zones or the hinterland7. Hidden messages and value systems in supposedly harmless films achieved a greater impact on several occasions, while specifically military or battlefield propaganda typically fell short of expectations for technical and organizational reasons. Stylized fighting scenes and satisfaction of “voyeuristic lust” were rare, and most motion pictures and photos generally failed to capture real fighting scenes. “Audiences are beginning to suffer because cinemas are not in the position to offer them current events”, complained the magazine “Der Kinematograph” in August 1914. The specialist periodical continued: “The modern battlefield presents communities living in the near vicinity with hardly anything that one could call recognizable. The distances are immense, the gunners along the front lines barely visible”8. This observation regarded “combat regions” extending over hundreds and even thousands of kilometers. The situation was difficult and obviously dangerous for cameramen and photographers. “After all we are not fighting a ‘puppet war’ against the enemy”, stated “Cinematograph”, but at the same time questioning the value of footage of “storming troops” being filmed “from a safe distance”9. Confronted with this “crisis of representation”, the dilemma for the new visual media of how to convey the first all-out technological, industrial mass war, film makers everywhere resorted to simulated scenes or re-enactments away from the trenches, sometimes even in comfortable studios10.

6 S. Ginzburg, Kinematografiia dorevoliutsionnoi Rossii [Cinema of pre-revolutionary Russia], Moskva 1963, pp. 191 f. 7 Quantitative analysis of A. Thaller (ed.), Österreichische Spielfilme, Bd. 1: Spielfilme 1906–1918, Wien 2010, pp. 514–517. 8 Quoted in T. Ballhausen, Between Virgo and Virago. Spatial Perceptions and Gender Politics in Austrian Film Production, 1914–1918, in V. Apfelthaler / J.B. Köhne (eds.), Gendered Memories. Transgressions in German and Israeli Film and Theater, Wien 2007, 147–159, here p. 150. 9 Ibid., p. 149. 10 A. Kaes, Shell Shock Cinema: Weimar Culture and the Wounds of War, Princeton NJ / Oxford 2009, pp. 28 f.; A. Sumpf, In Szene gesetzt. Der Erste Weltkrieg im russischen und sowjetischen Kino, in Totentanz. Der Erste Weltkrieg im Osten Europas [special issue] “Osteuropa”, 64, 2014, 2–4, pp. 339– 349, here p. 345.

Visualizing the War 


2 Transformation, differentiation, relativization, 1914–1918 Apart from the frequent negative reactions of audiences to these “fakes”, there were plenty of other examples of positive developments and success stories for the new media. The growing importance of film production was also obvious in numeric terms. Gradually moving away from its original role as a technical or fairground attraction, permanent projection facilities in picture houses and even “palaces” became familiar to audiences. The boom of “motion picture theaters” was most evident in the capitals. Vienna had around 150 before 1914, while St. Petersburg had as many as three hundred in the year of the “October Revolution”11. The number of cinemas in the whole of Russia doubled between 1913 and 1916, when the Tsarist empire had approximately 4000 movie theatres12. This contradicts the usual notion of “Moscovian backwardness”, and Russia quite possibly outdid the “modern, industrialized” Germany, where in 29 towns the number of cinemas increased from 456 in 1910 to 3130 in 191713. However, these figures do require some relativization. Many screenings took place in temporary cinemas, in between theatre performances. Traveling and summer cinemas reflected the cultural character of many locations and regions14. Distress at the end of the war and revolutionary upheavals exacerbated the crisis of movie theatres and studios. The film industry experienced almost complete breakdown in Soviet Russia after 1917. At the same time, cinemas and production firms were faced with power cuts everywhere, a general lack of resources, inflation, political unrest and reorientation, as well as restrictive official regulation of opening hours15. Under these circumstances recovering old markets and winning new ones was difficult. Subsequently, in the upswing of the 1920s there was some influence from experiences and organizational methods established during the First World War. The founding and development of several distribution and production companies, in particular the German “Ufa”, are good examples of this and state intervention in the new

11 H. Leidinger / V. Moritz / K. Moser, Film in Österreich 1896–2009. Ein Überblick, in “Historische Sozialkunde. Geschichte – Fachdidaktik – Politische Bildung”, 4, 2009, pp. 4–9, here p. 4; H.F. Jahn, Patriotic Culture in Russia during World War I, Ithaca NY / London 1995, p. 153. 12 S. Ginzburg, Kinematografiia, p. 158; cf. D.J. Youngblood, A War Forgotten. The Great War in Russian and Soviet Cinema, in M. Paris (ed.), The First World War and Popular Cinema. 1914 to the Present, New Brunswick NJ / New York, pp. 172–191, here p. 173. 13 U. Oppelt, Film und Propaganda im Ersten Weltkrieg. Propaganda als Medienrealität im Aktualitäten- und Dokumentarfilm, Stuttgart 2002, pp. 14 and 307. 14 A. Sumpf, In Szene gesetzt, pp. 341 f. 15 V. Moritz / K. Moser / H. Leidinger, Kampfzone Kino. Film in Österreich 1918–1938, Wien 2008, pp. 19 f., 22 und 34; for Russia, N. Reeves, The Power of Film Propaganda, London / New York 1999, pp. 48 f. and 52 f.


 Hannes Leidinger

medium turned out to be trend-setting. As experts pointed out, the reputation of cinematography increased on “behalf of the fatherland”16. Pro and counter arguments existed regarding the potential of national sales markets. Film history scholars identify numerous issues affecting the leading film producing countries, like France, and the remarkable Danish pre-war production, which lost a lot of their influence from summer 1914 onwards due to new taxes, and import and export bans17. The destruction of existing and sometimes global distribution networks could not, in any case, obscure the transnational nature of the silent movie era. Two things in particular can be noted in this respect. Firstly, the new media had already established specific recognizable genres and artistic styles. Secondly, many enterprises were able to regain lost international market shares, especially after 1918, while Hollywood could increase its scope of action in spite of language barriers after the introduction of “talkies” from the late 1920s18. There was another aspect of cross-border issues affecting the new media. Military commanders were somewhat detached from public interests and therefore also from the mass media, especially in the pre-war period. Additionally, and especially after the start of hostilities in 1914, military commanders were suspicious of trespassers and spies19. As a result, cameramen and photographers were only accepted in limited numbers and to carry out traditional duties like collecting material for post-war evaluation by military staff. During the hostilities pictures for the intelligence service were obviously considered much more important. Some (moving) images were also taken by planes and balloons to explore the front lines20. The results achieved were, however, often disappointing. Photo and film experts knew very well that most pictures contain a multitude of objects offering conflicting evidence and open to different interpretations. Army commanders instead wanted unambiguous information, but the predominant “subjects” were useless to them. An Austrian inquiry into the achievements to date of war photography summed it up: “Most of the shots suffice for war propaganda purposes, but with regard to military uses they brought no results”21. This judgement was perhaps excessively severe, considering the continued exploration of the front lines with (moving) images, but it is certainly true that propaganda

16 V. Moritz / K. Moser / H. Leidinger, Kampfzone Kino, pp. 55–75, 108–126, 139 f., 195 f., 207–210; P. Stiasny, Das Kino und der Krieg. Deutschland 1914–1929, München 2009, p. 27. 17 P. Stiasny, Das Kino und der Krieg, p. 27. 18 V. Moritz / K. Moser / H. Leidinger, Kampfzone Kino, pp. 41 f. and 108–127. 19 Among many others P. Stiasny, Das Kino und der Krieg, p. 28. 20 Cf. A. Holzer, Österreichische Kriegsfotografie im Ersten Weltkrieg (1914–1918), Dissertation, Wien, 2005, p. 219. 21 Wien, Österreichisches Staatsarchiv (ÖSTA)/Kriegsarchiv (KA), Akten des Kriegspressequartiers, Karton 1, Gutachten über die bisherigen Leistungen der Kriegsphotographen, Oktober 1915, 2.

Visualizing the War 


became the main objective for photographers and film companies22. Military officials reacted slowly and in stages to this, and it took more than three years to set up the appropriate facilities for more effective visual propaganda. Shortly after the establishment of the British War Office Cinematographic Committee in 1916, the German Bildund Filmamt (BUFA), and the French Section photographique et cinematographique de l´armee (SPCA) followed with their own moving image productions23. At the same time the Austrian-Hungarian War Press Office (Kriegspressequartier, KPQ) was assigned its own departments for photos and moving images24, while Russia was soon to take similar measures. At the end of 1916 the Ministry of the Interior worked on plans for the production and importation of films. Soon afterwards the Minister of Education presented a counter-proposal involving the establishment of a special Cinema Committee, before the February Revolution put an end to all the various initiatives25.

3 Developments of media history before the First World War From a general perspective, describing the 1914 to 1918 bloodshed as a caesura in media history can be called into question in many ways. The management of freedom of speech and censorship, and technical innovations like the rotary press from 1880 onwards, indicate a well-developed newspaper market with differentiated professional specializations. A global news-network, representing an early basic template for the “world wide web” existed even before 190026. Photography reinforced the trend through inventions like the cheap Kodak roll film camera, which was easy to transport and use. As a consequence, photography penetrated into everyday life and new professional fields emerged, taking concrete form in marked improvements in visual advertising and propaganda, and the production and sale of picture postcards27. Cine-

22 N. Reeves, The Power of Film Propaganda, p. 11; C. Friedrich, Propaganda im Ersten Weltkrieg. Die Postkarte als Propagandamedium in Österreich-Ungarn, Dipl. Arb., Graz, 2002, p. 11. 23 C. Puget, “Von einem J’accuse zum nächsten …”, in R. Rother / K. Herbst-Meßlinger (eds.), Der Erste Weltkrieg im Film, München 2009, pp. 112–126, here p. 113; P. Sorlin, France: The Silent Memory, in M. Paris (ed.), The First World War and Popular Cinema. 1914 to the Present, New Brunswick NJ / New York, pp. 115–137, here p. 121; G. Paul, Krieg und Film im 20. Jahrhundert, p. 9. 24 ÖSTA/Allgemeines Verwaltungsarchiv, Ministerium des Inneren, K 2175, k.k. Minister des Innern, Zl. 72.282, February 7, 1918, and Memorandum Eisner-Bubna, April 17, 1918; ÖSTA/KA, KPQ, Fasz. 102, Zl. 10.618, 8.2.1918. Cf. A. Holzer, Die andere Front. Fotografie und Propaganda im Ersten Weltkrieg, Darmstadt 2007, pp. 34 and 36. 25 N. Reeves, The Power of Film Propaganda, p. 47. 26 J. Osterhammel, Die Verwandlung der Welt. Eine Geschichte des 19. Jahrhunderts, München 2009, pp. 64–74. 27 Ibid., pp. 77–79.


 Hannes Leidinger

matography, born during the 1890s, started to rapidly mature from its infancy. A fullfledged industry with various branches was set up around 1910, including studios, a “star system”, feature films, distribution companies, special magazines, representative movie theatres, and well-organized interest groups. The trend was not limited to more developed or industrialized countries, with similar developments for example in Russia or Austria-Hungary28. Film directors were constantly learning more about the creation of content, options, opportunities, and limits of filmic narratives. Commercializing the new media did not contradict its claims to high culture, as proven by sophisticated genres and literary adaptions. The film industry would soon assume a very central position in society. Footage of state occasions, political, and historical events were crucial to this. Strategic contacts with officials and institutions had been established for many decades, and “embedded journalists” were accepted to report on the lives of high dignitaries and on military operations since the 1850s29. Cinema continued to operate within existing frameworks for media coverage at the eve of the First World War. It is not surprising that experienced cameramen were skeptical about the possibility of capturing “real” scenes of combat. Even before 1914, pioneers like George Méliès and many of his colleagues tried to resolve the “crisis of representation” with “fakes” or “re-enactments”30.

4 Constants, slow changes, and alternative periodization Against this background, the year of 1914 does not represent a significant break, at least in qualitative terms. This finding can be confirmed from another perspective, investigating the temporal extent of different phenomena. Anne Morelli’s observation is clearly relevant to the present topic: she highlighted recurring examples of propaganda from ancient times until today31. What has changed are the technical innovations and their social impact, with new forms of communication bringing about true media revolutions, especially since early modern times. There were also epoch-specific framework conditions, not only during the First World War, when dangerous overlaps between national autosuggestion and state manipulation fostered the ethnicization of warfare. Ever since 1789 respective

28 H. Leidinger / V. Moritz / K. Moser, Film in Österreich 1896–2009, p. 4. 29 K.-J. Bremm, Propaganda im Ersten Weltkrieg, pp. 93–123; J. Osterhammel, Die Verwandlung der Welt, p. 80. 30 S. Bottomore, The Biograph in Battle, in K. Dibbets / B. Hogenkamp (eds.), Film and the First World War. Amsterdam 1995, pp. 28–35, here p. 28; J. Osterhammel, Die Verwandlung der Welt, p. 81. 31 A. Morelli, Die Prinzipien der Kriegspropaganda, Springe 2004, 5. Cf. K.-J. Bremm, Propaganda im Ersten Weltkrieg, p. 166.

Visualizing the War 


elements of a people’s war, the strengthening of collective mentalities, and the sharp demarcation of “the own” and “the other” are discernible. Meanwhile the previously unknown sphere of public information emerged, combined with claims of the “awakening masses”. This led to the war motto: “No identification without information”32. Invented epochs were gaining ground, like the “age of total wars” from roughly 1850 to the end of the Second World War, a timespan of social and national formation processes closely linked to more effective mechanisms for influencing and controlling, or technological and organizational developments, combined with intensified (mass-)communications. From this perspective World War One is not so much a turning point or interruption, but more of a “transit station” on the way to modern industrial “machine” war, until the “dead end street” of the atomic threat since 194533. As regards the new media reality, another epoch construction also seems convincing. In this view, the relativization of the 1914/18-caesura is based on the concept of a long “Fin de Siècle” from about 1870 to at least 1930, with a plethora of insights deriving particularly from cultural and global history34. Viewed from the perspective of media and film history, the definition of an era before and after 1918 is highly questionable. The growing interest on popular culture, long-lasting debates about high and low brow art, and the “moral repercussions” of the new media, consumption, and leisure behavior of modern industrial societies like Austria and Germany have given rise to studies and interpretations stressing a continuity from the cinema of the “Kaiser” to the cinema of the republic35.

5 A conservative war There are further reasons to question the role of World War One as a mainspring of media evolution and propaganda developments. A kind of a double caesura occurred, generating new forms of organization in 1914/15, which then disappeared just as quickly in 1918/19. The scarcity of resources also impeded innovative activities, while the “modernist schools” did not partake in the battle of “hearts and minds”, or at least not in the expected way36. Most active modernists distanced themselves from

32 M. Jeismann, Propaganda, in G. Hirschfeld / G. Krumeich / I. Renz (eds.), Enzyklopädie Erster Weltkrieg. Aktualisierte und erweiterte Studienausgabe, Paderborn / München / Wien / Zürich 2009, pp. 198–209, here p. 207. 33 K.-J. Bremm, Propaganda im Ersten Weltkrieg, p. 167; G. Hirschfeld, Der Erste Weltkrieg als mediales und museales Ereignis, p. 14. 34 P. Stiasny, Das Kino und der Krieg. Deutschland 1914–1929, p. 7. 35 Ibid., pp. 10 f. 36 R. Stites, Days and Nights in Wartime Russia. Cultural Life, 1914–1917, in A. Roshwald / R. Stites (eds.), European Culture in the Great War. The Arts, Entertainments, and Propaganda, 1914–1918, Cambridge 1999, pp. 8–31, here p. 12; S. Beller, The Tragic Carnival. Austrian Culture in the First World


 Hannes Leidinger

patriotic education and glorifying military campaigns. At the same time, the military leaders were not willing to renounce a “cultural battle with brush and chisel”. “Realistic” plastic arts and paintings with clear patriotic messages appeared very attractive to the state because they did not rely primarily on language and required no intellectual processing37. Consequently, paintings, drawings, cartoons, and woodcuts became important instruments of propaganda, capable of depicting desired caricatures, allegories, or (fictitious) battle scenes better than most photo and film coverage38. The Tsarist empire exploited the peculiarities of traditional forms of village culture, like the broadsides, woodcuts, or lubki which were increasingly commercialized as mass-produced articles39. However, these popular art forms only boomed for a short time. They represented the affirmation of a common culture through commonly recognized symbols, heroes, saints or enemies for as long as the bellicose sentiments prevailed, but when the continued fighting became more onerous, the demand for war lubki declined along with other martial subjects40. This development was not restricted to Russia and other countries had to react to the growing war-weariness as well, albeit their (staged) faith in victory was sometimes stronger and more durable. The political caricature in Germany – as in the Western powers but unlike the Tsarist empire – adhered much longer to its aims, confirming the belief in the superiority of the fatherland and ridiculing the hostile states41. Nevertheless, propaganda initiatives did ultimately have to face the social consequences of the relentless hostilities. The initial representation of a masculine war had to adapt to the massive emergence of women. The Austrian non-fiction work “The Poldi-steel-works” for example almost accidentally made the audience aware of the increasing percentage of female labor in the wartime economy42. The importance of women as replacement workers threatened the patriarchal order and was thus mostly presented as temporary. Traditional misogynist stereotypes prevailed, describing women as unreliable subjects43. Movies responded to

War, in A. Roshwald / R. Stites (eds.), European Culture in the Great War. The Arts, Entertainments, and Propaganda, 1914–1918, Cambridge 1999, pp. 127–161, here pp. 140 f. 37 S. Beller, The Tragic Carnival, p. 131. 38 C. Friedrich, Propaganda im Ersten Weltkrieg, p. 141. 39 J. Brooks, When Russia Learned to Read. Literacy and Popular Literature, 1861–1917, Princeton NJ 1985, p. 314. 40 J.F. Kowtun, Die Wiedergeburt der künstlerischen Druckgraphik. Aus der Geschichte der russischen Kunst zu Beginn des zwanzigsten Jahrhunderts, Dresden 1984, p. 77; G. Janecek, The Look of Russian Literature. Avant-Garde Visual Experiments, 1900–1930, Princeton NJ 1984, p. 10. 41 E. Demm, Ostpolitik und Propaganda im Ersten Weltkrieg, Frankfurt a.M. 2002, pp. 31–51; H.F. Jahn, Patriotic Culture in Russia, pp. 72 und 83. 42 Cf. Filmarchiv Austria, Das Stahlwerk der Poldihütte während des Weltkrieges (A 1916). 43 A. Holzer, Österreichische Kriegsfotografie im Ersten Weltkrieg, pp. 214–215.

Visualizing the War 


these fears with plots about honest boys misled by evil girlfriends, frequently within the spy genre, and becoming popular among movie-goers everywhere44. Conversely, women had to be protected as the mothers of future generations, while being forced into the role of obedient and chaste followers who are faithful to both husband and country45. Countless posters, postcards, photos, and movies focused on the figure of the nurse, with numerous photographs of female co-workers of the Red Cross amongst the armies in the field or in hospitals46. Similar genres of helping, maternal women and wounded combatants circulated in thousands of copies, reminding viewers of the pietà, the lifeless crucified Jesus in the arms of his mother Mary47. Religious allusions also played a key role in the “war of images”48. A common genre on both sides of the front-line depicted enemies demolishing churches and monasteries49. Examples of positive propaganda, combining faith and tradition with the idea of national unity, include highly emphasized images of Christmas celebrations, and above all in movies like the Russian and German 1914 productions, Rozhdestvo v okopakh (Christmas in the trenches), and Weihnachtsglocken (Christmas bells)50. Religion became profoundly important when the warring factions were dealing with death. The topics discussed and their presentation have thus frequently revealed a tendency to return to conservative ideas and value systems, indicating a greater continuity with the pre-war reality (than post-war conditions) than is usually assumed51.

44 L.M. DeBauche, The United States’ Film Industry and World War One, in M. Paris (ed.), The First World War and Popular Cinema. 1914 to the Present, New Brunswick NJ 2000, pp. 138–161, here p. 156; T. Ballhausen, Between Virgo and Virago, pp. 156 f.; P. Cherchi Usai et al. (eds.), Silent Witnesses. Russian Films, 1908–1919, London 1989, p. 236. 45 T. Ballhausen, Between Virgo and Virago, pp. 156 f. 46 A. Holzer, Österreichische Kriegsfotografie im Ersten Weltkrieg, p. 208. 47 D.J. Youngblood, A War Forgotten, p. 174. 48 H.F. Jahn, Patriotic Culture in Russia, pp. 165 f. and p. 174. 49 A. Holzer, Österreichische Kriegsfotografie im Ersten Weltkrieg, pp. 345–356; H.F. Jahn, Patriotic Culture in Russia, p. 165. 50 A. Kaes, Shell Shock Cinema, p. 24; D.J. Youngblood, A War Forgotten, p. 188. 51 W. Kruse, Der Erste Weltkrieg, pp. 80 f.

Federico Mazzini

Mechanical Vaudeville Popularization of Science and the Trivialization of War in the US (1915–1918)

1 Trivializing war, popularizing science In Fallen Soldiers George Mosse defines the “trivialization process” of the first global conflict in terms of the combined action of various objects and performances having war as their theme (postcards and illustrations, theatrical performances and films, toys and souvenirs) and serving to neutralize the most disconcerting and disturbing aspects of trench warfare, in order to make it a relatively unproblematic part of the everyday existence of the civilian population. Trivialization is “one way of coping with war, not by exalting and glorifying it, but by making it familiar, that which was in one’s power to choose and dominate”1. The trivialization process, acting in combination with the phenomena of mass production, communication and consumption, is one of the keys to understanding the “war cultures” of the Great War. War-themed objects were sites of encounter for the commercial interests of producers, the entertainment preferences of the civilian population, and the constraints imposed by the apparatuses of censorship and propaganda. In the prevailing rhetorical modes used in the trivialization devices we may glimpse the evolution that the narrative of an ongoing war imposes upon traditional forms of entertainment and communication and, conversely, how traditional modes of narration shaped the imagination of the conflict for the civilian population. In this essay I will consider the popularization of war technologies in the United States in the years 1915–1918, interpreting it, through the pages of the “The Popular Science Monthly” (PSM), as part of the process of trivialization of the conflict. By looking in particular at the rhetorical and graphical strategies adopted by this publication, I will explore the ways in which a topic that is naturally impervious to the process of trivialization (the technological massacre of World War One) was manipulated and ultimately rendered neutral and “consumable” as entertainment. In doing so I will consider specifically the United States, a country often neglected by studies into

1 G.L. Mosse, Fallen Soldiers. Reshaping the Memory of the World Wars, New York 1991, p. 127. Note: A longer version of this essay was published in Italian in F. Mazzini (ed.), Scienza tecnica e Grande Guerra. Realtà e immaginari, Pisa 2018, pp. 123–151. Translation: Martin Thom


 Federico Mazzini

“war cultures”2. Though PSM is a limited source, it was the most successful popularization magazine of its time, and can offer an interesting counterpoint to other studies on war trivialization more often focused on Europe. In the United States the trivialization process could exploit a market and nascent consumer culture without equal in Europe as regards scale and modernity of communicative means and techniques. Remoteness from the battlefields and the particular system of censorship and propaganda devised by the Creel Committee offered greater freedom for manipulation of the conflict narrative, and also the pursuit of purposes sometimes at odds with the official aims. A rhetorical and graphical analysis of PSM can also offer some insights into the lively studies on techno-scientific popularization, often focused on the nineteenth and the latter part of the twentieth century. Treating popularization as a narrative aimed at a specific audience, as James Secord does3, also means inserting the attempt at popularization within practices and phenomena that are not directly related to the effort of communicating science. The pages of PSM might reveal the role that the European War played in the conflicts over the definition of science and “scientificity” during a period of transition. The debate prompted by the conflict about pure as opposed to applied science saw a new emphasis on the latter4, which the PSM was prepared to exploit. The leading role of the inventor in the process of innovation, guaranteed in the course of the nineteenth century by the modern system of patents in the United States5, was increasingly called into question by research conducted by universities and in company laboratories – a development that PSM rhetoric would endeavor to rectify.

2 Mechanical vaudeville At the end of 1915, “The Popular Science Monthly” underwent a change of ownership and editorial line. Founded in 1872 by Edward L. Youmans, the monthly had featured contributions by some of the most eminent American and European scientists over the years, making a significant contribution to the dissemination of Darwinist ideas in the United States6. In the opening decade of the new century, however, the magazine’s sales began to fall sharply. An editorial in September 1915 sought to explain to

2 S. Audoin-Rouzeau / A. Becker, 14–18, retrouver la guerre, Paris 2000; P. Poirrier (ed.), La Grande Guerre: une histoire culturelle, Dijon 2015, pp. 19–40. 3 J. Secord, Knowledge in Transit, in “Isis”, 95, 2004, pp. 654–672. 4 G. Gooday, ‘Vague and Artificial’: The Historically Elusive Distinction between Pure and Applied Science, in “Isis”, 103, 2012, 3, pp. 546–554. 5 B.Z. Khan / K.L. Sokoloff, Institutions and Democratic Invention in 19th-Century America: Evidence from ‘Great Inventors’, 1790–1930, in “The American Economic Review”, 94, 2004, 2, pp. 395–401; R. Thomson, Structures of Change in the Mechanical Age. Technological Innovation in the United States, 1790–1865, Baltimore MD 2009. 6 A. Nourie / B. Nourie, American Mass-Market Magazines, New York 1990, pp. 386 f.

Mechanical Vaudeville 


the few thousand remaining readers just why the popularizing model used up until then was failing financially. The general public was no longer captivated, as once it had been, by the Darwinian controversy, yet scientific news still aroused great interest. The articles submitted in large numbers by readers were clearly intended for a different kind of publication, one that concerned itself with the “more basic aspects of science” and to which the adjective “popular” could more legitimately be applied7. In January 1916 the new chief editor, Waldemar Kaempffert, outlined the guiding purpose of this new “popular” publication. The editorial asserted continuity between the new editorial line and the ideas of PSM’s founder. Youmans had single-handedly taken science from the “priesthood of scientists” and made it “a part of the daily life of human beings”. But his success had led to his communication model being superseded, based as it was on long essays and on the translation of scientific jargon into an elevated but not hermetically technical vocabulary. If science had now become an aspect of everyday life, popularizers would need to know how to address the common man. In order to fulfil its “civilizing task”, “The Popular Science Monthly” would function, in Kaempffert’s scheme of things, “as the human mind functions”, touching upon the most disparate arguments in an apparently casual fashion and laying stress upon those capable of attracting the attention of readers “inclined to action and to feeling” rather than to “concentrated thought”. Every form of “drudgery” should be eliminated from the practice and explication of science. In order to satisfy this “economic law” and “fundamental human need”, the new popularization should assume the appearance of a “mechanical vaudeville”. The metaphor of vaudeville very accurately describes the new publication’s priorities and imagined audience. Born as a form of popular, itinerant entertainment, at the beginning of the new century vaudeville had been transformed into a veritable industry, with around 5000 dedicated theatres and an intergenerational, cross-gender audience estimated at around one million per year8. B.F. Keith, its major impresario at the turn of the century, understood, just as Kaempffert did, that the industry’s economic success depended upon the interest it could arouse in the middle classes. While still maintaining the jocular tone that had characterized early vaudeville, Keith insisted that his theatres adhere strictly to the values of bourgeois morality: bloodthirsty, vulgar, or controversial scenes were forbidden, at least in theory. The typical show lasted around two hours and featured a succession of short turns of different kinds, from comic interludes to magic acts, from musical numbers to feats of strength or acrobatic virtuosity. The different sections were not thematically linked, and the choice of one over another was motivated entirely by the desire to entertain the audience, though with a decided preference for the comical and spectacular9. 7 PSM, September 1915, pp. 307–312. 8 R. DesRochers, The New Humor in the Progressive Era. Americanization and the Vaudeville Comedian, London 2014, pp. 53–75. 9 R.C. Allen, Horrible Prettiness: Burlesque and American Culture, Chapel Hill NC 1991, pp. 186 f.


 Federico Mazzini

Kaempffert followed this model faithfully, revolutionizing the content, form, and style of PSM. Although the word “science” was never abandoned in the magazine’s title or in rhetoric, what it “popularized” was mostly technology: automobiles, airplanes, ships, and what today we would call consumer technology were its central concerns. The principal criterion for inclusion as a news item was the curiosity and surprise it might engender in readers, irrespective of the actual efficacy or plausibility of the technologies under consideration. There were many cases in which the title, subtitle, and images suggested a revolutionary invention, but the associated article then exposed the intrinsic absurdity of the idea. Scientific theory and debate, the main preoccupation of the pre-1916 PSM, were entirely absent from Kaempffert’s vaudeville, and articles written by scientists and university professors rarely featured for this reason. It is readily apparent from the tenor and communicative techniques employed, that most of the anonymous articles were written by journalists specializing in popularization, by technicians of various kinds, or by those who, on account of their profession or by mere chance, happened witness the phenomena described. There was an equally profound revolution in graphic design and layout. Having abandoned the lengthy essays of the pre-1916 PSM, the new magazine comprised hundreds of very short items, almost always illustrated and in many cases consisting of a simple commentary on the images. There was no thematic or hierarchical order to the arrangement of the articles in each issue – except for the lead article, which was generally longer and discussing the cover image. Under Kaempffert’s editorship, images, photographic or otherwise, took on an importance they had never known in the PSM of Youmans and Catell: “The Popular Science Monthly has as many illustrations as can be crowded into the magazine because the picture is the quickest, surest way of communicating ideas. Each month some 300 new ideas are pictured and explained – ideas that eliminate drudgery”10. The imitation of the vaudeville experience was reinforced by the general tenor of the articles and by the rhetorical devices employed in order to facilitate reader identification with the magazine. Every piece, even the most serious, was narrated in a jocular, ironical tone, avoiding both the technical turns of phrase used in academic debate and the controversies implicit in novel applications of science. Every invention, no matter how improbable, and even if openly criticized for its impracticality, was proof both of the inevitable progress of civilization and of American genius, its prime mover. The descriptions were often fast moving and in the present tense, and readers were invited to imagine themselves center stage, looking down with their own eyes on the wonders of technology and nature. Although some articles strove to maintain the cross-gender nature of vaudeville, it was clear that the audience imagined by the editors of the PSM was predominantly male, urban, and middle-class, consisting of professionals, artisans, and other

10 PSM, January 1916, p. XII.

Mechanical Vaudeville 


skilled workers11. The presence of recurrent columns concerned with modifications to the Ford, or the various domestic applications of electricity, were not sufficient proof that PSM’s readership consisted exclusively of people who could afford an automobile or an electrified home, but the majority of readers could probably aspire towards such things. The nature of the advertising posted by the magazine, featuring both correspondence courses for professional qualifications and consumer technologies and automobiles, suggests an audience perceived as well-off but not necessarily graduates. The incessant requests for readers to submit their own innovations to the editors, and the veritable cult of the autodidact inventor promoted by the PSM, suggest that a fair proportion of the readers, although without university grade scientific training, had – or believed they had – sufficient technical understanding to stand some chance of being an “inventor”.

3 War of wonders The new model was a tremendous success. The magazine’s circulation went from 6,500 copies a month in 1910 to 123,000 in 191612. An announcement in April 1916 celebrated the new monthly record of 200,000 copies printed. The commentary reflects the editors’ awareness that the revival in the magazine’s fortunes was due most of all to the new approach and the new readership it was addressing: “Tell your friends to read the Popular Science Monthly. Tell them that the Popular Science Monthly gives all the news of invention and science, and that it is easy to read and full of pictures”13. Most of the covers in the war years are dedicated to war technologies, plainly chosen for their spectacular nature. The United States’ entry into the war boosted PSM’s circulation from 150,000 (1917) to 240,000 copies (1918)14. It was only in 1919 that sales would stop rising. Despite the multifaceted nature of the mechanical vaudeville, the way the war was recounted to PSM readers had features that remained constant in every article and throughout the war. Firstly, there was a clear attempt to “exoticize” the conflict and locate it within the sphere of technical and natural marvels that were the review’s main selling point. The PSM took pains to impress its readers with a sense of the great scale of the conflict and the efforts of the combatants, in particular by drawing attention to the sheer numbers involved. The transposition of such numbers into a graphic 11 R.M. Ohmann, Selling Culture. Magazines, Markets, and Class at the Turn of the Century, London 1996, pp. 118–174. 12 The figures have been extrapolated from N.W. Ayer and Son’s American Newspaper Annual and Directory (Philadelphia), as viewed in the volumes from 1910 to 1920. 13 PSM, April 1916, p. 487. 14 In the same period the sales of the weekly “Scientific American” went from 93,000 to 112,000 copies, while the “Electrical Experimenter” reached 71,000 copies.


 Federico Mazzini

idiom rendered them easier for readers to grasp and, by virtue of the absurdity of the images produced, aroused their interest and their curiosity. For example, Herbert Francis demonstrated in February 1916 that in order to transport all the gold expended so far in the war would require exactly 15 trains with 75 carriages and one train with 57 carriages. If this quantity was converted into coins placed next to one another the resulting row (depicted on the page) would go all the way round the earth15. This precision, artificial though it was, served both to give an idea of an orderly war, open to analysis by expert journalists, and to establish the scientificity of what had been asserted. But the PSM’s war did not defy the imagination in scale alone. Its progress was described not through military facts (battles, tactics, and outstanding protagonists are barely mentioned) but rather as a thrilling succession of hitherto undreamt-of inventions and ever bolder technical endeavors. The readers are invited, in this “war of terrible wonders”16, to expect what they had previously deemed impossible. When recounting an episode in which an airplane collided with an observation balloon, Carl Dienstbach, one of the most prolific authors of such articles, pointed out that “the most daring fiction has never invented and pictured anything half as wonderful and sensational as was that daring dash […]. It was another incident demonstrating the dramatic possibilities and the element of romance in flying”17. The PSM’s war was between machines, fought in the skies and the sea, rather than the mud of the trenches. This point was made quite explicitly in several passages: “the most scientific war ever fought”18 would be decided by the side that managed to muster the fastest airplanes19, the heaviest naval artillery, or the most efficient maritime defenses. Airplanes, submarines and, to a lesser degree, tanks were the undisputed protagonists of PSM’s narrative, monopolizing most of the covers and having sections devoted to them in the index. This preference may appear natural for a publication dedicated to “science”, but its trivializing propensity appears obvious when it is observed that other technologies, far more common and widely used on the western front (like for example automatic fire or field artillery), were not given the same level of attention. Soldiers and even pilots were often absent or barely visible: what wins the war or a single duel is not above all their skill, but the genius (national and individual) that devised the machines and ensured their efficient production. This emphasis on machines enabled journalists to minimize or entirely ignore the dimension of interpersonal violence in trench warfare. The stress on certain technologies, namely airplanes and submarines, enabled PSM to narrate some technological episodes as if they were compelling individual challenges (albeit between inanimate 15 PSM, March 1916, pp. 399 f. 16 PSM, November 1917, pp. 660 f. 17 PSM, May 1918, pp. 690 f. 18 PSM, May 1918, p. 744. 19 PSM, January 1918, p. 55.

Mechanical Vaudeville 


beings), thereby catering to a taste for chivalric encounters that a realistic account of mass warfare would not have permitted20. The magazine did not only put existing technologies in improbable and deliberately fictional situations. Despite Kaempffert’s guidelines, a huge amount of space was given over, both in the text, the images, and on the cover, to war machines that had only been anticipated or imagined, obviously chosen because counterintuitive and spectacular in their operation or size. These inevitably included inventions that would later find practical applications, like aircraft carriers21 or guided torpedoes22, but plausibility was not the editorial team’s primary consideration. The cover for September 1917 boasted a trench unicycle with the title (Here is the Air-Propelled Unicycle) and, above all, a technical illustration implying it was a real invention that would shortly revolutionize the business of travelling in trenches. The article itself assumed a completely different tone. The anonymous author emphasized, with benevolent irony, the shortcomings of “this curiously ingenious and yet impractical invention”, the complicated nature of the design, and the inefficiency of the motor propeller. Although the article never mentions it, the invention was taken from patent US1228100, deposited in 1915 by Alfred E. Harlingue. But Harlingue’s invention was supposed to be a racing machine, not a means for relaying dispatches between trenches. It was the editors, evidently aware of the commercial potential of the conflict, who had added its application to warfare. There were many examples of the editors’ enthusiasm for publishing improbable inventions and the pages of PSM were populated by gigantic “land ironclads”, unsinkable ships, underground missiles, and “air fortresses”. It is not hard to see parallels between this type of popularization and the science fiction novel even though the term “science fiction” was only coined at the end of the 1920s. The nature of the specific real problems faced during the ongoing war were widely known – the mud of no man’s land, the difficulties of transportation and of mass production, the ease of use needed by a non-professional army – and were precisely what rendered many of the inventions presented impracticable. The actual conditions of trench warfare were taken into consideration by other popularization journals – for example, “Scientific American” – and even in some articles in the PSM itself, but only so long as the insertion of real-life elements did not jar with the science fiction narrative. The attributes required by a naval or aeronautical invention if it were to be applied to the ongoing war had been officially defined by the Naval Consulting Board in three bulletins addressed to inventors23. The PSM mentioned the first of these bulletins in 20 E.J. Leed, No Man’s Land. Combat and Identity in World War 1, Cambridge 1981, pp. 134 f.; G.L. Mosse, Fallen Soldiers, pp. 119–121. 21 PSM, April 1918, pp. 590 f. 22 PSM, March 1916, pp. 424 f. 23 Reproduced in L.N. Scott, Naval Consulting Board of the United States, Washington D.C. 1920, pp. 253–285.


 Federico Mazzini

October 1917, but then paid no heed to it when revising its own articles24, subsequently failing even to mention the second and third. Finally, the publication of experimental technologies tested by the allied armies would have been in breach of the rules of the Committee on Public Information (CPI), spelled out in May 1917 in the Preliminary Statement to the Press of the United States25. It is therefore reasonable to infer that when on several different occasions the PSM proposed the “Land Torpedo” (a missile on wheels designed to breach barbed wire) the editorial team knew perfectly well that it would have been incapacitated by the mud and craters of no man’s land. Likewise, the many articles on the defense of ships against torpedoes (in direct contradiction with the official bulletins of July 1917 and May 1918, which declared it to be impossible, advising inventors to concentrate instead on the speed of the vessels) were consciously in the realm of science fiction. Nevertheless, this is not tantamount to saying that the PSM was in bad faith, or that its popularization was in reality misinformation. There was no clear distinction between mass popularization of science and fiction with a scientific theme, in the first quarter of the century, neither in the United States nor in Europe26. The “scientific romance” or “scientifiction” frequently had the dual purpose of education and entertainment. Jules Verne and H.G. Wells, at the time the most celebrated authors of the genre, were also popularizers. Hugo Gernsback, the first to use the term “science-fiction”, wrote his most famous novel Ralph 124C 41+ (1911) with the explicit aim of discussing, through the eyes of a future inventor, the most recent inventions of his own time and their possible developments27. The novel was published in separate instalments, along with many others of analogous intent, in the pages of “Modern Electrics”, a magazine that would be absorbed by the PSM during its editorial revolution of 1915. Gernsback would then found the “Electrical Experimenter” and, in 1926, “Amazing Stories”, the first “pulp magazine” dedicated solely to science fiction and in which Gernsback would treat the education of the public as one of the defining features of modern science fiction28. The use of fiction to disseminate technical and scientific ideas among a mass public was therefore regarded as an entirely legitimate practice at the beginning of the twentieth century. If the trench unicycle is imaginary, the article’s scientificity is guaranteed by the explanation as to why it could not work, and while the “land ironclad” would never be seen on the battlefield, the illusion of its feasibility would nonetheless draw readers to the magazine and to the technical ideas it contained. The rhetorical and graphic manipulation of war and science served both 24 PSM, October 1917, p. 598. 25 A. Axelrod, Selling the Great War. The Making of American Propaganda, New York 2009, p. 102. 26 J. Cheng, Astounding Wonder. Imagining Science and Science Fiction in Interwar America, Philadelphia PA 2012. 27 M. Ashley, The History of the Science Fiction Magazine, Liverpool 2000, pp. 29–35. 28 G. Westfahl, The Jules Verne, H.G. Wells and Edgar Allan Poe Type of Stories, in “Science Fiction Studies”, 19, 1992, 3, pp. 340–353.

Mechanical Vaudeville 


didactic and commercial ends. As in most trivialization phenomena, war and science were “cut down to size”29 in the PSM in order to make them accessible and guarantee the success of the magazine, not for consciously propagandistic or warmongering purposes. It is worth noting that other central themes of turn-of-the-century science fiction, like anxiety for the future, a colonial perspective on the “alien”30, and often violently militaristic tone31 are carefully excluded from Kaempffert’s vaudeville.

4 The inventors’ war The trivialization process did not only exploit the reassuring fascination of the exotic and fabulous. For the war to become an intrinsic part of everyday life readers had to be able to identify with the characters, their objectives and successes, no matter how implausible. The key protagonist in a PSM narrative was almost invariably an inventor, inspired rather than systematic in his research, a technician or artisan by training rather than a scientist. These inventors were modelled on the success stories of Edison, Ford, Maxim, Lake, Browning, or fictional characters like Tom Swift or Frank Raede, the young inventors who starred in the popular “edisonades”32. The defining features of these characters were ingenuity, a tireless determination to pursue their own vision, and a relentless quest for efficiency, invariably stemming from a dissatisfaction with what exists. Almost every article begins with the name of the inventor, his home town (almost always in the U.S.) and profession (almost never university-based or intellectual in nature). Just one of countless examples is the Torpedo-Proof Ship with Six Hulls, which appeared in August 1917. Germany’s aim, the article explained, was to stop the United States supplying the allies with soldiers and food. “With his radically new inventions, Nels A. Lybeck, of New York, a seaman of many years experience, hopes to thwart Germany in both of these aims”. The passage cited may appear ironical, and certainly it maintains the jocular tone that invariably characterized the PSM. Yet the article expresses complete confidence in the invention: the ship would move through the sea like a barge on a river and the rectangular shape of its deck would allow it to protect itself with shields, rendering it torpedo-proof. The “truly twentieth century method” proposed by Mr. Lybeck to solve the “food problem” was presented as inspired in its simplicity: lights shining on the water would attract fish,

29 G.L. Mosse, Fallen Soldiers, p. 134. 30 J. Rieder, Colonialism and the Emergence of Science Fiction, Middletown CT 2008, pp. 133–145. 31 I.F. Clarke, Voices Prophesying War, 1763–1984, London / New York 1966. 32 R. Luckhurst, Science Fiction, Cambridge 2005; J. Clute, Edisonade, in J. Clute / D. Langford / P. Nicholls / G. Sleight (eds.), The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, web/20190327180920/


 Federico Mazzini

nets mounted on the stern would reel them in and an endless conveyor belt would bring them onto the deck, ready to be stowed in the hold and consigned to the Allies. Directly counterpoising Mr. Lybeck and Germany serves a twofold purpose. First of all, it is a rhetorical device fostering identification: war, like science, is immense in its scale and consequences, but it is not beyond the capacity of the common man, and by extension the reader, to influence it. Of all the magazine readers in America […] where could you find so impressive a number of men – and women too – with the inventive type of mind? Who can tell what will be evolved from the experiments and discoveries of Popular Science Monthly readers and how far-reaching the benefits thereof to our Country?33.

In conveying that every reader is a potential Edison the magazine meets the desires of its own imagined public, and at the same time trivializes the war, reducing it to a phenomenon that could be tamed by a single individual. By celebrating the genius of the common man, the magazine celebrates and extends the “long list of America’s contributions to the technique of modern warfare”34 and the people that more than any other had, through their inventiveness and daring, promoted the technologization of warfare. The European conflict was described as a clash between opposed national capacities for invention, with flash of individual genius as the expression and technology as the consequence: “A nation cannot merely copy fallen Zeppelins and hope to succeed. It must do original thinking”35. Although there was sincere admiration, even after the entry of the United States into the war, for German technical prowess (in particular aeronautics), and although words of praise were lavished on the French (oddly enough, for camouflage techniques), and on the English (for their naval expertise), the primacy of American ingenuity was never questioned. It is worth recalling that this idea of science and its role in war was not peculiar to Popular Science, mass circulation magazines, or war-themed “scientifiction” novels. The celebration of the amateur was, as Marcel LaFollette has shown, a fundamental feature of the popularization of science in the United States up until the Second World War, and perhaps beyond, since “it fits neatly with traditional American values of entrepreneurship and enterprise”36. In 1916 the United States Patent Office registered 31,742 patents in the name of individuals and 11,540 in the name of corporations, and only in the mid-1930s did the balance shift in favor of corporations37. These figures tell us nothing about the effective application or importance of the inventions pat-

33 PSM, May 1917, p. 801. 34 PSM, August 1917, p. 315. 35 PSM, April 1917, pp. 518–523. 36 M. La Follette, Making Science Our Own, Chicago IL 1990, pp. 119–122. 37 U.S. Bureau of Census, Historical Statistics of the United States, Colonial Times to 1970, Part 2, Washington D.C. 1975, p. 958.

Mechanical Vaudeville 


ented, but they testify the fact that, in the first part of the twentieth century, an essentially democratic notion of innovation was widespread. PSM narratives certainly did not have a monopoly on its instrumental application to war, as demonstrated in July 1915 when the Secretary of the Navy, Josephus Daniels, founded the Naval Consulting Board, aiming to “mobilize the inventive talents of the nation” for the enhancement of war technologies. The presidency was offered, significantly enough, to “the famous inventor” Thomas Edison38. As pointed out by Lloyd N. Scott, liaison officer to the Board and its official historian, the foundation of this consultative body was the first step taken by a senior government official to prepare the nation for war. The organization was composed of inventors, captains of industry, and scientists divided up into various sub-commissions, and among its assigned tasks was the collection and scrutiny of inventions proposed by “the common man”. Thanks to an effective press campaign, the centrality of the submarine war in public debate, and then the entry of the United States into the war, the office responsible for the preliminary sifting of inventions received 110,000 proposals between 1915 and 1918. Only 110 of the proposals submitted were held to be worthy of forwarding to the relevant sub-commission and by the end of the war just the one invention (an apparatus for training pilots on the ground) had actually been built and used. According to Scott’s own estimates 75% of the inventions were not in accordance with the laws of nature as known. […] The same mistake was made over and over again by different inventors. Their minds seemed to work in the same channels and along the same lines. They thought of something that it was desirable to accomplish and suggested that it be accomplished, ignoring the difficulties involved in accomplishing it.

Notwithstanding these meagre results, the campaign for the harvesting of ideas, also promoted by informal and private associations39, continued for the entire duration of the conflict. In his introduction to Scott’s disillusioned book, the now ex-secretary of the Navy was at some pains to celebrate, paradoxically enough, the efficacy of the Naval Consulting Board in mobilizing the industriousness and genius of the American people. Scott himself, though scathing in his criticisms of the sheer ignorance of the inventors and the waste of time of the whole venture, did not advise abandoning the democratic and decentralized notion of technical and scientific innovation that had inspired it. His own solution involved the creation of a chain of local information offices dedicated to inventors, so that national and individual genius could be adequately informed and nurtured40.

38 U.S. National Archives, Handbook of Federal World War Agencies and Their Records, 1917–1921, Washington D.C. 1943, p. 377. 39 Such as the War Committee of Technical Societies, the Inventions Section of the General Staff (25,000 proposals) or the National Research Council, which received 16,000 proposals, never translated into reality; G. Hartcup, The War of Invention, London 1988, pp. 31–33. 40 L.N. Scott, Naval Consulting Board, pp. 122–147.


 Federico Mazzini

The individualization of technological and mass conflict was thus not born from the pages of the PSM. On these same pages and in government thinking, however, the democratization of science involved a democratization of war and its reduction to the scale of the individual, which was obviously an important objective during conscription and the total mobilization of civil society. The magazine exploited and perpetuated a trivializing representation that characterized American war culture overall, which, despite the centralization and specialization of the process of innovation determined by the market and by the conflict itself, enjoyed the full support of government organizations and professional associations.

5 War as usual Fascination and identification were two aspects of the same trivialization process. For that process to be complete the conflict had to be stripped of the elements that prevented it being voluntarily subsumed into the everyday life of the civilian population, so the dimensions of grief and physical violence characteristic of all warfare had to be neutralized. When dealing with the infantry war the magazine placed marked emphasis on protection technologies (helmets, goggles, camouflage, fanciful portable trenches) or observation and communication (balloons, trench periscopes, cameras, telegraphs with and without wires). A great deal of space was devoted to the use of ancient technologies in modern war, and in particular to trench armor and shields, presented in every possible variant and as far more widespread and effective than in reality. The graphic representation of soldiers as knights and the use of a medieval vocabulary in the European war cultures was, according to Mosse, a rhetorical device designed to bring modern warfare back within known and respected traditions41. In the American context the effect was to characterize war as the sphere of the unfamiliar and unimagined, while asserting that the destructive effects of modern technologies could be annulled or mitigated by resorting to simple and common-sense methods: after all, “If Helmets Are Good, Why Not Armor?”42. It is significant that the trench club, an ancient and violent weapon actually used during the First World War, was never mentioned. When the magazine had no choice but to discuss obviously lethal technologies, such as poison gas and flamethrowers, it would paradoxically stress the defensive uses to which they were put or, on several occasions, the efficacy of the countermeasures employed. The April 1917 issue even went so far as to present, albeit with a hint of irony, a bayonet and bullet that were antiseptic and anaesthetizing, and therefore 41 G.L. Mosse, Fallen Soldiers, p. 121. 42 PSM, April 1917, p. 530.

Mechanical Vaudeville 


designed to “relieve the conscience of the soldier” that used them on another human being43. The actual layout of the magazine was designed to neutralize the potentially more distressing subjects, placing them without any particular emphasis alongside the many innocuous curiosities that featured in each issue. One example among many is a very short article on The Poison Gases That Kill Men in Trench Warfare in which the unusual crudity of the title is toned down by the content of the text (which incidentally implies that only Germany made use of them) and above all by positioning it between Making “Night Scenes” for the Motion Pictures and The Largest Straw Hat in the World Is Yours If It Fits (both illustrated). Kaempffert’s vaudeville, taken as a whole, thus has a normalizing effect: amongst hundreds of frivolous news items even one of the most feared technologies is reduced to the status of a curiosity, just another of the many oddities of modernity. After April 1917 the training of soldiers in the use of the various weapons was closely scrutinized, specifying the technical means, objectives, and effectiveness with which it was attained. American and allied soldiers were portrayed as intent on their patriotic duty, smiling and vigorous while undergoing scientifically efficient training or learning how to use the latest technical invention. After their departure for the front, however, the soldiers disappeared into the war of machines, only re-emerging when seen engaged in everyday acts (trades, tailoring, sports and games) alongside everyday technologies (stoves, washing machines, camp kitchens, gramophones, inflatable mattresses). The overall image was that of a war in which every aspect, even the most minute, is managed with deliberate efficiency and humane care and in which the soldiers can enjoy a “normal”, civilian life. On several occasions the current war was compared positively to those of the past, emphasizing how technology had greatly improved soldiers’ living conditions as well as their chances of surviving. The PSM did not simply render the trenches an everyday affair or the effects of modern weapons innocuous, but articles and illustrations alike even transported trench technologies and contexts into the civilian world, with war jargon used to describe phenomena that had nothing to do with warfare (Camouflage in the Wars of Nature44; Defending the Home with a Mousetrap Gun45; The Battle of the Bath-Tub46). War technologies were depicted in the hands of tranquil civilians in peacetime applications. Trench mortality rates were minimized through comparisons with workplace accident statistics or infant mortality rates at home. After the entry of the United States into the war, articles on hunting or target-shooting multiplied. The war that would shortly be fought by the PSM’s own readers and by their nearest and dearest

43 PSM, April 1917, p. 216. 44 PSM, July 1918, p. 28. 45 PSM, April 1917, p. 577. 46 PSM, April 1918. p. 736.


 Federico Mazzini

was thus introduced in innocuous and reassuring contexts. An article in June 1917, for example, taught boy scouts how to construct a trench periscope47. Even more explicitly, an item in November 1917 sets out to undermine a fictional topos that was no longer useful in the modern trivialization of war: “Now that learning to shoot the rifle will be the job of some million Americans”, writes Edward Crossman, it is of interest to note that the best marksmen are not the “legendary ‘bad men’ of the West, who shoot on sight in the moving pictures”, but those who practice a profession requiring precision of eye and hand, like surveyors, surgeons, dentists, painters, gymnasts, and naturally mechanics, electricians, and those who, like the audience of the PSM, have “the ability to make the hands do what the mind tells them to do”48.

6 Conclusions The PSM’s technological war was based on a balance between two fundamental narrative models, in apparent contradiction with each other, which I have defined as an “exoticization” and a “familiarization” of the conflict. The first model tends to distance the war from everyday life, to turn it into a universe too removed from ordinary experience and too similar to genres of literary fiction to be really threatening. The second tends to bring the conflict closer to everyday life, affirming the capacity of individuals to influence the outcome through their ingenuity, thereby stripping the conflict of its most violent and controversial aspects. The contradiction between the two models is best understood in terms of the parallel with the science fiction novel: like an alien or future world, war must be sufficiently distant to be fascinating, but sufficiently close to be appreciated as logical and entertaining. “Science” is the vehicle through which the PSM’s trivialization reaches its readers and through which the two models are integrated into a narrative that is coherent in message. In order for this to occur science must be freed of its characteristic “drudgery”, transforming instead into an “applied science” whose effects are immediately visible and easily representable, but without losing the authority that the word “science” confers upon the aims of the magazine. Likewise, war must be freed of its characteristic dimension of violence, adapting instead to the middle-class canons of sensibility that Keith had theorized for the actual vaudeville theatres, without however relinquishing the associated fascination of all warlike initiatives. This does not mean that mechanical vaudeville was explicitly and exclusively geared toward the trivialization of war, or that the scientific “edutainment” it inaugurated was limited to the war years. War was trivialized in the process of popularizing science and because it aroused public interest. Kaempffert’s effort was not explicit 47 PSM, June 1917, p. 935. 48 PSM, November 1917, pp. 732 f.

Mechanical Vaudeville 


propaganda and the aim of his mechanical vaudeville was simply to sell copies and educate his public while avoiding government censorship. The trivialization of the conflict overall came about not as a systematic conscientious effort by individuals or governments, but as a by-product of the interaction between different commercial, didactic, and political interests. As already seen, the same applies to other publications like the Electrical Experimenter and similar “scientifiction” initiatives. The PSM continued on the same course after 1918 and a quick look at the magazine covers and indexes during the post-war years shows that the mechanical vaudeville was thriving well into the 1920s and 1930s. Although war technologies were replaced by civilian ones, the predilection for ships and aircrafts remained, along with the science fiction nature of their graphic and rhetorical presentation, and the predominance of images over text. The limited and particular case of the PSM is of course insufficient in itself for formulating a judgment on the modalities of trivialization of war technology in the United States. It should be seen as an important component (considering its reach and duration) in a much more extensive multimedia process, which included a variety of products, theatre, cinema, and literature. The magazine does provide valuable insight into how rhetorical tools devised by Kaempffert to popularize science (and sell copies) were used and adapted in order to trivialize war (thereby selling more copies), and it provides the possibility of comparison with other different trivializing products, events and media, as well as comparisons with different national contexts. Considering its technical nature and the small number of letters to the editors, it is extremely difficult to judge the success of the initiative other than by looking at the commercial fortunes of the magazine. As already seen, sales increased constantly during the war years and stabilized in 1919 and it is probably safe to say that the success of the mechanical vaudeville, and perhaps its longevity, was fueled by a fascination for the trivialization of war. Reflection on this truly enduring success, the genesis of the new PSM, and of Kaempffert’s mechanical vaudeville requires consideration of not only the birth of modern “soft journalism” and technical and scientific “edutainment”, but also the manner in which a specific idea of technical and scientific innovation was defended, in part thanks to the consumer value of a trivialized war, against a growing centralization and the by then consolidated professionalization of research. Unlike the university journals or the more upmarket popularization magazines like those produced by Youmans, the PSM reached a mass readership and instilled in it a specific idea of scientificity and innovation. The challenge it addressed was not that of translating complex science born in laboratories into simple words, but rather of inducing its readers to express their own creative potential. This idea of participatory, “democratic” innovation, founded on the heroization of the great nineteenth-century inventors, did not die with the triumph of laboratory science after the Second World War. Transmitted over the course of the twentieth century in countless publications catering for enthusiasts and hobbyists (the most obvious examples are radio hams and


 Federico Mazzini

computer enthusiasts, but every “technical culture”49 centered around one or more magazines), and by the PSM itself (as Iona Literat has brilliantly demonstrated for the 1920s and 1930s)50, this idea would take on new life in the guise of participatory innovation, mostly involving computers and digital ICTs, and ultimately become an important theme of academic research51 and public debate.

49 K. Haring, Ham Radio’s Technical Culture, Cambridge 2007. 50 I. Literat, Participatory Innovation. The Culture of Contests in Popular Science Monthly, 1918–1938, in “Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly”, 90, 2013, 4, pp. 776–790. 51 N. Oudshoorn / T.J. Pinch, How Users Matter. The Co-Construction of Users and Technologies, Cambridge 2003; E. von Hippel, Democratizing Innovation, Cambridge 2005; M. Schafer, Bastard Culture! How User Participation Transforms Cultural Production, Amsterdam 2011.

II. Peace Illusions – The Media as Postwar Prophets

Michael S. Neiberg

“Where Did the Fourteen Points Go?” The American Media and the Shantung Controversy

1 Shantung and secret diplomacy “The very worst possible has happened”, Edward T. Williams, one of Woodrow Wilson’s advisers on East Asia wrote on May 5, 1919 from Paris. “I did the best I could in the matter but failed. I feel as if I had wasted six months of my life […] my one desire now is to get away from here just as soon, and just as fast and just as far as I can”1. The failure to which Williams referred also angered General Tasker Bliss, the United States military representative to the Paris Peace Conference. Bliss contemplated leaving Paris as well, and perhaps even resigning from the Army he had served for 45 years. “I have never seen such a glaring case of secret diplomacy”, he wrote to his wife on May 8, “Thank God my skirts are clear (or at least my conscience is) of any of the wrong doing”2. The issue that had so angered and disillusioned Williams, Bliss, and many other Americans in Paris involved not Germany or Russia, but a peninsula in East Asia that few Americans could have found on a map. The future of the Shantung peninsula, a resource-rich region of northeastern China, had become an unexpectedly difficult international issue that put the United States on the horns of a very tricky dilemma3. Between 1897 and 1914, Germany maintained effective control over the ports, railways, and economic resources of the peninsula4. Early in the war, Japanese forces, with diplomatic support from Britain and France, seized Shantung from the Germans and compelled the Chinese government of warlord Yuan Shikai to acquiesce to a Japanese takeover as part of its Twenty-One Demands5. In September 1918, a further exchange of documents between the Chinese and Japanese governments confirmed Japan’s assumption of Germany’s former rights in Shantung.

1 Williams to Long, May 5, 1919 quoted in E. Manela, The Wilsonian Moment. Self-Determination and the International Origins of Anticolonial Nationalism, New York 2007, p. 185. 2 Tasker Bliss to Nellie Bliss, May 8, 1919, in United States Army Heritage and Education Center, Carlisle, Pennsylvania, Bliss Papers, Box 22, Folder 12. 3 Although sometimes spelled Shandong, this article will use Shantung, the spelling most common in 1919. 4 Mark Twain had been one of those Americans opposed to the German actions in 1897, arguing against any further imperial adventures and foreshadowing his own opposition to America’s seizure of former Spanish colonies in 1898. See S. Kinzer, The True Flag. Theodore Roosevelt, Mark Twain, and the Birth of the American Empire, New York 2017, p. 12. 5 See the essays in T. Minohara / T.-K. Hon / E. Dawley (eds.), The Decade of the Great War. Japan and the World in the 1910s, Leiden 2014.


 Michael S. Neiberg

Despite these agreements, Chinese officials in Washington and Paris raised objections to a Japanese presence in Shantung after the war. They argued that Japan had no right to any of Germany’s prewar privileges in China because neither Germany nor Britain had any right to transfer them. The American-educated and deeply respected Chinese diplomat Wellington Koo impressed Williams, himself a Sinologist, with his arguments for Shantung’s full return to Chinese control. Using President Wilson’s own logic, Koo contended that Japan’s seizure of parts of Shantung in 1915 violated the principle of national self-determination. Since Germany’s own seizure of Shantung in 1897 had also violated self-determination, moreover, the Japanese had had no right to inherit what effectively amounted to the fruits of a poisoned tree. No one, not even the Japanese, could deny that Shantung was almost exclusively Chinese by ethnicity. Following the principles that the international community claimed to be promoting in Europe, there should be no question whatsoever of Shantung returning to full Chinese sovereignty. But, in Koo’s eyes, the question went beyond ethnicity. The Twenty-One Demands, he argued, had been imposed on China by brute military force, the same kind of brute force that the Americans had rejected as a basis for setting the postwar borders of Europe. Just as the Allies had abrogated the treaties of Bucharest (1916) and Brest-Litovsk (1918) that legitimized Germany’s conquests in Romania and Russia, the Americans should reject Japanese militarist expansionism, even if enshrined by treaty. The Chinese case had much sympathy among American delegates to the Paris Peace Conference, including Williams and Bliss. The Japanese government’s case struck them as far less persuasive. Their views reflected a generally pro-Chinese tendency in American views about East Asia. Japanese delegates countered by arguing that the Chinese government itself had agreed to Japan’s takeover of the German possessions by way of the 1915 and 1918 agreements. Japanese possession of Shantung, therefore, had the letter of international law behind it. Postwar qualms about self-determination did not, in their eyes, materially change the nature of the law6. Moreover, having been on the winning coalition, the Japanese believed that their victorious partners owed them compensation for their sacrifices; it was Japanese, not Chinese, blood they contended, that ended the German presence in China. Few Americans accepted this line of argument, concluding that the Japanese had in fact coerced a weakened Chinese government into accepting an unfair territorial settlement. The Japanese, however, had a few extra cards up their sleeve to play against Wilson in the matter of Shantung. Japanese diplomats had advanced the idea of inserting a racial equality clause in the final treaty, a clause that the British, French, and Americans all feared would undermine their own colonial claims. They would also prove controversial at home, not least in Wilson’s own deeply segregated America.

6 For more on the changing nature of international law in this period, see O.A. Hathaway / S.J. Shapiro, The Internationalists and Their Plan to Outlaw War, London 2017.

“Where Did the Fourteen Points Go?” 


To deny Japan both Shantung and the racial equality clause might lead the Japanese to boycott the League of Nations or withdraw its support of Allied efforts to contain Bolshevism in Russia. America’s fear of a rising Japan led many American strategists to see greater value in keeping the Japanese happy than in creating more tensions between Washington and Tokyo. Allowing Japan to keep Shantung struck Wilson and his adviser Edward House as a reasonable price to pay to maintain a good working relationship with the Japanese. Wilson underestimated (or, more likely, never even considered) the anger that his position on Shantung elicited, especially from many of his closest advisers. He may have thought that the issue was too minor to create controversy either in Paris or back in the United States, especially given the focus on Germany. East Asia had not figured in the Fourteen Points, and the United States had taken no official stand on the Shantung matter during the war. Always careful to keep foreign policy in his own hands, Wilson had not even fully discussed policy on Shantung with his own secretary of state. It should therefore come as no surprise that he did not take American public opinion into account. For Wilson, the need to keep Japan a part of the League of Nations argued for giving Shantung to the Japanese. But America did have interests (mostly economic and missionary) in China, and the Chinese position elicited widespread sympathy in the United States. The Chinese also seemed to most Americans to have the merits of the case on its side. The agreements between China and Japan, most Americans following the issue argued, had indeed been done under duress and therefore did not rise to the level of treaties that the international community was bound to accept. Even if Wilson had not specifically mentioned Shantung in his Fourteen Points, therefore, it seemed a perfect case of the ideals behind them. Williams, Bliss, and other Americans in Paris were all agreed that the United States had no legal, moral, or ethical choice but to support the central concept of national self-determination and therefore the return of Shantung to full Chinese control as quickly as possible. Wilson normally spoke of the importance of national will in deciding territorial matters, but on this issue he seemed willing to reject his own principles. A frustrated Williams found Wilson leaning toward the Japanese position solely on the grounds of the same Realpolitik that Wilson had rejected as a means for rebuilding the world after the war. The president told Williams, much to the latter’s confusion, that the war had in fact been as much about respecting the sanctity of international treaties as about the promotion of national self-determination. Both his position and his logic failed to convert his senior East Asia advisers; in the words of one of them, Stanley Hornbeck, Wilson had unwisely decided to yield to “immediate practical political necessity”7. In other words, he was willing to sacrifice his principles in the interests of great power politics, even it meant disavowing his own public rhetoric. Wilson thought

7 E. Manela, The Wilsonian Moment, p. 183.


 Michael S. Neiberg

that he needed to keep Japan happy and in the League of Nations. Denying them both Shantung and the racial equality clause that the racist Wilson could never support risked fatally weakening the League, the issue most central to the president’s heart and to his ideas for the reconstruction of the world order. Wilson thus sold out the Chinese despite the belief among the vast majority of Americans in Paris that China had right on its side. “It is the best that could be accomplished out of a dirty past”, Wilson self-servingly remarked to his personal physician8. The decision was announced in Paris on May 2. Two days later a series of demonstrations and riots, collectively known today as the May Fourth Movement, began in major urban centers in China. These protests targeted Japanese businesses in China and the property of Chinese politicians seen as too accommodating to Japan. The movement, part of the much wider New Culture Movement, energized a period of intensive debate about China’s future and its relationship with the west that lasted into the 1920s. Whatever came out of the American decision to deny China control over Shantung, it would most obviously change the relationship between the two countries in fundamental ways. To make the issue even more difficult, the vast majority of Americans disliked the position Wilson had taken on Shantung in their name, even if most had never of the place.

2 The problem in a nutshell Before 1919, few Americans knew anything at all about Shantung. Using the Library of Congress’s Chronicling America database, we can see the essential lack of interest in Shantung in American newspapers9. In 1917, American newspapers mentioned Shantung a total of 1,799 times. A brief and unscientific sampling of this coverage reveals that almost all of these references were to the “silk Shantung jacket” that was somehow all the rage in Parisian fashion circles despite the war. In American big cities, the jacket also became popular among those following the latest European trends. The New York “Tribune” of March 4, 1917, for example, asked Americans not for their views on America’s impending entry into the war, but for their “verdict” on the new Shantung-style jackets that Parisian designers had begun to export to American consumers10. The following year, with the United States fighting a world war, American newspapers reported on Shantung 1,218 times, again virtually all of them

8 J. Milton Cooper, Breaking the Heart of the World. Woodrow Wilson and the Fight for the League of Nations, New York 2001, p. 127. 9 The database digitized hundreds of newspapers from 1789 to 1963. 10 Paris Presents Her Case for a Hearing. What’s Your Verdict?, in New York “Tribune”, March 4, 1917, p. 3.

“Where Did the Fourteen Points Go?” 


involving fashion11. The nation might be at war, but not even a war could stop the influence of Paris on the clothing choices of the American middle class. In 1919, however, with Americans anxious for news from this unfamiliar but suddenly newsworthy place, articles on Shantung rose to more than 10,000. Only 640 of them referenced silk and/or fashion. Clearly, America’s interest in Shantung had changed from fashion to diplomacy. A surge of articles appeared in late July and early August, perhaps reflecting a time lag from the events that followed May 4th. It may have taken American newspapers a couple of months to realize their impact, learn about the region for themselves, then decide on what they wanted to tell their readers. In any event, the signing of the Treaty of Versailles on June 28 would have occupied most of the attention of editors and journalists for several weeks thereafter. Much of American media coverage began from a paternalistic and frankly condescending set of assumptions, reflecting a general anti-Asian bias in America at the time. Just twelve years earlier, the United States and Japan had worked out the terms of a “gentleman’s agreement” whereby the United States would not place formal restrictions on Japanese migration as it had on Chinese migration as long as the Japanese government assumed the responsibility of stopping emigration to the United States from its end. Thus, Japan would not be subject to the humiliation of a formal exclusion act like the one that had banned Chinese immigration since 1882. The deep anti-Asian racism implied in both policy approaches reflected the treatment of Asians in America itself. In California, Oregon, and elsewhere, school boards segregated their Japanese students and local communities did all they could to discourage Asians from buying property. America’s views of Asians influenced its citizens’ attitudes toward postwar Asia. Accounts of Shantung in American newspapers in 1919 depicted a pre-modern and backward region inhabited by a primitive people not yet ready to decide their futures for themselves. An August “sketch of the province in China which may cause trouble for the League of Nations” in the Bridgeport (Connecticut) “Times” showed an exotic place of beautiful pagodas and large extended families. Typical of most American coverage, it did not mention the region’s intellectual heritage in China; Confucius himself was from Shantung. Instead, it showed the region’s people weaving baskets by hand as a family activity12. At least the “Times” found photographs. Most coverage relied on hand-drawn cartoons or, more commonly, a basic map. Those maps were nevertheless important, because most Americans knew almost nothing about Shantung, not even where to find it. Newspapers like the Arizona “Republic” therefore offered articles like The Shantung Problem in a Nutshell. It told readers the basics, such as Shantung’s size (55,000 square miles, about the size of Illinois), the location of its principle railway (connecting the port of Tsingtao to

11 All of these searches include advertisements. 12 Shantung, in Bridgeport “Times”, August 21, 1919.


 Michael S. Neiberg

the capital at Jinan, about 200 miles to the west), and its population of 30,000,000 people. Although Shantung amounted to just 1/325th of the total size of China, its location on the sea near Korea, Japan, and Shanghai gave it an importance in world affairs disproportionate to its size. The Washington “Evening Star” explained unfamiliar Shantung to its readers by inventing a “dainty Miss America” who pouted that “My brain simply reels with all this talk about Japan and China and the league of nations [sic]”. If it weren’t for the silk net from Shantung, the newspaper reported, her “rebellious trellises” of hair would be falling on her forehead. An equally uninformed “Mr. Businessman”, wearing a suit made in Shantung, strolls down the street muttering that China was “a long way off”. They symbolized the happy ignorance with which most Americans approached a problem that their own president was in the process of deciding. Not to worry, the “Evening Star” had a solution for Dainty Ms. America and Mr. Businessman. It had contacted the National Geographic Society to help them both understand the problem. Women had every reason to be grateful to Shantung, it reported, because its silk hair nets allowed them “to preserve for another hour the loveliness of a moment” as they went speeding along in their boyfriends’ new automobiles. Men could thank Shantung for the cooler silks that made summer far more pleasant than the wools of Europe. America thus had more links to Shantung than it knew; apparently, it was largely due to Shantung that Americans could look good in convertibles or while walking down Main Street in their suits and ties. How any of this might translate into foreign policy, the newspaper declined to guess. Shantung also helped America win the war by providing “coolies”, the “eversmiling Chinese whom [American soldiers] saw making roads in France. The men of Shantung, Americans supposedly learned as a result of the war, have “the fine qualities of some of the world’s best laborers”. According to the National Geographic Society, “When China wants railways built or canals dug here are boys who showed the best allied engineers what loyal labor really was”. A people not only willing, but happy, to work 16 hours a day in all conditions only needed American corporate know-how to fully exploit the gold mines and soybean fields of the region13. America thus owed Shantung gratitude and the benefits of a closer economic relationship. Newspapers explained not just the geography and the people but also the strategic significance of Japan’s control of the province. Sitting just to the south of Peking (Beijing), Japanese control of Shantung meant that Japan would have a “strong position” relative to the “Chinese Republic” both strategically and in the competition for mineral resources in the contested region of Manchuria to the north. Already in control of Port Arthur (today’s Lüshunkou), Japan would have possessions to the north and the south of the Chinese capital if allowed to develop Shantung. The article,

13 Shantung Boasts Varied Industries. From Hair Nets to Railway Building, Geography Society States, in Washington “Evening Star”, September 22, 1919.

“Where Did the Fourteen Points Go?” 


although taking no clear side in the dispute, made clear how much of a change Japanese control of Shantung represented to the strategic situation in East Asia, even if Japan’s effective control would only extend to the two major cities and the railway linking them14. Almost all American media coverage began from the assumption of Japanese duplicity. Japanese diplomats had pledged that they would quickly turn Shantung back to the Chinese, but Americans suspected a trick15. If Japan intended a temporary presence only, why was Japan taking control of railroads and developing mines? There could be “no question” of America trusting Japan as long as Japan refused to set a departure date. “There is a real wrong here”, a Salem, Oregon editorial noted. If Japan planned on a short occupation only, “why delay the revelation of that pleasant fact?” The only obvious answer the editors could find was that Japan planned to stay. Otherwise, its leaders would “make a formal announcement that she will keep her word, and do so within a specific time”. That they had not yet done so proved a basic lack of Japanese sincerity16.

3 The looting of China The vast majority of American newspapers, even those newspapers generally in favor of Wilson and his approach to diplomacy at the end of the war, expressed negative views, even outright condemnations, of American policy in East Asia. These views reflected a growing American discomfort with the way that the postwar world had begun to develop. They also reveal how early American disillusion with the Treaty of Versailles and the League of Nations began. The issues surrounding Shantung, therefore, had much greater impact and relevance than the fate of economic and railway rights in a relatively small part of China. They instead came to reflect America’s own discomfort with its role in the postwar world. Reliance on the League of Nations struck many Americans as a questionable approach to the turbulent postwar world because of its assumption of roles the Constitution had reserved to the United States Congress. Now somewhat misleadingly known as Isolationists, they represented, in the words of one scholar “more a cross section of the nation than an ideologically homogenous group”17. They included farmers with little interest in foreign adventures, businessmen who feared losing the economic advantages that the United States had accrued during the war, and pro-

14 The Shantung Problem in a Nutshell, in Arizona “Republic”, July 30, 1919. 15 In 1922, Japan did return Shantung to full Chinese control as part of the Washington Naval Conference agreements. 16 Salem “Daily Capital Journal”, August 1, 1919. 17 Ralph Stone quoted in J. Milton Cooper, Breaking the Heart of the World, p. 127.


 Michael S. Neiberg

gressives who feared a dilution of American moral power. They also included those uncomfortable with the very idea of what they feared would evolve into a world government. Isolationists feared that the League of Nations would either prevent America from pursuing its own destiny or would drag the nation into wars not in its interests. This group saw the League as an existential threat to the United States and a hopelessly naive way to approach the rough and tumble world of great power competition. They coalesced around former president Theodore Roosevelt and his close friend Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Henry Cabot Lodge. Roosevelt’s politicallyactive and observant daughter, Alice (whose husband was a member of Congress and future speaker of the House of Representatives), worried that the League “would pledge us to active participation in the affairs of Europe – indeed, of the whole world – which would pledge us in advance regardless of our interests, to use our armed and economic forces when questions arose which were of no possible concern to us”18. Shantung represented just such a place. Wilson nemesis, isolationist, and New Mexico Senator Albert Fall (named secretary of the interior in 192119) even worried that if China sought to take back its own territory by force, the United States would be required by the League of Nations to send troops to aid Japan. The powerful Idaho Senator William Borah agreed, warning that unless the United States “refused to underwrite and guarantee the rape of China”, it risked sending Americans into a war for Japanese imperialism. Thus, they both argued, might the League of Nations force the United States to fight for positions precisely opposite to those its people supported20. To Alice Roosevelt Longworth, these senators, and those who thought like them, the problem with the League lay in exactly this ability to compel the United States to action and to tie America to foreign policy decisions that the nation saw as unwise or even harmful to its own interests. The United States, and the world more generally, they argued, would function more peacefully if the United States were able to pursue its interests and export its values unfettered by the wishes of other states. Nor did they believe that the power of the United States should be equated in the League with that of lesser powers through the League’s one state, one vote system. Although it appears that the League of Nations had some bipartisan support among the American people, it faced intense opposition in the United States Senate, the body constitutionally required to ratify all treaties by a two-thirds majority. Lodge led a group known as the Irreconcilables, to which Roosevelt père and fille both belonged21. They were pledged

18 A. Longworth Roosevelt, Crowded Hours, New York 1925, p. 276. 19 He went to jail for bribery in 1924 as part of the Teapot Dome scandal. 20 Japan Bribed by Offer of Chinese Territory to Enter War Against Germany, in Albuquerque “Morning Journal”, July 16, 1919. 21 Theodore Roosevelt died unexpectedly in his sleep on January 6, 1919 at age sixty, removing his voice from the debate over the postwar world, although Lodge shared most of Roosevelt’s most deeplyheld views on the subject of foreign relations. Lodge served as one of the pallbearers at the funeral.

“Where Did the Fourteen Points Go?” 


to resisting the League under any form. Other senators were willing to consider voting for the League, but only if Wilson made changes to the Covenant that formed its legal basis. They wanted America’s right of intervention in Latin America, as enshrined in the Monroe Doctrine, guaranteed. They also wanted the Senate, not the League, to have the authority to decide where and when American forces went to war. Even those Americans generally sympathetic to the League and the idea of a supranational organization for the resolution of international disputes were uncomfortable with the idea of such a group sending Americans into harm’s way without Senate approval22. Media coverage of Shantung in 1919 reflected this discomfort. The Butte (Montana) “Bulletin” decried the “looting of China by autocratic Japan”, but, most importantly, it reacted with fury that “the League of Nations pledges the US to legalize this outrage”. Although the newspaper argued that American interests lay with China, “a faithful ally”, the League nevertheless forced the United States to agree to Shantung being “torn” from its rightful owner23. The generally pro-League Washington “Star” agreed, expressing great concern that the League had managed to undo years of careful American diplomacy. In effect, the League had invalidated the Open Door, the name the United States gave to its policy of open access to trade and natural resources in mainland China. Now Japan would control which nations had access to the resources and markets of Shantung. Some newspapers openly questioned whether Shantung, and America’s interests therein, would not be better served by returning the peninsula to the Germans, who had at least allowed American companies to do business there24. The “Star” questioned the logic and the basic honesty of the international community. The paper approvingly quoted a Chinese diplomat as saying: “It is as reasonable for the Japanese to claim the seized German rights in China as it would be for the British or French to claim the seized German rights in Belgium because they ousted Germany from that country”. The “Star” noted that Japanese expansion in China and in formerly German islands north of the equator (the Marshalls, Carolines, and Marianas) directly threatened American interests, yet the United States had been powerless to stop it because of the role of the international community25. Such arguments were perfect fodder for those wishing to see far fewer international restrictions on American freedom of action. Most American observers saw Britain’s perfidious hand behind the deal, bribing Japan with German territory in China in order to get Japanese acquiescence to the continuation of British colonies in Asia such as Hong Kong and Singapore. A New Mexico 22 The United Nations faced far less opposition from Americans and their leaders because of the veto power that the United States holds along with China, Russia, Great Britain, and France. The veto itself is largely a product of the debates from 1919. 23 Looting of China by Autocratic Japan Allowed by Conference, in Butte “Bulletin”, August 2, 1919. 24 Questions Japan’s Shantung Pledges, in New York “Sun”, September 5, 1919. 25 Chinese Side of the Shantung Controversy, in Washington “Star”, August 10, 1919.


 Michael S. Neiberg

newspaper even claimed to have secret documents “between the Allies and Orientals” proving the case26. To further prove the case of a secret deal, even Australia, acting as an independent entity rather than as a part of the British empire, sided with the United States out of fear of Japanese growth and as a result of Australia’s own racism. The Washington “Evening Star” saw the Shantung deal as a product of the old European game of dividing the world into spheres of influence rather than opening it to free trade for all. By agreeing to the British bribe, the United States fell victim to yet another European diplomatic trick. Between the end of the Boxer Rebellion and 1917, the United States had had little influence on the future of China. But, as the “Evening Star” argued, as a result of American participation in the war, “this country assumed an important and responsible role in the east”. Because of a war the United States had fought alongside Britain against Germany, it now found itself with a commanding voice about what happened next in China. Such was the nature of a world war fought for universalist ideals. The “Evening Star” was one of the few newspapers to recognize that American insistence on its Monroe Doctrine rights to intervene in Latin America made its arguments for an Open Door in China seem hypocritical, especially to the Japanese. Instead of encouraging the Japanese to play by the rules of the old game, the United States should rewrite the rules entirely, even if that meant revising the Monroe Doctrine and accepting an Open Door in the western hemisphere. “When Japan is convinced that the great nations of Europe and America really intends [sic] to establish a new international code of business and politics, Japan will be one of the chief supporters of the new rules”. American policy had instead encouraged competition among the existing spheres, thereby increasing rather than decreasing the possibility of future global conflict.

4 An evasive witness The controversies and mismanagement surrounding the Shantung issue also seemed to many newspapers to reveal the basic incompetence and ignorance of the Wilson administration on the many and various international issues it now found itself helping to adjudicate. Just a few years earlier, American foreign policy had largely centered on the western hemisphere and the Philippines. Between 1917 and 1919, however, the general decline of European power, the universalism of Wilson’s core ideas, and the need to present an alternative to the Bolshevik model dragged the United States into a myriad of controversies worldwide. Its statesmen, however, did not seem well prepared to deal with the nation’s new responsibilities. Robert Lansing, the secretary of state, was a lawyer who rose to the 26 Japan Bribed by Offer of Chinese Territory to Enter War Against Germany, in Albuquerque “Morning Journal”, July 16, 1919.

“Where Did the Fourteen Points Go?” 


position as secretary after the resignation of William Jennings Bryan over Wilson’s harsh notes to the Germans in the wake of the Lusitania scandal in 1915. In 1917, Lansing had negotiated the so-called Lansing-Ishii Agreement by which Japan had agreed to respect the Open Door trade arrangement in China and also pledged not to seek special privileges in China as a result of the collapse of German power there. Just two years later, however, Japan’s demands to retain Germany’s economic concessions in Shantung seemed to violate at least the spirit of the agreement and, in the process, to reveal the Japanese to be unfaithful negotiators. They also seemed to reveal the naiveté and inexperience of both Lansing and Wilson. Japan’s claims that the vagueness of the agreement’s language left them room for expansion of its interests in China struck many Americans as evasion or outright treachery. Neither did Lansing help his own case when he appeared before Congress in early August to explain both the treaty and American decision making on Shantung. The Arizona “Republic” noted that the questions confused an “evasive” Lansing. The secretary did, however, admit that American policy on Shantung was “not square with Wilson’s principle of self-determination”27. The Shantung decision did not sit any better with those Americans more inclined to support Wilson. Nothing about China losing a clearly Chinese province to naked aggression supported Wilson’s vision of a postwar world based on the will of the people. The United States had been the only great power to offer even a mild objection to Japanese behavior in Shantung during the war itself, although those objections fell far short of an official protest. Great Britain, which had a treaty with Japan, and France, which was legally tied to Britain’s war aims through the 1915 Treaty of London, acquiesced as Japan acted in ways reminiscent of the Germans. A deep suspicion of Japanese intentions and a reservoir of sympathy for China in the United States gave America a different view of events in East Asia.

5 Where did the Fourteen Points go? Wellington Koo met briefly with Woodrow Wilson in December 1918, then told American friends that the president would in fact support China’s efforts to resist Japan. Wilson had even invited Koo to travel with the presidential party to Paris. Koo compared Shantung to Alsace-Lorraine. If the principles on which the great powers would build the postwar world called for France to recover its lost provinces, then they must also give Shantung to China. Indeed, they must help China to eject all Japanese forces from China. To do otherwise would amount to allowing Japan to create “a dagger pointed at the heart of China”. More importantly, it would lay bare the 27 Lansing’s Memory Fails Him When Senators Seek Facts on Negotiations, in Arizona “Republic”, August 7, 1919.


 Michael S. Neiberg

essential hypocrisy of western ideals. As even Lansing acknowledged, the Japanese presence in Shantung revealed a tendency to shape the postwar world on “selfish materialism tinctured with a cynical disregard of manifest rights”. With evident sadness, he asked “Will American idealism have to succumb to this evil spirit of a past era?”28. American newspapers shared his worry that the postwar world had already begun to be built on selfish materialism instead of American idealism. The Butte “Bulletin” asked bluntly “Where did the Fourteen Points go?” If Shantung could go to Japan so easily, then what did America really fight for in the trenches of France? If it fought merely so that the European and Asian great powers could extend their empires, then it was not really a war to make the world safe for democracy and, evidently, not to be a war to end all wars. If Wilson had been, as the “Bulletin” wrote, “mistaken as to the purposes of the associates of the United States in the War”, then the whole war had been a waste or, worse still, based on a fundamental lie. If that were the case, the newspaper argued, then the Senate had an obligation to investigate Wilson and his actions at the peace conference in Paris lest the United States become a party to an unjust peace. “A grave responsibility now rests upon the Senate of the United States”, it wrote in August, 1919, reflecting the brewing fight over the treaty and the League of Nations happening in Washington. The newspaper did not blame Wilson as much as the British and French for misleading an idealistic president into supporting their war aims instead of his own. Once Wilson realized the trick the Europeans were trying to pull, he should have “state[d] the case to the American people as Lincoln would have done, and let the people decide”. Instead, he naively allowed the British and French to endorse a Japanese act that made “universal application of the principles of universal justice impossible”29. As this powerful editorial strongly reveals, the Shantung controversy had quickly become about a great deal more than China. It had become a symbol of the loss of American idealism and the general denial of self-determination to peoples who deserved it. The promise of self-determination, and through it the creation of a better postwar world, had been critical to the support for the war among many American ethnic communities who had long suspected British and Russian motives. The idea of fighting for the expansion of the British empire was especially unpopular in the United States in 1915 and 1916, but the idea of fighting to bring democracy and freedom to the stateless Irish, Poles, Czechs, Jews, and others did help convince many people previously opposed to American belligerence to support the war in April 191730. Shantung seemed to reveal those goals as misguided at best, an outright lie at worst. The issue had particular relevance in Butte, home to thousands of Irish28 M. Macmillan, Paris 1919. Six Months that Changed the World, New York 2001, pp. 334 f. 29 Shantung Goes to Japan, in Butte “Bulletin”, August 21, 1919. 30 See M.S. Neiberg, The Path to War. How the First World War Created Modern America, New York 2016, chap. 7.

“Where Did the Fourteen Points Go?” 


Americans who had moved there to work in the copper mines. If the great powers could deny Shantung its proper right to self-determination, what did the Shantung decision portend for Ireland? “When we entered the war”, the “Bulletin” argued, “the people of Ireland took President Wilson’s declaration of principles at their face value”. Ireland had then shown its desire “by an overwhelming majority […] to separate from the British Empire”. Shantung was therefore about much more than the future of a single peninsula thousands of miles away. If the United States was willing to abandon the natural aspirations of the people of Shantung to join China, then what position would Wilson take on the Irish Republic declared in Dublin in 1916 and put down by the brute force of a “hostile military power?” Shantung seemed to provide a terrible omen for Ireland. “Had the Fourteen Points become effective”, the “Bulletin” argued, “the Irish Republic must of necessity have been internationally recognized before now”31. If the war was not about the freedom of the peoples of the world, including Ireland, then what had it been about? The Irish miners of Butte and their fellow Irish-Americans across the country did not yet know that Woodrow Wilson did not see the Irish as a nation. As citizens of a democratic Great Britain, Wilson argued, the Irish could solve their problems with London through democratic means. Wilson had had conflicts with Irish nationalists throughout his presidency, including a public spat with Jeremiah O’Leary in 1916 when O’Leary sent Wilson a sneering “congratulatory” telegram on the occasion of a Republican winning a seat in Wilson’s home state of New Jersey32. Three years later, Wilson told an adviser that he felt like telling an Irish nationalist group that came to see him to “go to hell”33. Butte, Montana’s relationship with Shantung, as reflected in the media coverage the issue received, perfectly encapsulates the connections between the local, the national, and the international in 191934. Irish-American miners saw the issue through all three lenses. In this case, their identities as Irish, as Americans, and as part of an international community of people denied their right of self-determination all pointed toward a strong rejection of American policy on Shantung. Butte’s particular tradition of labor militancy and activism may also have played a role, with the Japanese standing in for the owners of the mines who lived far away yet still profited from the labor of the locals.

31 Shantung Goes to Japan. 32 D. Laskin, The Long Way Home. An American Journey from Ellis Island to the Great War, New York 2010, p. 113. 33 M. Macmillan, Paris 1919, p. 11. 34 To this day, Butte claims to have the highest per capita concentration of Irish people outside of Ireland.


 Michael S. Neiberg

6 Conclusions The American media showed a remarkable level of consistency in its coverage on Shantung, especially at a time when controversies over the ratification of the Treaty of Versailles and American participation in the League of Nations created an atmosphere of intense disagreement. Wilson’s yielding to Japanese demands on Shantung threatened American values, as represented by the Fourteen Points and the idea of national self-determination. It also threatened American interests by permitting Japan to grow stronger and selling out China, which many Americans then saw as a potential ally and profitable trading partner. The debate over Shantung also shows just how early American disillusion with the war’s conclusion and the Paris peace process began. The League of Nations always had the potential to create controversy and debate because of the fundamental change in America’s relationship to the outside world that it represented. But Shantung showed how the League would actually function, with the international community capable of forcing the United States to accept a position its own people did not support. In the worst-case scenarios of Senator Long and others, the League could even force the United States to fight a war on the side of aggression against self-determination. As a result, Shantung had become, in the words of the New York “Tribune”, “the world’s new sore spot”35. Although few Americans really cared whether Shantung became Chinese or Japanese in the postwar world, it came to symbolize all of the concerns Americans had about the kind of world the war had created. Having entered the war in 1917 for their own self-defense and the promotion of high-minded ideals, by 1919 Americans suddenly found themselves involved in controversies around the world that they did not fully understand. “What a wretched mess it all is”, Bliss wrote. “If the rest of the world will let us alone, I think we had better stay on our side of the water and keep alive the spark of civilization to relight the torch after it is extinguished over here. If I ever had any illusions they are all dispelled”36.

35 Shantung – The World’s New Sore Spot, in New York “Tribune”, July 20, 1919. 36 Tasker Bliss to Nellie Bliss, June 19, 1919, in United States Army Heritage and Education Center, Bliss Papers.

Leonard V. Smith

Woodrow Wilson in Europe: December 1918–February 1919 The Mediazation of Radicalized Liberalism

1 Introduction Historians still do not entirely understand just why Woodrow Wilson became the international media personality he did in the fall of 1918 and the winter of 1918/19. Many of the components of what became known as Wilsonianism, as I will argue below, had been in the mix of liberal ideas in the nineteenth century. The messenger of Wilsonian liberalism acquired a historically specific, media-fueled mystique. To be sure, Wilson was a good speaker. Several recordings of his speeches survive, most from earlier in his career. We hear a typical educated Northeastern American accent, with no trace of Wilson’s Southern roots. As an orator, Wilson was no Franklin Roosevelt or Winston Churchill. Unlike the two great allied leaders of World War II, Wilson spoke in cumbersome and difficult syntax sometimes challenging even to native English speakers. Yet for a time, Wilson became the prophet of a new world order. Simultaneously he became a world media star. His words and images circled the globe, thanks to print journalism, early photojournalism, and newsreels. The media of the day created a powerful combination of messenger and message. Immense crowed greeted Wilson, the first president to travel to Europe while in office. Newsreels recorded Europeans’ adoration of the messenger. By definition, however, these silent films obscured or at least greatly simplified the message. Print media provided more involved accounts, and sometimes verbatim transcripts. But how much more tempting must it have been for readers to focus on the majestic images of the great man and the publics that appeared to worship him rather than on trying to decode the prose, let alone parse the ideological complexities and outright contradictions of what Wilson actually said? Simply put, the media helped create a Wilson who was all things to all people. The mediatized Wilson concealed, but did not actually hide, the true radicalism of Wilsonianism.

2 Wilsonianism and Wilson come to Europe Wilsonianism arrived in Europe some time before the personal arrival of the American president in France on December 4, 1918. Paradoxically, a dramatic gesture on the part of the German government put Wilsonianism at the center of peacemak


 Leonard V. Smith

ing. Wilsonianism came to have the impact that it did through the desperate efforts of the disintegrating Central Powers. On October 3, 1918, the German government appealed directly to the American president to begin negotiations for peace on Wilsonian foundations: The German government accepts, as a basis for the peace negotiations, the program laid down by the President of the United States in his message of January 8, 1919 and in his subsequent pronouncements, particularly in his address of September 27, 19181.

The Germans appealed to Wilson not as the leader of the allied coalition (which he was not), nor even as the commander-in-chief of the most powerful armies in the field (which he also was not). Rather they appealed to Wilson as the arbiter of a certain way of seeing the world. Moreover, the Germans had sent their message as a uncoded telegram, suggesting that its true audience was transnational public opinion. The “New York Times” published the text on October 7, only one day after it arrived in the hands of the American authorities and well before the American government, let alone those of the allies, could formulate a response2. Not to be outdone, the Habsburg regime in Austria-Hungary, like the Kaiserreich on its deathbed, made its own appeal on October 7, adding specific mention of Wilson’s speech of February 11, 1918. The German and Austro-Hungarian calls for peace, and their conspicuously public means of doing so, made international media events of three of Wilson’s most famous speeches. Wilson had made his Fourteen Points speech before the Congress on January 8. In short order, the term “Fourteen Points” would become shorthand for the entire Wilsonian imaginary. From today’s perspective, the Fourteen Points were an odd combination of the specific and the abstract, and far from the most lucid collection of foreign policy goals ever articulated by an American president. Contrary to popular belief, they never called for dismantling any of the multinational empires or even used the term “national self-determination”. What the speech did call for in Point XIV was a fundamental restructuring of international relations through what would become the League of Nations: “A general association of nations must be formed under specific covenants for the purpose of affording mutual guarantees of political independence and territorial integrity to great and small states alike”3. The other speeches made clear just how radically Wilson sought to transform how states would deal with one another. The Metropolitan Opera House speech, made in New York on September 27, 1918, focused on the future League as the cornerstone of

1 First German Note to President Wilson, on October 3, 1918, in Preliminary History of the Armistice. Official Documents Published by the German National Chancellery by Order of the Minister of State, New York 1924, p. 48. 2 See A. Link (ed.), The Papers of Woodrow Wilson (PWW), 69 vols., Princeton NJ 1966–1994, vol. 51, pp. 252 f. 3 Widely available documents such as these three Wilson speeches will not be footnoted.

Woodrow Wilson in Europe: December 1918–February 1919 


any peace settlement. He stated in so many words that the League could not be just a part but must be, “in a sense the most essential part, of the peace itself”. In the February 11 speech, Wilson condemned realism as a mode of proper state behavior, castigating realism as “the great game, now forever discredited of the balance of power”. An institution, the League of Nations, would replace realism as the foundation of the international system. “Selling” the League in England, France, and Italy would become the cornerstone of Wilson’s tour and of his resulting media strategy preceding the opening of the peace conference. At the signature of the Armistice of Rethondes with Germany on November 11, 1918, friend and foe alike had accepted Wilsonianism as the ideological foundation of the peace. This had profound consequences for the form, content, and outcome of the Paris Peace Conference. As Robert Binkley put it many years ago: “The essential significance of the Fourteen Points as the basis of peace was not their ethical quality but their contractual character”4. For their part, the Allied and Associated Powers had committed themselves simultaneously to writing treaties of peace and to redesigning the international system itself. The Paris Peace Conference would take up creating the League of Nations as its first order of business, in accordance with Wilson’s Metropolitan Opera House speech. Like it or not, the Allied and Associated Powers had created a public, international contract to make peace based on Wilsonianism. The message of Wilsonianism also pre-determined the personal presence of the messenger. The very day the German armistice was signed, Wilson’s most trusted aide, Colonel Edward House, urged him to arrive in Europe not later than December5. In fact, the issue of whether President Wilson should lead the American delegation, much debated at the time and subsequently by historians, was never as complicated as it seemed. The United States was the only Great Power in which the head of state and the head of government were the same person. According to well-established protocols of diplomacy, the head of the American delegation would either out-rank his colleagues or be out-ranked by them. If the very purpose of the conference was to redesign the international system in accordance with Wilsonian principles, it was never realistic to expect that Wilson would permit the delegation to be led by anyone other than himself. The presence of the most famous person in the world was always going to create a media sensation, which would in turn shape the conference itself. The British, who more than once would prove the shrewdest delegation in Paris, understood the significance of Wilson’s presence early on. As early as November 13, a telegram from Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour encouraged Wilson to land in

4 R. Binkley, New Light on the Paris Peace Conference, in “Political Science Quarterly”, 46, 1931, p. 338. 5 Telegram, Edward House to President Wilson, November 11, 1918, in PWW, vol. 53, p. 44.


 Leonard V. Smith

Britain. He included the additional enticements of honorary degrees from Oxford and Cambridge6. Wilson arrived in Brest, France, on December 13. Plans for the peace conference, or in fact just what the peace conference would be, were far from complete7. Inherited practice from the nineteenth century called for a “conference” of Great Powers followed by a “congress” of all interested parties (including the former enemies) that would finalize the peace. For many months to come, the peacemakers would adapt this inherited practice to the new, twin goals of writing treaties of peace and redesigning the international system. Delegations from the five Great Powers would meet for the first time on January 12, the plenary conference for the first time on January 18 – that is, more than a month after Wilson’s arrival in Europe. Back on November 18, Colonel House had encouraged the president to “establish closer relations with liberal elements here in Paris”, in coordination with the efforts of Ray Stannard Baker in Italy8. Wilson would spend the weeks between his arrival in Europe and the opening of the conference trying to capitalize on his media-fueled fame to enhance his leverage at the peace table. Of course, leverage in the lead-up to the opening of the Paris Peace Conference worked several ways. Leaders among the Great Powers assuredly saw the advantages of association with the media-star American president. The British, as we saw, encouraged a presidential visit with the ink on the armistice with Germany barely dry. The pomp and circumstance of Wilson’s arrival in Paris could serve to affirm that city as the capital of world peacemaking. On December 18, Stannard Baker, writing from Italy, assured the president that his personal popularity there exceeded that even in France and England. A visit “will have the effect of greatly strengthening the devotion to his program especially if he can impress upon the Italian people the need of the adoption of a positive reconstruction program in order to avert the dangers of an old fashioned get-and-grab peace”9. Struggles over Italian territorial claims resulting from the secret Treaty of London of 1915 and over Fiume were foreseeable and foreseen. From the point of view of the Italians, how better to influence the American president than give him a rapturous welcome in a country that had sent so many immigrants to the United States, immigrants who had settled in cities so likely to vote for Democrats? Wilson’s entourage carefully choreographed his time before the peace conference began, with particular attention to how his time in Europe would play in the American media. Newspapers made sure readers knew Wilson journeyed on a former German passenger ship seized in 1917, rechristened as the George Washington. Wilson brought 6 Wilson had been president of Princeton University from 1902 to 1910. He was the only career academic ever elected president of the United States. Telegram from Balfour to House, then forwarded in a telegram to Wilson, November 13, 1918, in PWW, vol. 53, p. 69. 7 See L.V. Smith, Sovereignty at the Paris Peace Conference of 1919, Oxford 2018, pp. 22–27. 8 Telegram, House to Wilson, November 18, 1918, in PWW, vol 53, p. 123. 9 Memorandum, Ray Standard Baker to President Wilson, December 18, 1918, in PWW, vol 53, p. 435.

Woodrow Wilson in Europe: December 1918–February 1919 


a small number of newspaper reporters with him on the presidential yacht. A rather larger number traveled on a separate ship accompanying the George Washington, the Orizaba10. Wilson also brought with him George Creel, the mastermind of American propaganda and censorship during the war11. Wilson and his handlers cultivated the image of a reflective visionary, seasoned and tough enough to hold his own against the most experienced political operators the Old World had to offer. Wilson met with three American reporters aboard ship on December 8 and proclaimed: “I will say to them [his allied colleagues], if necessary, that we are gathered together, not as the masters of anyone, but that we are the representatives of a new world met together to determine the greatest peace of all time”12. Still hundreds of kilometers from European soil, he continued with a threat to leave the proceedings if his colleagues did not share his vision, to which they had ascribed in agreeing to the armistice. Yet he expressed confidence that the assembled leaders would win the peace as they had won the war. The pageantry of Wilson’s arrival in Europe remains well documented in surviving newsreels13. The president spent eleven days in Paris (December 13–24); four days in England (December 26–10); and three days in Italy (January 3–6). In what today we might call a month-long “media blitz”, Wilson was the object of ceremonial greetings, well-attended parades, and speeches to vast crowds, not all of whom even spoke English. A rapturous Edward House wrote on December 14 that “the reception which the President received is said to be beyond anything in the history of Paris”14. Wilson’s arrival in London threatened to upstage the majesty of the British crown itself. In the procession from Charing Cross Station to Buckingham Palace, the president and Mrs. Wilson rode in a carriage with King George V, Queen Mary, Dowager Queen Alexandra, and Queen Maud of Norway. Upon arrival at the palace, the crowd yelled in unison not “God Save the King, but ‘We want Wilson!’”15. The mayor of Torino evidently compared the visit of the president to the Second Coming of Christ, a reference that “greatly pleased the Italian people who heard him”16.

10 Estimates vary as to the exact number of American journalists present in Paris. Some 142 reporters registered with the American delegation in Paris. But the “New York Tribune” reported some 350 journalists aboard the Orizaba. J.R. Hayden, Negotiating in the Press. American Journalism and Diplomacy, 1918–1919, Baton Rouge LA 2010, p. 92. 11 See G. Creel, How We Advertised America, New York 1920, still considered a classic in the history of American advertising. 12 Diary of Cary T. Grayson (personal physician to the president), December 8, 1918, in PWW, vol. 53, p. 337. 13 The National Archives of the United States has made available a number of these films. For example, on Wilson in France, see:; in England, see; in Italy, see VxfA4HiIchQ 14 Diary of Colonel House, December 14, 1918, in PWW, vol. 53, p. 389. 15 Grayson diary, December 26, 1918, in PWW, vol. 53, p. 510. 16 Grayson diary, January 2, 1919, in PWW, vol. 53, p. 589.


 Leonard V. Smith

Carefully crafted newspaper articles sought to humanize the American president. Dr. Cary T. Grayson, Wilson’s personal physician, held a press conference published in the Paris newspaper “Le Gaulois” on December 20. The doctor described his sole patient as “good, simple, of great sensitivity, and of a rather cheerful disposition”17. He emphasized Wilson’s democratic tendencies: “Apart from his political responsibilities, he has a horror of protocol and etiquette, and observes the greatest simplicity in all things”. Less plausibly, Grayson maintained that the president understood French very well but did not speak it “out of timidity”, and that he read French classics in the original18. Just one day later, on December 21, “The Times” of London ran an interview with Wilson himself. The clearly beguiled Paris correspondent emerged convinced that the messenger matched the message: “He will have but one idea before him, that of the weal, not only of his own nation, but of that greater nation of the world which this war and our victory have brought into being”19. Certainly, Wilson nuanced the message for specific national audiences as he toured allied cities. In France, he emphasized bonds of friendship dating back to the American Revolution. He also highlighted the suffering of the French and Belgian civilian populations during the war – without, however, making specific promises on what was already becoming the vexed issue of reparations. For example, Wilson remarked with typically tangled syntax on being made an honorary citizen of Paris on December 16: “I beg that you will not suppose that, because a wide ocean separated us in space, we were not in effect eyewitnesses of the shameful ruin that was wrought and the cruel and unnecessary sufferings that were brought upon you”20. Throughout his visit to England, Wilson made a point of establishing a certain distance between the British Empire and the United States, a rhetoric that would contrast sharply with the benevolent English-speaking “master race” envisaged by Winston Churchill during World War II. Indeed, according to Edward Price Bell, a reporter for the “Chicago Daily News”, Wilson wanted American reporters to preserve this distance as well. According to Bell, Wilson told him on December 28: “You must not speak of us who come over here as cousins, still less as brothers; we are neither. Neither must you think of us as Anglo-Saxons, for that term can no longer be rightly applied to the United States”21.

17 A Translation of a News Report of a Press Conference Held by Dr. Grayson, December 19, 1918, in PWW, vol. 53, pp. 446–448. 18 The French reads: “M. Wilson ne parle pas le français – par timidité – mais il le comprend très bien et il lit nos classiques dans leur texte”, in “Le Gaulois”, December 20, 1920. 19 A News Report of an Interview, manuscript published, in PWW, vol. 53, p. 428. 20 L.P. Powell / F.B. Hodgins (eds.), America and the League of Nations. Addresses in Europe, Woodrow Wilson, Chicago IL 1919, pp. 73 f. 21 Edward Price Bell, Statements made by President Wilson to me on the evening of Saturday, the 28th of December 1918, in PWW, vol. 53, p. 574.

Woodrow Wilson in Europe: December 1918–February 1919 


While Wilson participated in the elaborate welcomes sponsored by the crown and the city government of London, he also made a point of visiting his mother’s birthplace in Carlisle, near the border between England and Scotland. As we will see, Wilson’s repeated references to his Scottish forebears spoke to more than ethnic pride. He also made arguably the most important speech of the whole European tour not in London, but at the Manchester Free Trade Hall, and expressed a clear personal affection for that city conspicuously absent elsewhere. On Italian soil, Wilson showered his thousands of listeners with elaborate tribute to Italians and Italian-Americans, from Christopher Columbus to the many Italian-Americans who had joined the United State Army as “doughboys” during the Great War. Yet in doing so he laid claim to them as Americans, and thus subtly questioned claims to irredenti Italians in the Adriatic. His later denials notwithstanding, Wilson had been well informed of the territorial promises made to Italy to entice it to enter the war22. Wilson had proclaimed himself the sworn enemy of the sort of “secret diplomacy” that had led to the Treaty of London of 1915, and was particularly unsympathetic to Italian claims to Fiume, which went beyond the promises made in London. Wilson did not always tell his listeners what they necessarily wanted to hear. At a speech on January 3 at the Quinirale in Rome, Wilson described a conversation with Vitorio Orlando and Sidney Sonnino, in which he reminded them that “in trying to put the peoples of the world under their proper sovereignties, we would not be willing to part with the Italians in the United States”23. In case anyone missed the point, Wilson made it again three days later in Torino: “When Baron Sonnino was arguing the other day for the extension of the sovereignty of Italy over Italian populations, I said, ‘I am sorry we cannot let you have New York, which, I understand, is the greatest Italian city in the world’”24. None of this at the time seemed to bother Wilson’s many Italian admirers, who cheered a hero who had become all things to all people. Most Italians seemed content to let New York City remain American, so long as Italian national territory expanded along the Adriatic. The flesh-and-blood Woodrow Wilson who sat down with his colleagues in Paris on January 12 did so alongside a media figure whose message had grown ever more expansive and ever more diffuse. Much of the history of Wilsonianism may be written around the messengers resisting the full implications of the message.

22 See D. Rossini, Woodrow Wilson and the American Myth in Italy. Culture, Diplomacy, and War Propaganda, Cambridge MA 2008. 23 L.P. Powell / F.B. Hodgins (eds.), America and the League of Nations, p. 107. 24 Ibid., p. 125.


 Leonard V. Smith

3 The message of radicalized liberalism “The President is so treated like a God”, complained Lord Derby to Arthur James Balfour on December 20, “that one only gets his views second hand and it was only when I saw him personally this afternoon that I found out what his views really are […]”25. Certainly, even without the media hype surrounding the messenger, Wilsonianism had its vagueness and internal contradictions. For example, as per Point XIII of the Fourteen Points, no Poland could be created that was “indisputably Polish” and that had access to the sea. Any geographic Poland with access to the sea would have a great many non-ethnic Poles living there. Wilsonianism appeared to promise simple answers to complicated questions around the globe, and the adulation of the messenger fostered resulting illusion. Yet the basic foundations of Wilsonianism were clear and consistent. As a way of reorganizing the world, the problem of Wilsonianism was not its vagueness, its contradictions, or even its moral high-handedness. The problem of Wilsonianism was its radicalism – the ways in which it carried certain elements of liberalism to their logical conclusion26. Liberalism in the English-speaking world created a certain kind of individual articulated in two foundational texts – Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Nations (1776) and John Stuart Mill’s On Liberty (1859). These texts affirmed the primacy of the two great liberal institutions, the market and the franchise. Both would be made workable by a rational, morally accountable individual who could appropriately balance individual and collective interests. In the imaginary of the Scottish Enlightenment exemplified by Smith, liberal individuals could create an economic system of vast wealth. Those who accumulated capital would understand the moral as well as the rational need for high wages. Likewise, in the political liberalism of Mill, liberal individuals would make proper choices in the voting booth. Rational, morally accountable individual choice would efficiently and fairly allocate resources and provide for just government. The radicalization of liberalism in Wilsonianism involved making the liberal individual the building block of sovereignty – from the small New England town, to the nation-state, to the international system itself. In the Wilsonian imaginary, a liberal individual is someone eligible to make a covenant. Patto in Italian, pacte d’alliance in French, and Bund in German, “covenant” in the sense used by Wilson in fact does not translate easily into other European languages. Perhaps none of the foreign terms adequately captures the religious, specifically Calvinist meanings essential to Wilsonianism. Free, rational, and morally accountable people make a covenant, as a totalized and individualized vow to themselves, to one another, and to God. In doing so, those who make a covenant create a kind of sacralized community, though one that need not be explicitly religious.

25 Lord Derby to Arthur James Balfour, December 20, 1918, in PWW, vol. 53, p. 456. 26 I elaborate on the following argument in Sovereignty at the Paris Peace Conference, pp. 9–13.

Woodrow Wilson in Europe: December 1918–February 1919 


“Covenant” is not a term common to American politics, before or after Wilson. It implied a certain view of American history, and of American exceptionalism. To the Wilsonian imaginary, the Declaration of Independence of 1776 and the Constitution of 1789 created the American people by covenant. By definition, only political equals make covenants. They include people eligible for inclusion, not everyone in society. Wilson was at best a follower rather than a leader in the cause of women’s suffrage. His views on race were more retrograde still, more so than those of many Republicans. Wilson, like any Democrat in the first half of the twentieth century, owed his very presidency to the Jim Crow South. Wilson himself had no problem excluding whole categories of person from the ability to make covenants, at home or abroad. Like most American presidents, Wilson was also a firm believer in American exceptionalism. The United States, the Wilsonian variant went, had a God-given role of world leadership based on its exceptional status as a covenanted community. This implied a certain view of the present state of the American polity. In the America of 1919, differences between North and South, in effect, had been resolved by compromise. The South rejoined the Union by force and slavery had been ended. But the North and the West had joined the South in endorsing racial exclusion in its myriad forms. Other forms of religious and ethnic difference had been integrated peacefully into the covenanted American polity. Millions of immigrants from Europe had become full laboring and voting members of American society. The task ahead lay in extending the blessings of this community to the whole world. Wilsonians have never had much capacity for irony. The Wilsonians of 1919 saw absolutely no contradiction between claims of absolute impartiality in peacemaking, and in remaking the world and the international system in the image of the United States of America. According to this way of thinking, “the world” had accepted Wilsonianism as the ideological foundation of the peace at the time of the armistice with Germany. Doing so had the effect of creating a covenanted international community of Great Powers, sworn both to write treaties and to redesign the international system at the Paris Peace Conference. Global Wilsonianism would base the new international system on covenants. This system normalized liberal democracies conspicuously similar to the United States. Covenants would bind the successor states to the multinational Habsburg, Romanov, and Ottoman empires to the liberal international system. An international covenant, which formally appeared in all five treaties produced by the Paris Peace Conference as the Covenant of the League of Nations, would bring together the peoples of the world. Covenants, in short, would replace the balance of power as the foundation of the international system. States, and even Great Powers, would continue to exist as such. But states great and small would all be guided by a common moral compass. Moreover, covenants in their totality would make the world democratic, at least eventually. All states would be accountable to a single, transnational community of liberal citizens. This globalized liberal citizen was the true “self” of “self-determination”. Collectively, this citizenry would become the effective world sovereign, to which all states would find


 Leonard V. Smith

themselves accountable. The League of Nations would serve as the institutionalization of a radically different notion of sovereignty, both within and among nations. “The League” thus became the exemplar of the entire Wilsonian imaginary as the Paris Peace Conference began its work. “Selling” the League was thus the main purpose of Wilson’s mediatized tour of allied cities before the conference began. Point XIV of the Fourteen Points, which called for the establishment of what would become the League, had not been controversial at the time of the armistice. Nor was there particular dissent as the conference opened to writing the Covenant as the first order of business27. But just as it was possible to for adoring crowds to see what they wanted to see in the American president, so too could states and statesmen see what they wanted to see in the League as sketched out on Point XIV. Nevertheless, the radical implications of just what Woodrow Wilson thought the League was were clear enough to anyone who chose to look for them, beneath the pageantry, the adoring crowds, and the tangles of Wilson’s syntax. On December 14, just a day after his arrival in France, Wilson received a delegation of French socialists. In his response, Wilson spoke of a world in which “absolutism and militarism” would never again be permitted to break the peace. Such a new order “should be supported by a cooperation of the nations which shall be based upon fixed and definite covenants, and which shall be made certain of effective action through the instrumentality of a League of Nations”28. In his speech of thanks given on December 21 for an honorary degree at the Sorbonne, Wilson added: My conception of the League of Nations is just this: That it shall operate as the organized moral force of men throughout the world, and that whenever or wherever wrong and aggression are planned or contemplated, this searching light of conscience will be turned upon them, and men everywhere will ask, “what are the purposes that you hold in your heart against the fortunes of the world”29.

The Wilsonian imaginary did not distinguish between discursive and material power, as we will see something abundantly clear from the League Covenant as it emerged. Under liberalism knowledge is power, and evil comes primarily from not having or refusing proper knowledge. Perpetual surveillance from the covenanted community and the threat of expulsion from it would guarantee the peace of the world. Wilson would say as much in Carlisle on December 29. From the pulpit of his grandfather’s church, Wilson preached: “I believe as this war has drawn nations temporarily together in a combination of physical force, we shall now be drawn together in a com27 A scheme from the French Foreign Ministry received by the Americans on November 21 to split the conference into sequential phases of writing treating and designing the League was rejected out of hand by the Wilson administration, and did not re-emerge; L.V. Smith, Sovereignty at the Paris Peace Conference, pp. 22 f. 28 L.P. Powell / F.B. Hodgins (eds.), America and the League of Nations, pp. 72 f. 29 Ibid., pp. 76 f.

Woodrow Wilson in Europe: December 1918–February 1919 


bination of moral force that is irresistible. It is oral force as much as physical force that has defeated the effort to subdue the world. Words have cut as deep as swords”30. Indeed, in this context, Wilson’s well-publicized visits to Carlisle and Manchester take on an additional significance. In the delicate balance of British religious politics, Calvinists were still dissenters in England. King George V, after all, was head of the Church of England, known in America as the Episcopalian Church. By so publicly stressing his connections to his Scottish Presbyterian roots, Wilson stressed a religious heritage distinct from the English establishment with very different political implications. Presbyterians had no unitary leader. They governed themselves in a highly diffused structure through covenants. In his well-publicized speech at the Free Trade Hall in Manchester on December 30, Wilson made explicit his ideas of a secularized covenant that would structure the international system. The symbolism of the venue was lost on no one. Manchester was the city of Richard Cobden and John Bright, the luminary thinkers of free trade capitalism in the nineteenth century. Karl Marx himself had studied capitalism in Chetham’s Library in Manchester. The Free Trade Hall was built on the site of the Peterloo Massacre of 1819 and stood as a monument to city’s resistance to aristocratic privilege through the Corn Laws31. He told a crowd of some 5,000 people, including plenty of reporters: “I felt before I came here at home in Manchester – because Manchester has so many of the characteristics of our Great American cities”32. Wilson assuredly never said anything like this in London, even when King George and Queen Mary came to greet him in person at Charing Cross Station. In Manchester, Wilson could not have made clearer his “hiding in plain sight” radicalization of liberalism. “We are not obeying the mandate of parties or of politics”, he told them. “We are obeying the mandate of humanity”33. With pride, he reminded his listeners in the Free Trade Hall of his Scottish ancestry, and of the covenants that bound them to one another. He spoke of his forebears, “very determined persons who were known as Covenanters”. These were essentially Scottish nationalists of the seventeenth century, who had made a covenant to protect their religious autonomy both against the Roman Catholic Church and the Church of England. By casting himself as their heir, Wilson reminded the United Kingdom that the United States would go its own way in peacemaking. A peace made by secularized covenant would extend the blessings of the Wilsonian vision to the world:

30 Ibid., p. 96. 31 The Corn Laws protected British landed interests by keeping out imports of foreign grains. They also kept food prices artificially high, and the working classes unnecessarily hungry. The Peterloo Massacre involved the bloody repression by British cavalry of a demonstration against the Corn Laws and in favor of reformed parliamentary representation. 32 L.P. Powell / F.B. Hodgins (eds.), America and the League of Nations, p. 100. 33 Ibid., p. 99.


 Leonard V. Smith

I wish we could, not for Great Britain and the United States, but for France, for Italy, and the world, enter into a great league and covenant declaring ourselves first of all friends of mankind and uniting ourselves together for the maintenance of the triumph of rights34.

In Italy, Wilson argued that the wartime partnership between Italy and the United States could serve as a prototype for the postwar world. The war, he argued to the Italian Chamber of Deputies on January, had bound together the Italian and American peoples as never before. Even before the United States entered the war in 1917, American witnessed with great sympathy and personal connection the suffering of the Italian people, “its sacrifices, its heroic actions upon the battlefield, and its heroic endurance at home – its steadfast endurance at home touching us more nearly to the quick even than its heroic action on the battlefield – we have been bound by a new tie of profound admiration”35. Precisely because of this link, Italian-Americans and indeed all Americans felt a special affinity with the Italian people. Also because of its link, the question of Italian sovereignty over Italian-Americans in New York was not just superfluous, but so absurd as to be made at all only in jest. It did not take a great leap of imagination, from Wilson’s point of view, to extend arrangements that bound together the peoples of Italy and the United States to Italians living elsewhere – notably in Istria and along the Adriatic. If Italians could become Americans and remain proud of and rooted in their Italian-ness, they could do the same in a South Slav state, provided that state proved as receptive as the United States to diverse ethnic identities36. What Wilson in Rome called “friendship” made covenants possible. Covenants would possible a new world order and proper means of expressing ethnic identities. The only thing that binds men together is friendship, and by the same token the only thing that binds nations together is friendship. Therefore our task at Paris is to organize the friendship of the world – to see to it that all the moral forces that make for right and justice and liberty are united and are given a vital organization to which the peoples of the world will readily and gladly respond37.

Thus, in the new world order, persons of Italian descent living under any legitimate association, in New York, Rome, or Fiume, could enjoy bonds of friendship among

34 Ibid., p. 101. 35 Ibid., pp. 108 f. 36 It is important to highlight here the common American distinction between “ethnic” identity, rooted most often in religion and language, and “racial” identity, generally rooted in skin color. Consequently, “ethnic” and “racial” equality meant very different things in American political discourse. Confusingly, the peacemakers in Paris used “ethnicity” and “race” almost interchangeably. 37 Preliminary Peace Conference, Protocol No. 2, Plenary Session of January 25, 1919, in Papers Relating to the Foreign Relations of the United States, 1919: Paris Peace Conference (FRUS: PPC), 13 vols., Washington D.C. 1942–1947, vol. 3, p. 110.

Woodrow Wilson in Europe: December 1918–February 1919 


themselves and among their brothers and sisters of other covenanted ethnicities around the world. As written, the Covenant of the League of Nations exemplified the radicalized liberalism of Wilson. The Covenant created a League that would function in a certain way based on certain assumptions of sovereignty under the new international system. It established a League Council as the senior body, comprising the five Great Powers (France, Britain, the United States, Italy, and Japan) and four others to be elected by the League Assembly. The Council would manage the enforcement Article 10, which guaranteed protection “against external aggression [upon] the territorial integrity and existing political independence of all Members of the League”. In a crisis, “the Council shall advise upon the means by which this obligation shall be fulfilled”, understood to mean the use of military force as a last resort. The League Assembly would comprise all members. However, each body was given the same charge under the Covenant, to involve itself in any matter “affecting the peace of the world”. The Covenant remained intentionally vague as to the exact relationship between the League Council and the League Assembly, which would be worked out over time in a Burkean, gradualist manner. This task would be facilitated through Article 5, the “unanimity rule”. Unless otherwise explicitly stated in the Covenant, “decisions at any meeting of the Assembly or Council shall require the agreement of all members of the League represented at the meeting”. This breathtaking, all-or-nothing provision made sense only if sovereignty under the international system function the way Wilson said it should. How could states possibly agree unanimously except if all of them became accountable to a single sovereign, the transnational community of liberal citizens underpinning the League itself? This community, essentially, would become the locus of sovereignty in the new international system. The complicated syntax, the expansive and idealistic phrases, the pageantry, and the apparent, media-fueled mass adulation notwithstanding, Wilson had argued nothing less since he began the ideological mobilization for the entry of the United States into the Great War. By definition, the plenary sessions of the Paris Peace Conference constituted the public face of the proceedings. The technological means of making newsreels indoors did not exist at the time, even if the participants had so desired38. But the plenary meetings were well covered by the print media. At the second plenary meeting, on January 25, 1919, Wilson began discussion of the future League upon his appointment as president of the relevant commission. His speech should have dispelled any doubts as to the radicalism of the League as Wilson envisaged it. He even made an oblique 38 See R. Fielding, The American Newsreel, 1911–1967, Norman OK 1972, esp. pp. 109–137. In 1919, even still photography indoors remained highly intrusive. Film studio conditions were required to shoot newsreels indoors. To my knowledge, there is no indoor newsreel footage of the Paris Peace Conference except brief clips of the signing of the Treaty of Versailles itself. See com/watch?v=l-wxTocT0Zw.


 Leonard V. Smith

reference to Jeremy Bentham as a precursor to Anglo-American liberalism. Although he never used Bentham’s term, he clearly envisaged the Panopticon as a model for the League, as: “the eye of the nations, to keep watch upon the common interest – an eye that did not slumber, an eye that was everywhere watchful and attentive”39. In less Benthamite terms, he put the matter no less plainly when he introduced the draft Covenant to the plenary on February 14: “The significance of the result, therefore, has that deepest of meanings, the union of wills into a single common purpose, a union of wills which cannot be resisted, and which I dare say no nation will run the risk of attempting to resist”40. The panoptical League, the instrument of the sovereign community of liberal citizens of the world, would maintain surveillance over the international system. Decades later, Michel Foucault would have perceived the Covenant of the League of Nations much as Wilson described. At the February plenary, Wilson’s colleagues competed to praise the draft most extravagantly, and to phrase the radicalized liberalism of Wilson in their own words. The normally laconic Baron Makino Nobuaki of Japan praised “what is, perhaps, the most important document ever compiled by man”41. Lord Robert Cecil, as much a father of the League as Wilson, praised the foundation of the Covenant, according to which “the interest of one is the interest of all, and that the prosperity of the world is bound up with the prosperity of each nation that makes it up”42. Léon Bourgeois of France, certainly more supranational in orientation than Wilson, let alone Georges Clemenceau, praised the Covenant as laying the foundation for effective world government43. Vittorio Orlando of Italy, a jurist by training, made a more sophisticated Wilsonian argument at the February 14 plenary than Wilson himself. Orlando addressed forthrightly the issue of state sovereignty. Orlando contented that the Covenant had achieved a “dialectical impossibility”, the reconciliation of state sovereignty and collective purpose. He praised what he called “‘self-constraint’, a spontaneous coercion, so that states will in the future be brought under the control of the public opinion of the whole world, voluntarily to recognize the restraint imposed on them

39 FRUS: PPC, vol. 3, p. 179. 40 Preliminary Peace Conference, Protocol No. 3, Plenary Session of February 14, 1919, in FRUS: PPC, vol. 3, p. 211. 41 Adoration of the Covenant at the plenary did not depend on representing a liberal democracy. Taishō Japan in 1919 was, at best, a quasi-constitutional monarchy with potential partly to democratize because of power vacuum created a debilitated emperor. See S. Berstein et al. (eds.), Ils ont fait la paix: le Traité de Versailles vu de France et d’ailleurs, Paris 2018, pp. 96–100, and FRUS: PPC, vol. 3, p. 224. 42 FRUS: PPC, vol. 3, p. 217. 43 Of course, Bourgeois served on the French delegation at the pleasure of Clemenceau, who found it convenient to have different French views presented at different times at the conference. Even the convinced internationalist Bourgeois saw the League as the best guarantee guaranty against a resurgent Germany. See S. Berstein et al. (eds.), Ils ont fait la paix, p. 112, and FRUS: PPC, vol. 3, pp. 223 f.

Woodrow Wilson in Europe: December 1918–February 1919 


for the sake of world peace”44. While Orlando dared not mention so radical a thinker as Jean Jacques Rousseau, he made an argument the great Swiss theorist of French democracy surely would have recognized. States could remain as free as before, and indeed could become more free, by accepting restraint through the League of Nations. In effect, a global General Will guided the League, re-coded as world public opinion. At the February 14 plenary, the zenith of the influence of Wilson at the conference, the world media could report a world, or at any rate the Great Powers of the World, in agreement on how to reimagine the international system.

4 Conclusions Wilson’s appearance before the plenary of February 14 also marked the beginning of his political decline, abroad as at home. The following day, he left for a short trip back to the United States, to attend to legislative matters and, in effect, to begin what would prove the losing battle for the United States to join the League45. Throughout his career to date, Wilson had been able to overcome defeat by appealing to a larger audience, always assisted by friendly media of the day. His ideas on reforming higher education as president of Princeton University drew the attentions of Progressives across the United States. Thwarted by the faculty in his plans for Princeton, Wilson was elected governor of New Jersey in 1910. Thwarted by the Democratic Party machine in New Jersey, Wilson rode a wave of media adulation to the presidency in the election of 1912. President Wilson would be thwarted by the American electorate in the congressional elections of November 1918, which returned a Republican majority to a Senate that would have to ratify any peace treaty. As he left for the Paris Peace Conference, Wilson sought to capitalize on what Erez Manela called the media-fed global “Wilsonian moment” to restructure international relations46. As support in the United States for the League crumbled in the summer of 1919, Wilson would embark on one last “media-blitz”, a tour of the Western states to mobilize support for the Treaty of Versailles. Wilson’s near death from a series of strokes that cut short that tour effectively ended his presidency and solidified his position as one of the tragic victims of the Great War and its aftermath. For a century, and for different reasons, both Wilsonians and anti-Wilsonians in the media and in scholarly venues have helped maintain an image of Wilson-as-victim. The “real” Wilson, I have argued here, is too

44 FRUS: PPC, vol. 3, p. 218. 45 On the “League Fight” and the role of the media in shaping the divisive debate in the United States, see J. Milton Cooper Jr., Breaking the Heart of the World. Woodrow Wilson and the Fight for the League of Nations, New York 2001. 46 E. Manela, The Wilsonian Moment. Self-Determination and the International Origins of Anticolonial Nationalism, New York 2007.


 Leonard V. Smith

important to be left to either those who worshiped him or those who despised him. Both the mediatized Wilson and the “real” Wilson mattered, but one cannot be understood apart from the other. As Wilson faded, first as a media figure and then as a political leader, he left behind a Covenant of the League of Nations that, like it or not, became a foundational element of the peace settlement following the Great War. The participation or non-participation of the United States in the League mattered only up to a point. The international system would either be reshaped according to Wilson’s radicalized liberalism, or it would not. If it would not, there was never any reason to expect the League of Nations to become anything other than what it became – an instrument through which states could resolve their differences if they chose to make use of it. When it proved little beyond that, it became common to label the League a “failure”, and to accept uncritically a media image so resilient George W. Bush could invoke it in the lead-up to the Second Gulf War in 2003. Calling the League absent Wilsonian sovereignty a “failure” somewhat resembles calling a fish a “failure” at riding a bicycle. The Covenant as written and praised so extravagantly at the February 14 plenary was designed to operate on one set of principles; the League of Nations had to operate in another. In situating in this broader history of Wilson’s time in Europe before the opening of the Paris Peace Conference, it is important to emphasize how Woodrow Wilson, the Wilsonian imaginary, and the media covering the American president tried to create their own reality. Just what Wilson had in mind for transforming the international system was always clear enough to anyone who cared to look for it. Yet Wilson and the media covering him created a figure that could be all things to all people. The message, the messenger, and the media stoked such millenarian expectations that it is hard to imagine any set of actual settlement that would not have created mass disappointment and disillusion. Nevertheless, for all its tangled syntax, and for all the vicissitudes of its reception, the Wilsoninan imaginary raised fundamental questions about just what the international system was for, and who it served and how. The Pandora’s Box opened by the American president in late-1918 and early 1919 never closed, in ways historians are still trying to understand.

Étienne Boisserie

Asserting Czechoslovak Authority in Slovakia Context and Obstacles in the Immediate Aftermath of the Great War

1 Introduction The construction of a Czechoslovak State was in no way a long-standing program promoted by the respective elites of the two nations. In the modern phase of constructing a national program, the Czechs and Slovaks followed different paths on the basis of distinct and largely divergent projects1. The Czech program was based on the Staatsrecht (státní právo) from the mid-nineteenth century onwards2. The constant position of their elites was to keep to the Austro-Slavic paradigm of attachment to the Habsburg Empire for as long as it remained a counterweight between the Russian and German worlds and guaranteed the free and balanced development of all its constituent nations. The Austro-Hungarian Compromise of 1867 had shaken this balance, but Czech loyalism held up until late in the Great War. The Slovaks, meanwhile, built their doctrine after 1861 on a program of linguistic and cultural “autonomy” within the Kingdom of Hungary. The links and mutual relations between Czechs and Slovaks long remained tenuous until, starting from the 1890s, a few dozen men from either side of the river Morava sought to develop activities aimed at reviving the CzechoSlovak mutuality (Československá vzájomnosť)3. On the eve of the war, relations and common work existed, but on the basis of essentially cultural exchanges organized by a handful of activists. During the Great War, the political program of Czechoslovak action abroad only started to become known from the summer of 1917 in the Czech Lands, and the 1 On this aspect, see É. Boisserie, Les Tchèques dans l’Autriche-Hongrie en guerre. “Nous ne croyons plus aucune promesse”, Paris 2017, pp. 18–20. 2 J. Harna, České státní právo a ústavní systém v programech českých politických stran na přelomu 19. a 20. století [Czech Staatsrecht and the constitutional system in the programs of Czech political parties at the turn of the twentieth century], in K. Malý / L. Soukup (eds.), Vývoj české ústavnosti v letech 1618–1918 [The evolution of Czech Constitutionalism 1618–1918], Praha 2006, pp. 488–530. 3 On this richly documented process, see in particular M. Stehlík, Češi a Slováci 1882–1914. Nezřetelnost společné cesty [Czechs and Slovaks 1882–1914. The indistinct nature of common paths], Praha 2009. For a different perspective, see also N. Jurčišinová, Česko-slovenské porady v Luhačoviciach (1908–1913) [The Czecho-Slovak meetings of Luhačovice (1908–1913)], Bratislava 2015. For an observation of the generational dimension of the phenomenon on the Slovak side, see É. Boisserie, Family Networks and the “Generational Key” in the Renewed Approaches of Social Questioning of the Slovak Elite at the Beginning of the 20th Century, in “Prispevki za novejšo zgodovino”, 57, 2017, 3, pp. 114–127.


 Étienne Boisserie

project of building a common state emerged later still in public debate in Slovakia4 – and even then, this project was primarily discussed in Cisleithania and the Czech Lands. The new Czechoslovak State thus emerged as a genuine innovation, diverging in several aspects from both the Czech and Slovak historical paradigms5. Notwithstanding the particular conditions of the end of the Great War, the men who sought to exercise authority in the name of the new state had to immediately draw up and develop propaganda on a grand scale. That was particularly true in Slovakia, which is the area of interest for this study. We will observe the primary goals and the tools used to promote the idea of an obvious Czechoslovak choice between November 1918 and the parliamentary elections in spring 1920, as well as the difficulties encountered along the way. The Slovak context was very different from that of the Czech Lands, where the development was more linear. In Slovakia, three distinct phases can be identified within this short space of time: the first weeks in which the republican model was asserted, following the proclamation of Czechoslovakia in autumn 1918; confronting challenges to the legitimacy of the authority exercised during the first half of 1919; and lastly, the bumpy road of Czechoslovak control over the territory through the period up until the parliamentary elections of spring 1920.

2 The first weeks of the republican model: Heroes and watchwords In the first weeks following the proclamation of Czechoslovak independence and the creation of the Slovak National Council (SNR) in Turčiansky Svätý Martin, the political situation in Slovakia was very disorderly. The SNR was unable to exercise its authority and the Prague government failed to install a long-term political and administrative apparatus in Slovakia6. However, in the very first weeks of the coun4 In the Slovak case, see B. Ferenčuhová, Informovanosť slovenskej verejnosti o zahraničnom odboji [Informing Slovak opinion on resistance abroad], in M. Podrimavský / D. Kováč (eds.), Slovensko na začiatku 20. storočia [Slovakia in the early twentieth century], Bratislava 1999, pp. 404–414. 5 For reflection on the Czechoslovak hypothesis in Slovakia, see for example: D. Kováč, Rok 1918 – kontinuita a diskontinuita v slovenskom národnom programe [1918. Continuity and discontinuity in the Slovak national program], in V. Bystrický / D. Kováč / J. Pešek (eds.), Kľúčové problémy moderných slovenských dejín, 1848–1992 [Key problems of modern Slovak history, 1848–1992], Bratislava 2012, pp. 136–151; E. Mannová, Uhorská a československá štátna idea: zmena povedomia v slovenskej spoločnosti [The idea of the Hungarian and Czechoslovak state: The change in perception in Slovak society], in H. Mommsen / D. Kováč / J. Malíř (eds.), První světová válka a vztahy mezi Čechy, Slováky a Němci [The First World War and relations between the Czechs, Slovaks, and Germans], Brno 2000, pp. 87–95. 6 M. Hronský, Slovensko na rázcestí [Slovakia at a crossroads], Košice 1976. See also J. Mlynárik, Slovenská národná rada a včleňovanie Slovenska do československého štátu (1918–1919) [The SNR and

Asserting Czechoslovak Authority in Slovakia 


try’s existence, some structural elements of its propaganda could be observed. These notably involved press columns and, from this perspective, it is interesting that the general tone was much more aggressive in the “national” press (in publications distributed throughout the territory) than in the regional press. Great hostility towards the Germans and Hungarians was already palpable in a segment of the Czech press during 1918, but the phenomenon was new in the Slovak press, which was more closely controlled – or perhaps more spontaneously obedient – during the conflict. The expression of this hatred strengthened and underlined the idea of radical, revolutionary transformation that would enable the creation of the new state. Two principal dichotomies emerged: democracy and liberty versus autocracy on the one hand, and economic equality and social justice versus exploitation on the other. These radical transformations were immediately embodied by Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk and the legionaries, “our heroes abroad”, whose role in the creation of the country was described as essential. The highlighting of the role of the legionaries in the “liberation” was particularly intense starting from January, after the demarcation line had been brought under control. This “Czechoslovak army”, in which “our best sons and brothers have enlisted”, was immediately and constantly honored, underlining the role of Slovaks, despite it being limited7. Ivan Markovič, who was responsible for liaison between Prague and Bratislava from January 1919, published a short history of the legions in the pages of the “Slovenský denník” that month8. Those who had access to the newspaper on the day the Paris Peace Conference began could thus read that: The whole nation bows respectfully and with deep gratitude before the Czechoslovak national revolutionary army who have fought like lions against the Hungarian and German forces on all the battlefields and shown the allies that the whole Czechoslovak nation was the enemy of Germany and Austria-Hungary, dreaming of destroying these barbaric, inhuman forces that oppressed millions of people and were a permanent danger for democracy in Europe9.

The legionaries were brought out wherever possible in propaganda work on the ground. In addition to the military dimension of their mission, some were considered for a more political role, and particularly those of the 23rd regiment of the French Slovakia’s incorporation within the Czechoslovak state (1918–1919)], in “Československý časopis historický”, 16, 1968, 4, pp. 505–524. 7 Československá armada [The Czechoslovak army], in “Slovenský denník” (“SD”), November 13, 1918; Sme slobodní! [We are free!], in “SD”, December 8, 1918, p. 1. 8 Československé legie [Czechoslovak legions], in “SD”, January 12, 14, 15, 1919, p. 1. See also the record of Markovič’s conference in Prague. Legionári o bolševikoch [Legionaries on Bolsheviks], in “SD”, 19 January 1919, p. 2, and Ján Janček’s conference in Ružomberok a few days later (O našich zahraničních hrdinoch [On our heroes abroad], in “SD”, January 25, 29, 30, 1919, p. 1); Dr. Markovič o práci československých legií [Dr Markovič on the work of the Czechoslovak legions], in “SD”, January 21, 1919, p. 1. See also another Czechoslovak activist, I. Hálek, Vojákom zahraničnej armády československej [To the soldiers of the Czechoslovak army abroad], in “SD”, January 17, 1919, p. 1. 9 Na prahu doby pokoja [On the eve of a period of calm], in “SD”, January 18, 1919, p. 1.


 Étienne Boisserie

Legion, which was made up almost exclusively of soldiers from the United States of more or less distant Slovak extraction. They were encouraged to take part in the daily propaganda organized in the towns and villages of eastern Slovakia. Special orders were given to facilitate personal and family contact “in order to win over the eastern Slovaks to the idea of the Czechoslovak State”10. Orders were also given that they could take part – in small units – in political meetings11. Despite the importance they were given in propaganda and the role the authorities wanted them to play, their economic and social situation worsened in the spring of 1919 and Markovič warned the Czechoslovak authorities of the need to restore confidence and offer the legionaries better conditions12. Another aspect of propaganda involved highlighting the Slovaks’ desire to adhere to the new state and the fraternization between the two branches of the nation. This was summed up in the very first issue of the “Slovenský denník”, a new daily newspaper run by people close to the new authorities: The day of Slovak freedom in Slovakia has dawned. The Slovak nation has at last seen the day when it can exercise its own will, when it can organize its life as it wishes. And the Slovak nation has decided to live with its Czech brothers in an undifferentiated union because it is convinced that neither the Slovaks nor the Czechs can exist without the other […] For years and years, we have been forced to work and spill our blood for foreign interests and foreign states: today, we have before us but a single interest: our Czechoslovak State, the symbol of which is, at home, the Slovak flag. We swear that we will never abandon this flag, and that we would rather die a heroic death than let this flag fall13.

The central focus of the revolutionary discourse in the first weeks was the triad of freedom, democracy, and republic. The theme of “liberation” was at least as present in Slovakia as in the Czech Lands. It echoed a theme that had long been current among the Slovak intelligentsia and which was amplified in the last months of the war: that of the oppressive nature of the Hungarian regime, both socially and nationally. This

10 Vojenský Historický Ústav (VHÚ) [Military History Institute Prague], Bratislava, collection Zemské Vojenské Veliteľstvo (ZVV) Bratislava [Regional Military Command Bratislava], 1919, Presidium, box 2, inv. č. 231: Generální inspektor československých vojsk [Inspector-general of the Czechoslovak armed forces], Prague, February 1, 1919. 11 VHÚ, Bratislava, collection ZVV Bratislava, 1919, Presidium, box 2, inv. č. 231: Generální inspektor československých vojsk [Inspector-general of the Czechoslovak armed forces], Telegram, February 13, 1919. 12 Bratislava, Slovenský Národný Archiv (SNA) [Slovak National Archive], personal collection (of.) Markovič, box 1, inv. č. 22, report from Markovič to Beneš, May 10, 1919. On this subject, see also I. Šedivý, Legionářská republika? K systému legionářského zákonodárství a sociální péče v meziválečné ČSR [A legionary republic? On legionary legislation and social protection in interwar Czechoslovakia], in “História a vojenství”, 51, 2002, 1, pp. 158–184. 13 Slovenská zástava [The Slovak flag], in “SD”, November 9, 1918, p. 2, underlined in the original. See also editorial Na cestu … [On the path …], in “SD”, November 9, 1918, p. 2.

Asserting Czechoslovak Authority in Slovakia 


theme was common to all Slovak political movements. The freedom of October 1918 was thus presented as being achieved by the nation against a politically, socially, and economically oppressive regime14. In its earliest issues, the “Slovenský denník” created a section entitled “Slovakia awakes”, describing the various means of taking control of the country and the different actors in the effort to achieve freedom15. In many ways, the themes and actors adopted a similar register to those for the mobilization of the Great War, twisted to serve the construction of a Czechoslovak spirit. Even the most insignificant expressions of patriotism by associations or institutions (Sokol and Orol in particular) or young people, schoolchildren, and local intelligentsia, were all glorified. The democracy and republic couplet was another major propaganda theme. There were various formulations declaring how a Czechoslovak republic would be fundamentally incapable of committing the injustices endured over the centuries by the Czechs and the Slovaks. As such, its logical aim was to contribute to order and peace regardless of the national affiliations and social positions of each citizen16. The closely intertwined theme of democracy and republicanism was particularly present in the social democratic press. “We are rid of the King and the Emperor. We have established a republic: the Czechoslovak Republic. The Slovak fraternizes with the Czech in the united family and they need to build a new life, a new world view and a new culture”17. The major social themes and traditional prejudices developed throughout the second half of the nineteenth century and the early twentieth were also widely expressed. The Slovaks were described as a fragile population, deprived of elites and having endured a harsh denationalization during the Compromise period. The central themes of the Czech approach to Slovakia were therefore a clear continuation of the pre-war tradition of Czecho-Slovak mutuality18. The Slovaks, fragile and under threat, were now taken under the protective wing of the Czech democrats and

14 See for example Reč [Speech], in “SD”, November 20, 1918; lobodné Slovensko [Free Slovakia], in “SD”, November 10, 1918. From this point of view, one of the main texts was the Ohlas of the Slovak National Council, which covered the whole front page of the “Slovenský denník” on November 14, 1918. 15 Slovensko vstáva [Slovakia awakes], in “SD”, November 12, 1918. 16 See also the speech by Jozef Kállay before the social democratic party of Liptovský Svätý Mikuláš (“SD”, December 28, 1918, p. 1). See Dolinský, Akože sa má zariadiť tá československá republika? [How is this Czechoslovak Republic supposed to organize itself?], in “Robotnícke noviny”, December 12, 1918, p. 2. See also Republika česko-slovenských zemi [The Republic of the Czecho-Slovak lands], in “SD”, November 16, 1918. 17 Československá republika [The Czechoslovak Republic], in “Robotnícke noviny”, November 28, 1918, p. 1. 18 See, for example, J. Harna, Uvahy nad charakterem a smyslem českého slovakofilství z přelomu 19. a 20. století [Reflection on the nature and meaning of Czech Slovakophilia in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries], in M. Podrimavský / D. Kováč (eds.), Slovensko na začiatku 20. storočia, pp. 152–167.


 Étienne Boisserie

Slovak visionaries, striving together to ward off the Hungarian threat and build a fair, fraternal society. In the extremely unstable post-war context, the issue soon arose of information and its control. In the very first days after the Prevrat19, Vavro Šrobár20, who would soon lead a provisional government based in Skalica, gave instructions to maintain order in Slovakia. Among other technical and political points, he gave orders that: “Where there are printing works, the Národný výbor shall publish periodicals in the form of tracts under the following titles: “Slobodný Slovák” (The free Slovak), “Úradné noviny Národného výboru” (The official journal of the National Committee). These publications should explain the thought of a new organization; they should call on the people to behave appropriately in their new state; they should foster a taste for work and order and warn against any anarchy, call for attention to the property of the state and not allow theft from depots and of supplies”21. The Slovak deputies at the provisional National Assembly in Prague, together forming the “Club of Slovak Deputies”22, were aware of the disorder that prevailed in Slovakia despite the limited information available, and they wanted to dedicate specific resources to propaganda at a local level. During the Club of Slovak Deputies session of November 22, Fedor Houdek proposed that Šrobár should allocate a sum of 50,000 koruna towards political campaigning and the publication of books, brochures, and other printed materials23. A week later, Šrobár outlined his intentions and a specific plan for eastern Slovakia, which was one of the most problematic regions to

19 The term “prevrat”, used in this paper without translation, refers both to October 28, 1918, and to the revolutionary process that followed. The term “revolution”, one of its possible translations, insufficiently encompasses the specific use of “prevrat” in Slovak. 20 Vavro Šrobár (1867–1951) was one of the first Slovaks to work towards the Czecho-Slovak mutuality in the 1890s. He was one of the leading figures of a whole Czechophile generation in Slovakia. He also enjoyed the total confidence of President Masaryk and was appointed Minister Plenipotentiary for the Administration of Slovakia (MPS) in early December 1918. He arrived in Žilina on December 12, 1918. 21 Literárny Archiv Slovenskej Národnej Knižnice (LA SNK) [Literary Archive of the Slovak National Library], 94 S 13, V. Šrobár, Úprava o organisování Národných Výborov a udržania poriadku na Slovensku [The Organization of the national councils and maintaining order in Slovakia], Prague, November 7, 1918. 22 On the Club of Slovak Deputies, see L. Lipscher, Klub slovenských poslancov v rokoch 1918–1920 [The Club of Slovak deputies in 1918–1920], in “Historický časopis”, 16, 1968, 2, pp. 133–167. 23 “Zápisnica schôdzky Klubu slovenských poslancov, dňa 22. novembra 1918” [Record of the session of the Club of Slovak Deputies of November 22, 1918] (Parlamentný archív K NR SR, collection KSP, rukopis/strojopis), in N. Petranská Rolková, Zápisnice Klubu slovenských poslancov I (1918–1919) (Records of the Club of Slovak Deputies I [1918–1919]), Bratislava 2014, p. 73. Fedor Houdek (1877–1953), a native of Ružomberok (Rózsahegy) with ties to a prominent local business family of the region of Liptov (Liptó), studied for a time in Prague. He was active in the spheres that took part in the renewal of Czecho-Slovak relations and was one of the reliable Slovaks the new authorities counted on. After several weeks of activity in Slovakia in autumn 1918, he joined the Czechoslovak delegation to the Paris Peace Conference.

Asserting Czechoslovak Authority in Slovakia 


bring under control for ethno-linguistic and political reasons24. The issue of the language of Slovak propaganda materials (standard Slovak or “eastern Slovak”) and specifically of the pamphlets, which represented the only materials seriously envisaged for the region, was crucial. Šrobár decided that they should be produced in standard Slovak and printed in the city of Martin, which was more central within the territory with relatively easy transport and distribution to eastern Slovakia25. The question of the press in Slovakia was also discussed during the same meeting. The chairman of the Slovak National Party (SNS) and member of the Club of Slovak Deputies, Matúš Dula, presented a worrying picture of Hungarian agitation in Slovakia and requested additional press resources there. Indeed, at that time, apart from the “Robotnícke noviny” (Workers’ newspaper), which was published in Bratislava with problems of distribution across the territory, the only general daily was the “Národné noviny” (National newspaper), published and printed in Martin and edited by a very mall team26. The Club of Slovak Deputies in Prague continued discussing the best means of spreading propaganda material in Slovakia until the beginning of December without achieving any significant results27. The question of propaganda was not unrelated to the diplomatic situation and the need to protect the Czechoslovak position in Paris. Ivan Markovič, a former legionary from Russia and the National Council in Paris, and current Secretary of the Foreign Ministry28 responsible for liaison with Slovakia, talked about this in a long letter to Šrobár in late November, in which he tellingly observed:

24 On the situation in eastern Slovakia, see the recent I. Slepcov, K niektorým otázkam vzťahu miestneho obyvateľstva východného Slovenska k vpádu maďarských boľševikov roku 1919 [On a few issues regarding the position of the local population in eastern Slovakia with regard to the Hungarian Bolshevik attack in 1919], in “Vojenská história”, 5, 2001, 4, pp. 26–33. 25 Praha, 28. novembra 1918. Zápisnica schôdzky KSP [Prague, November 28, 1918. Record of the Session of the Club of Slovak Deputies], in N. Petranská Rolková, Zápisnice Klubu slovenských poslancov, pp. 103–104. 26 The “Národné noviny”, founded in 1845 by the codifier of the Slovak language, Ľudovít Štúr, was the oldest general newspaper in Slovak in the Kingdom of Hungary. From the 1870s onward, it was printed in Turčiansky Svätý Martin and closely associated with the leadership of the Slovak National Party (SNS). 27 Zápisnica schôdzky Klubu slovenských poslancov, dňa 9. decembra 1918 [Record of the session of the Club of Slovak Deputies of December 9, 1918], in N. Petranská Rolková, Zápisnice Klubu slovenských poslancov, p. 142. 28 On the activities of Ivan Markovič during the war, see D. Borbélyová, Účasť Ivana Markoviča na československom zahraničnom odboji v Rusku 1914–1918 [The Participation of Ivan Markovič in the Czechoslovak resistance abroad in Russia, 1914–1918], in “Vojenská história”, 22, 2018, 1, pp. 7–21. On his activity as Secretary of the Foreign Ministry in spring 1919, see É. Boisserie, “Situácia ešte nie je kritická ...”. Problémy vládnutia na Slovensku v korešpondencii medzi Markovičom, Benešom a Šrobárom (február-máj 1919) [“The situation is not yet critical …”. The problems of controlling Slovakia in the correspondence of Markovič – Beneš – Šrobár], in “Historický časopis”, 66, 2018, 2, pp. 271–288.


 Étienne Boisserie

I want to immediately draw your attention to the fact that it is essential for our publications to be careful in what they write. Here [in Paris], everything is read, reports are written on everything, everything is translated. There are specialists paid by the Hungarians and the Germans so that the slightest slip-up in Czech and Slovak publications is used against us29.

In the first weeks and months, the circulation of information and newspapers was difficult and the readership was no doubt limited. In addition to the scarcity of Slovak resources, distribution was obstructed by the postal service and, above all, the railway administration, which was very hostile to the Czechoslovak authorities30. During these weeks, propaganda was therefore essentially disseminated through a variety of pamphlets that were not always controlled by the Czechoslovak authorities in Slovakia, and employing largely the same arguments as official propaganda. Only when the Czechoslovak army gradually took control of the territory in December, could distribution become better organized31.

3 Confronting opposition and asserting legitimacy of the Czechoslovak State

The creation of the “Žilina” government in the first half of December 1918 marked the dawn of a new period. For the first time the Czechoslovak State was no longer merely synonymous with freedom and democracy, and it now had to respond to certain expectations of the population, in particular their material needs. This was the clear message delivered by the newly created “Supplies Department” led by Pavol Blaho32. Based on the newspapers reporting the information, the creation of the Supplies Department was supposed to reassure citizens that the Czechoslovak State was working to guarantee “everyone would have what they need[ed]”33. 29 SNA, of. Vavro Šrobár, box 11, sign. 4.4.8, inv. č. 656, letter from Ivan Markovič to Vavro Šrobár, Paris, November 29, 1918. 30 LA SNK, Martin, Sign. 94 S 8, Zpráva výkonného výboru Slovenskej národnej Rady, 22.XI.1918 [Report of the Executive Committee of the Slovak National Council of November 22, 1918]. 31 SNA, collection Československá dočasná vláda na Slovensku 6.–14. Novembra 1918 [Provisional Czechoslovak government in Slovakia, November 6–14, 1918], box 1, Sign. B/2, inv. č. 4, Velitelství československých vojsk na Slovensku [Czechoslovak Army Command Slovakia] to Pavol Blaho, November 20, 1918. 32 Pavol Blaho (1867–1927), was a doctor and active member of Slovak student associations in Vienna in the 1880s. He then became a leading activist in western Slovakia during the two decades before the outbreak of the First World War. He was an agrarian and close to Šrobár, and was at the time a leading figure in the first generation of the Czecho-Slovak mutuality movement. 33 Zásobovací ústav pre Slovensko v Holíči [The Supplies Department for Slovakia in Holíč], in “SD”, December 10, 1918, p. 2. See also Prez. Masaryk o našich potřebách [President Masaryk on our needs], in “SD”, January 16, 1919, p. 1.

Asserting Czechoslovak Authority in Slovakia 


But the issue of meeting the population’s needs would remain delicate for several months. More than a year later, in a Report on popular education in Slovakia since the Prevrat, Šrobár admitted that “during the first year of freed Slovakia, in the unstable conditions of the time, when the masses were agitated by political issues and supply problems, it was difficult to think about the organization of popular education activities”34, even though some initiatives were started using local resources or thanks to the gradual arrival of teachers from the Czech Lands. The issue of education soon became one of the leading concerns for the country’s new elites. The measures taken, the arrival of new teachers (mainly for primary schools), and the need to open a teacher training college were all highlighted35. The issue of education remained sensitive among certain segments of the Slovak patriotic milieu, especially the most conservative. These had long been aware of the risk of the Slovak language being weakened by excessive proximity to the Czechs. The problem of availability of suitably educated people to manage the new state in Slovakia was crucial. From the very first days, steps were taken to mobilize human resources36. Resolutions of all sorts calling on young people in particular to volunteer, and for fraternal assistance from the Czechs, were published during November. Everyone was called upon to make a contribution in the construction of the new state. No stable solutions had yet been found for a whole series of material and administrative issues in both the civilian and military spheres, with the result that the information produced, controlled, and promoted by the press agency was not very effective37. The Minister Plenipotentiary for the Administration of Slovakia (MPS) generally had little information and was very isolated, both from Prague and from most of Slovakia38. His travel records show that he was normally only able to travel within the western regions of the territory39. Agitation remained high and uncertainties about the final demarcation of the borders compounded the difficulty of inspiring patriotism among the people. Two other problems further undermined the state’s authority

34 LA SNK, Sign. 173 V 3, Vavro Šrobár, Zpráva referátu pro lidovo výchovu na Slovensku a organisaci a činnosti lidovýchodné [Report of the delegate for popular education in Slovakia and the organization of popular education activities]. 35 Otvorme hneď dievčanské učitelské pripravovne [A teacher training college needs to be opened immediately for young women], in “SD”, November 27, 1918, p. 2. 36 See, for example, Čas mení všetko [Time changes everything], in “Robotnícke noviny”, November 28, 1918, p. 3; Slovenski inteligenti, hlaste sa k práci [Slovak intellectuals: Get to work!], in “SD”, November 10, 1918, p. 2. 37 For a specific study on this period, see É. Boisserie, ‘Markovič zdeluje ...’. Úryvky z korešpondencie Ivana Markoviča medzi Parížom, Prahou a Bratislavou na jar 1919 [‘Markovič Informs ...’. Excerpts from the correspondence of Ivan Markovič between Paris, Prague and Bratislava in Spring 1919], in M. Kšiňan / Matej Hanula (eds.), Slovensko a Európa medzi demokraciou a totalitou [Slovakia and Europe between democracy and totalitarianism], Bratislava 2017, pp. 29–43. 38 SNA, of. Markovič, box 1, inv.č. 10, letter from Markovič to Beneš, February 23, 1919. 39 SNA, of. Šrobár, box 11, sign. 4.4.7, inv. č. 653, Cestovný denník (November 1918 – September 1919).


 Étienne Boisserie

in Slovakia as it had been conceived in government circles. Firstly, Slovak political Catholicism and its press began opposing the political model and demanding autonomy. This agitation reached the Club of Slovak Deputies in Prague, which debated the topic on February 27, 191940. Moreover, the question of the loyalty of other national groups remained unresolved, at least until the offensive by the Hungarian Republic of Councils in late March 1919, and then emerging again in the autumn. Qualitative improvements in the ability of the Slovak authorities to act were limited, even after their move to Bratislava in the first half of February 191941. In February and March, a few propaganda instruments were developed to emphasize the legitimacy of Czechoslovak territorial claims. These publications stated the aim of strengthening the security of the state and the Slovak nation. After facing a large strike in February upon their arrival in Bratislava, the government created the Czechoslovak Propaganda Bureau (Československá propaganda kancelária, ČPK), which was supposed to “inform” newspapers and magazines about the situation in the country and abroad, to correct inaccurate news and rumors, and publish pamphlets42. The ČPK also organized Sunday meetings aimed at countering Hungarian propaganda in the territory43, as well as inviting Czech or Slovak politicians to take part in popular education conferences. Most ČPK employees were former legionaries, led by a veteran of the French Legion, Jozef Honza. They were sent in groups of 5 to 7 per district where they distributed the propaganda materials produced by the ČPK44. They were obliged to travel a lot and were assisted by local officials whenever possible. The Liberty League (Liga slobody) was formed for similar purposes. It was a patriotic organization made up of “reliable individuals” who were authorized to speak anywhere and in all circumstances without prior approval45. The primary objectives of the Liberty League were as follows: 1) Public opinion needs to be made anti-Hungarian through dissemination of anti-Hungarian propaganda; 2) The mental and moral legacy of the Hungarian regime must be eliminated entirely; 3) Any Hungarian or anti-Czechoslovak propaganda must be countered; 4) The spiri-

40 Zápisnica schôdzky KSP, 27. februára 1919 [Record of the session of the Club of Slovak Deputies of February 27, 1919], in N. Petranská Rolková, Zápisnice Klubu slovenských poslancov, pp. 148–150. 41 Program vlády v Bratislave [The program of the government in Bratislava], in “SD”, February 15, 1919, pp. 1 f. 42 The Czech author Jiří Mahen wrote 12 pamphlets, of which 2.5 million copies were printed; see V. Šrobár, Oslobodené Slovensko, Bratislava 2004, p. 33. 43 On Hungary’s political position with regard to Slovakia, see in particular M. Michela, Pod heslom integrity [For integrity], Bratislava 2009, pp. 38–75. On Hungarian propaganda and for a more critical view of the attitude of the Slovak authorities, see I. Nurmi, Slovakia – A Playground for Nationalism and National Identity, 1918–1920, Helsinki 1999. 44 J. Honza-Dubnický, Zápisky legionára [Notes of a Legionary], Banská Bystrica 2014, pp. 115–120. 45 SNA, collection MPS, box 269, inv. č. 159, letter from the Minister Plenipotentiary to the Finance Minister, Bratislava, May 2, 1919.

Asserting Czechoslovak Authority in Slovakia 


tual and material level of the Slovak population needs to be improved by all possible means; 5) Border regions close to Hungary must be de-Magyarized46.

During the spring and throughout the war against the Hungarian Republic of Councils, all the major national press titles were brought under the direct control of the MPS staff47. However, from the first days of April, the shortage of available forces to organize “more effective and more systematic” counter-propaganda appeared in several reports sent to Prague, or even to Foreign Minister Beneš who was attending the Paris Peace Conference48. This structural weakness of the Czechoslovak authorities had important repercussions when hostilities resumed between the Hungarian Republic of Councils and Czechoslovakia in May-June 191949. During this period, the Czechoslovak authorities were completely absorbed in the Hungarian threat to the country, exercising their authority in precarious conditions50. The improvement in the situation in early July owed more to Hungarian fatigue than to Czechoslovak momentum. At the beginning of the summer, the situation confronting the Czechoslovak authorities was grave. Markovič was still very pessimistic about the situation at the end of July, stating in a report to Beneš that the conditions at home in the republic in general, and in Slovakia in particular, are not wonderful. In Slovakia, the people are being agitated by the clergy, the Magyarons, the Jews, and by the behavior of certain Czech officials and soldiers whose vices are being instrumentalized by provocateurs against the Czechs and against the Republic. The conditions are beyond doubt worse than they were after the Prevrat. In practice, the deployment of Czechoslovak units has proved much more difficult than we imagined. Not so much because of a lack of will or because of any particular resistance, but because of the demoralization and general apathy of people, worn down by five years of war51.

46 SNA, of. Šrobár, box 2, Objectives of the Liberty League, Bratislava 1919, cited in I. Nurmi, Slovakia, p. 142. 47 V. Šrobár, Oslobodené Slovensko, p. 124. 48 SNA, of. Markovič, box 1, inv.č. 16, letter from Markovič to Beneš, April 3, 1919. 49 See M. Hronský, Priebeh vojenského konfliktu čsr. s Maďarskom v roku 1919 [History of the military conflict between Czechoslovakia and Hungary in 1919], in “Historický časopis”, 41, 1993, 5–6, pp. 607– 614. 50 On this subject, see É. Boisserie, ‘Markovič zdeluje ...’. 51 SNA, of. Markovič, box 1, inv. č. 63, letter from Markovič to Beneš, July 29, 1919. On the same subject, see also M. Hronský, K problémom konsolidácie a bezpečnosti Slovenska v novom štáte v prvom období po vojenskom konflikte s Maďarskou republikou rád [On the problems of consolidation and security of Slovakia in the new state during the first period following the military conflict with the Hungarian Republic of Councils], in J. Hájek / J. Kocian (eds.), Fragmenty dějín. Sborník k 60-ám Jana Gebharta [Fragments of history. A collection for the sixty years of Jan Gebhart], Praha 2006, pp. 103–118.


 Étienne Boisserie

4 The bumpy road to strengthening Czechoslovak authority

The short war with Hungary had seriously threatened Czechoslovak authority and revealed the fragilities of both its military apparatus and its popular support. In his speech to prefects, government delegates, and Slovak deputies, delivered in Turčiansky Svätý Martin in early August, Šrobár’s depiction of the situation was not positive. While he described the situation as a “temporary” one that would be “stabilized”52, he identified a whole series of difficulties – including continued anti-Czech agitation – and warned new arrivals in clear terms: “They need to be aware that the conditions here are completely different from those in other parts of the republic”53. The issue of the image of the Czechs in Slovakia, which had already been very relevant in spring 1919, remained a source of concern. Hungarian propaganda, indirectly backed up by Slovak political Catholicism and part of the Slovak conservative milieu, could easily raise the specter of “Czech imperialism”, a long-standing theme of Hungarian propaganda aimed at the Slovaks. Until the parliamentary elections in spring 1920, material difficulties, growing tensions in the Slovak political landscape, and concerns about the reliability of Slovak soldiers in the Czechoslovak army were combined with the fear of Hungary. The Hungarian issue was regularly raised to highlight the need for calm and order to guarantee a strong position and protect the country’s interests54. Many issues of concern can be found in the personal archives and correspondence of the main figures in key sectors of the administration, and in the administrative correspondence between Bratislava and the prefects. The same concerns were seemingly also used as a tool to foster patriotic mobilization, with the help of a press still very much under control. In autumn 1919, the Liberty League network was solid and concentrated in eastern and southern Slovakia55. During the winter, the Bratislava Information Bureau (Spravodajská Kancelária) organized a general campaign that sent teachers into the countryside every Sunday “to arouse national sentiment in people, explain to them the difference between today’s democratic society and the previous situation, inform them of the fundamental rights and duties of citizens, and bring them towards a proper understanding of democratic freedoms”56. In the same activity report from 52 Speech by Šrobár to prefects, government delegates and Slovak Deputies, pronounced in Turčiansky Svätý Martin, in “SD”, August 6, 1919, pp. 1 f. 53 Ibid. 54 Nebezpečenstvo z maďarského obratu [The danger of a Hungarian return], in “SD”, August 10, 1919, p. 1. See also M. Hronský, K problémom konsolidácie a bezpečnosti Slovenska, pp. 105–111. 55 On this subject, see I. Nurmi, Slovakia, pp. 139 f. 56 SNA, collection MPS 1920, Prez. Adm., box 316, Sign. I.3/a3, Zpráva novinárskeho odboru STK a jeho celej doterajšej činnosť [Report of the press section of the Slovak Press Bureau and all its activity], Bratislava, June 8, 1920.

Asserting Czechoslovak Authority in Slovakia 


1920, Šrobár emphasized the important role played by the military administration in this campaign, providing transport free of charge to even the most isolated villages57. In one year, until autumn 1920, more than 2,000 “totally apolitical” conferences were held “aimed at increasing [illegible word] the level of the people”. The Slovak authorities still had to deal with the major problem of the lack of a strong, reliable administrative apparatus. On January 24, 1920, the MPS staff asked all the prefects to provide a list of names of “good Slovak officials of grade 6 or 7” within eight days, for transfer to the political section of the MPS office, which was severely short of personnel. Within three days, he had received negative responses from 13 prefects, who reported coldly that they had no such officials in their own administrations. Some noted further that they were also short of political officials (prefect of Bratislava). Others said they had “barely enough truly reliable officials and on the contrary that they really [needed] some” (Bazovský, prefect of Novohrad County, January 27, 1920). Still others responded that, in their counties, “apart from basic, absolutely essential staff, there [were] no qualified political officials” (Fábry, prefect of Šariš County, January, 28 1920)58. This fragility did not stop the organization of parliamentary elections, which were held in a tense political and social climate59. The Slovak Press Bureau (STK) played an active role, as Šrobár noted in a report in early June 1920. According to the report, the state’s bureau played a key role in disseminating information throughout the country: Just before the elections, we sent the whole Slovak press the following message: “On the one hand, we need to inform our readership of the different parties and their organization. On the other, we need to develop more effective defensive and offensive work if we are to guarantee positive results during the elections. We need to be clear, setting ourselves apart from all the anti-republican parties and all those that do not defend Czechoslovak solidarity”60.

Great attention was thus dedicated to all the material sent to the regional press, which earned praise from Šrobár for having “worked well and achieved good results”61.

57 SNA, collection MPS 1920, Prez. Adm., box 316, Sign. I.3/a3, Zpráva novinárskeho odboru STK a jeho celej doterajšej činnosť [Report of the press section of the Slovak Press Bureau and all its activity], Bratislava, June 8, 1920. 58 See SNA, collection MPS 1920, Prez. Adm., box 316, Sign. II.6/a5, in “Úředníci Slovenští přidělení odděleni adm” [Slovak officials appointed to the administrative section]. 59 L. Osyková, Volebné kampane politických strán na Slovensku počas 1. ČSR [Election campaigns of political parties in Slovakia during the first Czechoslovak Republic], Bratislava 2012, pp. 22–82. 60 SNA, collection MPS 1920, Prez. Adm., box 316, Sign. I.3/a3, Zpráva novinárskeho odboru STK a jeho celej doterajšej činnosť [Report of the press section of the Slovak Press Bureau and all its activity], Bratislava, June 8, 1920. See also SNA, collection MPS 1920, Prez. Adm., box 328, Sign. XIV/210, reports sent to the MPS on the pre-election activities of the Slovak People’s Party in the first quarter of 1920. 61 SNA, collection MPS 1920, Prez. Adm., box 316, Sign. I.3/a3, Zpráva novinárskeho odboru STK a jeho celej doterajšej činnosť [Report of the press section of the Slovak Press Bureau and all its activity], Bratislava, June 8, 1920 In this report, Šrobár also noted that none of the Czech press – apart from


 Étienne Boisserie

This campaign did however undermine the more cultural and educational dimension of the STK’s propaganda, the initiatives of which were little followed according to certain reports62. This activity resumed after the elections. The STK reported 277 “purely educational” conferences throughout the country in May alone. The monthly report noted with satisfaction (it is sometimes difficult to differentiate between the reporting of true facts, and administrative and patriotic zeal) that “in some villages, the people clamorously called for the conference to be held in Czech, as they understood Czech well and liked listening to it”63. This demonstration of “growing conscience of national unity” in Slovakia was confirmed, in the same report, by the fact that “not the slightest untoward incident” had occurred during the conferences in the whole month. It would seem that Hungarian propaganda began to diminish following the victory of the agrarian party in the parliamentary elections of April 1920, and that the atmosphere was gradually pacified until the signing of the Treaty of Trianon. This detente helped the Slovak propaganda bureau to concentrate on “internal consolidation”, as Šrobár called the strengthening of the governing forces64. In this brief, less fraught situation, state propaganda in Slovakia became less aggressive and more focused on highlighting the heroes of the new Republic. The first anniversary of the death of Milan Štefánik in May 1920 was an opportunity to strengthen the idea of the national hero, “liberator of the Slovak nation”, and produce a positive patriotic narrative65. There was also a great deal of debate about the considerable work required for the content of school textbooks, aimed at “irrigating the minds of students with a genuine Slavic spirit”66, and on the education system as a whole67.

the publication of the agrarians, Venkov – had published any articles produced by the Slovak Press Bureau and, in general, had paid little attention to the situation in Slovakia. 62 SNA, collection MPS 1920, Prez. Adm., box 316, Sign. I.3/a3, Zpráva Slovenské tlačové kancelárie – výtvarného oddělení a loutkového divadla [Report of the STK – artistic section and puppet theater], Bratislava, April 30, 1920. 63 SNA, collection MPS 1920, Prez. Adm., box 316, Sign. I.3/a3, Zpráva STK IV. odd. v Bratislavě za dobu od 1. do 31. května 1920 [Report of the fourth section of the STK in Bratislava for the period May 1–31, 1920], May 31, 1920. 64 SNA, collection MPS 1920, Prez. Adm., box 316, Sign. I.3/a3, Zpráva novinárskeho odboru STK a jeho celej doterajšej činnosť [Report of the press section of the Slovak Press Bureau and all its activity], Bratislava, June 8, 1920. 65 See A. Štefánek, Nové narodovectvo [The new patriotism], in “SD”, May 8, 1920; Živelné sily, ibid., May 12, 1920; B. Pavlů, Ešte o gen. Štefánikovi [Again about General Štefánik], in “SD”, May 19, 1920. On the use of the figure of Štefánik right from the end of the war and during the interwar period, see P. Macho, Milan Rastislav Štefánik v hlavách a srdciach. Fenomén národného hrdinu v historickej pamäti [Milan Rastislav Štefánik in heads and hearts. The phenomenon of the national hero in historic memory], Bratislava 2011. 66 “SD”, May 19, 1920, p. 2. 67 LA SNK, Sign. 173 V 3, Vavro Šrobár, Zpráva referátu pro lidovo výchovu na Slovensku … [Report of the delegate for popular education in Slovakia …].

Asserting Czechoslovak Authority in Slovakia 


Almost two years after the Great War ended, its consequences were still being felt. Even the very loyal “Slovenský denník” underlined the multiple aspects of the persistent crisis and the latent fragility of the Czechoslovak authorities, in a political editorial on May 20 entitled What is to be done? (Čo treba robiť?).

Mirko Saltori

Conceiving a “Just” Peace for Trentino Aspirations, Disputes, Boundaries

1 Introduction Socio-political developments in Trentino (this being the Italian speaking part of the Austrian County of Tyrol) during the Great War can be divided into two main stages: from August 1914 to May 1915, with mobilization, militarization of civilian life, and a progressive reduction in press reporting and activity of political parties; and from May 1915 to October 1918, with the declaration of war by the Kingdom of Italy against the bordering Austria-Hungary and consequent transformation of the territory of Trentino into an engeres Kriegsgebiet, or “active war zone”. Consequently, Trentino became a fragmented and battered territory with the main cities of Trento, Rovereto, and Riva being evacuated and militarized. Even the people were torn and divided, scattered on the battlefields of the eastern Austrian, Balkan, and Dolomite fronts, a minority fighting in the Italian army. There were “exiles” in Italy (political emigrants, both before and after 1915, often deserters from the Austrian army), refugees displaced by Austria, both within Trentino and beyond (e.g. in Bohemia), refugees displaced to the Italian peninsula within the areas occupied by Italy, and internees in Austria and Italy. There were of course also Austrian and Italian military personnel in Trentino along with prisoners, mainly Serbs and Russians. The military tribunals expanded their jurisdiction into various aspects of civilian life1. 1 The most recent works on the various aspects of the First World War and Trentino, with multiple authors (sometimes of varying merit) and with up-to-date bibliographies include: Laboratorio di storia di Rovereto (ed.), Cosa videro quegli occhi! Uomini e donne in guerra. 1913–1920, vol. 2: Saggi, Rovereto 2018 (which follows an initial photographic volume) and M. Bellabarba / G. Corni (eds.), Il Trentino e i trentini nella Grande guerra. Nuove prospettive di ricerca (Annali dell’Istituto Storico Italo-Germanico in Trento. Quaderni, 100), Bologna 2017. On the specific theme of the war within Trentino, not yet exhaustively analyzed, we take leave to refer to the brief reviews of N. Fontana / M. Saltori, Trentino, in H.J.W. Kuprian / O. Überegger (eds.), Katastrophenjahre. Der Erste Weltkrieg und Tirol, Innsbruck 2014, pp. 479–507, and N. Fontana / M. Saltori, Trentino, in U. Daniel et al., 1914–1918-online. International Encyclopedia of the First World War, Freie Universität Berlin, 2016–04–18. DOI: 10.15463/ie1418.10891. Specifically, regarding Trentino soldiers on the eastern front, see the classic studies by G. Fait (ed.), Sui campi di Galizia (1914–1917). Gli italiani d’Austria e il fronte orientale. Uomini popoli culture nella guerra europea, Rovereto 1997, and Q. Antonelli, I dimenticati della Grande Guerra. La memoria dei combattenti trentini (1914–1920), Trento 2008, as well as the more recent A. Di Michele, Tra due diTranslation: Gavin Taylor


 Mirko Saltori

At a certain point within this context, proposals, expectations, and fears began to emerge, sometimes highly conflicting, and the following paragraphs will attempt to briefly illuminate some of these issues and their modes of transmission.

2 “Political exiles”: Trentino citizens in Italy (as well as Stockholm) The devastation of the land and people of Trentino was reflected in the newspapers, journals, and public opinion in general. We consider in particular Italy, where part of the Trentino liberal elite even collaborated with the government2. Some of them wrote in Italian journals and newspapers: one example was the socialist Cesare Battisti, who as early as the second half of 1914 collaborated with the Milan interventionist and Francophile newspaper, “Il Secolo”, propagandizing (as he would do later at political meetings) a dark and terrible picture of the history of Trentino under Austria (typically not exactly matching the true complex reality). These political exiles made great efforts to conceive an Italian Trentino after the war. As regards the political, economic, legal, and administrative organization, etc., great commitment was shown in memorandums and documents, like those collected and in a small part published by the extremely active Comitato d’Azione per il Trentino (Trentino action committee) of Verona, based on questionnaires, also answered by the future “martyrs” Cesare Battisti and Fabio Filzi, together with eloquent contributions from various Trentino personalities, like the historian Silvestro Valenti3.

vise. La Grande Guerra degli italiani d’Austria, Bari / Roma 2018; as regards the experience of the refugees we note the recent Laboratorio di storia di Rovereto (ed.), Gli spostati. Profughi, Flüchtlinge, Uprchlíci, vol. 2: P. Malni, La storia, Rovereto / Trento 2015 (which follows a first volume of photographs and documents), and F. Frizzera, Cittadini dimezzati. I profughi trentini in Austria-Ungheria e in Italia (1914–19), (Annali dell’Istituto Storico Italo-Germanico in Trento. Quaderni, 101) Bologna 2018. 2 Even though the majority of collaborators were in fact from the Adriatic coast, in particular from Trieste; see R. Monteleone, La politica dei fuorusciti irredenti nella guerra mondiale, Udine 1972, pp. 28–29 and pp. 76–78 (although the entire volume is of interest). 3 On these memorandums see U. Corsini, Il colloquio Degasperi – Sonnino 16 marzo 1915. I cattolici trentini e la questione nazionale, Trento 1975, pp. 51–54 and M. Garbari, Conservatorismo e nuovi orientamenti nel panorama politico trentino degli anni 1918-1923, in C. Grandi (ed.), Tirolo – Alto Adige – Trentino 1918-1920, Trento 1966, pp. 95-130, here pp. 102-105; see also Comitato d’azione per il Trentino, Atti del referendum pubblicato nel luglio 1915 per l’assestamento generale del Trentino dopo la guerra, Capitolo settimo: Assestamento agricolo, Verona 1916, and Comitato d’azione per il Trentino, Atti del referendum pubblicato nel luglio 1915 per l’assestamento generale del Trentino dopo la guerra, Capitolo terzo: Assestamento giudiziario, Verona / Ostiglia 1918; on Battisti’s response to the question-

Conceiving a “Just” Peace for Trentino 


Starting from February 1917, the weekly publication “La Libertà” was published in Milan, by Trentino exiles in Italy (proudly subtitled the “Settimanale Trentino”), representing the militant voice of the irredentists and volunteers for the Entente Powers. These pages drew national attention to the memorandum that Antonio Piscel (who together with Cesare Battisti, executed in Trento by the Austrians for high treason on 12 July 1916, had led Trentino socialism for almost twenty years and together had started to propagandize for intervention) had presented in Stockholm in preparation for a meeting between European socialists from the states on both sides of the war, a meeting that never took place4. An agenda had been issued by the Trieste socialist Valentino Pittoni (who maintained an internationalist and pacifist stance) on April 28, 1917, in the name of the Italian Socialist Party in Austria. In 1917, Piscel had become a collaborator with the Italian government and military, and he could no longer accept this agenda. The agenda protested against the “current political-economic and social system”, and above all made reference to a “general peace” compliant with the principles of socialism, “founded on the right of all peoples to decide their own destiny, and thus contrary to annexations that violate this right”5. Piscel presented a memorandum to the committee with an introduction explicitly critical of Pittoni and published very prominently in “La Libertà”6. The Scandinavian committee would later advise Piscel to make a few changes, including the elimination of direct references to Pittoni, and this final version of the memorandum became definitive. It was published together with long historical appendices in a French pam-

naire, C. Adami, Cesare Battisti e gli studi per l’assestamento del Trentino, in “Bollettino della Legione Trentina”, 3, 1923, 2, pp. 19–23. The Committee Archive is preserved at Fondazione Museo Storico del Trentino, Trento, Circoli trentini Archive. The substantial study by S. Valenti, Problemi trentini (divided into the parts: Il Comune, L’assestamento politico-amministrativo, Il culto (ramo canonico), Sistemazione politico-sociale, and dated November 1915 – April 1916) is in Verona, Archivio di Stato, Prefettura di Verona, Gabinetto, b. 325, fasc. Comitato d’azione per il Trentino. 4 On the failed Stockholm congress, refer to the fine, well documented volume by F. Marin, Pacifisti e socialpatrioti. La socialdemocrazia austriaca alla Conferenza per la pace di Stoccolma – 1917, Trento 1996, which also dedicates a paragraph specifically to Piscel’s mission (pp. 165–172). Also worth considering is R. Monteleone, Il socialismo trentino di fronte al problema nazionale. Dalle origini ai memoriali di Antonio Piscel alla conferenza di Stoccolma, in “Studi Storici”, 7, 1966, 2, pp. 325–355, in particular pp. 341–355, and R. Monteleone, La politica dei fuorusciti, pp. 111–113. On the figure of Piscel, see the entry by M. Bigaran, Piscel, Antonio, in the Dizionario biografico degli italiani, vol. 84, Roma 2015, pp. 256–259, as well as (for his relations with the Austrian socialists right into the war) M. Saltori, Uno sguardo socialista sul Trentino di inizio secolo. Nuove lettere di Antonio Piscel a Victor Adler dagli archivi viennesi (1896–1914), in “Studi Trentini. Storia”, 90, 2011, 1, pp. 95–137. 5 Wien, Verein für Geschichte der Arbeiterbewegung, Sozialdemokratische Parteistellen, Internationales Bureau, Karton 128, Mappe 800, Italienische Partei in Oesterreich 1905–1908, fasc. 1917. 6 A. Piscel, Le aspirazioni degli irredenti illustrate a Stoccolma da Antonio Piscel, in “La Libertà”, October 13, 1917, p. 1. Marin appears to ignore the publication of this first version (p. 169), while it also appears in appendix to R. Monteleone, Il socialismo trentino, pp. 345–349.


 Mirko Saltori

phlet so as to achieve the widest possible distribution, and also in eight large segments in the “Libertà”7. What did Piscel state? Above all, he somberly declares the moral impossibility of establishing the necessary trust and affinity to be able to feel, confide, and struggle together like brothers for a common ideal of justice with many of our companions of old in Germany and Austria who have not rejected all solidarity with our oppressors and still voluntarily collaborate to support and safeguard the powers of those states8.

Clearly for Piscel it would be impossible to consider safe and enduring a peace that, “allowed the central empires to retain even a minimum part of their conquests usurped from the nations of others”9. Therefore, the disappearance of the Tsars ought to be followed by the disappearance of the empires of the Hohenzollerns, the Habsburgs, and the Turks. “Delenda Austria” (Austria must be destroyed) became Piscel’s invocation, declaring that Italy should establish “natural and secure frontiers along the Alps and the sea”10. Piscel’s judgement on a possible public poll is interesting, stating that it could not be held under the Austrian regime because, “you need to be aware of the violence, corruption, and fraud that the Austrian bureaucracy is capable of in order to make the will of the people appear to be one thing or another”. “When foreign oppression ends, and when normal, free conditions of life have been re-established, we will sanction our union to the Italian State with a popular vote, based not on usurpation but on fair national polls”11. We cannot dwell on the geographical appendix here, even though it contains certain details that are interesting for their exaggeration and speciousness (Trieste under the Austrians, “the necessary rapid progress is hindered by fiscal subjugation and the incompetence of the centralist bureaucracy of Vienna”12), and even aspects of anti-Slavic racism (the unilateral claim of the Italian nature of Dalmatia, considering 7 A. Piscel, Une voix des irredents italiens a l’internationale socialiste. Memorandum pour le Comité de la Conférence de Stockholm, Stockholm 1917. The memorandum was also published in A. Piscel, Le nostre aspirazioni davanti al Comitato socialista internazionale di Stoccolma, in “La Libertà”, March 2, 1918, pp. 1 f. (and then in appendix to R. Monteleone, Il socialismo trentino, pp. 349–355); the “brief objective description of the territories subject to Austria on the Italian side of the Alps” requested by the Committee and added to the leaflet is also in A. Piscel, Il Memoriale dell’avv. Piscel sulle nostre rivendicazioni nazionali, in “La Libertà”, March 16, 1918, p. 2 (Osservazioni preliminari and Il confine naturale e la frontiera odierna); March 30, 1918, pp. 2 f. (Il bacino superiore dell’Adige); April 6, 1918, pp. 2 f. (La Venezia Giulia); A. Piscel, Dal memoriale Piscel sulle nostre rivendicazioni nazionali, April 20, 1918, p. 2 (La Venezia Giulia nella storia); April 27, 1918, pp. 2 f. (Il porto internazionale di Trieste); May 4, 1918, p. 2 (La costa orientale dell’Adriatico ed il suo Arcipelago); May 11, 1918, p. 2 (La Dalmazia). 8 A. Piscel, Une voix des irredents, p. 7. 9 Ibid. 10 Ibid., p. 11. 11 Ibid., pp. 11 f. 12 Ibid., p. 59.

Conceiving a “Just” Peace for Trentino 


that 63% of Slavic peasants were illiterate, Piscel denies the existence of a SlavicCroatian civilization, and so “the only civilization that illuminates Dalmatia is Italian”13). However, it is worth reporting at least what Piscel wrote about the border between Trentino and Alto Adige (in other words, speaking in favor of the boundary at the Brenner Pass): It should also not be believed that this distinction between the two regions [Trentino and Alto Adige] can be adequate for defining a new frontier for the Italian State. Such a boundary would imply total violation of the national rights of Alto Adige; worse still, it would not offer adequate defensive guarantees against an invasion coming from the north and starting from this hypothetical frontier, only very partially following a watershed along two secondary mountain chains that offer an abundance of points that could easily be forced or bypassed14.

Piscel remained in Stockholm as a delegate and observer for the minister Leonida Bissolati (interventionist socialist), and his “mission” had an extensive impact, not only on the Trentino-Milanese publication, but also in the European press, specifically Austrian, and obviously Scandinavian. Piscel gave interviews to the liberal “Tidens Tegn” of Oslo, the “Social-Demokraten”, and the liberal “Dagens Nyheter” of Stockholm, and in these very newspapers the first photographs of Battisti’s “martyrdom” appeared, initiating their international circulation. This was a genuine “mediatization” of that tragic event, which has been widely and well discussed elsewhere15. The images were already in circulation in France, but now in the emerging context they acquired more serious emotional weight16. This was also noted bitterly in the “Arbeiter-Zeitung” of Vienna, which observed: 13 Ibid., p. 75. 14 Ibid., p. 28. 15 See the volume by D. Leoni (ed.), Come si porta un uomo alla morte. La fotografia della cattura e dell’esecuzione di Cesare Battisti, Trento 2007, with the essay, especially important for our discussion, by F. Rasera, Immagini di un martirio. Sguardi, volti, interpretazioni, pp. 239–262, on the trajectory taken by the photographs (as well as their decodification); in this respect I refer to my own review of the volume (with further documentation regarding the photographs), in “Museo storico italiano della guerra. Annali”, 14, 2006–2009, 17, pp. 233–247. Regarding the figure of Cesare Battisti refer to the updated essays included in the exhibition catalogue, L. Dal Prà (ed.), Tempi della storia, tempi dell’arte. Cesare Battisti tra Vienna e Roma, Trento 2016 and, specifically concerning the implications for interventionism and the war, to F. Rasera, Cesare Battisti. “Ora o mai”, in M. Isnenghi / D. Ceschin (eds.), Gli italiani in guerra. Conflitti, identità, memorie dal Risorgimento ai nostri giorni, vol. 3: La Grande Guerra: dall’Intervento alla “vittoria mutilata”, Torino 2008, pp. 366–383, and to M. Saltori, Il caso Cesare Battisti. Socialismo, ultima Austria e Grande guerra, in P. Pombeni (ed.), La Grande guerra e la dissoluzione di un impero multinazionale, Trento 2017, pp. 163–184. The classic biography is now S. Biguzzi, Cesare Battisti, Torino 2008. See also the brief entry by M. Saltori, Battisti, Cesare, in U. Daniel et al., 1914–1918-online, DOI: 10.15463/ie1418.10528. 16 A passage by Karl Kraus is well known in this respect in The Last Days of Mankind.


 Mirko Saltori

If yesterday the citizens of Stockholm were untroubled to hear from the relevant academic sources that Austria was a “natural necessity” and the most suited institution for an experimental “League of Nations”, today they see a demonstration of the opposite. As regards the illustrative materials, we fear that the photographs circulated by the irredentists will have a more striking effect than the realistic geographic maps presented by the Vienna professor. However, Piscel’s main task has nothing to do with these photographic plates17.

The images of Battisti’s “martyrdom” had in fact been exhibited in the window of a very central shop in Stockholm: People still stop in front of the window, looking, reading, and commenting. This pilgrimage has been continuous for many months. On the first days there was a genuine crowd in front of the shop. I would dearly like to express the authentic spontaneity and weight, the tone and form of the judgements that sprung spontaneously from the lips of these calm and reserved northerners! Only a few Germans, attracted by the crowd, approached to see what was going on, but then slunk off immediately, grumbling some derision or idiocy18.

The Swedish socialist newspaper “Social-Demokraten” also published the photo of Battisti being led to execution on the front cover, commenting, “Thanks to the friendly courtesy of comrade Piscel, above we are able to present a rare photograph, showing the proud and tranquil Austrian MP on the way to the scaffold”19. In the interview Piscel underlined Battisti’s destiny: “The Austrians, as you know, consider these volunteers as traitors and when they manage to capture one, they are hanged without hesitation: a destiny that has already reached five of them, among whom, as you will remember, the Austrian MP, Battisti”20. Battisti’s “martyrdom” was thus again exploited, with calculated precision, on this international occasion. It was clearly an extremely potent means of propaganda, and the photo of the execution would again be presented in the “Popolo d’Italia” by Mussolini on February 23, 1918, with the title Italiani, guardate e imparate a odiare! (Italians, look and learn to hate!). In its concluding manifesto, the Scandinavian-Dutch Committee posed the issue of the territorial disputes (after Belgium and Alsace Lorraine) of Trentino, the Balkans, and Poland (but not Venezia Giulia)21, representing the first success of Piscel’s propaganda. However, even if the issue was raised officially, it was nevertheless “very vague and with little commitment”22. 17 Ein reisender Schönfärber, in “Arbeiter-Zeitung”, October 30, 1917, p. 5; part of the cited passage is also translated in La nostra propaganda a Stoccolma, in “La Libertà”, February 16, 1918, p. 1. 18 La nostra propaganda. 19 As stated in the photo caption; see Bubo, Revolution otänkbar i Italien. En intervju med vår italienske partivän Antonio Piscel, in “Social-Demokraten”, October 12, 1917, pp. 1 and 4, here p. 1. 20 Ibid. 21 See Il governo austriaco nell’imbarazzo, in “La Libertà”, November 3, 1917, p. 3. 22 R. Monteleone, Il socialismo trentino, p. 344.

Conceiving a “Just” Peace for Trentino 


3 The Austrian Trentino of the “Risveglio”: The twilight of the gods At the time the Trentino press consisted of the “Risveglio Tridentino” (Trentino awakening), having become the publication of the “Imperial and Royal Trento Fortress” on May 25, 1915. It was controlled by the military and would be tellingly renamed, “Il Risveglio Austriaco” (The Austrian awakening) starting from May 20, 191623. Distributed alongside this (in addition to the official gazette “La Patria”, printed in Innsbruck by the Lieutenancy) were the Gorizia Catholic “L’Eco del Litorale”24 and, certainly more wide-ranging and interesting, “Il Lavoratore”, a socialist newspaper from Trieste25, which after the reopening of Parliament in 1917 also presented critical ideas from Trentino MPs (almost all Catholic). During this period, in which very little was printed in Trento26, there was the release of a few rarely considered popular propagandistic novelettes of Austrian bias, set in Trentino. Examples include two booklets written by the former Police Commissioner of Trento, Josef Erler, Im Lande der Unerlösten. Aus der Geheimwerkstatt der Irredenta. Kriminalskizzen (In the land of the Irredentists. From the secret workshop of the Irredenta. Criminal sketches) from 1914, and Im Reiche der Erlöser (In the realm of the saviors) from 1916. This material has been very little studied by historians27, and even the “Risveglio” itself has hardly been studied or not at all. Little is known about who wrote for it, about its discursive and communicative strategies, or its relationships with the government or military28. And yet for the entire war it was the sole public voice in Trentino, albeit certainly biased and controlled. The publication went through various stages, and in the latest one it opened up to considerations of interest to us here, the future configuration of the country.

23 For a time (August 1915 – March 1916) it also had a weekly illustrated supplement “from the Office for the information and protection of refugees”: “La Voce del Paese” (however with competition from the Catholic “Bollettino del Segratariato per I richiamati e profughi”, printed in Vienna by the “Reichspost”, the Christian-social newspaper). 24 Which also had an edition printed in Vienna, again by the “Reichspost”. 25 With two editions per day. 26 A few scholastic manuals, a few pamphlets by the Diocesan Committee, or defensive texts like the Cenni biografici dei membri principali dell’augusta casa imperante (1917) by Don Giovanni Battista Corsini, ex director of the female teacher training institute of Trento. 27 On the theme of the press in Trentino during the war, we refer to N. Fontana / M. Saltori, Trentino, pp. 496–502, together with the older studies by Antonio Zieger, e.g. Stampa cattolica trentina (1848– 1926), Trento 1960. 28 See in any case the report by the Trento Police Commissioner, Rudolf Muck, to the Lieutenancy of Innsbruck regarding Die patriotische Presse in Welschtirol [The patriotic press in Italian Tyrol], dated December 22, 1916, and that of the Lieutenant of Tyrol, Count Meran to the Internal Minister, Toggenburg, regarding Parteiverhältnisse in Südtirol [Situation of the parties of South Tyrol], dated March 8, 1918, published in O. Überegger (ed.), Heimatfronten. Dokumente zur Erfahrungsgeschichte der Tiroler Kriegsgesellschaft im Ersten Weltkrieg, Innsbruck 2006, respectively vol. 1, pp. 442–448 and vol. 2, pp. 919–928.


 Mirko Saltori

There is a parallel with the Congress of the German People of Tyrol in Sterzing (Vipiteno) on May 9, 1918, and also with the convention, truly too late in the day, held on October 12-13 in Brixen (Bressanone), a genuine attempt to demonstrate panGermanist strength29. We will consider the very last period, when the newspaper was naturally forced to deal with Wilson’s “Points”, responding to them on October 22 with a degree of discernment and underlining how the American President was not interested in the wellbeing of humanity, but rather the political standing of one or two nations. This was the period following October 16, when in articulo mortis the Austrian Emperor Charles I transformed the Austrian state into a federal union, and according to “Il Risveglio”, “we attempted with all the best intentions to reconstruct our monarchy, a problem that posed such difficult constitutional issues that they could not be unraveled in the hard and bitter struggle that lasted for a number of decades”. The following passage is very clear: However, expecting a causal and temporal link between the end of the war and the complete reconstruction of Austria-Hungary, striving to create a dependence between the end of the great human catastrophe and the definitive resolution of the national issues of our monarchy, this is a “peace condition” that nobody who thinks humanely, even the most spineless admirer of Wilson, could logically connect with Wilson’s enunciations, which dedicate many fine words and much rhetoric to humanity, freedom of peoples, and independence of nations and states30.

In another editorial, the publication criticizes those who state that the Trentino public would like to be part of Italy. Free citizens in a free federal state, we also want to be absolute masters of our independence and our future destiny. Those speaking illegitimately in the name of the population, currently elected or otherwise, asserting that the majority of the population of Trentino is longing to be annexed to Italy, are lying in “bad faith”.

This is an interesting discourse that introduces the delicate and “dangerous” issue of the will of the people and of public polling. But once again (as in the example of Piscel already noted and of opposite bias) it is sustained that this method, which appears preferable in theory, is not so in practical reality, again for presumed contingent reasons. It is true that today a public poll would hand over success to those who propagandize for breaking away from the monarchy; today it is sadly true – sic rebus stantibus – that self-determination

29 On these congresses, see at least the mention in U. Corsini, Il Trentino e l’Alto Adige nel periodo 3.11.1918–31.12.1922, text of 1969 now in U. Corsini, Problemi di un territorio di confine. Trentino e Alto Adige dalla sovranità austriaca all’accordo Degasperi-Gruber, Trento 1994, pp. 145–257, here pp. 155 f. 30 La nota di Wilson all’Austria-Ungheria. L’autonomia non basta più. Le prime impressioni, in “Il Risveglio Austriaco”, October 22, 1918, p. 1.

Conceiving a “Just” Peace for Trentino 


would give full confirmation to the separatist ideas so strongly and hotly pursued by the enemies of our country […] As long as the war could be ended, the people – and not only ours – would vote even for Patagonia. Just as long as so much precious blood was not pointlessly spilled, everyone, indistinctly, – be they Germans, Slavs, or Italians – would vote for any form of state31.

This idea that a public poll would have unfortunate results for the monarchy also appeared in a report from the Trento Police Commissioner, Muck, to the Innsbruck Lieutenancy a few days earlier (October 14)32. Also worth noting is an article a few days later, by an unknown Dr. B.T., titled, Il Tirolo ai Tirolesi (Tyrol to the Tyroleans), that even speaks of a “transcendental importance of a united Tyrol”. This position would not be so clearly expressed after 1918, obviously due to the changed political context, and perhaps also because the idea was the expression to some extent intellectualized of a group of public officials indoctrinated in true Tyrolean mysticism. This was seemingly distinct from the “loyalty” of a significant section of the rural population, in most cases expressed in the form of an “intimate” relationship with the Emperor33: After all that it has achieved, Tyrol cannot, must not be destroyed. For all three peoples who inhabit this land, for the most obvious historical and economic reasons, and for the clearest ethical-religious reasons, it is of utmost importance that Italy not only does not extend to the Brenner Pass, but should not even reach the Salurn Defile, and the Italian border should remain as far as possible where it was before the war34.

The affirmation that throughout Tyrol there should be an effort to “create a strong Austria, subjected in perpetual devotion to our sovereign”, and to “make a strong, invincible Austria”, turned out to be almost cruelly anachronistic on October 23, 1918. Also worth noting was a contestation of the position of the Tyrolean socialists, who through the MP Simon Abram, highlighted the contradiction between the pre-war idea of a united Tyrol, and the 9th point of Wilson’s proposals. The article concluded: No part of Tyrol for Italy, but German Tyrol for the German Tyrolese, the Ladin lands for the Ladins, Italian Tyrol for the Italian Tyrolese with reciprocal protection of national minorities in Austria, in the new Austrian state of peoples!

31 In guardia dai falsi apostoli, in “Il Risveglio Austriaco”, October 22, 1918, p. 2. 32 “Nobody doubts the fact that in Trento and in the other cities of Italian Tyrol the vote would be in favor of Italy; on the contrary, on the probability of such a vote in the countryside the opinions are divided” (cited in O. Überegger [ed.], Heimatfronten, vol. 2, pp. 1048–1050, here p. 1049). 33 This is a major theme. On patriotism in the later stages in Austria, see L. Cole, Military Culture and Popular Patriotism in Late Imperial Austria, Oxford 2014. 34 B.T., Il Tirolo ai Tirolesi, in “Il Risveglio Austriaco”, October 23, 1918, p. 1.


 Mirko Saltori

Only in this way can the reasonable right of self-determination of Tyrolese lands be achieved. Any other solution brings with it an irreversible break up, a weakening of Tyrol, and the destruction of its historic role35.

While there was still a degree of pan-Germanism (with references to the abovementioned Convention of Bressanone), the stance of the newspaper, and therefore presumably of certain intellectual, military, and official circles, was changing rapidly and almost radically, until the “political divorce” of October 29: “Finally freed of the encumbrances of pan-Germanism, we achieve full freedom of action”. The “imperialist ostentation” of Germanic nationalism were thus abandoned (but with reference only to the German allies: nothing was said about how much this had also resided in the soul of much of Austrian political power), instead embracing that loyalty to the House of Habsburg, which did indeed act in a certain sense as an antidote to the affirmation of pan-Germanism, but as such had already been on its deathbed for more than twenty years, dying definitively during the war, when loyalty and nationalism began to merge into each other36. The policy of our Emperor, who dedicated all his care and thoughts to the peace of his peoples is finally crowned with success […] Free to decide our future fate at our pleasure, free citizens within a strong Austrian state, the peoples of the great monarchy commit themselves to extending a peaceful hand to the enemy of yesterday37.

On the very last days the publication even assumed socialist tones, with references to self-determination and peace: “As freedom is for a man, so self-determination is for a people”; “The right of self-determination is eminently democratic, and if it is not the essence of democracy, certainly it is the main emanation and its highest expression”; “In fact the currents of modern thought uphold the right of selfdetermination through universal suffrage, in other words ‘public polling’”. The new references are striking: “Self-determination was proclaimed by Christ; it has even been acknowledged by the highest representatives of modern socialism, Marx and Bebel, Lassalle and Turati, to cite only the best known and most po-

35 Ibid. 36 In his celebrated “self-defence” (May 18–19, 1917) in the trial in which he was charged with the murder of the Prime Minister, Stürgkh, the Austrian socialist Friedrich Adler astutely and persuasively discussed the theme of the evolution of the concept of the “homeland” in Austria: before the war Austrian patriotism was denounced by nationalists (German) as “an intellectual inferiority or an inferiority of character”; it was countered with the “idea of homeland of the national state”. During the war a new form of patriotism developed, that “also considers the economic territory as an object of equal force”; F. Adler, La guerra e la crisi della socialdemocrazia, Roma 1972. 37 Il divorzio politico!, in “Il Risveglio Austriaco”, October 29, 1918, p. 2.

Conceiving a “Just” Peace for Trentino 


pular”38. The geopolitical considerations hinged on the role of Russia, seen – even here – with sympathy, which naturally was already explicit (and instrumental) at the time of the revolution, but in this context appears also to include other allusions: The ignorant and barbaric Russia in the meantime has disappeared from the coalition in a conflagration of democracy as disorderly and revolutionary as it might appear. […] Bolshevik Russia, because it is democratic, strangled Czarist Russia; because it is democratic, it abandoned France and Britain, who were and remain the most imperialist of nations in the world, and who are conducting the present war for pure and simple desire for conquest.

Alongside this the inconsistencies of Wilsonianism were underlined: Will Wilson support the demands of France, which does not want application of the principle of self-determination in Alsace Lorraine, and will he support the demands of Italy, that likewise does not want application in the territories to which it aspires? If this principle was applied fairly, France and Italy would obtain very little, while France and Italy want to conquer in spite of that principle39.

On October 31 (extremely late!) there was an evocative title: Il crepuscolo degli dei (The twilight of the gods). “Out of unequalled suffering a new world is born. […] It will have a different state system, a different conception of society, another spiritual life”. Effectively, this paid homage to the principle of the nation state, calling into play yet again the vintage socialist, Ferdinand Lassalle: The time in which the power of peoples was driven towards cohesion has passed […] Today the presiding principle is that every nation should live in its own free state: free nations in free states, “this principle is the living source of every democracy”, as stated by Ferdinand Lassalle.

Wilson is naturally also included, “a history teacher who the American people, in free elections, raised to the position of supreme state power for six years”, and who “lays down his new world order”. There appears to be a first glimpse of a new (perhaps aspirational) faith in peace and democracy: “From this time onwards not brutal force but rights will decide disputes between peoples, between nations, not the sword but an international senate”. But, beware!, if “democracy and pacifism are close to complete achievement of their ideals”, nevertheless “the political turnaround is preparing the way for social transformation”. What appears indeed to be a vague allusion to class struggle, in the end becomes explicit:

38 Il diritto di autodeterminazione e la pace, in “Il Risveglio Austriaco”, October 30, 1918, pp. 1 f., here p. 1. 39 Ibid., p. 2.


 Mirko Saltori

To escape from the economic devastation caused by the war and the imposed organization of economic life there is no other escape route for the proletariat, whose weight has increased with the impoverishment of the middle class during the war, other than organizing all production into a common system with the transfer of the means of production into the hands of the working masses. Capitalism will not survive the shock of the war40.

These ideas are difficult to associate with “Il Risveglio Austriaco”, but the shifts were the consequence of rapid changes that even public opinion was forced to adapt to41. It is hypothetically possible (although not very probable) that for these final editions the editorial staff had changed. What we do know is that on November 3, 1918, in Trento, in collaboration with the Provisional Committee for the Government of the City of Trento, there was the release of the first (and only) edition of the new newspaper “L’Attesa”42, entitled Viva l’Italia! and citing Carducci’s Ça ira sonnets: In the world today from this Place a new history commences43.

5 After the war: Discord at the Brenner Pass, the road to nationalism The end of the war led to a difficult recomposition of the country, which also came about around certain symbols. The supreme symbol at the time, as well as being in a sense “official” and even imposed, was the figure of Cesare Battisti, whom the socialists, outside of any official status, claimed as their own. However, there was dissent even among the core group of longstanding supporters of Battisti, since effectively the war represented a break with the past also for them. On the pages of “La Libertà”, Battisti’s widow, Ernesta Bittanti, argued against Augusto Avancini, one of the leading protagonists in the history of Trentino socialism, a very close friend of Battisti’s and the first socialist Trentino MP in Vienna in 1907. Imprisoned in Innsbruck throughout 1918, he had written some eloquent observations in his “Prison Diary” demonstrating that his internationalism persisted not only

40 Il crepuscolo degli dei, in “Il Risveglio Austriaco”, October 31, 1918, p. 1. 41 It would be interesting to compare these thoughts on the larger scale of the entire ex-monarchy, to see whether an allegiance to some form of socialism, perhaps used instrumentally, even bland in nature, was more generalized, and to understand whether this was seen as a potential platform for the reconstruction of an “Austrian” identity. 42 The director was the Catholic Arcangelo Gadler, former editor of “Il Trentino”, a pre-war newspaper edited by Alcide Degasperi, and also collaborator of “Risveglio”. 43 Viva l’Italia!, in “L’Attesa”, November 3, 1918, p. 1.

Conceiving a “Just” Peace for Trentino 


unchanged but enormously amplified44. The motivations for Bittanti’s very civil argument (to which unfortunately Avancini did not reply45) lie in the fact that Avancini, though not unhappy about the destruction of Austria, did not see the new era arising out of the conflict as, “the advent of a new social orientation”, but simply regarded it (indeed with some clear concerns) as no more than the “political reality”46. However, almost immediately the dispute about the Brenner Pass boundary generated new schisms: though not numerous, the dissenting voices were important, while those in favor were numerous and often aggressive47. Much of the debate was played out in the press, also with recourse to documentary misappropriations48. An obligatory point of reference for various reasons was a speech by Leonida Bissolati at La Scala of Milan in January 1919, interrupted by nationalist disturbance: a “renun-

44 He wrote for example on October 29, 1918, and so a few days before the end of the conflict, commenting on newspaper reports of the acceptance by the Austro-Hungarians of Wilson’s plan, and so the breaking of the alliance with Germany: “As a state Germany remains distinctly isolated, but not the power of the people, which without doubt will rise again to play a strong role in civilization and progress, in true brotherhood and concord with all the other nations. The German people, as such, must not suffer degradation, nor be treated with unfairness. This must be the task and commitment of true democracy in all the other countries”; Trento, Fondazione Museo storico del Trentino, Archivio Augusto Avancini, busta 3 (ex busta 7 fasc. 9). 45 Even though immediately after his release he gave an interview to the Italian socialist publication “Avanti!” in which he stated his complete agreement with Pittoni and the Trieste socialists, who during the war had consulted him “as the sole representative of the Trentino comrades” (and so there was also agreement about Stockholm, in contrast with Antonio Piscel!): an agreement that regarded both the future annexation of Trentino by Italy, and the creation in the Adriatic area of an independent zone with Trieste as a free city. Avancini also acknowledged praise for the German socialists in Austria, “so easily judged badly”, because “it was they with their press […] they made an important contribution to the internal disintegration of the dynastic and military regime, from which the current situation derives”; L’odissea dell’ex deputato socialista di Trento durante la guerra, in “Avanti!”, November 22, 1918, p. 2. 46 E. Battisti, Lettera aperta all’on. Augusto Avancini, in “La Libertà”, February 4, 1919, p. 1. 47 Here we are most interested in the repercussions for Trentino of such discussions and positions, and we will not consider the associated actions of the Italian Socialist Party, who in Parliament in 1919–1920, in the words of Turati, Matteotti, and Riboldi (in fact MPs from the “new” Trentino-South Tyrol and Adriatic “provinces” were not yet seated in the Chamber, they only joined after the elections of 1921), was in favor of self-determination of the South Tyrol population. Unfortunately, there are no up-to-date studies on the foreign policy of the socialist party in those years, or on the issue of Alto Adige in Parliament, at the level of the excellent volume by M. Cattaruzza, L’Italia e la questione adriatica. Dibattiti parlamentari e panorama internazionale (1918–1926), Bologna 2014. In any case see the lively M. Ferrandi, “Al Brennero ci siamo e ci resteremo […]”. Cronache parlamentari della questione altoatesina, vol. 1: 1918–1943, Meran 2016. 48 These things, and others we will see later, are mostly already known and dealt with in texts that have become “classics” (for example by P. Alatri, La questione storica del Trentino e dell’Alto Adige, introduction to E. Vallini, La questione dell’Alto Adige, Firenze 1961, pp. 11–127, and by C. Gatterer, In Kampf gegen Rom. Bürger, Minderheiten und Autonomien in Italien, Wien 1968). Here we will strive to lend greater emphasis to a few connections and figures.


 Mirko Saltori

ciatory” discourse, against the Brenner Pass boundary and against the inclusion in the new state of the German speaking population (but also of the Dodecanese and Dalmatians). In reality, Bissolati’s position was anticipated by a Trentino resident, a lawyer in Riva del Garda, Antonio Stefenelli. He was a leading liberalist figure in the region, ex MP at the Diet of Tyrol, among the principal protagonists in Trentino irredentism during the final decades of the 1800s, and enjoyed a degree of influence in Rome during the war. As early as October 19, 1918, he had published a wide-ranging Wilsonian article in “La Libertà”, calling for the end of all irredentism “in order to construct the League of Nations and thereby make wars impossible”. Stefenelli even plays down the importance of boundaries and “of so-called strategic positions”: The prosperous development and power of the individual states of a renewed Europe must depend not on the political possession of small amounts, gained or lost, of European soil, but on the internal tranquillity that derives from the homogeneity of the people within their boundaries49.

Stefenelli’s utopianism does however appear to underestimate the ethnic-territorial complexity of the Habsburg monarchy50. He would subsequently send a letter to the radical MP, Arnaldo Agnelli, director of the periodical “La vita internazionale”51: I sustain that our honor would be irreparably compromised, if the Italy born in the name and principle of nationality and equality of all nations, large and small, for the right of liberty, after declaring the intention to enter the war for this freedom and for justice, accepted an offence to these ideals by subjugating absolutely without necessity under its dominion significant fractions of other peoples, Germans or Slavs, who reject our dominion.

Again, addressing those he called “the deplorable movements”: They believe to make provisions [for the future security of Italy] by seeking the widest possible natural and strategic boundaries without concern for bringing masses of foreigners into our

49 A. Stefenelli, Il rispetto del principio di nazionalità nella guerra e nella pace e per la Società delle Nazioni, in “La Libertà”, 19 October 1918, pp. 1f., here p. 1. 50 Even if a note to the article observes: “I hope that this does not induce someone to exclaim: if the dissolution of Austria might result in serious danger, then let Austria live. I would like therefore to repeat that it will be in the power of the Allies to eliminate that danger by being fair in the handing out of the spoils. If the double monarchy remains alive, the danger would certainly exist and persist, because it by nature was designed to be an instrument for Germany; we would thus be faced with Germany + Austria – Hungary (diminished by the countries ceded to Italy) = 113 million souls, instead of Germany + Austrian Germans (the Hungarians isolated in a small state would quickly cease to have any aspirations) = 70 million, of which 30 neutralized by as many again in Slavs and Romanians subtracted from Austria. From one system to the other the shift in our favor certainly appears enormous (73 million)” (A. Stefenelli, Il rispetto del principio di nazionalità). 51 Later picked up by “Il Secolo”: A. Stefenelli, Le questioni territoriali italiane nel giudizio di un deputato trentino, in “Il Secolo”, December 25, 1918.

Conceiving a “Just” Peace for Trentino 


home, Germans and Slavs in the Alps and on the coast. And in the meantime, they do not realize that in this way Germany (72 million inhabitants) and Yugoslavia (12 million), both bordering states, would become our eternal implacable enemies.

This cost Stefenelli a reproach from the Trentino volunteers at their meeting of December 29, 1918, and prominently published in the national press: Stefenelli’s letter was a “rash display”, provoking in them a “painful impression”. They deplored profoundly that a Trentino citizen, elected to public office, had dared to disavow the sacrosanct rights of Italy, which are also of vital necessity to Trentino, failing also in the due reserve such as not to hinder the illuminated action of the government for the future security of Italy, and they reaffirmed the strategic, political, and economic necessity for Italy and Trentino that the nation finally and for always maintain its hallowed confines – the Brenner Pass and the Vetta d’Italia mountain peak – indicated in the honorable words of H.M. the King to the Army and which are secured to us through our victory52.

This was a clear sign of the direction that political debate was taking. It is also known that the agenda for this meeting was inspired by the already influential Trentino nationalist, Ettore Tolomei, who wrote “To the youth of the Legione Trentina (Trentino legion) and the newspaper La Libertà” on December 27, 1918: I read in the “Secolo” the unworthy article signed by a Trento MP, the lawyer Antonio Stefenelli. For three years in Rome this man dragged into Ministerial lobbies and meetings of exiles his reticent aversion to a greater destiny for Italy, and as long as he abstained from open declarations he could still be ignored and pitied. Nor could he, furthermore, publicly attack the Treaty of London without guilt against the homeland in arms. And now today, at a decisive historical and political moment, we are expected to tolerate that, against the dignified voice of the Army and of the nation decided on the Brenner Pass, this rabbit yet again raises his voice waving his paws in terror to recommend such cowardliness? And will you permit, young people, that outside of here the official voice of the country is drowned out by those who invoke an Italian destiny broken half way up Val d’Adige, with Bavarian helmets twenty kilometers from Trento? So, have him locked up, this malignant citizen, and act, young people, so that all his representatives are eliminated forever from a redeemed and regenerated Trentino.

52 Un ordine del giorno dei volontari trentini sulla questione dell’Alto Adige, in “Il Secolo”, December 31, 1918.


 Mirko Saltori

He added two days later that “the Bolzano Military Authorities had taken suitable measures to forbid the local newspapers from reproducing the well-known article in the “Secolo” by the lawyer Stefenelli, which would have generated a disastrous response of surprise and worse still among the population, and disgust in the Army”53. This was clearly a preview, in form and substance, of the intimidatory approaches that would become standard practice just a few years later. But let us return to Bissolati. He resigned from the government in the days as Stefenelli’s letter, due to disagreements with Sonnino (December 28), and on December 29 in Rome gave an interview to William Miller, correspondent of the “Morning Post” of London54, which was published on January 6, 1919. Bissolati actively sustained the renunciation of Dalmatia, the Dodecanese islands, and German South Tyrol. On this final point he was clear: as for German population of Northern Tyrol, Signor Bissolati said that the Italians of Trentino objected to having a German element incorporated in the same state as themselves. He considered that a German population, if annexed to Italy, would be a source of trouble, and he would therefore draw the Northern Frontier of Italy a little to the north of Bolzen, but so as to include the Ladin valleys, which he, as an Alpinist knows well. The Ladins, being of Latin race and speaking a dialect akin to Italian, should, of course, be included in Italy, to which they racially belong55. Obviously, the repercussions in Trentino were enormous. “La Libertà” stated in an article that up until then they had maintained “complete reserve on the issue”, but that, remaining “silent

53 The two letters, as far as is known unpublished, are in Trento, Biblioteca Communale, BCT55 (Renè Preve Ceccon archive), 67/1.3. This episode is also mentioned by Tolomei himself in his memoirs, using almost the same terms and adding that the most serious aspect was that this article “Bore the signature of a Trentino MP, of a standing that in all other aspect of private and public life I continued to consider deserving of full respect. It was necessary to demolish him and he was demolished” (E. Tolomei, Memorie di vita, Milano 1948, p. 397). There is still no biographical study on Antonio Stefenelli; however, see U. Corsini, Il Trentino e l’Alto Adige, p. 161 (the entire essay is of great general interest) and U. Corsini, Il colloquio Degasperi-Sonnino, as well as the recent G. Berti, Breve storia della famiglia Stefenelli di Torbole con particolare riferimento alla figura dell’avvocato Antonio Stefenelli (1863–1951), in “La Giurisdizione di Penede”, 26, 2018, 50, pp. 49–63. 54 And collaborator of Seton Watson and of “The New Europe”, as noted by A. Frangioni, Salvemini e la Grande guerra. Interventismo democratico, wilsonismo, politica delle nazionalità, Soveria Mannelli 2011, p. 204. Frangioni rightly observed that Bissolati had probably “entrusted his hope to see his own political peace project fulfilled to a sort of ‘external constraint’, in other words the weight that the Wilsonian ideas would carry in the Peace Conference”, thereby accrediting himself as the “main Wilsonian reference in Italy”. The volume is very analytical of the context of Bissolati’s affirmations over those days and on the consequences of the same (ibid., pp. 199–228). 55 Now the interview is printed in A. Frangioni, Salvemini e la Grande guerra, pp. 245 ff. The “Corriere della Sera”, in the translation of the interview, did not include the section regarding the Ladin people, which instead appears translated in the newspaper of the Trentino liberals: Le dichiarazioni di Bissolati sui nuovi confini d’Italia. Il pensiero dei Trentini concorda con la volontà nazionale. L’intervista della “Morning Post”, in “La Libertà”, January 10–11, 1919, p. 1. For the (negative) reactions of Trentino Catholics, see Una pensata dell’on. Bissolati, in “Il Nuovo Trentino”, January 13, 1919, p. 1.

Conceiving a “Just” Peace for Trentino 


is now impossible. It would seem like absenteeism, or worse than absenteeism, complicity with those who counter the consolidation of the victories of the Italian forces”. It hypothesized that someone had misled Bissolati, leading him to believe in a feeling among Trentino people that in reality did not exist (but on this point we will see Bissolati reply himself, indicating his “informers”). The article added: for us the people of Trentino there does not exist nor can there exist an issue of Alto Adige understood in the common sense as Italian territory only up to a certain point, to be annexed for reasons of military security of the victorious Italian state; but there is instead a problem of sorting out the Alto Adige area as an integral part of Venezia Tridentina and only in relation to the vital interests of the Greater Homeland56.

A few days later, on January 11, 1919, there was the famous speech at La Scala, interrupted by the commotion guided by Mussolini and Filippo Tommaso Marinetti57. The fixed points are those already noted. Bissolati added: “As long as Austria kept them united in a single body, the Tyrolese were the oppressors and the Trentino people the oppressed. I do not believe the Trentino people relish the idea of swapping roles […]. The sole argument in favor of such a conquest is the strategic argument”. The risk is that Italy, as France is already attempting, will embrace the project of “preventing the German people, simply because they are defeated, from uniting together in national unity, a project that Italy must counter with all its strength if they want the League of Nations to become a reality”. Bissolati then revealed speaking to Trentino socialist friends: “My convictions regarding the annexation of that part of German Tyrol extending from Bolzano to the Brenner Pass are shared by few. They are perhaps the convictions of a solitary soul. However, I know that they are shared by some of my Trentino friends who were brothers in the faith and actions of Cesare Battisti”58. The hunt then began for who was hypothesized as Bissolati’s “Trentino informer”, with “Il Giornale d’Italia” saying this could be the Trentino socialist Antonio Piscel, who together with the liberals Giovanni Lorenzoni and Guido Sartori, was meant to visit America and Wilson. First, however, they met with Sonnino and Bissolati and the latter presented his program, which, according to the newspaper, “on the account of someone present at the meeting”, only Piscel agreed with. It was stated, among various imprecisions and references to the nationalistic will of the Trentino people,

56 Le dichiarazioni di Bissolati sui nuovi confini d’Italia. Il pensiero dei Trentini concorda con la volontà nazionale. La nostra volontà, in “La Libertà”, January 10–11, 1919, p. 1. 57 To date, the most precise and analytical reconstruction of the facts of those days is by G. Scirocco, Sette giorni a Milano: da Wilson a Bissolati (e Mussolini), in P.S. Salvatori (ed.) Nazione e anti-nazione, vol. 2: Il movimento nazionalista dalla guerra di Libia al fascismo (1911–1923), Roma 2016, pp. 177–206. 58 The speech Bissolati was meant to present at La Scala was published with the title La Lega delle Nazioni e la politica italiana in L. Bissolati, La politica estera dell’Italia dal 1897 al 1920. Scritti e discorsi, Milano 1923, pp. 394–414, here pp. 406 f.


 Mirko Saltori

that “even before this meeting Pichel [sic] sustained ideas of boundaries that were very […] retrograde”59. Nevertheless, the same Piscel only a year and a half before in Stockholm had claimed Dalmatia for Italy! Once again there were drastic shifts in position, but also of the objective conditions before and after the conflict. But Piscel was and would always remain faithful to Bissolati (Tolomei defined him as a “Bissolatian socialist”, lending the adjective a very specific weight60), and upon Bissolati’s death, commemorating him in his new periodical, Piscel explicitly stated his agreement with his positions: I am convinced that after the experience of what happened later, many of those who were not capable of perceiving the austere affirmation of truth and justice in the discourse of Bissolati in December 1918, seeing only an act of excessive generosity and unpolitical naivety, today understand or begin to understand how much wisdom and foresight illuminated that vision61.

Almost certainly Bissolati will also have heard from Avancini, even if inexplicably (and hard to believe) the same article of the “Giornale d’Italia” exonerated the latter: “We know for example that Professor Avancini, MP for Trento, predecessor of Cesare Battisti and truly socialist in faith, certainly does not share the convictions of the Hon. Bissolati”, adding that “Bissolati’s talk in the plural was not favorably received even among socialists, who Bissolati would like to make appear as his informers”. Probably there was a confusion between a professor Avancinio Avancini, a Trentino nationalist resident in Milan, and the late Augusto Avancini, a socialist, who was certainly not in favor of the border at the Brenner Pass62. There were protests and public polls organized in the Trentino newspapers that did not want to be tarnished as “backsliders”. And on January 16, at the Teatro Sociale, a political meeting was held for the “Italianness” of Alto Adige, with the official speaker professor Dario Emer (a popular speaker at the time, and among the first protagonists of Trentino Fascism), and the participation by telegram of the widow of Battisti. They voted the following agenda: The citizens of Trento and of Trentino collected in meeting and free of any spirit of reprisal or of malevolence towards the German fraction of Alto Adige and instead ready to welcome them in friendship, contrary to offending their linguistic rights, traditions, and culture, protest against the assertion that the Trentino people are contrary to the annexation of Alto Adige63.

59 M. Malan, La polemica per le sacre rivendicazioni. Chi informò Bissolati, in “Il Giornale d’Italia”, January 16, 1919 (correspondence from Trento dated January 13). 60 Adding however that Piscel was his “personal friend” (E. Tolomei, Memorie, p. 408). 61 A. Piscel, La morte di Bissolati, in “Il Domani di Vallagarina”, May 12, 1920, p. 1. 62 In the copy of the article present in his archive together with other articles on the subject, this passage is significantly annotated by Avancini with question and exclamation marks in lapis blue; Trento, Fondazione Museo storico del Trentino, Archivio Augusto Avancini, busta 2 (ex busta 6 fascicolo 17). 63 Il grandioso comizio per l’italianità dell’Alto Adige. Ordine del giorno, in “Il Nuovo Trentino”, January 17, 1919, p. 2.

Conceiving a “Just” Peace for Trentino 


There were naturally no socialists on the organizing Committee, but it is interesting to note that there were some Catholics, the former MPs to the Viennese Parliament, Enrico Conci64 and Rodolfo Grandi, and the former MP to the Diet of Innsbruck, Valentino Toffol. However, when questioned by the Catholic publication, the former MPs Alcide Degasperi, Guido De Gentili, Conci, and Grandi issued an evasive collective statement (and this evasiveness can certainly be attributed to Degasperi and De Gentili): The question whether our northern boundary line ought to be traced further south or further north is not a regional issue but involves the general interests of the entire nation. These supreme interests are close to the heart of all Italians without distinction, therefore it is obviously unfair to the Trentino population when regional criteria are attributed to them in these issues in conflict with the decisive criterion of national interest65.

On January 18, it was instead an exceptional companion of Bissolati, Gaetano Salvemini, who played an important ace, exploiting his old friendship with Cesare Battisti and using, with a certain contrivance, a letter from the same dated January 1, 1915. Salvemini published the letter in question in his paper “L’Unità”, and it read: As regards Alto Adige, I think that today the Napoleonic boundary can be defended without fear. I have doubts about a border further north. I do not sustain this in public because it does not fall to me, an irredentist, to diminish the value of the general irredentist program. Militarily the Brenner border is formidable, the Napoleonic boundary somewhat weak, the purely linguistic boundary, at Salorno, rather good. I believe that a defence of the territory, whenever extending into Alto Adige, would have to be made from this internal boundary, abandoning Bolzano. But this assessment is very hazardous66.

The original letter has never been found and can be considered lost, but there do not appear to be any philological problems of authenticity. The style is that of Battisti and the arguments congruous with his thought at that time, so it hardly seems possible that it was forged by Salvemini. Shortly before (January 10) the latter had written the following to Ernesta Bittanti:

64 Who in reality always sustained a national line, accentuated during the war by the things he suffered (the confinement to Linz, the dismissal as Capitano Provinciale, etc.). See his memoirs in E. Conci, Ricordi di un deputato trentino al tramonto dell’Impero (1896–1918), edited by M. Sartori, Trento 2013. 65 Una dichiarazione dei deputati trentini, in “Il Nuovo Trentino”, January 13, 1919, p. 3. 66 The passage was originally published in G. Salvemini, L’Alto Adige, in “L’Unità”, January 18, 1919, then in C. Pischedda (ed.), Opere di Gaetano Salvemini, vol. 3/2: Scritti di politica estera. Dalla guerra mondiale alla dittatura (1916–1925), Milano 1964, pp. 487–490, here p. 487; now in C. Battisti, Epistolario, vol 1, edited by R. Monteleone and P. Alatri, Firenze 1966, pp. 387–389, and in V. Calì (ed.), Salvemini e i Battisti. Carteggio 1894–1957, Trento 1987, p. 89.


 Mirko Saltori

You will be following, I trust, the action of Bissolati, which will remain in the history of these years as a title of honor for Italy. We must admire this man. I have a letter from Battisti from January 1, 1915, that matches Bissolati’s ideas. I would like to publish it. But I do not dare to do so without your consent. Do you have any other letters regarding Dalmatia? Can you indicate anyone who might? I would like to publish everything, if you do not object, and if you can send me a copy. Needless to say, I will never name the person who provides me with letters, because you must not become involved in these discussions. The person who needs to be heard today is Battisti. This is my opinion. Understanding, of course, that all this is subordinate to your wishes67.

As we know, Bittanti was anything but in agreement with Bissolati at this time, but she must nevertheless have given her consent (her letter of reply has never been traced), although it has to be borne in mind that this was during the days prior to the speech at La Scala and the uproar it triggered. It does not matter here to what extent that letter might have represented the opinion of Battisti regarding the boundary as it evolved during the war. In reality, this opinion came to include all of Alto Adige and to aspire towards full assimilation (but without suppression) of the German speaking South Tyrolean people, as shown in his answers in the abovementioned questionnaire, as well as in a number of his letters68. What is clear is that the use of Battisti here is “contrived” and instrumentalized by Salvemini, although certainly in good faith. He was seeking to give the most noble possible support to his friend Bissolati, who instead had brought his political career to an end with that failed speech. The Salvemini-Bissolati discourse in any case enjoyed little success, even in Trentino, where instead a complex of dynamics was already emerging around a growing nationalism, a nationalism that foreboded, also in terms of media aggression, what was soon to come about in Italy, and in specific “ethnic” terms in Alto Adige.

67 V. Calì (ed.), Salvemini e i Battisti, p. 109. 68 On this and other manipulations as regards the thoughts of Battisti on the border, the Trentino historian Umberto Corsini has made contentious but lucid and acceptable observations in a number of his works; see, for example, U. Corsini, Per una polemica su Battisti, in “Clio”, 4, 1968, 2, pp. 272–275.

III. From Hope to Disenchantment

Laurence van Ypersele

The Media and the Transition from War to Peace The Role of the Media in the Popular Violence of November 1918, Belgium

1 Introduction On November 22, 1918, this extraordinary extract appeared in “Le Peuple”: [In Bruges and Ghent] women known to have been intimate with the Germans had their heads shaved, were undressed and exposed in public places. [… While on the outskirts of Brussels] soldiers assembled about fifteen of these creatures known for their misconduct with the Boche. After cutting their hair off, they paraded them through the village in carts, dressed only in their undershirts. The women were only liberated near Schaerbeek and had to return to the village wearing pointed helmets.

Considering the graphic nature of this narrative, it would be easy to assume that this socialist newspaper was a tabloid. However, “Le Peuple: was no sensationalist rag and its description only highlighted the widespread nature of popular violence in Belgium at the end of 1918. As soon as German troops began to withdraw, everywhere in Belgium – Ghent, Bruges, Ostend, Brussels, Tongeren, Namur, Liege, etc. – local people began attacking both property and people. Shop windows were broken, houses ransacked, farms burnt, men were harassed, and women’s heads shaved. The police were unable to cope, and the military had to be called in. People who had suffered daily under German occupation sought out targets for revenge after four years of deprivation, misery, and humiliation. Nevertheless, these outbursts were rarely lethal and were essentially controlled and ritualized forms of violence rooted in the charivari of the Ancien Régime1. The media’s role in the violence that accompanied the end of the war in Belgium is still unclear. Belgian newspapers, freed from the censorship of the German occupiers, re-emerged quickly. The press was (and remains) ambiguous by nature, guiding 1 These rituals of violence which allowed social regulation by communities had disappeared from our lands during the second half of the nineteenth century. However, they suddenly resurfaced in August 1914, at the time of the German ultimatum, but only against property; and then in November 1918, this time also against the people. Translation: Matthew Haultein-Gall


 Laurence van Ypersele

public opinion at least as much as reflecting it. It was thus a full-fledged societal actor that could adopt different attitudes. It could describe events while guiding interpretations, stir up discontent and legitimize excesses, or conversely denounce troublemakers and call for calm.

2 An initially complacent press Belgian newspapers initially adopted rather ambiguous positions regarding the outbursts of popular violence. None of the newspapers surveyed – even those most committed to public order – strongly condemned the excesses, which were assessed as regrettable but understandable. Most of them, like the very liberal “Matin d’Anvers”, simply reminded their readers that “it is forbidden for anyone to impose justice for themselves […] This is unacceptable, inadmissible”2, while denouncing the negligence of the authorities responsible for maintaining law and order. While Liège’s liberal paper, “La Meuse” spoke of a “summary justice which certainly infringes legality, but which a certain public approves of at this time”3. However, most newspapers clearly stirred up resentment and desire for revenge through their manner of reporting events. Two days after its reappearance, on November 21, 1918, “Le Peuple” announced that at Nivelles the reprisals against those who had traded with the occupier had begun. Hundreds of buildings, mostly cafés “frequented by the Germans had their windows broken and their furniture destroyed by the crowd”4. The same day, “Le Matin d’Anvers” reported cases of “popular justice with so-called judgements and convictions”5. Newspapers printed long, detailed lists of butchers’, bakeries, cafés, and other businesses that had been attacked by the population. This journalistic precision in identifying the targets of popular hatred contrasted starkly with the vagueness of the same newspapers in naming the perpetrators of the violence. For example, the Catholic newspaper “La Libre Belgique” noted: In Tirlemont/Tienen, in Tongres and in other localities, barely had the last German left, when a mob rushed to attack the houses of activists and traitors. Despite the efforts of the police, the mob raided everything. In Liege, the population’s anger was devastating. The first accounts to come from the city after communication had been restored, noted that during the nights of Monday and Tuesday, the destruction of German shops or those suspected of “Bochism” continued. The Tietz6 house on the rue de l’Université was completely emptied. […] It was the same on

2 “Le Matin”, November 21, 1918, p. 1. 3 “La Meuse”, November 28, 1918, p. 2. 4 “Le Peuple”, November, 21, 1918, p. 2. 5 “Le Matin”, November 21, 1918, p. 1. 6 Note that the Tietz family, of German origin, had been living in Belgium for several generations. It also had stores in Brussels and Antwerp. The Tietz stores in Brussels, moreover, were the first to

The Media and the Transition from War to Peace 


rue Léon Mignon […]. The wreckers who displayed a frenzied hatred were interspersed with individuals who plundered shamelessly and generally operated when the former had left. The police arrested several of them. The same scenes as those in Liège took place in Seraing and Jemappes. All shops that had traded with the Germans were visited by expert and prompt demolishers. Furniture, linen, stoves, everything was thrown into the street and broken7.

Here and there, people tore down Belgian flags displayed by suspected “unpatriotic” civilians, preventing them from rejoicing with the community as a whole8. In Verviers, the violence of November 26 and 27, 1918, no longer seemed spontaneous at all, but well organized: the “vigilantes” – whose watchword was “no theft” – now acted methodically, systematically, and according to a pre-established list9. The police were overwhelmed and powerless. It can thus be observed that in some cases, acts of violence were perpetrated under the influence of spontaneous anger, and these were depicted in a sympathetic light by the press, while in other cases there were skillfully orchestrated acts of collective violence committed by small groups, about which the newspapers did not assume a clear position. The attitude of the press in general (with the exception of the socialist press) was even more ambiguous when it came to violence against women. The media’s way of recounting this violence, which reflected contemporary public feelings, excused all excesses. For example, “L’Etoile Belge”, a liberal newspaper based in Brussels, reported the incidents that occurred on November 19, 1918, in the vicinity of Schaerbeek in impressive detail: A vaudeville scene took place in Evere on Tuesday afternoon. Arriving at about two o’ clock, several soldiers from various services of the armed forces first went to an estaminet in the center of the village and whose boss, during the whole occupation, had never ceased to show a deep sympathy for the Boche. In fact, before leaving Belgium, the Germans had left him photos of themselves in memory of the excellent relations they had had with him. […] Our brave soldiers carefully removed the Boche’s photos, which they slipped into their pockets, and then coldly,

be attacked by the angry Belgian population on August 3, 1914! Indeed, the joint announcement of the German ultimatum and the Belgian refusal caused a wave of indignation and anger. In large cities, such as Brussels and Antwerp, where the German residents were numerous, there were mainly, from August 3–7, anti-German demonstrations and some non-lethal overflows. Cf. F. Collard, Les violences populaires belges contre les Allemands en août 1914, Louvain-la-Neuve 2004, pp. 88 and 170–174. In Liège, which also had a large German colony, the start of the war was experienced against a background of particular anxiety linked to its strategic position: German residents were expelled from August 3, but the city was occupied from August 7; cf. J. de Thiers / O. Gilbart, Cinquante mois d’occupation allemande, vol. I: Liège Héroïque, Bruxelles 1919, p. 42 7 “La Libre Belgique”, November 30, 1918, p. 2. 8 Note the same phenomenon in Alsace-Lorraine; cf. B. Cabanes, La victoire endeuillée. La sortie de guerre des soldats français (1918–1920), Paris 2003, pp. 171–180. 9 C. Liégeois, Mémorial verviétois, Verviers s.d., pp. 585 f.; quoted by M.-C. Dardenne, Punir les “traîtres à la Patrie”. La répression de l’incivisme dans l’arrondissement de Verviers après la Première Guerre mondiale (1918–1921), UCL, mémoire de licence en histoire, inédit, Louvain-la-Neuve, 2004, p. 73.


 Laurence van Ypersele

methodically, without shouting, began to destroy the cabaret. […] With that done, our heroes of the Yser, joined by many villagers, began to search for women who had misbehaved with the Germans. Fifteen of these viragos, including a 48-year-old woman, were soon gathered together and the soldiers, armed with scissors, cut off their hair. The whole village rushed out to watch and the taunts and jeers rained down upon these courtesans. When this operation was completed, the soldiers collected pointed helmets and grey caps from all over the village and thrust them on women’s shorn heads before attaching the photos of the Boche to them. Once this was done, the soldiers tied the women’s hands and lifted them onto two carriages. This procession meandered through the village before finally arriving near Schaerbeek. There the women were taken out of their vehicles; their clothes were torn off, leaving only their undershirts, and they were released, with great care taken to ensure their bonds and headwear were not removed. And it was in this burlesque outfit that they returned home, traversing the whole village. None protested against the punishment. Other soldiers submitted certain women in Molenbeek and Schaerbeek to a similar fate. The police let the vigilantes do their business, simply recommending that they do not hit these sad creatures, a recommendation which was rigorously respected. In the evening, at about 6 o’clock groups of young boys armed with old pots and various instruments walked along the boulevards of the center singing: “Aan de duitsche wijven moet men het haar afsnijden!”. (To the Germans wives, you will have to cut your hair)10.

It is hard to imagine, in the atmosphere that reigned at the end of the war, that any person would be stupid enough to leave compromising photos in plain sight. But no matter how implausible this story may have been, what is remarkable is the way a liberal newspaper described and legitimized violence against women. The article begins by diametrically opposing the infamous landlord to the heroic soldiers of the Yser, then transfers, via the photos, the incontrovertible guilt of the landlord on to the women of whom we know nothing, except that they did not protest their treatment. In other words, any doubt as to their guilt is dispelled: these women, with their resigned silence, acknowledge their faults and, at the same time, legitimized the punishment they were subjected to. According to an article in “La Flandre Libérale”, which mentioned the escape of prostitutes from Ghent when the Belgian troops arrived, these women expected this punishment: “The precipitation of the departure of these ladies was mainly due to the desire to escape popular vengeance and to avoid having their heads shaved”11. Consequently, there was no need to pity them, especially since these women were often suspected of wanting to seduce valiant Belgian and allied soldiers12.

10 “L’Étoile Belge”, November 21, 1918, p. 2: “Le châtiment commence”. 11 “La Flandre Libérale”, December 3, 1918, p. 2: “Qu’on ouvre l’œil”: “The rush for the ladies’ departure was mainly due to the desire to escape popular revenge and not have their hair cut. Since the German smell has disappeared and we breathe the clean and comforting air of reclaimed freedom, the love merchants are gradually returning to their favorite places. We even meet wearing a wig, and the blond curls falling on their nape give them false angelic gaits […] It would be advisable that a strict surveillance was exerted on the residences which shelter these hétaïres and that radical measures be taken”. 12 Cf. the abundant letters from readers published in the Catholic newspaper of Namur, “Vers l’Avenir”, in November and December 1918.

The Media and the Transition from War to Peace 


This did not, however, lessen the degree of humiliation experienced by these women, which is clear from a few rare articles that recount the “mad terror” that seized some victims. For instance, “L’Étoile Belge” published a story that described both the legitimate anger of a soldier towards his unfaithful wife, as well as the woman’s panic, inducing her to throw herself into a canal: One of our heroes of the Yser learned when he returned to Brussels that, during his absence, his wife had taken a Boche for a friend and that this union had not been a sterile one. The Teuton had gone back to Germany taking the baby with him. As for the woman, she had stayed here because she was unable to obtain a passport. On Saturday evening [November 23, 1918] our friend was walking down the boulevard Anspach with a few comrades, when suddenly he found his adulterous wife in front of him. Furious, he threw himself at her, ripped off her hat and, armed with a pair of scissors, cut off her hair. A crowd of several hundred people were present at the scene, yelling and shouting. The woman, panic-stricken, ran away in the direction of la Bourse. There, she was grabbed and, her clothes were shredded. Soldiers rushed from their posts at la Bourse, dragged the unfortunate woman away from the mob and took her to their quarters. An hour later, once the curious onlookers had dispersed, the woman stealthily left the post. But her anxiety was still so great that she was barely on the street before she became hysterical. She rushed to the Porte de Flandre and jumped into the water. When she was finally recovered from the canal, she was unconscious. She had to be taken to the hospital13.

Whatever the truth of this anecdote, which is rather dubious14, it is again how the story is recounted that is interesting insofar as it reflects the widespread mentality of the time. Indeed, in this account, the legitimacy of the soldier’s anger was such that it left no room either for any error as to the guilt of the woman, nor for any questioning of the soldier’s own fidelity. This meant that the wives of soldiers, the wives of heroes, were even less forgivable than women whose husbands had not been mobilized. Even though the latter women had the support of their husbands to more effectively resist the occupying soldiers. The extreme morality expected of soldiers’ wives was reflected in the guilt of both soldiers and civilians. For the soldiers, this guilt derived from their inability to defend their families in occupied countries, when the moral demands emerge as the inverted mirror of the sexual fantasies experienced by soldiers too long deprived of women, as well as their fear of being dishonored by the enemy through the bodies of women. The burden of guilt also fell on civilians, and with added weight because they had not even defended their homeland on the front lines15. While the central role given to soldiers in press accounts was greatly exagger-

13 Cf. “L’Étoile Belge”, November 25, 1918, p. 2: “Un mari qui se venge”. 14 Indeed, on November 23, 1918, on the steps of the Stock Exchange a woman was designated to the crowd by two men. But it was a mistake and the woman filed a complaint: the two men were condemned in 1920. 15 Many Belgians in August 1914 were not called up for military service. Indeed, the limited compulsory military service (one son per family) dates from 1909 and the generalized military service only entered into force in 1913.


 Laurence van Ypersele

ated, it was not completely invented if credence is afforded to contemporary witnesses like the Flemish poet Karel Van de Woestijne16, and the soldier Jacques Pirenne17. In any case, the participation of soldiers of the Yser in the popular uprisings appears to have matched the wishes of public opinion and popular imagination, since there were no reports that suggest otherwise in the newspapers of the time. It is also significant that these ritualized assaults on women accused of sleeping with the enemy equated them with prostitutes suffering from venereal diseases. In other words, any idea of sincere love towards a German was excluded, as well as any form of non-sexual contact. However, the vast majority of the women convicted by the Belgian courts were charged with denouncing fellow citizens to the enemy, which was something quite different18. While the press showed understanding towards those involved in outbreaks of popular violence to the point of complacency, at the same time it also called for calm and for Belgians to have confidence in the judicial authorities, as this excerpt from the “Bulletin liégeois” on November 26 shows: We understand very well the hatred, the spirit of vengeance and anger that has festered in us for so long against those who maintained close relationships with the enemy. We knew that this hatred would erupt one day. But let us not turn to vigilante justice, let us wait for our courts to act. Anger is often a blind and bad counsellor19.

Three days later, the “Gazette de Liège” repeated these sentiments: We deeply deplore this system of repression against certain citizens. We understand. But who should have the role of judging [these citizens]? Let us not forget that as the armies advance, the Belgian justice system is resuming its functions. We have to trust it. It will certainly not let any crime go unpunished. Belgian citizens are entitled to all the guarantees granted by our laws. Let us not darken these days of triumph with violence and crime20.

On the whole, the popular violence was neither entirely legitimized nor completely condemned until December 1918. However, reading between the lines, the unease can

16 The Flemish poet Karel Van de Woestijne (1878–1929) reports in his diary that in a village near Brussels a crowd of civilians and soldiers attacked women and branded them with a hot iron on the forehead (quoted by S. de Schaepdrijver, La Belgique et la Première Guerre mondiale, Bruxelles 2004, p. 289). Furthermore, it is clear that veterans’ associations quickly mobilized to demand more harshness from the courts. 17 J. Pirenne, Mémoires et notes politiques, Verviers 1975, pp. 89–91. 18 Women do not represent more than 10% of collaboration cases. Most of them are charged with denunciation and tried before the criminal courts. Thus, for example, of the 1,076 trials reported in “La Nation belge”, only 82 involved women, including 62 for denunciation, nine for supplies to the enemy, eight for espionage, and three for having given asylum to German soldiers. These women are generally referred to as “despicable shrews” or women with “light customs”, without further comment. 19 “Le Bulletin liégeois”, November 26, 1918, p. 2. 20 “Gazette de Liège”, November 29, 1918, p. 2.

The Media and the Transition from War to Peace 


clearly be seen in the increasingly sober, even laconic tone adopted by both Frenchand Dutch-language newspapers.

3 A press that calls for calm After several weeks, the tone of the media changed. In Liège, for example, where the situation degenerated again from November 27 onwards21, the local press became increasingly concerned with what was happening and reiterated its calls for calm. Nor was it only in the cities that the situation deteriorated. The countryside also experienced disturbing violence: near Seraing, Angleur, and Verviers, dozens of farms were attacked by hundreds of men22. One week later, the media’s empathy for seemingly legitimate desires for revenge gave way to the denunciation of “looters”, now labelled as troublemakers and outlaws23, even “embochés”. Professional looters and thieves, fugitives, sad characters who worked for the Krauts. The justice system, with the help of the army, is determined to vigorously repress these vulgar scoundrels who operate criminally. To the honest people who rightly demand the punishment of the monopolizers, rural and urban exploiters of the people, traders with the enemy, the embochés of both sexes, we say: calm and patience. Justice will prevail, there is no doubt!24.

The mayor of Liège, Valère Hénault, subsequently took rigorous measures against the looters, in agreement with the military authorities and with the approval of the press. Moreover, these cases of looting were the first to be tried in the province of Liège, before the cases of traitors to the patrie. For example, the “Gazette de Liège”, in 1919, recounted the trial of a pork butcher from Liège, Émile David, who, on November 25, 1918, “defended his shop from looters by shooting into the crowd, killing two and

21 Cf. “Gazette de Liège”, November 28, 1918, p. 2, reports that houses with a “boche tendency” are destroyed, that taverns, butchers, bakeries, etc. are attacked. “La Libre Belgique”, November 30, 1918, p. 2, reports that five women “whose relations with the Germans were scandalous […] had their heads completely shaved”. Bur “La Meuse”, November 29, 1918, p. 2, speaks only of two women. One week before, “Le Peuple”, November 21, 1918, p. 1, laconically reported that a “woman had her hair cut”. Whatever the divergences noted, the reality of the overflows is confirmed by the judicial archives of the General Prosecutor’s Office of Liège. Thus, for example, the Pondant couple, accused by A. Pahaut of having denounced it to the Germans and of reselling the foodstuffs of the National Committee (in fact it is a quarrel of neighborhood which will end in a dismissal), saw their house destroyed on November 28, 1918, and the wife was shorn. Cf. Liège, Archives de l’Etat à Liège, Parquet général, Guerre 14–18, Affaire Pondant-Leroux, boite 9, interrogatoire de V. Pondant du 3 décembre 1920). 22 Some of them will be arrested by English or Canadian troops! Others, more numerous, by the Belgian military police. About the arrests in Liège, see “Gazette de Liège”, November 27, 1918, p. 2. 23 Cf. “La Meuse”, December 2, 1918, p. 2. 24 Extract from the “Journal de Huy”, taken up by the “Gazette de Liège”, December 6, 1918, p. 2.


 Laurence van Ypersele

injuring two”25. The trial took place on November 20, 1919: the accused was pardoned under the law of August 28, 191926, but was ordered to pay ten thousand francs in damages to the families of the two people killed. The verdicts were therefore swift and the sentences surprisingly light. Such circumstances did not provoke any reaction from the newspapers of Liège. This was undoubtedly the price for a return to order. At the same time, this does not mean that these “victims” of popular violence were not subsequently tried for their actions allegedly committed during the German occupation27. From the beginning of 1919, popular violence perpetrated by angry mobs disappeared. There were still some sporadic outbreaks, but these occurred in a different context. Typical causes for these exasperated outbursts were more often the controversial release of suspects, and the perceived slowness of the justice system. Francophone newspapers reported on this violence in order to call for faster and more severe legal action. On August 16, 1919, “La Nation Belge” assumed the role of spokesperson for exasperated veterans, warning the authorities in passages like the following: Are we going to have a Revolution? It may be upon us again while a strong animosity continues to reign amongst the populations of certain regions against the nefarious citizens who traded with the enemy, and especially against a justice system, lame in action and blind in its reasoning, which is careful not to judge them too harshly, this dissatisfaction is particularly pronounced amongst demobilized soldiers, who speak of becoming vigilantes and carrying out the sentences themselves. Not being professional judges, we may not have all the usual assurances about the fairness of the sentences passed down by the brave jass, but we can be sure that their execution will leave nothing to be desired28.

Conversely, “La Libre Belgique” recalled that, in March 1920, the popular riots of August 1919 in Ciney were very costly:

25 “Gazette de Liège”, November 8, 1919, p. 5. 26 This law amnesties all offenses committed before August 4, 1919, resulting in a sentence of less than one year in prison. This law, in fact, made it possible to pardon the perpetrators of violence against anti-socialists in the aftermath of the Armistice. For example, in Verviers, in November 1919, thirteen people, including two women and a minor, who had attacked an alleged “hoarder” were dismissed under the amnesty law August 1919 (Liège, Archives de l’État à Liège, Tribunal de première instance de Verviers, COR 17 (19) 52, dossier Pm, no. 94). 27 Indeed, Emile David, who is not a butcher but a horse dealer, was arrested on November 27, 1918, and prosecuted in Assisi for traffic with the enemy. But is it the same person? Emile David, horse dealer, born in 1886, is prosecuted in a case of horse trafficking with the enemy (art. 115 of the Criminal Code). Arrested and imprisoned on November 27, 1918, his arrest warrant was dated December 4, 1918. The case was returned to Assisi. But in his file, there is no mention either of the death of two people or of his trial in 1919. On the other hand, a report by the Liège police, dated January 16, 1919, indicates that the house of Léonard David (also a horse dealer, born in 1859) was pillaged on November 26, 1918. Cf. Liège, Archives de l’Etat à Liège, Parquet Général, Guerre 14–18, affaire Emile David, boîte 26, doc. 10 bis. 28 “La Nation Belge”, August 16, 1919, p. 1.

The Media and the Transition from War to Peace 


Popular justice is expensive. On August 4, many Cinacians, unhappy with the judicial system’s slow prosecution of citizens already indicted in public opinion of having traded with the enemy, organized a protest demonstration. The protesters, numbering some two thousand, roamed the streets, shouting threateningly in front of certain homes. Windows were shattered under a hail of stones and demonstrators paid visits to numerous dwellings. The town of Ciney, sued for being responsible for the damage, has just been found guilty by the court of Dinant. It seems that the town will have to foot a bill that will reach about thirty thousand francs!29.

Fig. 1 J. Thiriar, Vendit son corps à l’ennemi, in Bien vu, Bien entendu, Adjugé!, Brussels, 192[?]. Photo by author.

As soon as the judiciary began processing the cases, the violence perpetrated by angry crowds tended to dissipate. The way the press, especially the conservative press, reported the few acts of violence that reappeared reveals that the main subject of discontent was now the slowness and inequity of justice. Popular violence then slowly faded from public discourse and collective consciousness. This is not to say that these events did not scar the memories of those who had been actors or spectators, as testified by a rare document by James Thiriar30, printed in the 1920s. It is a lithograph, entitled, Vendit son corps à l’ennemi (Sold her body to the enemy), depicting a shaved, half-naked woman with a terrified look in her eyes.

29 “La Libre Belgique”, March 6, 1920, p. 2. 30 James Thiriar (1889–1965), Belgian painter whose fame was already well established before 1914. He was part of the Brussels Civic Guard. He fled to London when the Civic Guard was dismissed in


 Laurence van Ypersele

4 Conclusions Everywhere in Belgium, unlike the North of France, the local population engaged in widespread acts of revenge. Does this testify the weakness of the Belgian State31? Perhaps yes, but this explanation alone is not sufficient. Even if it is not possible to trace out a completely accurate picture of these popular outbursts of violence, it is undeniable that the violent acts took place throughout Belgian territory, even in regions where the army was present in support of the largely impotent local police forces. Consequently, further elements need to be identified to explain why these outbursts occurred. I would argue that a key element for consideration is the issue of the representations that were widely disseminated and reinforced by the press. Citizens living in the occupied departements of Northern France were suspected in a more or less widespread, but substantial way of having too easily accommodated the enemy’s presence on French soil, in other words of not fully sharing their nation’s sufferings32. The maintenance of order by heroic and suspicious French soldiers was therefore relatively easy. On the other hand, throughout the conflict occupied Belgium had been a true symbol of national martyrdom, in the very name of which the soldiers had fought33. The dominant conception was one of a unanimous Belgian population suffering heroically, leaving no room for suspicion. Those who had betrayed this common suffering were not seen as true Belgians, and did not merit the sacrifices their countrymen had made for them. This was even more damning for women who had betrayed their heroic husbands – men who had left the country to continue fighting for the homeland34. Popular fury thus combined with that of the soldiers, culmi-

August 1914, then enlisted as a war volunteer; a painter at the front from 1916 to 1918, he remained deeply marked by the war. Conservative, nationalist, and militarist, he would publish a series of caricatures in “La Nation belge”; as well as a collection of 12 satirical lithographs, entitled “Bien vu, bien entendu, adjugé!”, Bruxelles 192[?]. 31 J.-Y. Le Naour, Misères et tourments de la chair durant la Grande Guerre. Les mœurs sexuelles des Français, 1914–1918, Paris 2002, pp. 294 f.; see also J.-Y. Le Naour, Femmes tondues et répression des ‘femmes à Boches’ en 1918, in “Revue d’Histoire moderne et contemporaine”, 47, 2000, 1, pp. 148–158. 32 Cf. A. Becker, Oubliés de la Grande Guerre. Humanitaire et culture de guerre, 1914–1918. Populations occupées, déportés civils, prisonniers de guerre, Paris 1998; J.-Y. Le Naour, Les désillusions de la libération d’après le contrôle postal civil de Lille (octobre 1918–mars 1919), in “Revue du Nord”, 80, 1998, 325, pp. 393–404. 33 As evidenced by a series of letters from soldiers written at the front and kept at the Royal Museum of the Armed Forces and of Military History. So, for example, Lieutenant-Colonel De Posch wrote in 1917: “The ones I pity the most are our unhappy compatriots who have stayed in the country and who must be having a very hard time at the moment” (Brussels, Musée Royal de l’Armée et d’Histoire Militaire, Fonds Personnalia 1914–1918, Lt-C. De Posch, Letter dated August 3, 1917). 34 The absence of suspicion towards occupied Belgium does not in fact mean the absence of fantasies. Belgian soldiers, like any soldier at the front, were deprived of a female presence, at the same time that they found it impossible to monitor the women. This situation will inevitably cause many phantasies among most soldiers: nurses and godmothers of war are perceived both as maternal

The Media and the Transition from War to Peace 


nating in shared, sporadic outbreaks of violence, largely legitimized by the Belgian press. It should be noted that these violent incidents lasted barely more than two weeks, and by mid-December 1918 the return to order was more or less assured. Or at least, apart from a few minor exceptions, the newspapers no longer reported any.

angels and prostitutes. But the particular situation of Belgian soldiers will provoke contradictory feelings: both the fear that their family will be martyred (by the enemy), the guilt of not being able to defend their family (at the hands of the enemy) and the fear of be betrayed by their wife (with the enemy).

Giovanni Bernardini

Media, Propaganda, and Revolution France and the International Spread of Bolshevism in the Wake of World War I

1 Introduction This paper sets out to reconstruct the way in which the French governing and military authorities observed, interpreted, and tried to stem the new Bolshevik regime’s propaganda drive towards the West at the end of the First World War1. I chose to look into the French response largely because they, more than others, nursed the strategic ambition of reorganizing the Old Continent in the aftermath of the war in line with their own security needs. Circulating revolutionary leanings and aspirations, encouraged and backed by the new Moscow leaders, clashed perilously with that ambition. The central episode I will be narrating here is France’s well-known military intervention in the Black Sea between the end of 1918 and the spring of the following year. Though limited in scale, it is of heuristic value for the whole phase extending from the ceasefire to the early 1920s. Choosing this period enables comparison with recent studies by French and international historians on the protracted demobilization after the Great War. The new paradigm contradicts the traditional assumption that the late 1918 armistices marked a clean break in hostilities2. In the past the paradigm of a slow transition from war to peace was chiefly employed by those exploring the political, social, economic, and cultural consequences within each of the individual countries involved, and attempts at comparison are rare3. More recently scholars have begun applying it in an international and transnational context, helping to place the long-

1 For a closer look at the impressive propaganda machine that the Bolshevik regime began to construct as soon as they came to power, see the classic study by P. Kenez, The Birth of the Propaganda State. Soviet Methods of Mass Mobilization, 1917–1929, Cambridge 1985. 2 S. Audoin-Rozeau / C. Prochasson (eds.), Sortir de la Grande Guerre. Le monde et l’après–1918, Paris 2008. 3 In the case of France, for thoughts on the “second mobilization” coinciding with Georges Clemenceau’s rise to power in late 1917 and spilling over into the immediate postwar period, see S. Audoin-Rozeau / A. Becker / L. Smith, France and the Great War 1914–1918, Cambridge 2003, pp. 138 ff.; E. Alary, La Grande Guerre des civils, 1914–1919, Paris 2013. For Germany, see R. Bessel, Germany after the First World War, Oxford 1993; for Italy, see P. Corner / G. Procacci, The Italian Experience of ‘Total’ Mobilization, in J. Horne (ed.), State, Society and Mobilization in Europe during the First World War, Cambridge 1997, pp. 223–240. Translation: Ralph Nisbet


 Giovanni Bernardini

drawn-out peace negotiations within the broader, more troubled scenario of continent-wide reorganization4. This did not conclude earlier than the mid 20s, and in the process inducing political tensions between states, and between states and certain transnational movements, which continued unchecked despite the fact that war as such had officially ended5.

2 Media and the (post)war The world of the media was part and parcel of these dynamics, as well as being a driving force behind them. It acted as a powerful interlinkage between the widespread perception of how conditions were developing within each country, and people’s awareness of the international scenario. The First World War raised modernism to paroxysmal pitch, unleashed a Pandora’s Box6 of political, social, economic, and international tensions after decades of latency, and deviated the fruits of an epoch of progress towards their most negative forms of expression (mass mobilization, mechanization of warfare, scientific planning of the war economy). Clearly, the increasingly sophisticated field of mass media was not going to be exempt from such developments7. Involvement of the media followed two complementary directions in all the countries involved and these would leave an enduring mark even after the end of hostilities. On one hand, the media was a government driven theater of action that spared no effort and embraced all information media in a sweeping propaganda drive that targeted their own population as much as their enemies or neutral nations. The First World War “came at a time when a variety of interacting political, social, commercial, military and technological factors had produced a very wide range of media through which propaganda could be disseminated”8. By the time war ended, “most

4 See, for instance, B. Cabanes, The Great War and the Origins of Humanitarianism, 1918–1924, Cambridge 2014, p. 10; for a regional study, T.G. Fraser, The First World War and Its Aftermath. The Shaping of the Modern Middle East, London 2015. 5 In recent years a benchmark volume has appeared, R. Gerwarth, The Vanquished: Why the First World War Failed to End, 1917–1923, London 2016; see also P. Gatrell, War after the War: Conflicts, 1919–1923, in J. Horne (ed.), A Companion to World War I, Oxford 2012, pp. 558–575. 6 J. Leonhard, Die Büchse der Pandora. Geschichte des Ersten Weltkriegs, München 2014. 7 On the role of the media in generating national mythologies while the war was still in progress, see J.F. Williams, Modernity, the Media and the Military. The Creation of National Mythologies on the Western Front 1914–1918, London 2009. On the relationship between technological development and political control during and after the war, D. Winseck / R.M. Pike, The Global Media and the Empire of Liberal Internationalism, circa 1910–1930, in “Media History”, 15, 2009, 1, pp. 31–54. 8 S. Badsley, Propaganda: Media in War Politics, in “1914–1918 OnLine”, Version 1.0, last updated October 8, 2014, https://encyclopedia.1914–

Media, Propaganda, and Revolution 


of the principles and many of the techniques of modern propaganda were worked out in such detail that subsequent practitioners would do little more than elaborate upon them”9. The other facet of direct governmental involvement was systematic censorship as an indispensable weapon of war. Censorship was only expected to succeed if “divergent sources of information can be suppressed as much as possible”10, and so thorough and incisive measures were taken in all belligerent countries as soon as war broke out. The primary aim, understandably, was to safeguard military information about strategy and troop movements. However, control soon escalated radically into the political sphere, and a search began for anything suspected of criticizing the authorities’ handling of the war effort, sowing seeds of insubordination among the people, or simply undermining morale and confidence in victory11. This unprecedented development of technology and communications networks, into which wartime information and culture were channeled for the purposes of propaganda and (home) censorship, gave rise to what Anne Rasmussen has called “phenomenal over-mediation”12. Even at the time it was observed that exhaustion with the protracted war effort made people more aware and less tolerant of the information stranglehold, the monotony of messages broadcast over the media, and the systematic presence of government control. Ironically a point was reached when manipulation of news was taken for granted, even when it did not occur. All this, as Marc Bloch observed in 1921, brought about a “prodigious renewal of oral tradition, the ancient mother of myths and legends”: Wiping out bygone centuries by a daring stroke, beyond the wildest dream of the boldest experimenters, governments reduced the front-line soldier to the means of information and the mental state of olden times before journals, before news sheets, before books13.

So, by a quirk of history the overblown media system and the niggling discipline imposed by the government throughout the long war years ended by producing cracks in the apparently compact surface of standardized nationwide news. In terms of content, this created scope for radical transnational criticism of how the war

9 G.S. Messinger, British Propaganda and the State in the First World War, Manchester 1992, p. 2. On state control of the media system continuing even after radio became widespread during the Twenties, see F. Bösch, Mass Media and Historical Change. Germany in International Perspective, 1400 to the Present, Oxford 2015, pp. 72 ff. 10 E. Demm, “Censorship”, in “1914–1918 OnLine”, Version 2.0, last updated March 29, 2017, https:// encyclopedia.1914– 11 J. Horne, Public Opinion and Politics, in J. Horne (ed.), A Companion to World War I, Oxford 2012, p. 281. 12 A. Rasmussen, Mobilizing Minds, in J, Winter (ed.), The Cambridge History of the First World War, Cambridge 2014, vol. 3, pp. 390–417. 13 M. Bloch, The Historian’s Craft, Manchester 1992, p. 89.


 Giovanni Bernardini

was being conducted and the foreseen handling of peace arrangements. As for the medium, oral transmission and personal testimony seemed a guarantee of authenticity, which instead had been sacrificed by “the lie machine”, fabricated from a combination of propaganda and censorship in the name of wartime objectives. All too soon that combination would spread from the front-line trenches where Bloch observed it, into the hinterland where peacetime ways were slowly returning. For a short but intense interlude the political power that most skillfully exploited this situation was Bolshevism, with propaganda radiating from Moscow across all of Europe.

3 Birth of a mediatized power The October Revolution was the main political novelty to emerge from the morass of the last throes of war. Despite the hectic pace of events and the fragmentary information available, international observers soon came to see the revolution as the logical outcome of a demand for social transformation that was bound to complicate the postwar scene even beyond the Tsarist Empire. Of course, the extent of its influence and chances of success would depend on the ability of victors and vanquished alike to sterilize the continent against the risk of the revolution being imitated elsewhere. A solid and viable social framework was urgently needed to make up for the enormous social and economic hardships of the postwar years14. There was also a remote chance that the winning side might manage, either directly or by supporting Russian anti-Bolshevik forces, to nip the revolution in the bud15. Conversely, the same war victors, especially the French, soon had to face the fact that the still precarious Soviet regime was swiftly putting together an effective, complex communications and propaganda machine, capable of broadcasting its own word far and wide16. In its early years the Soviet state was intrinsically weak. Propaganda, and ‘soft power’ in general, based on idealizing the results of the revolution and exporting them to a Europe fresh from its “inter-imperialist war”, provided the new Moscow leaders with an unconven-

14 On how the Bolshevik issue was dealt with at the Paris Peace Conference, see J.M. Thompson, Russia, Bolshevism, and the Versailles Peace, Princeton NJ 1967. 15 N.H. Gaworek, From Blockade to Trade. Allied Economic Warfare against Soviet Russia, June 1919 to January 1920, in “Jahrbücher für Geschichte Osteuropas”, 23, 1975, 1, pp. 39–69. On allied intervention in Russia, I.C. Moffat, The Allied Intervention in Russia, 1918–1920. The Diplomacy of Chaos, New York 2015; D.S. Foglesong, America’s Secret War Against Bolshevism. U.S. Intervention in the Russian Civil War, 1917–1920, Chapel Hill NC 1995; S. White, Britain and the Bolshevik Revolution. A Study in the Politics of Diplomacy, 1920–1924, London 1979; M.J. Carley, Revolution and Intervention. The French Government and the Russian Civil War 1917–1919, Montreal 1983. 16 On the need for an articulate, professional propaganda machine in keeping with the Russian revolutionary state as a political phenomenon, see P. Kenez, The Birth of the Propaganda State, pp. 4 ff.

Media, Propaganda, and Revolution 


tional weapon they were happy to exploit17. The ultimate pressing goal for Lenin and his companions was to promote social revolution on a global scale, as a necessary condition for the survival of the new regime in Russia18. Of course, the complex relations between the new Russia and the French authorities, prior to establishment of bilateral relations in the mid-20s, cannot be explained entirely in terms of media, communications, and propaganda. There were other wellknown factors: for years resentment and recrimination had made French governments the bitterest enemies of Soviet Russia, which is how Moscow often saw them19. Already in the immediate aftermath of the revolution, the People’s Commissars’ imperious cancellation of the Tsarist regime’s international debt was a direct provocation of France, Moscow’s main creditor. It is still difficult to reach a definitive estimate, but it is realistic to assume that about one-third of foreign capital invested in Russia came from France, especially in the form of a public subscription loan. Failure to repay the debt would cripple broad swathes of the French public, private economic and financial institutions, and the government coffers as well, since the first two categories looked to the latter as guarantor of last resort for sums invested for patently political goals20. When the Bolshevik leaders publicized treaties that the previous regime had agreed with the Entente prior to and during the war, and which were meant to remain secret, this was interpreted as an act of overt hostility in the world of international relations. The episode was considered an unprecedented breach of the rules of traditional diplomacy, clear proof that the new regime was dangerously beyond the pale. Later it would also be interpreted as one of Moscow’s first moves in the propaganda war against the victorious regimes21. Nevertheless, the most recent reconstructions tend to suggest that in the first months after the October Revolution, the official French view of the Bolshevik regime was initially far from uniform. The coexistence of widely divergent opinions was due to French politicians and diplomats being present in large numbers before the Revolution, with all the other allied missions insignificant by comparison, according to John Bradley22. Its inflammatory effect on the social level

17 M. David-Fox, Communism and Intellectuals, in S. Pons / S.A. Smith, The Cambridge History of Communism, vol. 1: World Revolution and Socialism in One Country 1917–1941, Cambridge 2017, p. 528. 18 S. Pons, The Global Revolution. A History of International Communism 1917–1991, Oxford 2012, p. 18. 19 See, for example, a famous speech by the People’s Commissar Cicerin to other members of the Soviet government which French agents reported in minute detail, taking it as evidence of the new Russian regime’s strongly anti-French attitude; Archives du Ministère des Affaires Étrangères (A.M.A.E.), Série Europe 18–40, Sous-Série Russie-U.R.S.S., Dossier 154, Telegram to the Foreign Ministry from French Ambassador in Stockholm, Delavaud, April 19, 1919. 20 H. Slovès, La France et l’Union Soviétique, Paris 1935, pp. 146–150. 21 P.M. Taylor, Munitions of the Mind. A History of Propaganda from the Ancient World to the Present Day, Manchester 1990, p. 203. 22 Bradley points out how this was due precisely to France’s heavy economic involvement in Russia, J. Bradley, Allied Intervention in Russia, Lanham MD 1984, p. 10.


 Giovanni Bernardini

made this Revolution extremely dangerous, with most government circles and the diplomatic world soon concluding that no relations were possible with men who never ceased “to violate people’s rights and threaten the most elementary principles of humanity”23. The very idea of letting such a hotbed of revolution consolidate and prosper seemed a fatal mistake when its existence in the aftermath of war might encourage emulation who knows where across the continent. Yet even as late as the beginning of 1918 some of the military top brass were still in favor of harnessing the new Bolshevik regime in the common cause against the Central Empires, by supplying aid to Moscow and getting western diplomats to defer the issue of the new regime’s legitimacy until the end of hostilities24. For a short period, the military view seemed to favor turning a blind eye to the regime’s political defects in the belief that any momentary control by a compact and resolute (if precarious) Bolshevik government was militarily preferable to a weak government lacking popular support, as Kerensky’s previous rule had been or, worse still, inexplicit chaos. However, all such thoughts vanished when the ‘treacherous’ new lords of Moscow signed a peace treaty with the Central Empires at Brest-Litovsk. This spelled victory for the intransigent faction and the way Russia had withdrawn from the war had long-lasting consequences for France’s ‘official’ view of the Bolshevik phenomenon, as well as the strategy required to oppose it25. During the initial uncertainty following November 1917, Bolshevism tended to be viewed as synonymous with permanent anarchy and disorder, chiefly due to internal factors. It was put down to the abortive general mobilization and the Tsarist regime’s conduct of the war. The “Slavic character” was deemed incompatible with the experiment in liberal democracy ushered in by the April Revolution. Although from the outbreak of war a biased French press had tried to portray Russia as an important military partner for Europe, naturally aligned with Paris in wishing to hold “German barbarism” in check, the Bolshevik victory patently signaled the collapse of institutions and military discipline and inevitably played into the hands of the “Asian disorder” to which the Russian people were prone26. Despite occasional references to a Bolshevik conspiracy being promoted from abroad, the first fears that it might be emulated elsewhere in Europe were confined to situations of similar human and economic prostration, rather than any potential ideological kinship. Only when peace was concluded with the Central Empires did the opinion take root that Bolshevism was a mere device by the Germans to end the war

23 From a letter dated November 12, 1918, from Minister Pichon to P. Cambon, Ambassador of the Republic in London; A.M.A.E., Série Europe 18–40, Sous-Série Russie-U.R.S.S., Dossier 154–155. 24 M.J. Carley, Revolution and Intervention, pp. 34–48. 25 For how the image of Tsarist and then Bolshevik Russia changed in the French political and public debate, see the volume by S. Coeuré, La grande lueur à l’est. Les Français et l’Union Soviétique 1917–1939, Paris 1999. 26 J.-J. Becker / S. Berstein, Histoire del l’anticommunisme, Paris 1987, pp. 19 ff.

Media, Propaganda, and Revolution 


on the eastern front so that they might concentrate their resources and energy into the western front. In retrospect, the famous armored train that the Germans provided for Lenin’s return home came to appear a sinister symbol and confirmed the conspiracy theory. In the new light of peace, it appeared natural that “German military circles”, who were bent on maintaining power behind the scenes during the apparent transition to a republic, would continue to exploit their Bolshevik puppet, no longer (or not only) within Russian frontiers, but on the international scene. It would target those political groups and social strata most responsive to its message of social revolution to overthrow governments of national unity. Bolshevik propaganda, focusing on western Europe, thus became a necessary weapon for Germany’s revenge, or to avoid rightful punishment during the redefinition of the continent that the winners were about to undertake at the Peace Conference27. Alongside this interpretation, the idea gradually began to emerge that, far from being just a kind of permanent anarchy, the new Moscow regime was assuming the appearance of a revolutionary project that was ideologically consistent and strategically organized, features that made its dissemination throughout the world inevitable. The proof lay in the pockets of infection that were already erupting across the continent while war was still raging. Whether or not these were instigated by Moscow, they looked to events in the Russian capital as an example to follow. Germany itself was far from immune to this risk: the Reich’s government had unwisely woken the sleeping beast of social revolution for its own immediate purposes, but the same beast, in the guise of Bolshevism, had escaped the control of its creators who now risked becoming its first victims28. Anti-Germanism blended with anti-revolutionism was used to justify the launch of a sweeping anti-Bolshevik strategy by the French government in the months leading up to and after the end of the war. It culminated in November 1918 when it was decided to send a French army contingent to the Black Sea to protect French interests in the area, though in more concrete terms also to lend support to anti-Bolshevik factions engaged in the civil war there. When French socialists protested at this antagonistic action unaccompanied by any declaration of hostility, the Foreign Minister told the Chamber of Deputies that it was only a logical consequence: Everything we have done against the Bolshevists [sic] in Russia this last year, has been done against Germany […]. Let us face the facts: a peace created in the rest of the world whilst leaving Russia in a state of civil war, under a hateful, abominable government, would not be a lasting

27 For a detailed reconstruction of the “German plot” theory, in which Bolshevism would be allowed to win in Russia and then sweep westwards once the war was over, see F. Monier, Le complot dans la République. Stratégie du secret, de Boulanger à la Cagoule, Paris 1998. 28 Report by the Information Services delivered to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on March 25; A.M.A.E., Série Europe 18–40, Sous-Série Russie-U.R.S.S., Dossier 1150.


 Giovanni Bernardini

peace, would not be a just peace. […] What is the Bolshevik government? According to a report in my possession, the present government in Moscow rules entirely by terror. That tyranny, more terrible than Prussian militarism, is supported by a handful of firebrands29.

4 Intervention and contagion What Minister Pichon failed (or was unwilling) to foresee was that intervention by France in the Black Sea would hand Bolshevik propaganda a golden opportunity for “contaminating” foreign troops with its revolutionary message and provide the French authorities with a full dose of the methodology that Moscow was preparing for that purpose. Allied army contingents of various sizes already occupied diverse stations on the fringes of the Tsarist Empire as early as mid-1918. Their official aim was to prevent the Central Empires from advancing, and to collaborate with forces loyal to the Entente for the re-establishment of the eastern front. British and French troops had occupied the ports of Arkhangelsk and Murmansk in the north-west, while other British contingents were stationed in the Caucasus and a multinational force, largely composed of Japanese and Americans, had taken possession of Vladivostok in the far east. On the southern front, in early October 1918 French premier Georges Clemenceau began paving the way for a military expedition to the Black Sea as part of a bid “to achieve economic encirclement of Bolshevism and bring about its fall”30. In fact, the operation was an integral part of the cordon sanitaire that Clemenceau would outline more fully in months to come. The idea of sending a multinational-looking contingent (though largely French and under French command) was at once warmly supported by Marshal Ferdinand Foch, but less so by the other military top brass and more cautious diplomats. For one thing, it was doubtful whether there would be sufficient troops available at the end of the recent grueling conflict. Of the twelve divisions initially earmarked, only three would be sent to the Ukraine, and in the hectic days of the armistice it was a problem finding enough ships to transport them. The political wisdom of the maneuver was also more generally questioned. Considering that the war against the Central Empires was coming to an end, the operation could hardly be justified as restoring the eastern front. It could appear only as a scheme to combat the Bolshevik regime without any declaration of war or involvement of the French parliament. This would arouse protest from the socialist opposition, not to mention the very war-weary public

29 A detailed account of that Chamber session is to be found in G. Bonnefous, Histoire Politique de la Troisième République, vol. 2, Paris, 1973, p. 439. 30 J. Kim Munholland, The French Army and Intervention in Southern Russia, 1918–1919, in “Cahiers du monde russe et soviétique”, 22, 1981, 1, pp. 43–66.

Media, Propaganda, and Revolution 


opinion. Likewise, there were concerns for the morale of the troops, who had suffered their long service in “a spirit of patriotic resignation”, but were likely to resent this barely justifiable dispatch to the Ukraine, potentially leading to “deplorable incidents owing to their extreme exposure to Bolshevik propaganda”31. So while some French officers called for a grand-style operation to obliterate the Moscow regime and prevent the virus of Bolshevism from infecting the whole continent, others like General Alby (successor to Foch as Army Major General) were simultaneously afraid the reality of such an operation would enable Bolshevik propaganda “to find fertile ground among troops conveyed to Russia against their will”32. Those monitoring the soldiers soon confirmed that Bolshevik propaganda had in fact already breached the national confines and they confiscated leaflets from troops stationed in the port of Brest, no doubt bound for the Ukraine. Confiscation of the materials and the arrest of those responsible were merely emergency measures and the magistrate in charge of the enquiry urged the authorities in Paris to take further official measures against what appeared to be “acts preparatory to a plot against state security”33. The report included a number of intuitions that would be confirmed in the ensuing months. The widespread dispersion of the Bolshevik message that so accurately reached its western target (in this case the troops about to intervene in Russia) was due as much to the medium chosen (leaflets in simple easily absorbed language, suitable for circulation by hand) as to its distributors, be these professionally-trained agitators, or occasional helpers present in loco or even within the army itself. The prospect of the latter, an army of rootless volunteers acting on behalf of the Bolshevik cause, proved especially destabilizing. It lay completely outside the nationalistic framework for propaganda as developed during the war, and it differed considerably from the generic internationalist propaganda of pacifism and defeatism circulating during wartime, which lacked the kind of organizing center that Moscow now clearly represented. The hint of a “plot against state security” resurrected the encirclement syndrome so long typical of Third Republic institutions34, and this played on a specific and growing fear that the Bolshevik regime was capitalizing on the Black Sea operation to corrupt the already wavering spirit of the troops and transform them into carriers of Bolshevik “infection” in the West, way beyond the cordon that the Entente aimed to set up. This was in tune with general alarm from the French information services that soldiers might return from the war front “tainted with Bolshevism” and,

31 M.J. Carley, Revolution and Intervention, p. 112. 32 Ibid., pp. 114 ff. 33 The report bore the rubber stamp “Secret le plus absolu” from the military Procureur at Brest; it reached the War Ministry on January 9, 1919; Archives de la Défense, Fonds rapatriés de Moscou, 7 NN 2346. 34 F. Monier, Le complot dans la République, pp. 9–21. Monier’s book is an interesting experiment in setting the “Bolshevik plot” within the Third Republic authorities’ long-term tendency to imagine traces of conspiracy of both internal and international origins.


 Giovanni Bernardini

“with dangerous propaganda aims, [they were lining] the bottoms and sides of their suitcases with revolutionary banknotes and brochures”35. On their arrival in December and disembarkation at the Black Sea ports of Odessa, Sebastopol, and Kherson, the reality awaiting the troops exceeded even the worst expectations. From their first maneuvers the French command paid dearly for underestimating the hostility among various anti-Bolshevik factions (mainly Ukrainian independents and pro-Russian “Whites”) with whom they were meant to be liaising, and also due to their own ignorance of the real situation on the ground. The French troops were also given a hostile welcome by the non-politicized local people: Moscow propaganda lost no time in reminding them that they were suffering under an embargo

imposed by the Entente on the former Tsarist Empire after the signing of the Brest-Litovsk peace treaty. The state of misery of the local people soon convinced the French that

they needed to take action for a remedy, but this brought back to mind Zinovev’s warning at the time of the Entente’s hypothetical occupation of St. Petersburg: while they were busy feeding bread to the starving population, the Bolshevik agitators would be feeding the troops themselves with ideas36. Those in charge of monitoring troop behavior soon noted an alarming decline in discipline. The first acts of insubordination, grave though they were, seemed to lack the political slant that Paris was afraid of. It was more a reluctance by the soldiers to risk their lives when they believed they had already earned the right to return home. However, some letters intercepted on their way back to France indicated that the men were increasingly inclined to take the Bolshevik view of themselves as foreigners illicitly intervening in Russia. Clandestine printed matter was constantly being impounded: the Bolshevik propaganda illustrated simply and directly how absurd it was for French soldiers to be engaged against a peacetime government with whom no formal state of war existed37. A handful of “unscrupulous capitalists”, not content with dragging millions of men into the worst massacre in history, were now bent on using the survivors to protect business ventures engaged in at the time of the Tsarist autocracy to the detriment of the Russian people. Despite the new regime’s public assurances that it would negotiate repayment of debts that it had not incurred, the final aim of those behind the Russian operation was to stifle “the first socialist state” so that it did not serve as an example to the world proletariat to whose ranks many of the soldiers would soon be returning. For the benefit of the more cultured military minds, a parallel was drawn with France’s own revolutionary past – a lasting source of pride to the French, and which foreign powers had done their best to smother. There was hypocrisy, too, behind the principles of self-determination and equality

35 Circular dated December 4, 1918; Archives de la Défense, Fonds rapatriés de Moscou, 7 NN 2346. 36 Note from the Attaché Militaire at Stockholm dated December 27, 1918; A.M.A.E., Série Europe 18–40, Sous-Série Russie-U.R.S.S., Dossier 878. 37 Cf. H. Slovès, La France et l’Union Soviétique, p. 94.

Media, Propaganda, and Revolution 


among nations that US President Wilson had invoked when inaugurating the Paris Conference. Did the intervention in Russia not confirm once again that “Might was Right” whenever “the institutions of capital” were jeopardized by the legitimate revolt of a people inspired by the wish to create a fairer society? Arguments of the kind invariably ended with an exhortation: let the soldiers subvert their mission, and take up the revolt “against their class enemies, against the reactionary generals, against the capitalists and the Russian monarchists”38. The soldiers’ letters to their relatives began to show ever growing interest and credence in the version of the facts described by Russian post-revolutionary propaganda: expropriation of the great landowners for distribution to the landless peasants; collectivization of factories and extension of social-state benefits to the whole population39. In the minds of its supporters the Black Sea intervention was perceived as a “propaganda drive” to persuade the local population that the victors would not leave them at the mercy of the new regime, but in reality, it turned out to be quite the reverse. From January onwards, the French command watched in helpless horror as the Bolshevik propaganda campaign went about neutralizing the foreign threat40. Simple and well-calibrated in form, it was extremely thorough in its distribution, as one report from the naval information service noted. Even in the brothels frequented by the French troops in their spare time the normal staff were replaced by Moscow-trained agents who forced the customers to read propaganda in their own language and be lectured on the real reasons behind the French intervention before they were allowed to sample the goods41. Gradually French intelligence came to see the events at Odessa and Sebastopol as part of a genuine counter-attack orchestrated by Bolshevik propaganda against outside armed intervention in their country. According to the data compiled, between March 1918 and January 1919 the Bolsheviks produced close to nine million leaflets and pamphlets aimed at the northern provinces, over four million for the western front, and 60,000 written in the main foreign languages, along with 32,000 copies of newspapers in every language42. Likewise, those returning home from St. Petersburg brought word that the Soviets had recruited agents of all kinds on a massive scale, including French deserters who were duly indoctrinated and smuggled back over the

38 The appeal, signed by Sadoul (for whom see later), is in A.M.A.E., Série Europe 18–40, Sous-Série Russie-U.R.S.S., Dossier 563. 39 M.J. Carley, Revolution and Intervention, p. 142. 40 “Cette aventure prend la forme de palabres: chaque projet d’opérations enchaîne un autre projet jusqu’au jour du rembarquement, où enfin le commandement s’aperçoit qu’il a changé d’adversaire, de guerre, et que ses propres rangs sont contaminés”, J. Nobécourt, Une Histoire Politique de l’Armée, vol. 1, Paris 1963, p. 59. 41 M.J. Carley, Revolution and Intervention, p. 145. 42 Report of the French military mission to Omsk on March 1, 1919; A.M.A.E., Série Europe 18–40, Sous-Série Russie-U.R.S.S., Dossier 1150


 Giovanni Bernardini

front lines of all the occupying allied armies in Russia and Germany43. The French landing at Odessa, as the war was ending, only served as a new front for propaganda experimentation, in which the Moscow regime employed its best specialists44. One of these, as French intelligence would learn, was a relatively minor figure but, rather like the whole Black Sea operation itself, who would take on symbolic importance way beyond his historical importance. Captain Jacques Sadoul, a young lawyer of socialist leanings, had worked for the Armaments Minister, Albert Thomas, during the war. The latter sent him as a political observer seconded to the French Military Mission in Russia with the task of supporting progressive local factions and above all those involved in the Kerensky government. Just after the October Revolution, Sadoul was unofficially tasked with maintaining contacts with Bolshevik leaders and helping to solve various practical issues. Although this earned him the ill-will of the more conservative French diplomatic corps, Sadoul took advantage of his frequent meetings with Lenin himself and Trotsky to urge them to continue the war on the side of the Entente, while at the same time studying the political dynamics of the new regime45. His correspondence with France (later published for the purpose of exculpation) showed how he began to shift towards the Bolshevik way of thinking. Even after the Brest-Litovsk Treaties were drawn up, Sadoul continued to argue the new Moscow government’s cause with the French authorities, believing that, with adequate support, Russia might return to the war against the Central Empires. There were even unconfirmed reports that Trotsky himself entrusted him with a list of guarantees demanded by the People’s Commissars, with the purpose of indicating that action by the allies to restore the eastern front was not necessarily inimical to the Bolshevik cause46. Such initiatives earned Sadoul a rebuke from the War Ministry as early as May 1918 and by the time this had escalated into a peremptory order to return home, Sadoul’s political transformation was complete and he offered his services to the nascent Russian Army, becoming an inspector47. His greatest act of provocation, leapt on by the French press, was to parade on the first anniversary of the Revolution dressed in a French army uniform. Even more symbolic was his decision to form a “French section of the Russian Communist Party” along with other officers, private soldiers, and civilians, all fellow citizens who had converted to the cause. The group would go on to join the Federation of foreign com-

43 Report by M. Fichelle, professor in St Petersburg, brought back by the French commanding officer of the eastern front on March 10, 1919; A.M.A.E., Série Europe 18–40, Sous-Série Russie-U.R.S.S., Dossier 130. 44 Telegram from Ambassador to Stockholm Delavaud on January 19, 1919; A.M.A.E., Série Europe 18–40, Sous-Série Russie-U.R.S.S., Dossier 878. 45 J. Bradley, Allied Intervention in Russia, p. 3; J. Fauvet, Histoire du Parti Communiste Français, vol. 1, Paris 1964, p. 25. 46 A. Hogenius-Seliverstoff, Les Relations Franco-Soviétiques. 1917–1924, Paris 1981, p. 57. 47 J. Fauvet, Histoire du Parti Communiste Français, p. 25.

Media, Propaganda, and Revolution 


munist groups created by the Central Committee of the Russian Bolshevik Party under the chairmanship of Bela Kun, the future leader of the ephemeral Republic of Councils of Hungary. Their limited membership meant that both the Federation and the French group would serve at most as a demonstration that the Russian Revolution enjoyed transnational support, but they did provide excellent material for Moscow propaganda in all languages. Sadoul’s group was given the specific task of recruiting new volunteers from among the French civilians and soldiers remaining in the country in order to swell Trotsky’s troops or act as couriers for the Bolsheviks when their repatriation fell due48. The scheme that alarmed Paris more than anything else was Sadoul’s production of propaganda linguistically and culturally calibrated for the French public. On the day after the armistice, Bolshevik media got a message through to France from Sadoul appealing to the people to revolt against the terms being imposed on Germany, in favor of a peace without annexations or indemnities. This would both punish the chauvinistic reactionaries of the Clemenceau government, and enable the proletariat of two countries to find a common class identity over and above national divisions. Although the message only made an impact on circles already sympathetic to Moscow, it was examined intently by French intelligence, and the same occurred when a copy of the new French-language weekly “La Troisième Internationale. Organe de la section française du Parti Communiste Russe” edited by Sadoul was confiscated at the Swedish frontier in late 191849. The title of this publication gave the first indication of a Leninist project to create a new Internationale, somehow suggesting that the media campaign might be more important than actual achievement of the goal50. Lastly, news came to Paris that the specific task of the “Sadoul group” was to spread propaganda among the French troops occupying not just Germany but parts of the former Russian Empire. Considering the essentially French, rather than international, nature of the Black Sea mission, the work of undermining it must naturally be seeking results that would stand as an example for the future51. Such results did indeed arrive, in the form of a growing politicization of the acts of insubordination among the French troops. Not only did they repeatedly refuse to take part in direct actions against the Bolsheviks, but the decks of the ships increasingly rang with the Odessa Waltz, which the Bolsheviks had chosen as their hymn for resistance to overseas intervention. The commander of the French Black Sea mission, General D’Anselme, promised a reward of 100,000 francs and immediate

48 P. Broué, Histoire de l’Internationale Communiste 1919–1943, Paris 1997, p. 58. 49 The weekly would go on appearing regularly and be smuggled into France down to March 1919, significantly the moment when the Third Internationale was born. Dictionnaire Biographique du mouvement ouvrier français. Quatrième partie: de la première à la Seconde guerre mondiale, Paris 1992, p. 54. 50 This was the act of confiscation already mentioned (cf. p. 44 ff.). Telegram from Delavaud in Stocholm on December 6, 1918; A.M.A.E., Série Europe 18–40, Sous-Série Russie-U.R.S.S., Dossier 878. 51 Memorandum from Ambassador Conty dated December 31, 1918; A.M.A.E., Série Europe 18–40, Sous-Série Russie-U.R.S.S., Dossier 563.


 Giovanni Bernardini

home leave for anyone revealing who was responsible for these gestures of defiance, but no informers came forward52. In March D’Anselme himself was forced to conclude: “the operation […] is the best way of spreading Bolshevism in France. Our men will all be infected on their return”. His words were echoed by his superior, General Berthelot who was serving in Romania (and previously a keen supporter of intervention): “Contact with the Bolsheviks is a real danger, and the current state of our troops makes it clear to the least acute observer that the propaganda is gaining results” 53. The other war allies increasingly voiced similar doubts about the results obtainable by direct intervention in Russia, and the Clemenceau government was eventually persuaded to recall the Black Sea troops in late March. This was not soon enough to prevent impatience with the delay flaring into outright mutiny a few days later, and the transient yet significant formation of soldier soviets on some ships. In at least one case the uprising reached the ultimate insult of hoisting the red flag in place of the French ensign. The protest was only quelled by an announcement that the ships were sailing directly for home, but nevertheless by the end of the month it was apparent that the wave of protest and mutiny was spreading by contagion to the ports where the convoy touched in on its homeward voyage. A few months later Sadoul reiterated his belief that propaganda by word and personal contact was the best route to follow54.

5 The lesson of Odessa Soon the Black Sea episode would be aggrandized by the French left wing beyond its real proportions. There is actually little doubt that the propaganda succeeded in permanently “converting” only an insignificant number of the men involved in the protests. For the majority it acted only as a catalyst for malcontent deriving from more down to earth reasons, not least the simple desire to return home. However, the episode served as a lesson for the Paris government and military authorities, demonstrating the effectiveness of the Bolshevik foreign policy of systematically broadcasting its revolutionary message. It was widely held that the Bolshevik regime believed “universal conflagration was the only means of salvation”, leading observers to imagine it would invest enormously in propagandizing the revolution overseas55. 52 Cf. J. Nobécourt, Une Histoire Politique de l’Armée, p. 68. 53 M.J. Carley, Revolution and Intervention, p. 161. 54 Letter from Sadoul to the French socialist leader Loriot in November 1919, intercepted by French counter-espionage; Archives de la Défense, 7 N 3130. 55 The first clear statement of this assumption can be found in a memorandum from the Council of the Russian National Union (an organization of Tsarist exiles) to the French consul in Kiev in late October 1918. This research field is still relatively unexplored. It promises interesting results as to the influence of anti-Bolshevik Russian emigrés in France on the image of Bolshevism received by the political world. For a preliminary analysis, see S. Coeuré, La grande lueur à l’est, pp. 36 f.

Media, Propaganda, and Revolution 


In France, Bolshevism had originally been perceived as a purely Russian disease, but

after the events in the Black Sea it began to appear more like a plague spreading by propaganda far beyond the Soviet borders. The Communists’ propaganda was not unlike that of other countries during the war years, but they exhibited a level of expertise that took it to a new level, in some cases achieving almost legendary status. The myths born at the time in the French collective imagination were extremely enduring. One example was the story that the Kremlin cellars were packed with precious stones expropriated from the aristocracy, now being made generously available to fund propaganda in the four corners of the earth. This ideological plague was unlikely to take hold on healthy bodies, but in a war-ravaged Europe smarting under its losses, victors and vanquished alike, it could prove to be lethal. Europe was clearly vulnerable to the “germs of class hatred, civil war and national disruption”56. Metaphors likening Bolshevism to a disease proliferated from early 1919 onwards, with propaganda as the vector by which it spread. The Black Sea operation had very clearly contributed to altering the cordon sanitaire in the minds of the French authorities, the emphasis now falling on the second term of the expression. Once the vain aspirations of nipping Bolshevism in the bud had evaporated, the watchword became that of containing the “pestilence” within the bounds it had already infected. This isolation would allow the regime to succumb to its own internal contradictions, while also physically preventing the “agents of transmission” of Bolshevik propaganda from reaching the West. Aside from this metaphoric conception, the French strategy that emerged out of the Black Sea debacle was founded on the conviction that communication and propaganda were the very essence of the Bolshevik regime and no message from Moscow targeting the West could be construed otherwise. An early demonstration of this was the “appeal to all nations to reach a just peace without annexation or indemnity”, their first message on seizing power and clearly designed to breed insubordination among the warring armies. The French government’s initial reaction during 1919 and much of the next year was to impose an embargo on all Russian territories under Bolshevik control. However, as the Entente allies pointed out, this became increasingly hard to justify without an official declaration of war, a move they had absolutely no intention of taking. Following the trade agreement between Bolshevik Russia and Great Britain in March 1921, the French leaders persisted in their efforts, tirelessly repeating at all international gatherings how “opening any commercial relations with the Soviet government would enable it not only to infiltrate agents of propaganda but to find the money to fund it” 57.

56 Letter from de Chevilly to Albert Thomas, M.J. Carley, Revolution and Intervention, p. 39. 57 Note from the Subdirectorate for Commercial Affairs to Minister Pichon, November 19, 1919; A.M.A.E., Série Europe 18–40, Sous-Série Russie-U.R.S.S., Dossier 66–67. On negotiations within the Entente as to continuing the embargo against Russia, see N.H. Gaworek, From Blockade to Trade, pp. 39–69.


 Giovanni Bernardini

For a long time, the French authorities continued to assume that any applications for accreditation of Bolshevik leaders and diplomats in the West was an attempt to set up pockets of propaganda and revolution, and so no concessions or room for maneuver should ever be given. The most glaring example of this within France were the negotiations for the mutual return of compatriots, the only negotiations between Moscow and Paris that actually took place during those months. On one side there were Russian soldiers dispatched to the western front during the war. These had been segregated after the revolution to avoid any acts of insubordination like those of their comrades on the eastern front. On the other side were French civilians and soldiers who had been imprisoned in Russia, in some cases immediately after the October Revolution, on the general charge of collaborating with the past regime and plotting to overthrow the current government in support of the Russian opposition. The venture was internationally regulated, but the French government still looked on it with great suspicion, although in the end their obligations towards their imprisoned compatriots left them little alternative. The basic agreement reached in January 1919 included a demand by the Bolsheviks that a delegation be sent to France under the aegis of the Red Cross58. Though accepting the condition, the French authorities welcomed the Bolshevik mission in February with a disproportionate display of officialdom, more resembling a case of medical prophylaxis than the negotiation of a political issue. It was too much to expect that the members of the mission be granted normal diplomatic immunity, but the way they were treated in France reached almost maniacal proportions. At the same time the Black Sea mission was reaching its nadir, and the visitors had to be prevented from sowing revolutionary seed at all costs59. Before the delegates arrived, the information services issued the customary warning that they would likely be carrying astronomical amounts of cash to finance propaganda and so all their money was impounded upon arrival60. French army officers counselled a more moderate line but to no avail. They suggested that the high profile of the Bolshevik representatives (including Dmitri Manuilsky61, later party leader in the Ukraine) must imply an aspiration to establish diplomatic negotiations with the French leaders, rather than spreading propaganda among the population. The delegation was kept well away from Paris (where the Peace Conference was in full swing), segregated near Dunkirk where they could only make a few inconsequential inspections under military escort. Not only

58 The whole episode of the Bolshevik Red Cross mission to France is reconstructed in detail by R.K. Debo, The Manuilskii Mission: An Early Soviet Effort to Negotiate with France, in “The International History Review”, 8, 1986, 2, pp. 214–235. 59 Note dated January 31 and signed by Berthelot; A.M.A.E., Série Europe 18–40, Sous-Série RussieU.R.S.S., Dossier 879. 60 Telegram from Delavaud, himself bearing news from Poirot’s mission in Finland, as well as from secret agents in Sweden; A.M.A.E., Série Europe 18–40, Sous-Série Russie-U.R.S.S., Dossier 879. 61 P. Broué, Histoire de l’Internationale Communiste 1919–1943, p. 1044.

Media, Propaganda, and Revolution 


were they segregated from all contact with the local population, but any communication with the outside world had to go through one designated French official and pass military scrutiny. Even their telegrams to Moscow were mostly rejected. The delegation’s few contacts with Russian soldiers, likewise monitored by French officials, were treated with suspicion in the fear that Manuilsky might be turning them into an army of propagandists. The negotiations were hastily concluded and the delegation packed off back to Russia62. So, after two months’ exasperating segregation, with nothing to show for their mission beyond what had already been initially agreed between Paris and Moscow, the delegates were bundled together with a group of compatriots returning to Russia by sea. At one stop-over in Finland they were even briefly arrested and their possessions searched by the local authorities, no doubt prompted by the French who wanted to know what the Bolsheviks were taking back home from their visit63. Over the same period the French authorities strived obsessively to set up forms of transnational liaison designed to check the circulation of Bolshevik propaganda. They used any direct influence they could to ensure no country, especially the neutral ones, hosted official Bolshevik representatives. Whenever any local authorities decided not to comply, as happened in Denmark and Switzerland, the sources reveal a flurry of activity by French information services, gathering evidence to alert the locals that these so-called “Bolshevik missions” were conducting propaganda operations under cover of trade and diplomatic meetings64. These attempts achieved more frustration than success, since there was strong pressure within these countries to normalize relations with Moscow for economic and political reasons. The intransigent French line soon began to lose credibility within the somewhat divided Entente. The US had more or less abandoned the European political scene, while the British government gradually came to accept the Bolshevik regime. A few countries, including the Netherlands, Poland, and Rumania, achieved beneficial bilateral agreements with France, including an exchange of information about the movements of Bolshevik agents and the propaganda strategies they were implementing65. This led the French information services to attempt the impossible task of plotting the routes of the best-known Bolshevik agents, compiling long lists of their pseudonyms, and noting the addresses of

62 Revelations from a Danish Red Cross agent returning from Russia to Conty, and passed on to Paris on April 16; A.M.A.E., Série Europe 18–40, Sous-Série Russie-U.R.S.S., Dossier 563. 63 A transcription of a speech by Manuilski (see later) was dispatched by Delavaud on June 5; A.M.A.E., Série Europe 18–40, Sous-Série Russie-U.R.S.S., Dossier 131. 64 In the case of Denmark, this soon flowered into a collaboration agreement to exchange information on transnational movements by Bolsheviks. Message from the Embassy to the Foreign Ministry in Paris on February 13, 1919; A.M.A.E., Série Europe 18–40, Sous-Série Russie-U.R.S.S., Dossier 1150. 65 Holland stood out as one of the countries most compliant with Paris’s wishes; Telegram from Ambassador Allizé to Minister Pichon on January 27; A.M.A.E., Série Europe 18–40, Sous-Série RussieU.R.S.S., Dossier 879.


 Giovanni Bernardini

clandestine centers where they recycled money or obtained false documents. While the Paris Conference worked to re-establish an equilibrium in Europe, the French gradually drafted a map of new clandestine Bolshevik activities. Soviet agents took advantage of the postwar disorder to slip through frontiers, control points, and cultural or linguistic barriers. They ranged from Madrid to Lyon, Scandinavia to Italy, invading most of the “soft underbelly” of new member-states in the cordon sanitaire. The contrast between the apotheosis of nationalism so typical of the recent war and the transnationalism displayed by the new Bolshevik movement encouraged analysts in Paris to investigate the biographies of the propagandists. Not infrequently the evidence suggested they were Jewish in origin, and this came to be viewed as a kind of matrix of innate cosmopolitanism and multilingualism66. To the French secret services only a “similar racial kinship” could explain “the reciprocal relations among Bolsheviks from various countries”67. The almost perfect synchronicity between the Black Sea protests and the Moscow Conference establishing the Communist International in March 1919, heightened the French interest in fathoming the reasoning behind the latter event. Historians have long since downscaled their assessment of its real importance, considering the low foreign attendance, and general political and logistical confusion. However, at the time the French authorities saw it as a call for general insurrection to which all the ferment already afflicting Europe could be traced. Based on a profusion of details, either unfounded or exaggerated by the agents themselves, the assembly was viewed as a kind of Pentecost in which propagandists from all over the world imbibed the revolutionary spirit and received their mission to export it in all directions68. Paris likewise attributed to Bolshevik propaganda the strikes and violent episodes that occurred on the following May Day in many countries. Each of these cases bore the Bolshevik hallmark of flexibility, adapting the message to local conditions. In the victorious countries the Moscow message relayed by demonstrators focused on the unjust way the proceeds of war were being distributed, a war that the people had been forced to wage in worse conditions and for far longer than had initially been forecast. In the defeated countries the effectiveness of Bolshevik propaganda was ominous during the postwar period. Only a few days after the Moscow gathering, Budapest proclaimed the birth of the Republic of Councils of Hungary to which local communists flocked. French observers focused on the marked tendency to emulate Russia not just in its politics and institutions, but also in the way of communicating with citizens at home and outsiders abroad. The revolutionary message blended smoothly (though only for a 66 F. Monier, Le complot dans la République, pp. 100 ff. 67 Memorandum from the Service de Renseignement to the Foreign Ministry sent on November 13, 1919; A.M.A.E., Série Europe 18–40, Sous-Série Russie-U.R.S.S., Dossier 1155. 68 For example, see the information passed to Paris by the Berne Embassy on February 25, 1919, concerning the true aims of convening the Congress to found the future Comintern; Archives de la Défense, Fonds rapatriés de Moscou, 7 NN 2510.

Media, Propaganda, and Revolution 


limited period) with the domestic motives for discontent, namely the confiscation of national territory, and the harsh treatment meted out to Hungary in general in the armistice terms and peace conference69. Similar dynamics were detected behind the Bavarian Soviet Republic, established in April 1919 although proving to be even more ephemeral than its Hungarian counterpart. Once again, the frustration of defeat, the hope of avoiding the consequences, and a desire to cast off “Prussian militarism” were all sensitive issues for exploitation by Moscow-guided propaganda (at least according to the French agents) as catalysts of revolution, and as ways of hindering the work of the victors70. In all these cases, the analysts in Paris noted how Bolshevik propaganda benefited by the failure of the media, with no reliable information available about what was happening in Russia. The lack of international observers, other than those already won over to the cause, made it possible to inflate the results achieved in the socialist homeland without fear of contradiction. Here too the French authorities tried to conduct counter-propaganda both in France and abroad. However, the lack of testimony in the French archives suggests that little was achieved apart from financing a few minor daily newspapers, already of anti-Bolshevik persuasion, in Switzerland and Denmark71.

6 Conclusions By 1920 the cycle of European insurrections was rapidly fading away, and even the most biased French observers could see that, whether or not they had been right to worry in the past, their fears were rapidly becoming groundless and the initiatives that had emerged over the period had been hopeless failures. The Bolshevik revolution did not manage to take root outside of Russian soil, while inside its homeland it had become so incontrovertibly established that many international agencies had to acknowledge it and open official diplomatic and economic relations with Moscow. The French authorities were among the last to do so in 1924, at the dawn of a whole new cycle of domestic politics that would not trigger the revolutionary catastrophe that had been feared only a short time before. However, the first traumatic acquaintance with Bolshevism had left the French authorities with the long-lasting sensation that it possessed unrivalled powers of media-assisted propaganda in the hands of a professional cadre treated by Moscow with as much lavish care as they dedicated

69 Note from the secret services to the Foreign Ministry on March 27, 1919; A.M.A.E., Série Europe 18–40, Sous-Série Russie-U.R.S.S., Dossier 1112. 70 M. Launay, 1919 Versailles, une paix bâclée?, Bruxelles, 1999, p. 65. 71 For Switzerland, see the Memorandum from Colonel Pageot on March 27, 1919, with its enclosed plan for a form of anti-Bolshevk press agency in three languages to be based in the Swiss Confederation; A.M.A.E., Série Europe 18–40, Sous-Série Russie-U.R.S.S., Dossier 877.


 Giovanni Bernardini

to building up the Red Army or to any traditional diplomatic corps. Bolshevik propaganda continued to be seen as a complementary weapon to diplomacy and ready for use as the situation might require. So, although the Bolshevik regime fell back momentarily on defending the “homeland of socialism” and furthering its political and economic interests, the experience of the early postwar years showed how skillfully, and with what methods, it might revert to using propaganda when necessary to further the cause of international revolution.

Angelo Ventrone

The Italian Paradox: The Italian Media and the Myth of the Mutilated Victory “And today, after just one year, Italy appears to have lost sight of the real emotional weight of its great victory. Recriminations and enmities are emerging, exacerbated by extended silence, and the old dispute between interventionists and neutralists is brought to the election rallies, almost as though we still have to decide on something already finished”1. These were the words of Ivanoe Bonomi, reformist socialist and among the best-known political figures of the period, talking at the beginning of November 1919, a couple of weeks before the elections that called upon Italians to vote for the first time since the war. In order to discuss the Italian paradox, it is necessary to start from the fact that, at the end of World War I, Italy had emerged as one of the main victorious states, but at the same time, and incongruously, with the sensation among much of public opinion of being in a very similar condition to the defeated: humiliated and angry. The emergence of the myth of the “mutilated victory” clearly expresses this paradoxical condition. Italy could perhaps be satisfied for having obtained almost all the irredentist territories, the revendication of which had been one of the main reasons inducing the country to enter the war. There was also the establishment of a secure boundary at the Brenner Pass, and the most steadfast obstacle to the completion of national unity, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, had been destroyed. However, not everything had worked out for the best. The first unexpected problem already emerged during the conflict, on the Battle of Caporetto at the end of October 1917. This defeat led to fears that Italy would have to sue for a separate peace and called into question the importance of the country’s contribution to the war, especially in the eyes of the Allies2. The international image of the country certainly emerged very clearly dented. Following the war there were vigorous contestations against those who claimed that Austria-Hungary had crumbled more as a result of a break down in the home front rather that due to their military defeat by Italy. Those who had advocated for the war instead sustained the exact opposite. Isidoro Reggio, author of the Storia della grande guerra d’Italia in 24 volumes, published mostly during the course of the conflict and completed during the immediate post-war period, picked up on what Luigi Barzini had written, a well-known journalist for the “Corriere della Sera” newspaper, sustaining that Italy’s role had been anything but insignificant. The collapse of Austria, he stated bluntly, depended on 1 I. Bonomi, Dieci anni di Politica Italiana, Milano 1924, p. 209. 2 N. Labanca, Caporetto. Storia e memoria di una disfatta, Bologna 2017. Translation: Gavin Taylor


 Angelo Ventrone

the fact that the effort of holding out against us exceeded the resistance of their centuries long social cohesion. We, almost alone, engaged the full strength of the second largest military empire in the world for sixteen months; we prevented this giant adversary from breaking out […] in order to act together with Germany and determine the end of the war in France, which without our desperate tenacity would have been inevitable3.

Effectively, in the days immediately following the Battle of Vittorio Veneto, the Allies did not hesitate to acknowledge the contribution of the Italians in the victory against the Central Powers. The President of the French National Assembly, Paul Deschanel, spoke in particularly emphatic terms: “Oh Rome,” he said in parliament, “holy city of heroes, poets, and gods, of all the qualities and splendors that enrapture the hearts and imagination of men, you may now add a supreme beauty: the triumph of freedom, the revendication of justice”. The British Foreign Minister, Arthur J. Balfour, was not far from this level of praise when he recalled the “glorious and powerful exploits of Italy”, which in the last weeks of the war, “completed the great work of Cavour and of Garibaldi, and today the dream of all Italian patriots and all British lovers of liberty have been achieved”. Even David Lloyd George, the British Prime Minister, acknowledged that the Italians had to, “face up to an army superior in numbers and equipment”, and both the British and American press followed suit. After the fall of Austria-Hungary, the destiny of Germany also appeared definitively sealed, and the war came to an end the following week4. A second component underlying the development of the myth of the mutilated victory emerged in more or less the same period. At the end of 1917, as soon as the Soviets gained power, they made the shocking revelation of certain secret agreements between the countries of the Entente over the course of the conflict. Regarding Italy in particular, it emerged that in the Treaty of London stipulated in April 1915, Fiume was not even mentioned, Venetian Dalmatia would be divided between Rome and Belgrade, while the colonial compensations in Africa and areas of influence in Asia minor were very ill-defined5. The situation really started to get critical during the last days of the war. As had previously happened in May 1915, it was the intervention of Gabriele D’Annunzio that polarized attention. This popular intellectual figure was among the most influential in inspiring public patriotic opinion in favor of entering the war, and at the end of the conflict he tried to resume this role. On October 24, 1918, he published La preghiera

3 I. Reggio, Il trionfale epilogo, in I. Reggio, Storia della grande guerra d’Italia, vol. 24, Milano 1919 (but subsequently, perhaps 1921), pp. 109 f. 4 Ibid., pp. 126–132. For the continuation of these issues in subsequent records, in particular by David Lloyd George, British Minister of War until 1916 and later Prime Minister, and by James Rennel Rodd, British ambassador to Italy from 1908 to 1919, see E. Ragionieri, Italia giudicata 1861–1945, ovvero la storia degli italiani scritta dagli altri, vol. 2, Torino 1976, pp. 460–467 and 481–487. 5 C. Ghisalberti, Il mito della vittoria mutilata, in A. Scottà (ed.), La Conferenza di pace di Parigi fra ieri e domani (11919–1920), Atti del Convegno, Catanzaro 2003, pp. 125 f.

The Italian Paradox: The Italian Media and the Myth of the Mutilated Victory 


di Sernaglia in the “Corriere della Sera” newspaper, a long and gloomy composition, presumably reflecting the oppressive state of mind that his associates noted at the time. This negative mood was probably also linked to the end of the war and the return to peace. Life would resume its normal pedestrian, everyday course, in which the charisma he had generated through his epic belligerent exploits would inevitably fade away. This conception was well captured in a cartoon that appeared in the satirical magazine “Travaso delle idee” on June 1, 1919. The scene shows a sort of handing over of the banner between D’Annunzio, who is taking off his eagle wings on the Capitoline Hill, and a group of geese to whom he solemnly declares, “The time has come for you to fly and for eagles to rest”6. In the face of the hostility that was developing in the aftermath of conflict, rather than celebrating the coming victory, the poet foresees that perhaps peace is about to be, “consigned to the suffering of men not as a white dove but as a slimy snake”. The danger he foresees is the disillusionment of expectations for national grandeur that from the earliest moments had pushed for the country to enter the conflict. In his view no-one could claim the right of deciding the future of Italy. This was the right solely of the combatants: “Who answers? Who judges? Not the man seated or the man standing, nor the law book nor the scales of justice. / He answers only who to speak must spit the mud he ate in falling or whose tears wash blood from his cheeks”. His words reveal a central element in the post-war rhetoric of the ex-servicemen’s movement: only those who had fought the war had the right to speak, only those who had demonstrated the capacity for self-sacrifice, dedicating and giving themselves up entirely to the patria, were able to understand the supreme good of the country; they had earned in the battlefield the right/duty to decide, to govern7. The centrality of the figure of the post-war combatant indicates the extreme impact of the war on the collective mentality of large sections of the population, especially, though not exclusively, of the patriotic middle class. The militarization of society and the long, grueling, and costly conflict from both the material and human perspectives had encouraged exaltation of the union, or perhaps more precisely nurtured consensus in national community with condemnation of any political divisions and social contentions. This found concrete expression in the rituals commemorating the fallen, ceremonies celebrating victorious battles, care for the injured and mutilated, and the numerous forms of civil mobilization over the course of the conflict. Other expressions included a total dedication to the sacrality of the nation, and a clear distinction between ally and enemy, followed by resentment against any efforts for mediation, of non-violent solutions to disputes, with accusations that anyone not identifying with the aim of total destruction of the external enemy were (and acted 6 F. Scarpelli, Dopo il discorso rientrato, in F. De Simone (ed.), Fondo Guerra. Strenna per l’anno 2004, Biblioteca Universitaria Alessandrina, Roma 2003, p. 82. 7 G. Sabbatucci, I combattenti nel primo dopoguerra, Roma / Bari 1974, and G. Sabbatucci, La stampa del combattentismo (1918–1925), Bologna 1980.


 Angelo Ventrone

as) internal enemies, in the service of the former. The disparate interventionist movement had already been obsessed with the intrigues of the “enemy within” even before Italy entered the war in May 19158. This was the path chosen by the patriotic-nationalist sphere in order to achieve definitive regeneration and cultural uniformity of the Italians, which they perceived as finally being possible thanks to the war. It was no accident that starting from the last months of the war Prezzolini’s writings tried to establish a connection between the defeat at Caporetto and the success at Vittorio Veneto, in an effort to trace out a symbolic process that delineated the death and subsequent resurrection of the patria9. D’Annunzio’s concluding words fall within this conception: “Our victory will not be mutilated! No-one can break your knees or clip your wings. Where do you run? Where do you ascend? / You run beyond the night. You fly above the dawn”10. The poet’s use of the term “mutilated” in this political sense is a novelty, but it was widely used during the Great War in its nominalized form “i mutilati” (the mutilated), to refer to soldiers bearing the signs on their bodies of their supreme sacrifice for the homeland. The risk of a less than full recognition of Italy’s “fair aspirations” emerged right from the earliest stages of interventionist mobilization in contestations between those who aspired towards the creation of a “Greater Italy”, incorporating lands considered historically or perhaps strategically important to Italy, and those who sustained that this should be limited to territories inhabited prevalently by Italians. While the allusions in D’Annunzio’s text to the risk of a mutilated victory were still generic, soon after, following the Armistice of Villa Giusti and the end of the conflict, he would compose the Cantico per l’Ottava della Vittoria, in which the poet, “il Vate” as he was by then known, used much more specific terms. This new composition listed the cities facing onto the Adriatic Sea, cities that anxiously awaited to be reunited with the Italian homeland, the “running” and the “flight” that concluded the Preghiera di Sernaglia take on a concrete political meaning11. This became even more specific in La lettera ai Dalmati of January 14, 191912. It was therefore during these months that the term “mutilated victory” began to circulate and condition national political debate. As regards the territorial issue, at the Paris Peace Conference, Italy was acknowledged possession of Trentino and Alto Adige, Trieste, Venezia Giulia, and Istria, but saw other promises – made before it had entered the war – broken, like control of

8 A. Ventrone, La seduzione totalitaria. Guerra, modernità, violenza politica (1914–1918), Roma 2004. 9 G. Prezzolini, Tutta la guerra. Antologia del popolo italiano sul fronte e nel paese, Firenze 1918; G. Prezzolini, Dopo Caporetto, Roma 1919, and G. Prezzolini, Vittorio Veneto, Roma 1920. 10 La Preghiera di Sernaglia (ottobre MCMXVIII), now in G. D’Annunzio, Canti della Guerra Latina, Gardone Riviera 1939, pp. 167 ff. 11 Cantico per l’Ottava della Vittoria (III–XI novembre MCMXVIII), in G. D’Annunzio, Canti della Guerra Latina, pp. 170 ff. 12 In “Popolo d’Italia”, January 15, 1919.

The Italian Paradox: The Italian Media and the Myth of the Mutilated Victory 


Dalmatia and Albania, or a share in the break-up of Anatolia and the German colonies. Even Fiume, a city inhabited largely by Italians, remained outside of the Kingdom. This was the moment when the myth of the mutilated victory came to the forefront in political debate13. New injuries were added to the old, making the situation explosive. As depicted in a cartoon in February 1919 in the satirical magazine of nationalist leanings, “Il 420”, the human and material costs that the peninsula had born were so heavy as to fully legitimize the country’s expectations: “half a million dead / a million and a half wounded / and 65 billion in costs”, we read on a placard held up by the Italian foreign minister at the table of the victors. A price that a grim faced Sonnino reminds the ex-allies of saying, “Look at the figures, gentlemen, and you will see that our rights are no less than yours!”14. These grievances provided the third factor fueling the perplexity and disappointment of a large part of public opinion, because they placed Italy in a condition even more resembling the defeated states than the winners. A book compiling various quotations of the interventionist socialist and future prime minister, Ivanoe Bonomi, stated that, In 1919, in the year after the victory, the crisis of disappointment for the failed peace, the socialist propaganda fueled by the inevitable sufferings of war, and the alarm of the Russian Revolution, generated a pre-revolutionary context in Italy. No new political movement appeared willing to save the ageing state from its coming ruin15.

Immediately after the end of the war, there was an explosion of violent social and political disorder, with protests against increases in prices for basic necessities, workers’ strikes culminating in 1920 with the occupation of numerous factories, strikes by agricultural workers calling for better work conditions and pay, and the occupation of landed estates in order to obtain agrarian reforms and redistribution of land16. There was the widespread impression that the country had entered a “Biennio Rosso” (red biennial) destined to degenerate into a Bolshevik style revolution. The victory of the Italian Socialist Party, PSI, in the political elections of November 1919, becoming the largest party in Parliament, could only increase the fears of revolutionary developments. The arguments of the socialists against the war, which they claimed was desired by the middle-class and the “military caste” uncaring of the suffering to the common people, further reinforced their image as anti-nationalist subversives who negated

13 See Fiume, in “La Domenica del Corriere”, May 4–11, 1919, p. 6, with a photo of the city. 14 Gli argomenti dell’Italia alla conferenza di Parigi, in “Il 420”, February 1919, now in F. Santilli, Segni dei tempi. Storia d’Italia nella stampa satirica dal Fascismo alla Seconda Repubblica 1919–1999, Montelupone 2013, p. 20. 15 I. Bonomi, Dieci anni di Politica Italiana, p. 199. 16 S. Lupo, Il fascismo. La politica in un regime totalitario, Roma 2000, pp. 64 ff.


 Angelo Ventrone

and flouted the sacredness of the victory, defiling the memory of the fallen and the sacrifices made. The socialist criticisms gained further impetus after the publication in August 1919 of the report of the Caporetto Inquest Commission, appointed by Parliament to investigate the causes of the disaster. The document revealed a high degree responsibility of the military commanders and in particular the supreme commander, Cadorna, for their conduct of the battle. A conduct that undervalued the human costs to be paid, that continued right to the end to consider mass assault as the key factor in combat, and furthermore was based exclusively on repression, completely ignoring the strategic value of winning over the consent of the soldiers and giving fair recognition for their sacrifices17. The conclusions of the inquest, which triggered a genuine public “trial” of the war, gave new force to those who had opposed it, Catholics and in particular socialists. In a sense, a sort of “mutilated victory anti-myth” emerged, which would remain part of socialist propaganda into the political elections at the end of 1919. Giuseppe Scalarini and Gabriele Galantara were the most effective socialist cartoonists, and the former accurately captured the essence of this “trial of the war” that the PSI initiated around the country. In his drawings, some already published during the war but republished and distributed in following years, the war desired by the middle-classes had led only to suffering, poverty, destruction, and death. Scalarini dwelled for example on the radical changes caused by the war, both in life and in human psychology. A peaceful individual committed to solidarity with his fellow citizens, after taking part in the conflict becomes anti-social, maladjusted, scruffy, dirty, and unshaven. Or alternatively he is transformed into a “beast”, or a skeleton in a military uniform that throws himself, without any valid reason, against other living dead like himself. Skeletons in combat thus came to symbolize a loss of soul due to the manipulation and exploitation of the bourgeoisie, who behind the patriotic idealism hid their own material interests and desire to win a share of the “cake” resulting from the victory in war18. The voice of neutralism was heard once again, after the enormous sacrifices of the war, emerging from the isolation in which it had languished since the spring of 1915 and loudly denouncing the disillusionment after all the initial promises and all the blood spilled for no purpose. In the socialist sphere in particular there was confirmation of an accusation levelled right from the start: this war was nothing other than

17 For a recent re-assessment, see L. Falsini, Processo a Caporetto. I documenti inediti della disfatta, Roma 2017. 18 P. Mattera, La “lezione della guerra”. I codici di comunicazione retorica e visiva nella campagna elettorale del 1919, in D. Rossini (ed.), La propaganda nella Grande guerra tra nazionalismi e internazionalismi, Milano 2007, pp. 199–203, and A. Ventrone, Il nemico interno. Immagini, parole e simboli della lotta politica nell’Italia del Novecento, Roma 2005, pp. 110–113. For reproductions of the many cartoons by Scalarini on this theme, see Almanacco socialista. Le immagini del socialismo. Comunicazione politica e propaganda del PSI dalle origini agli anni Ottanta, Roma, n.n., 1984, pp. 284–291.

The Italian Paradox: The Italian Media and the Myth of the Mutilated Victory 


a struggle between two forms of imperialism. A painting in “L’Asino”, a historic and popular socialist magazine, showed Wilson sitting at the peace conference table and saying to those present: “He who is without imperialism may cast the first stone”19. As already noted, those who had seen the conflict as a great opportunity to regenerate the country, viewed this denigration of the “Great War” as the triumph of those they considered anti-nationalists. The same anti-nationalist who after boycotting the war effort for years, now aimed to destroy the sentiment of unity that all the sacrifice, mourning, and ultimate victory had finally kindled on the peninsula. When in 1920 the Nitti government proclaimed an armistice for all crimes committed during the war, with the exception of the most serious like desertion with “switching sides to the enemy”, immediately there was talk of an “amnesty for deserters”20. Once again, the same divisions began to carry weight in politics, albeit significantly simplified, that had arisen from the disputes before entry into the war and during its course. Of the three interventionist movements, democratic, revolutionary, and nationalist, the second substantially disappeared, absorbed by the first and in particular by the third, the nationalist movement. Mussolini was an obvious example of this, by now declaring himself in favor of the annexation of Dalmatia and no longer willing to make do with only Istria, Fiume, and Zara21. At the end of the war the interventionist front split as regards the objectives to be achieved. The “communicative” line, so to speak, of the democratic interventionism was particularly diminished in force. It had been dominant during the months of neutrality and up to entry into the war, declaring support for a war not of expansion but for liberty, justice, and self-determination of peoples. These ideas only persisted until it appeared inevitable that upon victory the achievement of the aspired goals would follow naturally: peace, and acquisition of “Italian” territories. Subsequently, from the first months of 1919, the ideas rapidly disappeared. Not everyone would maintain the consistency of Leonida Bissolati and Gaetano Salvemini, who even after the conclusion of the war remained opposed to the idea of trammeling “the lives and independence of other peoples”22. When the United States entered the war, Salvemini was convinced that this would irreversibly change the nature of the conflict, lending renewed force to the original democratic purpose that aimed to destroy, once and for all, all oppressive forms of authoritarianism and nationalism23.

19 G. Galantara, Alla Conferenza, in “L’Asino”, February 9, 1919, now in F. Santilli, Segni dei tempi, p. 21. 20 B. Cabanes, Le smobilitazioni e il ritorno degli uomini, in S. Audoin-Rouzeau / J.-J. Becker / A. Gibelli (eds.), La prima guerra mondiale, vol. 2, Torino 2007. 21 For Mussolini’s statements, see R. De Felice, Mussolini il rivoluzionario: 1883–1920, Torino 1995, pp. 382 ff. 22 See Discorso a Milano dell’on. Bissolati, in “Il Secolo”, February 26, 1915, illustrating the positions to which he would remain faithful even after the end of the conflict. 23 See R. Vivarelli, Storia delle origini del fascismo. L’Italia dalla grande guerra alla marcia su Roma, vol. 1, Bologna 1991, pp. 147–150. For the more strategic rather than idealistic reasons for salvaging,


 Angelo Ventrone

The costs of the war would lead many former supporters of the freedom of peoples, democrats or revolutionaries, to transform into intransigent advocates of the right for Italian possession of the Adriatic coast or extended sections of the same, regardless of whether these were inhabited by a majority of ethnic Slavic populations. In the face of growing political isolation soon after the end of the conflict, an interventionist socialist close to Salvemini highlighted the evolution of many democratic interventionists who through extended contact with nationalists, in Fascist organizations, in public health committees, in patriotic unions, allowed themselves to be gradually assimilated, assuming a nationalist psychology, and then revealing themselves to others and to themselves in the hour of victory, transferring to flags that were already unfurled, to fully fledged nationalism24.

They consequently fell into the terrible contradiction of wanting Fiume for national reasons, the presence of a majority Italian community, but also the control of Dalmatia, inhabited largely by Slavic people, for reasons of national security. By now there was a schism between the initial idealism and final aims of many exponents of the democratic world that would prove very difficult to bridge. There was a violent reaction, creating a media storm, at a political meeting held by Bissolati at La Scala di Milano opera house on January 11, 1919. His talk was greeted with contestations, shouts, and derision, marking the isolation of the main leader of the group and effectively putting an end to his political career. While initially the democrats and nationalists had shared a common program for war but an opposing program for peace, in the final phase of the conflict these differences tended to significantly diminish25. After years of domination of belligerent public discourse in which everyone took part over the war years, including the democrats, it was difficult to turn back. Political propaganda implicitly embodies a “persecutory” component, delineating the advantages of what it proposes in relation first and foremost to the presence of an enemy, a negative force to defend against. The demonization of “the other” is traditionally expressed by depicting them as monstrous beings. Political propaganda is thus very often founded on a sharp division of reality into good and bad, friend and foe, and this is especially true in wartime when the explicit purpose is to unify the community and set aside all differences in order to face up to the shared enemy. A genuine “language of arms” between 1914 and 1918 witnessed images becoming “crude” and words becoming “naked” and brutal, not hiding but rather exalting vio-

even by the “Corriere della Sera”, the principle of national self-determination, see L. Albertini, Venti anni di vita politica, part 2: L’Italia nella Guerra mondiale, vol. 3: Da Caporetto a Vittorio Veneto (Ottobre 1917 – Novembre 1918), Bologna 1952, pp. 233 ff. 24 C. Boscolo, Ognuno al suo posto, in “L’Unità”, February 1, 1919, cit. in R. De Felice, Mussolini il rivoluzionario, p. 483. 25 For the Treaty of Rome, disputes over Sonnino and Italian Fiume, the Scala episode, see R. Vivarelli, Storia delle origini del fascismo, pp. 201–257 and 326 f.

The Italian Paradox: The Italian Media and the Myth of the Mutilated Victory 


lence and inciting hate. During wartime, and especially a total war like the one just finished, there is no space for nuanced meaning and messages tend towards simplification. The intention is not to discuss but only to show and feel. The word of reason takes a back seat, the carefully measured observation gives way to a domination of strong, aggressive, exaggerated images. The aim is not to encourage reflection but instead induce action. Indeed, denouncing the origins of evil also implicitly suggests a remedy for eliminating them26. Once used to this type of imagery, it is difficult to return to the language of a politics that is at least partially pragmatic, based on dialogue, and open to compromise. Consequently, the themes and traditional objectives proposed by democratic interventionism almost disappeared in the post-war period, especially in visual communication, like posters, postcards, illustrations, and journal cartoons. Some space remained available to them only in articles in journals, where it was possible to use slogans and aggressive headlines while still giving room to more extended reflections and articulated discussions, ensuring the copresence of voices that might contest each other, but within a dialogue. In a completely opposite way, during the course of the war nationalism had acquired the characteristics of a mass ideology capable of generating hate and fanaticism, resulting in a Manichean vision of reality, experienced as a mortal, apocalyptic battle between Good and Evil, between “patriots” on one side, and “external” and “internal” enemies on the other. An ideology capable of transforming a war that the ruling classes had imagined useful for restoring social order, into a genuine “mass crusade” against absolute evil. As a consequence, patriotic-nationalistic rhetoric was more readily received. The Italian apprehension of not having the strength to oppose the will of their more powerful allies, the conviction that they could not be fully relied upon, soon emerged. A well-known nationalist intellectual, Gioacchino Volpe for example, in a propaganda speech to the soldiers of the VIII Army in the middle of October 1918, incited

his audience to proceed right on to “total victory” and secure “the rewards” that victory should bring with it. In the face of the remaining risk of a separate peace, it appeared necessary to avoid imposition on the Italians, “by enemies, or perhaps even recommended by friends, of a half-peace or semi-peace, in other words a partial achievement of our war aims”. The objectives to be reached were “the liberation of invaded territory (after Caporetto) and everything due to us to achieve political unity and guarantee the free existence and liberty of action of the Italian State”. In no way should there be a repetition of what happened in 1866, at the end of the war alongside Prussia against the Habsburg Empire27.

26 A. Ventrone, Il nemico interno, pp. 3 f. 27 G. Volpe (ed.), Per la storia dell’VIII Armata dalla controffensiva del giugno alla vittoria del settembre-ottobre 1918, Roma 1925, p. 156.


 Angelo Ventrone

In 1919 this distrust grew ever more, as clearly demonstrated by the cartoons published in the periodicals. Raffaello Jonni, working for the “Travaso delle idee”, was one of the most prolific, returning frequently to this theme. In one illustration, for example, he draws Wilson, Clemenceau, and Lloyd George making a statue of peace, while the caption expresses serious doubts about “what type of masterpiece” will emerge. Another cartoon shows a stone crushing machine (The peace conference machine) that has “run aground”, no longer able to move forwards or backwards. On other occasions the cartoonist draws a statue depicting the Italian victory covered with a cloth “so as not to offend the allies who might starve us to death”, or The new Triple, with Wilson, France, and Great Britain dancing the cancan, while an excluded Italy watches on with disapproval (and perhaps also a little sadness)28. One of the most dramatic and striking images appeared on the cover of the “Il 420”, a magazine of nationalistic orientation as already noted, showing the winged victory lying dead on the peace table, with its body mutilated by the same quill pens used to sign the peace treaty29. This political front aimed for maximum possible territorial expansion of Italy and was inspired by two distinct myths of the past. The first was based on the Republic of Venice and right from the start of the conflict the nationalists, and then increasingly interventionists of other inclinations, aspired to restore the entire Adriatic Sea area back to the old Gulf of Venice dominions. The second was the myth of ancient Rome, colonizers and civilizers of the entire Mediterranean region. These aspirations obviously clashed with the provisions of the Treaty of London and even more seriously with the Corfu Declaration, which substituted the concept of a “Greater Serbia” with a state uniting various other southern Slavs together with the Serbians. For Italian nationalists, as Mussolini already wrote in the summer of 1917, the Corfu Declaration appeared “anti-Austrian in letter, anti-Italian in spirit”30. Mussolini was prepared to concede the new Slav state only a small link to the sea, as foreseen in the Treaty of London31. Starting from this context, the propaganda of the nationalists and Mussolini’s Fasci italiani di combattimento transformed the myth of the “mutilated victory” into a central issue in view of the coming elections of autumn 1919. What were its main components? First, that the Italian victory had been on a different level from that of the other allies, because it was not founded either on economic effort or number of

28 R. Jonni, Fra i tanti artefici della pace […], La macchina della conferenza della pace si è arenata e Al museo, in F. De Simone (ed.), Fondo Guerra, pp. 61–63 and 67. 29 La prima vittima del Trattato di pace, in “Il 420”, July 20, 1919. 30 Il Patto di Corfù, in “Il Popolo d’Italia”, August 7, 1917, now in B. Mussolini, Scritti e discorsi adriatici, vol. 1: Dalla neutralità al Piave. Raccolti ed ordinati da E. Susmel, Milano 1942. 31 B. Mussolini, I popoli contro l’Austria-Ungheria, in B. Mussolini, Scritti e discorsi adriatici, vol. 2: Dal Piave alla Vittoria, pp. 159 ff.

The Italian Paradox: The Italian Media and the Myth of the Mutilated Victory 


troops deployed, as it had been for France, Great Britain, and the United States. This theme had already been central during the years of the war, especially in the disputes that had accompanied and legitimized the war as a phenomenon capable of regenerating the Nation32. The Italian success, it was said, depended on the “qualitative” (spiritual) factor rather than “quantitative” (material) factor, in other words on the force of will and sacrificial capacity of its soldiers. As Mussolini wrote during the war, “the millstone is the mass, the bomb is the will. The bomb destroys the millstone. Oppose a will of steel, tense and implacable against a mass, and you will succeed in crushing the mass. The laws of physics are universal. You can apply ‘leverage’ to men as you apply ‘leverage’ to inert things”33. It was claimed that the Italians had achieved precisely this. D’Annunzio prepared a talk in some ways similar for the fourth anniversary of entry into war, on May 24, 1919, although the authorities prevented him from reading it. It stated that the Italian “expectations” were based on the “rights of a million dead and crippled, the rights of a million wounded and infirm […] the rights of suffering and persistence, of poverty and glory, of sweat and blood, and also of tears”. The Italians had won the war. Alone, always alone from year to year, with a loyalty that grew in generosity in proportion to the extent that the Allies reduced or suspended the promised aid. We stood alone to struggle against a military empire of fifty-two million people freed of the task of facing the eastern enemy [due to the collapse of Russia]. What country then is more purely and fully victorious than Italy? But no: we are not the winners, we are the defeated. We are more defeated than the Prussians […] The Allies and their Associate [the USA] want to deny us any grandeur, block every path of development and expansion, limit our political freedom […] impose a more severe servitude than we feared from the other Triple Alliance, excluding us from the European and world stage, pushing us out of the Adriatic, out of the eastern Mediterranean, out of Asia Minor, out of Africa. Remember this, Italians.

Later he added words that showed an awareness of the depth of the crisis in the parliamentary regime caused by the war. This provided a flash of insight into the direction that would be attempted, first by the poet himself with the expedition to Fiume, and soon after with much greater success by Fascism: If the Italian people had the courage to shift, without hesitation and without compromises, from a mendacious representative regime to an honest form of representation that acknowledged and raised the true creators of national wealth and the honest creators of national power above the parasites and ineptitude of the loathsome and irredeemable political caste, all the many wonders of the Alps, the Karst, and the Plain [where Italy fought and won] would pale

32 See the observations of G. Sabbatucci, La vittoria mutilata, in G. Belardelli / L. Cafagna / E. Galli della Loggia / G. Sabbatucci, Miti e storia dell’Italia unita, Bologna 1999, p. 102. 33 B. Mussolini, Osare!, in “Il Popolo d’Italia”, June 13, 1918, now in Scritti e discorsi di Benito Mussolini. Dall’intervento al fascismo (15 Novembre 1914 – 23 Marzo 1919), Milano 1934, pp. 324 f.


 Angelo Ventrone

before this marvelous civil victory. But did we not fight the war to achieve this? Did we not wage war to achieve renewal through victory? […] Italy must give the world this additional miracle”34.

Alongside the unique nature of the Italian victory, there was also the conviction that those, already defined by Enrico Corradini at the beginning of the century as the “plutocracy”, wanted to impose their own egoism on a “proletarian nation” like Italy, denying fair recognition of the sacrifices made and blood spilled35. This theme emerged in a talk by the liberal senator Tommaso Tittoni addressing parliament at the end of April 1919 and not long before he became Foreign Minister and head of the Italian delegation to the Paris Peace Conference: Be careful that after having overcome the German hegemony, we do not come to realize we have replaced it with other hegemonies, less brutal in appearance but in reality, equally tyrannical [enthusiastic approval]. Be careful above all that behind the hegemony of certain large nations, there might be a formidable hidden plutocratic coalition [applause], a colossal financial monopoly for the economic exploitation of the world [unanimous and extended applause]36.

As again D’Annunzio wrote in his Lettera ai Dalmati, the words of which represent in some respects the point of convergence of the disputes over the mutilated victory, the “old persecutions of the privileged suppressors and the new falsifications of the defeated usurpers should not carry any weight”. “We fought for a Greater Italy. We want Italy greater”37. Accusations against other states, in particular the United States, of being plutocracies of imperialistic rapaciousness were also frequent in the illustrations that circulated in Italy. In one of these, for example, Wilson is seen speaking to a little girl representing Fiume, telling her: “It is no good little one […] You have to go back home empty handed! […]”, while his own arms are loaded with parcels bearing very explicit labels: Dominion of the seas, Inferiority of the Japanese race, Cuba, Philippines, Aspirations in Mexico, Canada, and China […] In another, Wilson is represented with the conventional hooked claws of a greedy villain, interceding to prevent Italy from embracing its little daughter, who is wearing a sash with the name “Fiume”38. The same theme naturally also appeared in the socialist sphere, although in an interventionist form of

34 The speech was printed in a pamphlet a few months later, see L’Italia alla colonna e la vittoria col bavaglio. Discorso al popolo di Roma vietato dal capo di governo il XXIV maggio MCMXIX, Roma, s.n., 1919; however, the text had already been published in the days following the event, albeit partly censored, by various newspapers including “La Stampa”, May 26, 1919. 35 E. Corradini, Classi proletarie: socialismo; nazioni proletarie: nazionalismo, in Il nazionalismo italiano. Atti del convegno, Firenze 1910, pp. 23–36. 36 I. Reggio, Il trionfale epilogo, p. 177. 37 In “Popolo d’Italia”, January 15, 1919. 38 R. Jonni, L’uomo puro, in F. De Simone (ed.), Fondo Guerra, p. 64, and one very similar, Wilson, ibid., p. 66, and F. Scarpelli, La soluzione amara, appearing in “Travaso delle idee” on June 8, 1919, ibid., p. 91.

The Italian Paradox: The Italian Media and the Myth of the Mutilated Victory 


socialism like that of Galantara, with the depiction of two Wilsons, one in favor of the “Right of self-determination”, the second for “Capitalist interests”, fighting each other furiously39. In 1920 the “Numero” depicted Wilson more severely in a cartoon titled The Owner of the World. He is sitting on a throne with a globe under his arm, a sack of dollars in one hand, and Uncle Sam’s hat on his head, while all the peoples of the Earth bow before him, with Nitti, Clemenceau, and Lloyd George in the first row 40. In a Memorandum delivered to Prime Minister Vittorio Emanuele Orlando on April 14, 1919, Wilson presented the post-war territorial divisions he had in mind, and the following week this was referred directly to the Italian people41. At this point the delegation including Orlando, Sonnino, and Salandra abandoned the Paris Peace Conference and returned to Rome to request support from the national public for the Italian demands42. The conditions set by Wilson were below the expectations of most patriotic public opinion and ruined his reputation, which from 1918 to the start of the following year had been very good. Up until this moment the president of the United States had been seen as the main defender of the “rights of peoples”43. As early as November 3, 1918, even before the war officially ended, Wilson was depicted on the cover of the “L’Asino”, with angel wings, holding a set of scales (representing justice) and a sword pointing towards Kaiser Wilhelm II’s back. As Mussolini would note, over those weeks no small number of people were burning “countless grains of incense to the ‘divinity’” arriving from over the ocean44. A few years later the writer Riccardo Bacchelli would recall how Wilson had played the role of “prophet [just] for one year”45.

39 G. Galantara, I due Wilson alla conferenza per la Pace, in “L’Asino”, May 11, 1919, now in F. Santilli, Segni dei tempi, p. 22. 40 “Numero”, February 29, 1920, now in F. Santilli, Segni dei tempi, p. 27. 41 Il memorandum and reproduced in I. Reggio, Il trionfale epilogo, pp. 178 ff. 42 See B. Mussolini, L’Italia non rinuncia a quel che fu consacrato dal sangue, in “Il Popolo d’Italia”, April 25, 1919, now in B. Mussolini, Opera omnia, edited by E. and D. Susmel, vol. 8, Firenze 1954, pp. 80 f. The popular periodicals also dedicated ample space to these events, see for example the cover by A. Beltrame, The Return of the Italian Delegation. All the People of Rome Express the Support of the Nation to the Honourable Orland, and the back cover, A. Beltrame, Fiume Once Again Solemnly Proclaims Its Indomitable Italian Nature. The Touching, Popular Demonstration by the People of Fiume, Following the Consignment of State Powers to the Representative of the Motherland, in “Domenica del Corriere”, May 11–18, 1919; the same edition of the magazine included articles and photos dedicated to demonstrations of “Italianness” on the opposite side of the Adriatic Sea, ibid., pp. 4 f. 43 The US president was depicted in this way in countless images over the course of 1918; see, for example, the manifesto by L. Martinati, Per i diritti dei popoli Woodrow Wilson (1918?), in F. De Simone (ed.), Fondo Guerra, p. 119, and the cover of “La Domenica del Corriere”, Il benvenuto al Presidente degli Stati Uniti nella capitale d’Italia. L’incontro fra il Re e Wilson alla stazione di Roma, January 12–19, 1919. 44 B. Mussolini, Il trucco, in “Il Popolo d’Italia”, April 26, 1919, now in B. Mussolini, Opera omnia, vol. 13, pp. 82 ff. 45 As in the novel Oggi, domani e mai (1932), cit. in D. Rossini, Una democrazia in guerra: Rudolph Altrocchi e Ivy L. Lee nella propaganda di massa degli Stati Uniti in Italia (1917–1918), in N. Labanca / C. Zadra (eds.), Costruire un nemico. Studi di storia della propaganda di guerra, Milano 2011, p. 65, and more widely, N. Labanca / C. Zadra (eds.), Il mito americano nell’Italia della Grande guerra, Roma / Bari 2000.


 Angelo Ventrone

After the arrival of the proposal from the USA, its image changed radically ending up clearly eclipsing those of the other ex-allies, Great Britain and France. During 1919, the United States was increasingly described in terms that Fascist propaganda would later take up and exacerbate: the realm of individualism, of the “religion of material things”, of those who think only of getting more while riding roughshod over the aspirations for justice and liberty of other peoples46. In this respect, the Bolsheviks, mortal adversaries of the West and of Christianity, and the plutocratic, selfish Anglo-Americans, seemingly polar opposites, came to be depicted as sharing an exclusive interest in the material dimension of existence47. Another feature of the mutilated victory myth is a lack of references to other promises contained in the Treaty of London. Promises that would never be fulfilled. In the April 1915 agreement, it was foreseen that recognition for the Italian commitment would certainly include territorial expansion in two areas of crucial importance for the peninsula: the Adriatic Sea and the Mediterranean. But post-war visual propaganda made no reference to the promised German colonies, or the area of influence foreseen in Anatolia. There are also only limited references to Albania, which the more radical groups were demanding for annexation and control not only of the coast but also the hinterland. The debate around the national interests to be protected at all costs was effectively concentrated on the Italian identity of Fiume and Dalmatia (on October 30, 1918, by public poll Fiume elected for annexation by Italy, putting the city under the protection of America, “mother of liberty and universal democracy”). As a result, the promises for Mediterranean and African territories were marginalized, to the extent that Italy was excluded from the re-definition of the Middle East, decided in the Sykes-Picot Agreement and divided between France and Great Britain. There were only limited compensations in Africa (something in Libya but excluding Tunisia, Egypt, and French Saharan territories, and something in Somalia), notwithstanding the aspirations towards acquiring vast areas of Sub-Saharan Africa and for complete hegemony over the Horn of Africa. It could be sustained that during this period the nationalist rhetoric of a “Greater Italy” was unable to take hold and there appeared to be a degree of hesitance in dealing with issues associated with the politics of power. It was as if even the most radical fringes of the patriotic-nationalist movement remained essentially caught up in the rhetoric that had legitimized the First World War: aiming for the recovery of the irredentist territories and liberation of the peoples subjected to Austro-Hungarian dominion. In this way the democratic interventionism made a comeback, although by now in more extreme, radicalized terms.

46 M. Nacci, L’antiamericanismo in Italia negli anni Trenta, Torino 1989. 47 See, for example, the paintings by A. Rubino, La Russia bolscevica vista a volo d’uccello, in “La Tradotta”, July 1, 1919, now in A. Ventrone, Il nemico interno, pp. 124–127.

The Italian Paradox: The Italian Media and the Myth of the Mutilated Victory 


It was no accident that Giolitti continued to be described as someone who insists, unflinchingly, to auction off Italy’s honor, while Francesco Saverio Nitti, Prime Minister from June 1919, was nicknamed “Cagoia” by D’Annunzio. Cagoia symbolized the man “without patria, neither Slovenian nor Croatian, nor inclined towards Italy or Austria”, without ideals other than a “philosophy of the belly”. An individual, therefore, who, after taking part in a few protests in Trieste, is taken before a court and interrogated by a magistrate. Here, however, he denies everything, even himself. He claims not to have shouted “Down with Italy” and not to even know that Italy exists. He says his only interest is eating and drinking, and concludes: “I think only for my belly”48. The logical outcome of this is seen on the cover of “Numero” on January 9, 1921, a few days after the Bloody Christmas when D’Annunzio had to abandon Fiume, showing the guileless couple of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza, depicted as Giolitti on a horse and Nitti on a donkey, entering triumphantly into the city while a skeleton in an ardito uniform, trampled by the horse, salutes Giolitti with, “Greetings, oh […] neutralist!”49. The myth of the mutilated victory and the Fiume Escapade therefore provide a yardstick for one of the most serious consequences of the war: schisms between the interventionist movement and the liberal institutions, and between the interventionist movement and the nation. The first schism encouraged the more radical interventionists to consider substituting themselves for the liberal ruling class, because the latter were no longer considered capable of guiding the country with a sufficiently firm hand against the “enemies within”, nor of defending its interests. The second schism involved a feeling within the interventionist movement of betrayal by many Italians. As a consequence, and with the risk of missing the opportunity for the country to finally become a true nation and recover its international prestige, the idea that it was necessary to take control of the state became established. Both disaffections led to theorizations that legitimized the use of violence. Between the end of 1919 and 1920, however, protests against the mutilated victory progressively lost force. The results of the political elections of November 1919 confirmed the disastrous decline of the interventionists and the success of the socialists and Catholics. One year later, the Treaty of Rapallo (November 12, 1920) assigned Istria to Italy, Dalmatia to Yugoslavia, with the exception of the city of Zara, and stipulated that Fiume should be transformed into a free city, which appeared a reasonable compromise to the majority of the public. As a result, there were no great protests when, after D’Annunzio’s refusal to accept the compromise proposed by the Italian government and leave Fiume, the city was liberated by force through the intervention of the Italian navy50. It is significant

48 Cagoia e le Teste di ferro, a speech by D’Annunzio on September 27, 1919, now at , accessed November 4, 2019. 49 L’entrata vittoriosa di Giolitti e Cagoia a Fiume, in “Numero”, January 9, 1921, now in F. Santilli, Segni dei tempi, p. 26. 50 An internal reconstruction of the treaty and relative serenity with which an agreement was reached is provided by G. Giolitti, Memorie della mia vita, vol. 2, Milano 1922, pp. 571–581.


 Angelo Ventrone

that “La Domenica del Corriere”, a supplement to the “Corriere della sera” directed by Luigi Albertini, while celebrating the annexation of Trento and Bolzano between October and November 1920, and the victory at Vittorio Veneto, made no mention of Fiume, nor of the Bloody Christmas. Naturally the periodicals closest to this undertaking, like “L’Ardito. Settimanale dell’Associazione arditi d’Italia”, continued for some time to denounce “the iniquitous pact” and to extol “The tragic ‘bora’ wind” that blew from the city of Fiume to remind Giolitti and a terrified King Vittorio Emanuele III (holding the crown tight on his head to avoid it being blasted away by the gale arriving from the other side of the Adriatic Sea): “You have given amnesty to the deserters and slaughtered the heroes!”51. The political influence of the mutilated victory was thus strong during 1919 and continued to raise its head over the subsequent two years though, with ever lessening effect. The rowdy nationalist and Fascist propaganda also exploited modern instruments like lighting, luminous flares, and even trucks to involve as many people as possible in their meetings. Local prefects and police officials did note, however, that these involved small numbers of agitators, poorly organized and financed, and largely concentrated in the main urban areas of the central and northern regions. As time went by the myth continued to fade, as clearly demonstrated in the electoral campaign of 1921, when the main theme among patriotic public opinion was the defense of the “victory” against denigration by subversives. A victory that should dazzle them with its brilliance, forcing them to give way and retreat52. The effects of the mutilated victory were in any case enduring. A protagonist in the assault on the parliament during the fiery days of the “Radiant May” in 1915 noted the appearance of the first cracks in the system, and during the war years the idea emerged of replacing the liberal ruling class, considered incapable of managing the imposing difficulties of taking part in the conflict. The Fiume Escapade in September 1919 renewed the currency of this idea and the elections of the same year, with the success of the socialists and Catholic People’s Party as already noted, demonstrated that the liberal ruling class had effectively lost much of the consensus it had enjoyed up to the First World War. A cartoon in “Travaso delle idee” depicted Italy personified as a woman wearing a fortress crown and waiting with open arms for the Star of Italy, running towards her holding the Italian flag and a laurel branch. This was a clear expression of the residual resentments for the outcomes of the Versailles Peace Conference, which induced a new wave of nationalism, indeed a “remobilization”, and

51 Contro l’iniquo Patto la Dalmazia insorga! e La tragica “bora” di Fiume, in “L’Ardito”, respectively November 20, 1920, and January 1, 1921. 52 Drawing by A. Beltrame, Nel faustissimo anniversario. Ad onta degli sforzi infami di malvagi e di incoscienti di ogni colore la Vittoria dell’Italia eterna sta, circonfusa di un fulgore di grandezza che non teme tramonti, in “Domenica del Corriere”, November 2–9, 1919. For a historiographic reconstruction, P. Mattera, La “lezione della guerra”, pp. 207 ff., and A. Baravelli, La vittoria smarrita. Legittimità e rappresentazioni della Grande Guerra nella crisi del sistema liberale (1919–1924), Roma 2006, pp. 49–56.

The Italian Paradox: The Italian Media and the Myth of the Mutilated Victory 


although it would die down in the immediate future, it would later explode again in an even more ferociously anti-socialist orientation soon after53. Effectively, when the political tensions were to explode and the Fascist movement managed to convince a large part of public opinion that it was both the legitimate heir to the Greater Italy aspired to by participation in the World War, and the only true political force capable of standing up to its bitterest enemies, the socialists, those early cracks would transform into a true landslide that would rapidly overwhelm the country.

53 F. Scarpelli, Rimobilitazione, in F. De Simone (ed.), Fondo Guerra, p. 94.

Pierre Purseigle

Devastated Victors Reconstruction and the Urban Transition from War to Peace in Western Europe In July 1998 in Noyon, a medium-sized town in northern France, construction workers pulled down the decayed community hall and chopped down the acacias which had stood there since the 1920s in order to make room for a brand-new leisure center. The street sign was also taken down; until then, the plaque had read: “Place de Béziers, marraine de guerre de Noyon”1. This was the last testimony of the particular bond that used to tie Noyon and the town of Béziers, in southern France, that in March 1920 had decided to “adopt” it in a spectacular move designed to state its commitment to the recovery of a town which had been entirely destroyed after the German invasion of 1914. In that way, the ville-marraine had pledged its financial aid towards the recovery of the town and to foster the link between the two towns by organizing charity fêtes and civic rituals. The acacias were not replanted and the plaque never put back in place. 80 years after the armistice of 1918, the memory of a distinctive feature of the post-WWI reconstruction had faded away as collective memory and historiography seem to collude in oversight. This chapter will nonetheless suggest that the story of towns like Noyon helps us understand the way European societies managed the transition from war to peace. Recent studies of the aftermath of the First World War have demonstrated that the sharp distinction drawn between victors and vanquished, imposed by the provisions of the 1918 armistices and reinforced by article 231 of the 1919 Treaty of Versailles, obscures as much as it illuminates the fraught and complex transition from war to peace after 1918. Both victory and defeat remained highly contested terms across Europe, as belligerent societies confronted the yawning gap between wartime expectations and post-war realities. For, despite its extortionate human and material costs, war was never anything but a blunt instrument of policy. Yet the cultural and ideological investment in the conflict had accredited the notion that the war would be much more and bring about a new era of prosperity and national cohesion2. Historians have long studied the frustrations and conflicts that afflicted vanquished nations and empires. Robert Gerwarth’s latest book thus explores the brutal consequences of defeat. Yet his “vanquished” includes nations, like Italy, whose victory soon sounded hollow, drowned out by resentful cries of betrayal3. Poland and Serbia also illustrate

1 “Béziers square, to the war god-mother of Noyon”, in “Le Midi Libre”, January 12, 2000. 2 W. Mulligan, The Great War for peace, New Haven CT 2014. 3 R. Gerwarth, The Vanquished. Why the First World War Failed to End, 1917–1923, London 2016.


 Pierre Purseigle

the profound tensions brought about by the victorious end to a conflict, whose contested meaning continued to shape post-war politics4. When the uncertain aftermath of the conflict culminated in a global crisis of liberal democracy and economics, it became apparent that no former belligerent would be spared the reckoning of peace5. In this context, discourses of reconstruction did not merely reveal the need to address the material impact of the conflict but betrayed the common urge to rethink and redefine national projects and identities in the wake of war6. In Britain for instance, the debate focused on long-standing problems of social policies and rightly underlined the centrality of the nation-state in the process of recovery7. As a result – and perhaps unwittingly –, comparative histories of inter-war Europe, in all their diversity, have tended to paint homogeneous pictures of the national experiences of reconstruction8. This chapter builds on John Horne’s pioneering analysis of post-war demobilization to challenge the persistent analytical primacy of the nation-state in the history of reconstruction and to highlight its complex geographies and temporalities9. In order to do so, it will focus on the urban transition from war to peace and shift the emphasis back to the devastated regions of Western Europe. The First World War had of course transformed many towns and cities into industrial battlefields. As armies fought their way through the continental landscape, the conflict inflicted unprecedented levels of destruction upon the urbanized regions of Europe. Their experience of demobilization and reconstruction has thus far remained relatively neglected despite the unprecedented degree of material devastation they faced. For they, too, attempted to come to terms with mass mourning, economic demobilization, and the reintegration of veterans. In Belgian and French cities laid to waste by military operations, the war clearly did not end with the peace treaties and the return of war veterans. There, ruins and devastation formed the backdrop of demobilization, whose geography was not simply defined by the boundaries of the nation-state. In France, 10 départements of the north and north-east of the country had suffered such destruction that 91% of their settlements had suffered material damage. Of those, 620 communes had been entirely destroyed by military opera4 J. Eichenberg, Kämpfen für Frieden und Fürsorge: polnische Veteranen des Ersten Weltkriegs und ihre internationalen Kontakte, 1918–1939, München 2011; J.P. Newman, Yugoslavia in the Shadow of War. Veterans and the Limits of State Building, 1903–1945, Cambridg 2015. 5 R.W.D. Boyce, The Great Interwar Crisis and the Collapse of Globalization, Basingstoke 2009. 6 E. Foner, Reconstruction. America’s Unfinished Revolution, 1863–1877, 1st ed., New York 1988; E. Foner, The Second Founding. How the Civil War and Reconstruction Remade the Constitution, 1st ed., New York 2019. 7 S. Pedersen, From National Crisis to “National Crisis”. British Politics, 1914–1931, in “Journal of British Studies”, 33, 1994, 3, pp. 322–335. 8 C.S. Maier, Recasting Bourgeois Europe. Stabilization in France, Germany, and Italy in the Decade after World War I, Princeton NJ 1975; A. Mayer, The Persistence of the Old Regime. Europe to the Great War, New York 1981. 9 J. Horne (ed.), Démobilisations culturelles après la Grande Guerre, Paris 2002.

Devastated Victors 


tions10. In Belgium, few regions had been spared devastation and reconstruction was a truly national undertaking: 200,000 buildings, 4,000km of railway tracks had been destroyed11. While Western Flanders had suffered the most extensive damage after the stabilization of the battlefield, towns and cities on the path of the German army (Dinant, Termonde, Louvain, Malines, or Namur for instance) had suffered substantial destruction too. Material devastation transformed both the context and dynamics of demobilization and forged, to use Reinhardt Koselleck’s categories, specific “spaces of experience” and “horizons of expectations12. In the devastated regions of Europe, the process of reconstruction therefore imposed its own temporalities. As local populations projected themselves into the post-war future, they were keenly aware of the particular historical trajectory of their communities. Their war experience was not just defined by mass military and social mobilization, by collective mourning and temporary economic dislocation. It was also irremediably shaped by the destruction of their physical environment and the upheaval of their most basic, material conditions of existence. This accounts for the divergence of local and national temporalities of demobilization, as the necessities of reconstruction imposed their own timeframes. This also explains the difficulty to offer a definite chronology of reconstruction. The planning for, if not the actual work of, reconstruction began as soon as the German army penetrated onto Belgian and French territory. Reconstruction was, in this sense, concomitant to destruction; its history therefore starts in August 1914. It is however considerably more difficult to establish its endpoint. The Belgian and French states’ focus on the recovery of infrastructure, industries, and agriculture explained why some commentators declared the end of the reconstruction by the mid-1920s. American financial institutions, clearly eager to convince existing and prospective clients, claimed that both countries were not only back at work but back in working order and open for business and investment as early as 1919 and 192013. While most publications produced for and by the populations of the devastated regions (e.g. “Le Journal des régions dévastées”, 1923; “Bulletin des régions libérées”, 1926) seem to have ceased publication by the mid-1920s, official sources and publications document the work of reconstruction well into the 1930s. By then, however, senior policymakers had

10 Paris, La Contemporaine (BDIC) F delta 874/9; H. Clout, The Great Reconstruction of Towns and Cities in France 1918–1935, in “Planning Perspective. An International Journal Of History, Planning and the Environment”, 20, 2005, 1, pp. 1–34. 11 L. Van Ypersele, Héros, martyrs et traîtres: les fractures de la Belgique libérée, in S. AudoinRouzeau  / C. Prochasson (eds.), Sortir de la Grande Guerre. Le monde et l’après-1918, Paris 2008, pp. 213–236. 12 R. Koselleck, Futures Past. On the Semantics of Historical Time, Cambridge MA 1985. 13 Guaranty Trust Company of New York, Greater France, New York 1920; Brown Brothers & Company, France; the Reconstruction 1919, New York 1919; Guaranty Trust Company of New York, Belgium: Its Prospects for Financial and Economic Rehabilitation, New York 1919.


 Pierre Purseigle

already declared the end of reconstruction to burnish oft contested track records, as André Tardieu did in November 1929 on the day he assumed the leadership of the French cabinet14. In fact, France’s 1940 budget still accounted for reconstruction-related expenses. Most communities were still completing their reconstruction when they had to face another war and its new trail of destruction. The study of reconstruction, as an idea, as public policy, as a social experience, also demonstrates a wider point about the history of global warfare. It cannot be written from a single spatial perspective. Local, national, and transnational perspectives must be combined, not because it may sound fashionable in current academic discourses, but because the belligerent societies navigated metaphorically and literally among different spaces. It is therefore important to combine local and transnational approaches to shed new light on the process of reconstruction. In doing so, one can position the specific experiences of the devastated regions within wider debates over peace-making and reparations. It shows how the special status that “martyr towns” and their populations enjoyed in the wartime rhetoric gradually unraveled as Entente powers engaged in tense negotiations over German reparations. In the meantime, the pressures of national demobilization appeared to undermine the continuing efforts required by the reconstitution of the urban battlefield. In these regions, the undeniable success of relief and reconstruction belied the occasional failure of national and inter-state solidarity; it also reasserted the cultural and material importance of local and transnational civil society organizations. Finally, the transnational urban history this chapter suggests may also highlight the extent to which national cultural demobilization and fiscal retrenchment in the 1920s impelled ruined cities to maximize their own resources and underlined the significance of translocal networks of solidarities that were born out of the war experience. Scholars have generally acknowledged that the process of reconstruction started as early as 1914, when planners and policymakers set out the principles of urban recovery. They have however considered it in isolation from the process of wartime mobilization. Yet, as John Horne argued in relation to labor and industrial relations, it is imperative to place mobilization and reconstruction in the same analytical framework15. In a matter of weeks following the invasion of Belgium in August 1914, cities like Dinant, Louvain, Rheims, and then Ypres, Arras, Verdun, as well as scores of Belgian and French towns along the Western Front came to encapsulate the nature and meaning of the war. Urban devastation soon became indissociable from the “barbaric” German way of war denounced by Allied propagandists16. As Alan Kramer and John Horne have shown, the experience and memory of the 1914 German invasion of Belgium and France and of the subsequent “German atroc14 “Le Figaro”, November 8, 1929. 15 J. Horne, Labour at War. France and Britain 1914–1918, Oxford 1991. 16 S. Audoin-Rouzeau / J.-J. Becker / G. Krumeich / J.M. Winter (eds.), Guerres et cultures, 1914–1918, Paris 1994.

Devastated Victors 


ities” were absolutely central in the shaping of the war effort among the western allies17. The evocation of “martyr towns” lay at the core of the rhetoric of social mobilization in the first weeks of the conflict and was equally central to the remobilization effort mounted in 1916/1718. Intellectuals and publicists explicitly constructed the experience of urban victimhood as a symbol of national resistance; their plight confirmed in their eyes that the Kaiserreich had irremediably broken ranks with the community of civilized peoples19. Gabriel Hanotaux, a historian and member of the Académie, made this very point in a 1915 lecture, translated into eleven languages for circulation in neutral countries. His evocation of the classical and medieval history of devastated towns like Soissons allowed him to favorably compare the barbarians of the past to the modern frightfulness of German warfare. As the German army destroyed sites of national heritage, like Reims, Hanotaux argued that they were attacking “the supreme expression, if not of French life, at least of French defense”20. In the same vein, Pierre Nothomb, an important public intellectual in wartime Belgium and later in European right-wing circles included a chapter on “the murdered cities” in his book on The Barbarians in Belgium. There was in Belgium, in the first month of the occupation, a series of sensational crimes that summarize, synthesize all the others: the murder coolly debated and premeditated of entire cities, inducing their most sacred monuments, their artistic treasures, their population thrown towards the slaughterhouse or exile! Aerschot, Dinant, Andenne, Louvain, Termonde, Tamines are unforgettable names for a people who, in his cult of the victims, will forever draw hatred against the murderers. […] Let us salute them from afar, painfully, in the expectation of the pilgrimage that, on the glorious morning of deliverance, will bring us to their fertile and vengeful ruins: martyr means witness!21.

Meanwhile, Marius Vachon, a heritage specialist at the French Touring-Club, reprised this trope in a series of lectures on “the martyr towns of France and Belgium” delivered in Switzerland to counter German rebuttals of atrocities stories. Like the Christian martyrs of old redeemed and saved the human soul, the martyr towns today, through the sufferings of their death throes, through their deathly torture, as well as our heroes’ blood shed on the battlefield, have redeemed and saved the national soul: patria non immemor22.

The discourse of urban victimhood transparently drew on the model of Christian and catholic martyrdom so familiar to French and Belgian societies as well as to many

17 J. Horne / A. Kramer, German Atrocities, 1914. A History of Denial, New Haven CT / London 2001. 18 J. Horne (ed.), State, Society, and Mobilization in Europe during the First World War, Cambridge 1997. 19 P. Jarry, Le Passé Qui Saigne. Les Villes Martyres, Hier et Aujourd’hui, Paris 1916. 20 G. Hanotaux, Les Villes Martyres. Les Falaises de l’Aisne, Paris 1915, pp. 12, 15. 21 P. Nothomb, Les Barbares en Belgique, Paris 1915, pp. 105 f. 22 M. Vachon, Les Villes Martyres de France et de Belgique, Paris 1915.


 Pierre Purseigle

neutrals. In the aftermath of the conflict, the language of reconstruction would unsurprisingly continue to hark back to German barbarity and martyrdom to evoke the “great duty” of national and international solidarity23. Just as urban ruins stood as local synecdoches for the global, ideological conflict, the reconstruction of devastated cities focused wider reflections on the type of social changes that the war might bring about. The language of reconstruction thus contained many of the tensions and potential conflicts that would emerge at the end of military operations. It is therefore important to distinguish between reconstruction, conceived as a re-creation, and reconstitution, the reproduction of what used to be. Although public discourses did not always explicitly endorse and elaborate on this difference, the sinistrés (victims) and rapatriés (returnees) often expressed their preference for the reconstitution of the status quo ante bellum. This explains the reluctance of local communities to embrace the modernizing agenda of urban planners, architects, and other experts who, as we shall see, aimed to seize the opportunity offered by reconstruction to transform their towns. Tensions, if not outright conflicts, inevitably erupted as modernization was often perceived as the “best” enemy of a “good” reconstruction, that is to say, a swift and economical return to one’s own home. Although French was the dominant language in Belgium, commentators and authorities there also speak of “restauration”. After four years of foreign occupation, the challenge of Belgian reconstruction was of course not merely material but entailed the restoration of Belgian sovereignty, if not that of its flawed, pre-war political system24. In both cases, and indeed across the belligerent world, those debates reflected the cultural and ideological investment into the conflict. Combatants and non-combatants alike had primarily conceived the war as an existential struggle waged in defense of a nation, often experienced and framed in personal and domestic terms. Yet, as the conflict exacted unprecedented sacrifices, it also justified new calls for a post-war redefinition of the social and political compact at the national and international levels. Such reflections were part and parcel of the process of mobilization and urban planners and architects played their role in it. In 1915/16, Adolphe Derveaux, a noted architect and urban planner, thus contributed to a series of lectures held at the École des Hautes Études Sociales in Paris. These events brought together a series of prominent intellectuals to discuss the future “reorganization” of France25. To Derveaux, and indeed to many of his col-

23 P. Deschanel, Le Grand Devoir, in “Le Journal des Régions Dévastées”, May 18, 1919. 24 H. Pirenne, La Belgique et La Guerre Mondiale, New Haven CT 1928. 25 C. Seignobos et al. (eds.), La Réorganisation de La France. Conférences Faites à l’École des Hautes Études Sociales (Novembre 1915 à Janvier 1916), Paris 1917. I am most grateful to Prof. John Horne who brought this publication to my attention and kindly shared his notes and reflections on the topic. To place these urban reflections in context, see C. Bruant, L’École d’art public du Collège libre des sciences sociales: une formation à l’urbanisme comme  sociologie appliquée, in “Le Télémaque”, 33, 2008, 1, p. 83.

Devastated Victors 


leagues in France, Belgium, and in the United States, the reconstruction of ruined cities was to be part of the wider program of social reforms that wartime sacrifices demanded26. The particular sacrifices consented by the populations of the devastated regions during the war were also expected to frame and determine the outcome of the peace-making process. After all, as Clémentel, French Minister of Commerce, put it in a memorandum to Lord Reading in December 1918, “France has been the battlefield of the Allies” and the latter must help it in return27. In diplomatic correspondence with their British counterparts, French and Belgian policymakers regularly asserted what had become an article of faith across the devastated regions. In an enquiry by the Belgian government in 1917, a host of business and political leaders made the same point: “The sacrifices that the war imposed upon Belgium have created duties of gratitude” for the “great nations”28. The conscience of humankind and the honor of European civilization demand that if events do not make it possible to impose a complete and unrestricted indemnification of our country to our aggressor, this indemnification be offered if need be by the allied and saved countries29.

This rhetoric of Belgian sacrifice and Allied gratitude was of course a common trope across Allied media and civil societies, as indicated by a letter sent to the Belgian government on October 1, 1917, by two American businessmen who arguably sound rather keen to combine profits and solidarity: To share in the great work of rebuilding Belgium is a privilege that appeals to the heart of every loyal American. It offers an opportunity to perform a service of inestimable value to that stricken country – a service commensurate with the debt of gratitude we owe her. […] Who can doubt that we are obligated to Belgium for the perpetuation of our freedom, independence and democratic institutions!”30.

In both public and private, British policymakers admitted that, as Lord Cecil wrote in September 1918, “the needs of the Allied populations are a moral claim on all of us”31. Cecil was even more explicit in a speech to the Anglo-Belgian Union on November 7, 1918:

26 Paris, La Contemporaine, (BDIC) O 5850, A. Daudé-Bancel, La reconstruction des cités détruites, June 1, 1917, Excerpt from “La Grande Revue”, May-June 1917; Bruxelles, Archives Diplomatiques du Royaume de Belgique (Arch. Dipl. Belg.) CI B 378; Cambridge, Harvard University, Widener Library, Fr 1870.21.5, F. George / B. Ford, Rebuilding France for Posterity. How the Renaissance des Cités is Helping the People in Devastated Areas to Plan a New Life, in “La France”, February 1921, pp. 202–223. 27 London, The National Archives (TNA), CAB 1/27/28, December 12, 1918. 28 Arch. Dipl. Belg. CI B 218, Dr Cousot, Senator, Dinant. 29 Arch. Dipl. Belg. CI B 218 – 1917, Castelein, President of the Antwerp Chamber of Commerce. 30 Arch. Dipl. Belg. CI B 378, Letter from Moncheur to Broqueville, October 1, 1917. 31 A. Orde, British Policy and European Reconstruction after the First World War, Cambridge 2002, p. 21.


 Pierre Purseigle

We have a debt of gratitude towards Belgium for the immense sacrifices she has made and we must apply ourselves to repay them. The Allies must ensure the reconstruction of Belgium and the reparation of the damages she suffered; here, we must go beyond whatever we shall be able to extract from her ruthless aggressors. The British Government does not forget its obligations in this regard32.

The debate over reconstruction did of course take place in the wider and more controversial context of the debate on reparations, which this chapter does not aim to address directly33. The issue of reconstruction does however underline in a most potent and concrete way the discrepancy between the reality of international wartime and post-war politics and the ethical discourse that underpinned wartime cultural mobilization and sustained the hope of the populations of the devastated regions. This discrepancy – and the potential for disappointment – is well documented in the British and Belgian economic and diplomatic archives and appears as early as 1916. One good example is the debate over the potential British contribution to the King Albert’s Fund, an organization created by the Belgian government to provide temporary accommodation for the population of the devastated regions. Despite the repeated efforts and pleas of Belgian diplomats, the British government refused to commit to this particular scheme or indeed to any other reconstruction scheme, even if the Foreign Office reaffirmed its “intention to assist to the utmost of their power in the reconstitution and reconstruction of Belgium”34. Unsurprisingly, the Belgian government expressed its “profound and legitimate disappointment”35. But the British were anxious to avoid any sort of precedent that could then be invoked by other allies, like Serbia, in the peace negotiations. Typically, British diplomats soon looked across the Pond for a solution to this particular problem: Few things would make a greater appeal to American idealism than the rebuilding of Belgium, and extensive American contributions, whether Governmental or private, would relieve us financially at our weakest point36.

Belgium soon realized that inter-allied solidarity should not be taken for granted, but the specificity of its experience also undermined its bargaining power. Indeed, the discussion in Paris in 1919 showed Belgium that the moral high ground it had occupied since the invasion of 1914, or the devastation it had suffered, converted with difficulty in the hard and bloody currency of the military sacrifice that the British Empire had consented. Material devastation counted little for Lloyd George for instance who discounted material devastation in a discussion with Clemenceau in March 1919. 32 Arch. Dipl. Belg. CI B 267, Restauration de la Belgique. 33 D.P. Silverman, Reconstructing Europe after the Great War, Cambridge MA / London 1982. 34 TNA, T 1/12123, 35 Arch. Dipl. Belg. Légation de Belgique, London, December 4, 1917. 36 TNA, T 1/12123, Note from JKN, to Keynes, February 22, 1917.

Devastated Victors 


“The English public would not understand that the cost of each chimney destroyed in France be repaid in full, but not the price of lost English lives”37. In a matter of months, the populations of the devastated regions were forced to recognize that, in contradiction with wartime discourses, they would not be granted any special status in the post-war world. In other words, and to echo the rhetoric of Wilsonism, the Belgians thought they had entered into a covenant; they realized they were merely part of a strategic coalition. Sent to Belgium in April 1919 to report on local attitudes towards Britain, Herbert Samuel underlines the nature and risks of this realization. The course of events at the Peace Conference at Paris had given rise to much disappointment. The internal economic condition of the country remained serious. […] This state of affairs, four months after the signature of the armistice, was contrasted with the promises of the Allies during the war to assist the rapid restoration of Belgium, and was rapidly extending, that, the war being over the Allies in general, and the United Kingdom in particular, were indifferent to the fulfilment of those promises. […] The enthusiasm which had existed for the Allies during the war and at the moment of the armistice was cooling, and there was a danger that it would be replaced by a sentiment of alienation, and even of hostility”38.

Similar sentiments were reported in the devastated regions of France: “After the efforts and sacrifice of France, the disappointment is immense”39. By the mid-1920s, newspapers published by the sinistrés continued to bemoan the lack of allied – and specifically British – gratitude and solidarity: “Our good English friends, who are excellent tourists and often visit us, could perhaps keep a few memories and images of our regions; this would perhaps make them less ferocious towards us”40. The study of reconstruction underlines the fact that demobilization was an uneven and contested process. It especially underlines the existence of a particular geography of demobilization, for the populations of the devastated regions experienced the transition from war to peace in specific ways. This set apart their transition from war to peace from that of their nation at large. As the armistice uncovered the full extent of the destruction and the dire necessity of a sustained national effort, it was also welcome in the rest of the country with relief and the desire to discontinue wartime exertions. Therefore, voluntary organizations and national and local elites took on the challenge to maintain and redirect the momentum of mobilization to the reconstitution of the devastated areas. And a challenge it was, particularly in France when the country was doing its best to move on, despite the continuing economic disruptions and the weight of collective and individual grief and mourning.

37 Hoover Archives, Stanford University, Loucheur Papers, Box 12, Folder 34, March 12, 1919. 38 TNA, T 1/12376, Foreign Office, Public Opinion on the Peace Treaties and Reconstruction Policy in Belgium, Report of the British Special Commission to Belgium, 1919. 39 “Le Journal des Régions Dévastées”, May 18, 1919. 40 “Le Sinistré”, September 6, 1925.


 Pierre Purseigle

The real difficulty was to combine national political, economic, and cultural demobilization with a partial remobilization directed towards the devastated regions. To achieve this, their populations used all available media resources to remind their fellow countrymen and women that they had provided a bulwark against the invaders. Like the rest of the nation-in-arms, they had mobilized their men and resources to win the war. But they also suffered the ignominy of the occupation and German oppression. And of course, their regions, towns, and cities had been laid to waste by military operations. In other words, in the post-war economy of sacrifice, they occupied a specific place; a place that gave them rights and placed demands upon the rest of the nation. “Who would dare betray such a duty?”, asked Paul Deschanel, President of the Chamber of Deputies in May 1919: We owe “immortal France” “the rebuilding of these regions”41. Legislators soon set out to turn the rhetoric of national solidarity into a legal and hopefully material reality: first in Belgium in October and November 1918 and then in France when on April 19, 1919, the Charte des Sinistrés effectively created a new legal category for the populations of the devastated regions. In Belgium, a law provided for the adoption of devastated towns and cities by the State was passed on April 8, 1919, followed by the creation of the Office des Régions Dévastées. Unsurprisingly, the slow pace of reconstruction soon gave rise to endless complaints and recriminations. Regardless of the immensity and complexity of the tasks, the local populations expressed their anger at what they perceived, rightly or wrongly, to be the inadequacies, incompetence, and corruption of local and national authorities. Police reports in 1919 and 1920 regularly evoke the risks entailed by the growing discontent in the devastating regions. In the context marked by the rise of Bolshevism and concerns about law and order, the potential for violence looms large on officials’ minds42. Certainly overblown, such official anxiety nonetheless reveals the growing disconnect between the sinistrés and their compatriots. As Raymond Dorgelès wrote in Le Reveil des Morts, the fascinating and problematic novel he wrote about the reconstruction in the Aisne in 1919/20, “for a moment, this impoverished France was allowed to believe that happy France was forgetting it”43. Five years after the armistice, the populations of the devastated regions were still clearly anxious not to be forgotten: “Has the time passed so fast that one has already forgotten what the sinistrés have suffered? Has the memory of [their] martyr disappeared?”44. In 1925, the Comité d’Action des Régions Dévastées, a rather forceful and militant organization led by left-wing and left-of-center local politicians from the North

41 “Le Journal des Régions Dévastées”, May 18, 1919. 42 Pierrefite-sur-Seine, Archives Nationales de France, F7/13001, Marne. 43 R. Dorgelès, Le réveil des morts, Paris 1923, p. 63. 44 L. Hubert, La Renaissance d’un département dévasté, Paris 1923, p. 357.

Devastated Victors 


and East launched a new publication, “Le Sinistré”, to advocate for the regions. To them, the public and official commitment to national solidarity had evidently faded by 1920/21. They were particularly scathing of the way in which the national press had exploited a few isolated cases of illegitimate enrichment and turned them into the so-called “scandal of the devastated regions”45. In France, the campaign for a partial remobilization in favor of the devastated regions drew on the particular resources and characteristics of an imperial society. Indeed, spared local communities and notabilities across the French Empire came to the fore to assist the renaissance of the ruined areas of the metropole. In the aftermath of the conflict, the local elites of formerly occupied or devastated zones in northern France called on their counterparts across the French empire for their help in reconstructing the ruined regions. Georges Barthélémy, Député of the Pas-de-Calais, thus published in the “Annales Coloniales” an appeal to “my colonial friends, my brothers”46. In a significant gesture, Martinique adopted the town of Etain, while Guadeloupe did the same for Neuvilly (Meuse). As a consequence, the mayor and the municipal council decided that once the church had been rebuilt, a marble slab should proclaim: “We owe the recovery of our town to the good French island”. Similar schemes of town adoptions spread once the hostilities had ceased and involved towns and cities in Pondichéry, Senegal, Indochina, and Madagascar. The reconstruction also reveals the local, metropolitan, implantation of many leaders of the colonial lobby in France. Indeed, eminent colonial administrators and eulogists of French imperialism were also heavily committed to the reconstruction of France. Charles Jonnart, former Governor-General of Algeria and President of the Comité France-Afrique, would dedicate his last years of public service to the reconstitution of the devastated regions of France, which included his Pas-de-Calais constituency47. Lucien Hubert, député of the Ardennes, was another fervent supporter of the imperial project who chaired the Senate’s Committees for colonies and for “liberated regions”. In the book he devoted to the reconstitution of his region in 1918, he explicitly compares the challenge of reconstruction to that of colonial exploitation. Indeed, he euphemistically called for the mise en valeur of the devastated regions in terms normally applied to France’s colonial domain48. It certainly is worth remarking that the post-war reconstruction of France was also regularly seized upon by colonial experts and administrators to further the case for the French imperial project. In

45 “Le Sinistré”, December 6, 1925. 46 “Les Annales Coloniales”, May 20, 1921. See also issues dated October 5 and November 9, 1921. 47 Dainville, Archives Départementales du Pas-de-Calais, 26 J – Papiers Jonnart. 48 “La zone rouge écrasée par les combats ne ressemblait-elle pas à un véritable désert à coloniser” in L. Hubert, La Renaissance d’un département dévasté, pp. 62 f. The same year, Hubert published another volume on colonial policy: L. Hubert, Une politique coloniale: le salut par les colonies, politique coloniale, les colonies pendant la guerre, politique islamique, politique marocaine, Paris 1918.


 Pierre Purseigle

many pamphlets, propaganda brochures, and books, the consolidation of the empire was seen as a central element in the national strategy for renewal and redressement: We shall indicate how precious, at the time of the reconstitution of devastated France, the collaboration of these African lands is. Once decried, they already are the flesh of our flesh. Upon the economic development of North Africa will depend in large part the prompt recovery of our Fatherland49.

The reconstruction was also supported by a range of networks and organizations which operated across national boundaries. These initiatives can be traced back to wartime relief operations, organized in Allied as well as neutral countries. American collections document the role of international relief operations, like the Commission for Relief in Belgium. US cities often functioned as critical nodes in these transnational philanthropic and humanitarian networks that emerged or were consolidated in this period50. American humanitarians, often connected to progressive circles, tended to see the devastated regions as an opportunity to offer a wide range of social, educational, and health services and to test out aspects of their program for social reforms51. Another group often conceived the reconstruction as an opportunity: urban planners, architects, experts of the “urban question” also presented and almost gleefully seized reconstruction as an opportunity to finally design and implement an ambitious program of urban modernization. The history of reconstruction must indeed place the interwar activities of architects, planners, and decision-makers into their national and international context and trace the intellectual history of urban planning and policy-making back to the experience of war and exile52. Urbanism was still very much in its infancy and had barely initiated its professionalization and institutionalization when the war broke out. The French association of urban planners (architectes urbanistes) had for instance been created in 1913. Indeed, many continental urbanists continued to use the British phrase “town planning” to describe their work. In 1916, a newly created charity, the Renaissance of Cities, organized a special exhibition entitled The Reconstituted City. It aimed to bring all relevant specialists together to showcase their designs and reflection. These prominent, well-connected, and well-supported experts would go on to play important roles in the reconstruction 49 M. Besson / P. Perreau-Pradier, L’Afrique du nord et la guerre, Paris 1918. 50 B. Cabanes, The Great War and the Origins of Humanitarianism, 1918–1924, Cambridge 2014; J. Irwin, Making the World Safe. The American Red Cross and a Nation’s Humanitarian Awakening, Oxford 2013. 51 D.T. Rodgers, Atlantic Crossings. Social Politics in a Progressive Age, Cambridge MA / London 2001. 52 P. Uyttenhove, Les efforts internationaux pour une Belgique moderne, in M. Smets (ed.), Resurgam. La reconstruction de la Belgique après 1914, Bruxelles 1985, p. 33–68; P. Uyttenhove, The Garden City Education of Belgian Planners Around the First World War, in “Planning Perspectives”, 5-3, 1990, pp. 271–283.

Devastated Victors 


and in interwar urban planning. Belgian planners played a very important role in this process and were very active on the international stage. In March 1915, they had created a Belgian Architectural Records Sub-Committee in London. In 1919, a newly created journal “La Cité” was meant to signal the investment of avant-garde urbanists in the reconstruction. Urban planning is yet another illustration of the strong transatlantic dimension of the urban reconstruction of Western Europe. A good illustration is provided by the experience of Geo B. Ford (1879–1930). A graduate of Harvard, MIT, and the BeauxArts in Paris, he had been working as an architect in New York City until 1917 when he returned to France to serve as Head of Reconstruction for the American Red Cross. He was hired by the French government as a consultant and was a popular speaker across the country. Urban planning was already an established discipline and practice in the US and Britain. As the French state required each commune to design its own plan in March 1919, it provided a significant impetus to urban planning. Ford for instance directly contributed to the reconstruction of Arras, Soissons and designed the plan adopted in Rheims. The particular outlook of the experts involved in the reconstruction also led them to mobilize other transnational initiatives and organizations like the International Garden Cities and Town Planning Association. In the end, the process of reconstruction reveals three types of transnationalism: caritative, municipal, and urbanist53. “Caritative transnationalism” corresponds to the work of pre-existent organizations like the Red Cross or the Society of Friends and to philanthropic initiatives which originated in the Allied or neutral nations during the war and continued their work after the armistice. “Municipal transnationalism” refers to the exchanges and relationships established by local authorities across national boundaries, prefiguring twinning and other developments which prospered after WWII. And finally, “urbanist transnationalism”, which played a key role in reconstruction and largely shaped its intellectual and technical history. The case of Noyon, mentioned in the introduction, illustrates the geographical scope of this history of the “martyr town” inasmuch as these “adoptions” also developed at a steady pace after the armistice in the allied countries and especially in Great Britain and the US. In fact, Noyon was soon to be adopted by Cirencester (UK) and Washington, D.C., which thus became, beside Béziers, its “god-parents”. Among a vast number of adoptions, one may cite the examples of Soissons adopted by Chester, Verdun by London, Fayet by Oxford, Albert by Birmingham, Eton (Meuse) by Eton, and Arras by Newcastle, etc. In the United States, while the adoptions are likely to have been less numerous, many cities like Washington or Detroit (which adopted Soissons) committed themselves to reconstructions in Europe through similar schemes. Rheims, benefiting from its international recognition and its prominent place in

53 P. Clavin, Defining Transnationalism, in “Contemporary European History”, 14, 2005, 4, pp. 421– 439.


 Pierre Purseigle

the propaganda over the “German atrocities” of 1914 thus received the help from of Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, and Pasadena. It is therefore essential to place reconstruction in the context of post-war remembrance. Post-war reconstruction and cultural demobilization were geared to different phases but indissociably tied through remembrance and mourning. Adoptions by British towns and cities often revealed an attempt to inscribe the memory of dead soldiers to the place where their sacrifice was offered. Such expressions of international urban solidarity were therefore part of a larger process of mourning. Indeed, as the Lord Mayor of Liverpool put it: “You keep vigil over our dead, we will help your survivor”54. The British system of recruiting and military mobilization had actually reinforced the identification of British localities with a precise part of the Western Front since local regiments had generally fought and suffered considerable losses in one battlefield which came to symbolize their participation in the war. The same logic drove the contribution of confessional associations or of individual families. For instance, the Princes collected money across US cities to fund the public water supply of a number of small towns in the Somme in the area where their son had fought and died55. Such processes and solidarities do not so much appear as transnational as translocal56. For those were defined by the migration of soldiers across the world; soldiers whose experience connected localities, not simply across national borders, but irrespective of national border. In the immediate aftermath of the conflict, Ypres was the outstanding illustration of the devastation visited on the urban landscape of Belgium. As Stephen Graham, a British journalist put it in 1921, death and the ruins completely outweigh the living. One is tilted out of time by the huge weight on the other end of the plank, and it would be easy to imagine someone who had no insoluble ties killing himself here, drawn by the lodestone of death. There is a pull from the other world, a drag on the heart and spirit. One is ashamed to be alive57.

And yet alive they were. Indeed, Graham’s text reflects a particularly British vision of the devastated region and of Ypres in particular. Famously, Churchill was keen for Ypres not to be rebuilt and for the city to lay in state of destruction as a testament to the sacrifice of the BEF. Needless to say, this was never going to be accepted by the local populations and the mayor of Ypres was alert to this danger as early as 1915. By the mid-1920s, most towns and cities affected by military operations had made great

54 Dainville, Archives Départementales du Pas-de-Calais, 26 J 9, s.d., 1920. 55 Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale de France, 8–LK16–2390, La Reconstitution de la région libérée au 1er avril 1922, exposé présenté au Conseil général par M. Alfred Morain, 1922. 56 K. Brickell / A. Datta (eds.), Translocal Geographies. Spaces, Places, Connections, 2016; C. McFarlane, Learning the City. Knowledge and Translocal Assemblage, Chichester 2011. 57 S. Graham, The Challenge of the Dead, London 1921, p. 36.

Devastated Victors 


stride towards their reconstruction, even in France. Yet the strategic choice made by national authorities to prioritize the reconstruction of the industrial and economic apparatus, as well as the policy of fiscal retrenchment they often adopted had a direct and diverse local impact. The story of reconstruction was anything but one of linear, constant uninterrupted progress. The individual trajectories of destroyed cities often depended on the successful mobilization of specific local resources. In the wake of the First World War, a conflict construed in existential terms inherited from religious eschatologies and secular teleologies, the experience of urban communities was determined by expectations framed at the urban and translocal, national, and transnational levels. The British call for “Homes fit for Heroes” indicates that the challenges faced in Belgium and France were of continental import, for the urban ruins of the Western Front were indeed – to use Walter Benjamin’s words – “documents of civilization” as well as “documents of barbarism”. Reflecting on Klee’s Angelus Novus (1920), Benjamin meditated on the ruins of war contemplated by the Angel of History58. Otto Dix’s etching of the Bombardment of Lens (1924) was another interpellation to reflect upon the nature of modern warfare and on its impact on Europe’s urban imaginations and structures.

58 W. Benjamin, Illuminations, New York 1968, pp. 256–257.

IV. The Memory of Peace and the Media – National and Regional Contexts

Peter Haslinger

Visions of Stability and Anxiety The Mediatic Building of Nations and Border Regions, 1918–1930

1 Introduction In the Czech case, the cohesiveness of the two main state building factors, the territory and the nation, is implemented with such force that this nation has survived all disturbances of the past. Because the morphology of the land and the boundaries of the national territory are visible in an indisputable way, they are evident to everyone who wants to see them1.

These observations were published in 1918 in a book written by a young Czech geographer, Viktor Dvorský (1882–1960), including a series of maps like the one reproduced here. In 1910, Dvorský had finished his habilitation with an anthropogeographic study of the border region between Montenegro and the Ottoman Empire.

Fig. 1: The future state territory of Czechoslovakia defined by vegetation zones, in V. Dvorský, Území českého národa (The territory of the Czech nation), Praha 1918, map attached to the volume.

1 V. Dvorský, Území českého národa [The territory of the Czech nation], Praha 1918, pp. 11 f. Note: I would like to thank the organizers and participants of the Trento conference for their feedback as well as my colleagues from the Collaborative Research Center/Transregion 138 “Dynamics of security. Types of Securitization from a Historical Perspective”, for helping to develop my conceptual argument.


 Peter Haslinger

Now, under wartime conditions, he engaged in the production of a persuasive geography that focused on the inclusion of Slovakia in a future state – a concept that had been popularized by the Czecho-Slovak exile since 1915 but still had little political salience within Czech society2. Even if Dvorský’s attempt to create a binding interpretation of a national space by text and image might not seem too convincing today due to its rather unprofessional appearance (fig. 1), it represents a rhetoric that was widely adopted by both scholars and politicians during the last months of the war and following years. One year later Dvorský was appointed as a leading geography expert at the peace negotiations in Paris. Before, he had been the main figure behind the territorial program that was presented and adopted in a meeting of the newly created office for the preparation of a peace conference (Uřád pro připravu mírové conference), 29 December 19183.

Fig. 2: The borders of the Czechoslovak state from a statistical point of view: map presented by the Czechoslovak delegation at Saint Germain, 1919, in H. Gordon, Die Beneš-Denkschriften. Die Tschechoslowakei und das Deutsche Reich 1918/19. Kommentar und Kritik, Berg 1990, pp. 212 f.

2 For the Czechoslovak concept in 1918/19 in general see E. Bakke, Doomed to failure? The Czechoslovak Nation Project and the Slovak Autonomist Reaction 1918–38, Oslo 1999. 3 Z. Vácha, Žádám Vás jako vynikajícího odborníka … Organizace odborných prací pro československou delegacy na mírové konferenci v Paříži v letech 1918–1919 [I ask you to be an excellent expert … Thebrganization of professional work for the Czechoslovak delegation at the peace conference in Paris in the years 1918–1919], Praha 2012, p. 67.

Visions of Stability and Anxiety 


At the time of the peace conference he was Professor of Geography at Charles University in Prague with a busy schedule working on 41 studies regarding different geographic topics while giving three to four presentations every day4. He was also responsible for the conceptual basis of maps that were produced by a team of 11 cartographers by April 19195 and, at least some of them, became part of the memoranda submitted by the Czechoslovak delegation to visually promote their territorial claims (fig. 2 shows the borders that were deemed necessary to guarantee the security of the country against potential enemies). This uneasy perspective was strategically motivated by the context of the ongoing peace negotiations and also designed to correspond with the French concept of the containment of post-war Germany. In July 1920 – when he was about to act as the Czechoslovak member of the international commission for the delimitation of the border between Poland and Czechoslovakia – Dvorský wrote a lengthy secret report for the Czechoslovak Ministry of National Defence on the risk of military invasions in the future. None of Czechoslovakia’s new neighbors except for Romania, Dvorský assumed, had an interest in the continued existence of the state. If conflict occurred, Slovakia would almost certainly become the theater for fierce military clashes. It was therefore necessary to maintain military control over the Danube between its confluences with the rivers Morava and Ipeľ, and to expand the railway network between Moravia and Slovakia as quickly as possible to speed up the transport of troops if necessary6. As can be seen from Dvorský’s example, geographers dedicated special attention to borders and border regions. One of the reasons for this was that in post-1918 Central Europe, the multiethnic composition of the population almost naturally created zones of conflicting interests between emerging states and the pre-war political regimes. Projected ideas of national territory7 were cherished on all sides and a symbolic geography can be seen emerging during the last months of World War I, with ethnolinguistic fault-lines and minorities appearing to constitute a risk for the national security of the newly created states.

4 J. Chodějovský, Viktor Dvorský (1882–1960), in Akademický bulletin Akademie věd České republiky, 1, 2010, p. 40. Also see the entry in J. Martínek (ed.), Geografové v českých zemích 1800–1945. Biografický slovník, Praha 2008. 5 Z. Vácha, Žádám Vás jako vynikajícího odborníka, pp. 181 f. See also J. Chodějovský (ed.), Paříž 1919. Mírová conference očima poradců československé a polské delegace [Paris 1919. The peace conference through the eyes of the advisers of the Czechoslovak and Polish delegations], Praha 2017. 6 Archiv ústavu T.G. Masaryk [Archive of the T.G. Masaryk Institute] (AÚTGM), Fond Masaryk-Republika, Box 502, Dossier 31 “Úvahy o politicko-geografické situaci ČSR” [Reflections on the political-geographical situation of the Czechoslovak Republic], 21.020 pres. voj. dův., Praha 19. July 1920. 7 See, for the theoretical background of that concept, P. Haslinger, Nation und Territorium im tschechischen politischen Diskurs, 1880–1938, München 2010, especially pp. 1–38; P. Haslinger / K. Holz, Selbstbild und Territorium. Dimensionen von Identität und Alterität, in P. Haslinger (ed.), Regionale und nationale Identitäten. Wechselwirkungen und Spannungsfelder, Würzburg 2000, pp. 15–38.


 Peter Haslinger

2 Maps as instruments of reification and propaganda Since much of this is already known, the focus of this article will be on the function of maps as important media for delineating political discussions and disseminating political messages8. As is known, spatial concepts assume material form in maps, producing binding interpretations that in turn create inter-personal meaning. Maps are not copy-and-paste representations of the world, they are knowledge media that create “augmented realities”. As knowledge media they are inherently rhetorical and represent a “chosen reality”9. They also share a common grammar to fulfil basic communicative functions. The first function is to provide information about locations, distances, and spatial relations. Maps (and therefore also map makers) achieve this in a manner that generates multiple implications, due to the fact that maps are based on a set of active decisions that map producers are required to make. The most important choice is what to show and what to disregard. Due to the international cartographic language, we see similar motifs if we look at representations of spaces. Streets, towns, buildings, state borders, and the distribution of linguistic groups are not portrayed individually, but reduced to standardized representations. Professional map-making therefore encourages categorization of the world in order to reduce its complexity. Based on measurements and statistical data, maps can also determine the visualization of space through choice of colour, contrast (warmcold or light-dark), clustering and shading, and labelling language (like place and region names). In this way maps impose a lot of streamlining and even obliteration. Through the data they reference and confirm, disagree with, or contradict, they disseminate ideological elements and political claims. The arbitrary nature of the cartographic visualization of certain regions becomes clear in the case of seemingly “innocent” or “exact” depictions, for example ethno8 The following paragraphs are based on P. Haslinger / V. Oswalt, Raumkonzepte, Wahmehmungsdispositionen und die Karte als Medium von Politik und Geschichtskultur, in P. Haslinger / V. Oswalt (eds.), Kampf der Karten. Propaganda- und Geschichtskarten als politische Instrumente und Identitätstexte, Marburg 2012, pp. 1–12. See also, among other works, J.B. Harley, The New Nature of Maps. Essays in the History of Cartography, Baltimore MD 2001; R.M. Downs / D. Stea, Kognitive Karten. Die Welt in unseren Köpfen, Stuttgart 1982; J. Black, Maps and Polities, Chicago IL 1997; J. W. Crampton, Mapping. A Critical Introduction to Cartography and GIS, Chichester 2010; J.R. Akerman (ed.), The Imperial Map. Cartography and the Mastery of Empire, Chicago IL / London 2009; S. Siegel / P. Weigel (eds.), Die Werkstatt des Kartographen. Materialien und Praktiken visueller Welterzeugung, Paderborn 2011; J. Dünne, Die Karte Operations- und Imaginationsmatrix. Zur Geschichte eines Raummediums, in J. Dühring / T. Thielmann (eds.), Spatial Turn. Das Raumparadigma in den Kultur- und Sozialwissenschaften, Bielefeld 2008, pp. 49–69. 9 A. David, Cartes et propagande a la conference de la paix de Paris en 1919–1920, in “Scientific papers of the University of Pardubice, Series C, Institute of Languages and Humanities”, 4, 1998, pp. 197–217, here p. 211.

Visions of Stability and Anxiety 


graphic maps. Even physical maps, which would appear to be neutral due to the lack of political borders and their conventional cartographic language, can make political statements deriving from the choice of the areas that attention is drawn to. In the post1918 context, cartographic production was focused on regions of conflicting interpretation, or disputed borders, on the basis of competing territorial programs. The result could almost be referred to as parallel cartographic realities that were dynamically and negatively entangled. The maps and their producers communicated and interacted with each other, while cartographers helped disseminate political visions by authorizing competing spatial ideations based on their standing as experts. In order to make their arguments as persuasive and salient as possible, they typically combined professional design and scientific language with elements drawn from political belief systems.

3 Border regions as symbolic spaces in Central and Eastern European cartography If ethnographic or juridical arguments did not match up with their territorial programs, experts and politicians were ready to diverge from them. In the representation of regions in maps, brochures, and memoranda, the argument for the self-determination of peoples was thus often combined with references to important natural resources, communications and infrastructure, as well as the need to defend the state territory. Especially during the first three decades of the twentieth century, there was widespread adoption of motifs of historical precedence, the decisive long-term imprint of early state or empire building by national predecessors as key factors in claims over certain regions of Central and Eastern Europe. As Alexandra Schweiger said regarding the Polish example, the vision according to which “the centuries-old state tradition of the republic had left a political imprint on the required territory, which was now understood on the one hand as a title of ownership, on the other as an obligation to maintain this imprint. The view of the Eastern regions was particularly affected by this idea of ​​shaping the area through political, civilizing, and agricultural work”10. This kind of thinking was also typical of Hungarian and Czech(oslovak) territorial discourse at the time. In all these examples border regions were examined through the prism of assumed cultural hierarchies and civilizing missions. Some of them were therefore represented as symbolic spaces and/or refuges of national authenticity and identity11. 10 A. Schweiger, Polens Zukunft liegt im Osten. Polnische Ostkonzepte der späten Teilungszeit (1890– 1918), Marburg 2014, pp. 197 f. See also B. Conrad, Umkämpfte Grenzen, umkämpfte Bevölkerung. Die Entstehung der Staatsgrenzen der Zweiten Polnischen Republik 1918–1923, Stuttgart 2014. 11 See also N. Görtz / J. Hackmann / J. Hecker-Stempehl (eds.), Die Ordnung des Raums. Mentale Landkarten in der Ostseeregion, Berlin 2006; S. Seegel, Mapping Europe’s Borderlands. Russian Cartography in the Age of Empire, Chicago IL / London 2012.


 Peter Haslinger

After World War I, the notion also emerged of border regions as economic-demographic zones for state intervention, “empty spaces” that had been infrastructurally and culturally neglected by former political regimes and were sometimes sparsely populated, thus fit for colonization. These territories were framed as regions of the future. In Poland, “the Eastern Territories appeared as a yet untapped source of power for the nation in which Poland’s promising future would lie […], an area in which the Poles could penetrate forcefully”12. In Czech brochures and journals of the early 1920s, Slovakia also became a “land of the future”. In Karel Kálal’s work, for example, it was foreseen that Slovakia would finally flourish by fulfilling functions supplementary to the Czech part of the new republic, which in turn would receive economic and cultural impulses from Slovakia13. This example shows how a patronizing attitude could coexist with a message of national emancipation and brotherhood. When tracing back these discourses, it is important to stress that the conception of national spaces in the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy did not begin with the outbreak of World War I. Over the preceding decades in Austria-Hungary, political activists14 had developed and propagated concepts that crystallized in specific denominations for regions of national-strategic importance (German Grenzland, Hungarian végek, Polish kresy, Czech pohraničí, and Slovak pohraničie)15. Due to the constitutional structure of the monarchy, there was also a mediatic rivalry between nationally engaged academic circles and learned societies16. Within this context numerous nationalist projections existed for traditional regions (crown lands) as simulations of proto-national territories, sometimes cutting across internal boundaries (like for

12 A. Schweiger, Polens Zukunft, p. 200. 13 K. Kálal, Slovensko, země budoucnosti [Slovakia, land of the future], Praha 1919; K. Kálal, La Slovaquie, terre de l’avenir, Prague 1919. For the biography of Karel Kálal, see M. Stehlík, Příběh zhrzeného slovakofila. Karel Kálal (1860–1930) [The story of a lovelorn Slovakophile], in “Dějiny a současnost. Kulturně historická revue”, 23, 2001, 3, pp. 20–23. 14 P. Judson, Guardians of the Nation. Activists on the Language Frontier of Imperial Austria, Cambridge MA / London 2006. 15 P. Haslinger, Die “Arbeit am nationalen Raum” – Kommunikation und Territorium im Prozess der Nationalisierung, in P. Haslinger / D. Mollenhauer (eds.), “Arbeit am nationalen Raum”. Deutsche und polnische Rand- und Grenzregionen im Nationalisierungsprozess [special issue], “Comparativ. Zeitschrift für Globalgeschichte und vergleichende Gesellschaftsforschung”, 15, 2005, 2, pp. 9–21. 16 The Austro-Hungarian Compromise of 1867 had created a constitutional system with two formally independent states: Hungary on the one hand and a second state bearing the complicated name “The kingdoms and lands represented in the imperial council” (this was only officially changed to “Austria” in October 1915). Within this Austrian state, each of the 17 crown lands represented a distinct political entity endowed with a regional constitution, coats of arms, and sometimes even anthems, as well as sixteen diets as legislative bodies (only the municipal council of Trieste/Triest/Trst did not resemble a full-fledged regional government). P. Haslinger, How to Run a Multilingual Society. Statehood, Administration and Regional Dynamics in Austria-Hungary, 1867–1914, in J. Augusteijn / E. Storm (eds.), Region and State in Nineteenth-Century Europe. Nation-Building, Regional Identities and Separatism, London 2012, pp. 111–128.

Visions of Stability and Anxiety 


example the spatial representation of the plan for federalizing the Habsburg Monarchy by Aurel Popovici from 190617). It was therefore not only the Italian, Serbian, and Romanian irredentist cartography that challenged the cartographic representation of the Habsburg Monarchy. Since the 1890s, different national movements developed imaginaries of national spaces that competed for salience and thereby focused especially on disputed regions. Austria-Hungary entered the First World War with a complicated landscape of national-political friction, and the outbreak of war soon began to upset the delicate power balance that had functioned up until 1914. Subsequently the new windows of opportunity for alternative future scenarios rendered the complicated and already partly dysfunctional political system redundant. The war inspired expansionist imaginations on the imperial level, and the policy of integrative flexibility was increasingly substituted by a policy of retaliation not only along the front but even in the hinterland against groups that had been singled out for closer observation. Some especially counterproductive administrative and judicial measures introduced collective suspicion and ethnic labelling, which became a new leitmotif of Austro-Hungarian political culture. With this shift towards repressive measures, the war automatically encouraged territorial fantasies on all sides directed towards implementing alternative political scenarios18. When the Austrian parliament was re-opened in May 1917, representatives of several national movements openly voiced their discontent and insisted on the implementation of historical rights for their regions and peoples in accordance with their specific nationalist agendas. From the spring of 1918 onward, Bolshevik propaganda from the East was complemented by an increasingly sophisticated propaganda campaign from Italy and the activities of the Department of Propaganda in Enemy Countries of Great Britain in response to the Central Powers’ use of propaganda in 191719. As a consequence, the new ideas of self-determination20 became increasingly incompatible with the constitutional structure of Austria-Hungary. Spatial concepts that had been emerging before the war were reactivated under the increasingly rigorous circumstances. Over the course of the war, geopolitical thinking therefore came to be accepted not only by representatives in exile but also by those who remained politically active within 17 A. Popovici, Die Vereinigten Staaten von Groß-Österreich. Politische Studien zur Lösung der nationalen Fragen und staatsrechtlichen Krisen in Österreich-Ungarn, Leipzig 1906. 18 P. Haslinger, Austria-Hungary, in R. Gerwarth / E. Manela (eds.), Empires at War, 1911–1923, Oxford 2014, pp. 73–90. 19 M. Cornwall, Morale and Patriotism in the Austro-Hungarian Army, 1914–1918, in J. Horne (ed.), State, Society and Mobilization in Europe during the First World War, Cambridge 1997, pp. 173–191, here p. 183. See also M. Cornwall, The Last Years of Austria-Hungary. A Multi-National Experiment in Early Twentieth-Century Europe, Exeter 2002, pp. 167–196. 20 Unfortunately, there is only little information on Central and Eastern Europe in this ground breaking work, E. Manela, The Wilsonian Moment. Self-Determination and the International Origins of Anticolonial Nationalism, Oxford 2007.


 Peter Haslinger

the borders of Austria-Hungary. When imperial loyalties began to fade and the dismemberment of the Habsburg Empire gained momentum, these geopolitical and ideological concepts opened a window of opportunity for enforcing radical revolutionary agendas and implementing utopian ideas in the newly conceived national societies.

4 Professional cartographers as agents of the national cause: Paris 1919 and beyond When the Habsburg Monarchy finally disintegrated, politicians were in desperate need of experts capable of combining scientific language with open or subtle political messages to serve national interests. Under these conditions, cartographic nationand state-building developed into a competition between different think tanks. Despite being academic scholars, these experts felt a patriotic duty to engage in what can be called “intentional cartography”. Their maps attempted to anticipate propaganda efforts by delegations with competing territorial claims, or react with counter arguments. In these circumstances not only texts but also maps and other images (like graphs or tables) acquired increased weight. When there were conflicting territorial claims, maps and pamphlets defined concrete regions that decision makers needed to pay attention to, either to prevent them from being “lost”, or to justify claims for including them into the territory of interest21. Maps had already played an important role in February and March 1918 during the peace negotiations at Brest-Litovsk between the Central Powers and Bolshevik Russia. The Paris peace conference of 1919/20, however, was the first important international diplomatic event in which maps became pivotal tools in the attempt to reach a fair and lasting peace settlement22. The sub-committees on territorial issues in particular used them systematically on a daily basis. In a process that Anne David terms “l’inflation cartographique”23 maps and atlases acquired multiple functions as tech21 S. Seegel, Map Men. Transnational Lives and Deaths of Geographers in the Making of East Central Europe, Chicago IL 2018; M. Górny, Kreślarze ojczyzn. Geografowie i granice międzywojennej Europy [Drawers of homelands. Geographers and borders of interwar Europe], Warszawa 2017; M. Górny, Der Krieg der Karten. Geografen und Grenzziehungen in Ostmittel- und Südosteuropa, 1914–1920, in “Střed”, 5, 2013, 1, pp. 9–39. 22 A very instructive overview of the role of experts during the Paris conference can be found in J. Leonhard, Der überforderte Frieden. Versailles und die Welt 1918–1923, München 2018, especially pp. 674–687 and 718–746. On the role of experts see also J.M. Nielson, American Historians in War and Peace. Patriotism, Diplomacy and the Paris Peace Conference, 1918–1919, Bethesda MD / Dublin / Palo Alto CA 2012, especially pp. 241–272; W.J. Reisser, The Black Book. Woordow Wilson’s Secret Plan for Peace, Lanham MD / Boulder CO et al. 2012. 23 A. David, Cartes et propaganda, pp. 197 f.

Visions of Stability and Anxiety 


nical aids. They conveyed arguments or propaganda (understood as information of a biased manipulative nature24) in order to influence experts, political decision makers, and the wider public (at home or globally). As a result, the experts involved developed dual identities that were simultaneously professional and nationalist25. Although their mapmaking activities were hidden, some of them addressed the public directly through newspapers and other publications. In this way “maps became ‘swords’ in the hands of (state) actors who either advanced the nation-state perspective, or contested the nation-state perspective by looking for political alternatives to the status of contested regions”26. Moreover, all the experts in Paris were well aware of the potential career benefits from their activities, given the urgent need of the newly formed Central Eastern European states to reorganize their functional elites, administrations, and institutions27. One basic purpose of most maps and atlases produced in the early post-war years was to provide orientation in a world characterized not only by new borders, but also by profound changes in communication and inter-regional economies, as well as new business opportunities. Many maps reflected the economic motivations of publishing houses to place their products on markets with a strong demand for the information they contained. An example is the Economic Atlas of the Czechoslovak State published in German in August 1920. In the introduction, geographer Ernst Pfohl (1874– 1963) reflects on the motives for producing such a publication: The difficult questions of the present have also given the general public the need to quickly orientate themselves on the economic situation, the production and industrial situation […], also because the reorganization and the increase in what are now ‘domestic’ production sites is now terra incognita.

The atlas thus differed from “the hitherto common methods of colorful lines and surfaces, which provided chaos that was unmanageable, offensive to the eyes”. Instead it provided a clear overview the new geographic situation, containing

24 S. Suveica, Between Science, Politics and Propaganda. Emmanuel de Martonne and the Debates on the Status of Bessarabia (1919–1920), in “Cahiers du Monde russe”, 58, 2017, 4, pp. 589–614, here p. 592. 25 U. Feil, Die Chemiker im Frankreich der Dritten Republik. Die doppelte Konstruktion von nationaler und professioneller Identität, in R. Jessen / J. Vogel (eds.), Wissenschaft und Nation in der europäischen Geschichte, Frankfurt a.M. / New York 2002, pp. 115–144. 26 S. Suveica, Between Science, Politics and Propaganda, pp. 591 f. 27 M. Kohlrausch / K. Steffen / S. Wiederkehr, Expert Cultures in Central Eastern Europe. The Internationalization of Knowledge and the Transformation of Nation States since World War I – Introduction, in M. Kohlrausch / K. Steffen / S. Wiederkehr (eds.), Expert Cultures in Central Eastern Europe. The Internationalization of Knowledge and the Transformation of Nation States since World War I, Osnabrück 2010, pp. 9–30, here p. 11.


 Peter Haslinger

useful knowledge both for schools and the offices of businessmen and industrialists, not least the offices of the authorities, providing economic statistics. […] The authorities’ suggestion to include a brief textual explanation of the maps was therefore gladly complied with in order to supplement the work with suitable historical, technical, and economic statistics in such a way that it will inevitably become part of every teacher’s library. […] We would also like to take this opportunity to express our sincere thanks to the authorities and other bodies that promoted the work and supported the author with their courtesy, […] as well as all those who provided information28.

5 Rebuilding the state with cartography: The example of Poland

Fig 3: Terytorium państwowe i etnograficzne Polski (1772), (The political and ethnografical territory of Poland [1772]), in E. Romer, Polski atlas kongresowy. Atlas des problèmes territoriaux de la Pologne, Warszawa / Lwów 1921, p. VI.

28 E. Pfohl, Wirtschafts-Atlas des Tschecho-Slowakischen Staates, Reichenberg 1920.

Visions of Stability and Anxiety 


Although he did not accept any political role in the post-war state, the mastermind for Poland was Eugeniusz Romer (1871–1954). His credibility among international geographers and his personal friendships with experts on the side of the Allied Powers, especially the highly influencial American expert Isiah Bowman, increased the authoritativeness of the maps presented by the Polish delegation among the decision makers. Romer had produced maps during the First World War, which now served as cartographic templates for the Polish delegation maps at the Paris peace conference (published as Polski atlas kongresowy29 in 1921). In a map entitled The political and ethnografical territory of Poland (1772), Romer visually supports a maximalistic approach to Polish territorial claims by the combination of the ethnografically undifferentiated territory of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth (“Poland”) and areas in the west with some Polish populations (fig. 3). Another example was his map of “Polish” libraries, museums, and collections of institutions, to the exclusion of institutions of other national and cultural orientation, with the aim of visually highlighting the presence of Poles over the entire territory of the former republic.

Fig 4: Towns, where Polish books were printed 1794–1913, in E. Romer, Polski atlas kongresowy. Atlas des problèmes territoriaux de la Pologne, Warszawa / Lwów 1921, p. XVI.

29 E. Romer, Polski atlas kongresowy. Atlas des problèmes territoriaux de la Pologne, Warszawa / Lwów 1921. Other atlases of this kind were: N.-P. Comnene, La terre roumaine à travers les âges. Atlas historique, politique et éthnographique, Lausanne / Paris 1919; J.S. Mills / M.-G. Chrussachi, La question de Thrace. Grecs, Bulgares et Turcs, London 1919; D. Rizoff, Les Bulgares dans leurs frontièrs historiques, ethnographiques et politiques, Berlin 1917; J. Cvijić, Frontière septentrionale des Yougoslaves, Paris 1919.


 Peter Haslinger

In the map showing book publications and press organs between 1794 and 1913, Romer combined a linguistic characteristic (only Polish-language publications were taken into account) with a normative cultural statement (fig. 4). Due to the strategy of creating a connection between structural features and the proof of a general Polish presence in specific areas (albeit at different densities), gives the impression that only the Polish population can be associated with cultural development in their own area. Maps like these indicate regions where the level of “civilization” has not yet reached that of the west and can thus be identified as “regions of deficit” requiring state intervention with a specific set of actions. Although Romer was always transparent about his working methods and complied with geographical-statistical practices, his choice of topics promoted the perception that the Polish claim to certain areas and regions was geographically or historically justified. This is also true of his colleague, the geographer and political activist Antoni Sujkowski (1867–1941). Sujkowski had studied at Kiev University before. After being released as a prisoner of war, he became an expert for the Polish delegation at the Peace conference. He elaborated a comparison between the Polish regions with, for example, Alsace-Lorraine, and in August 1919 he supported the Polish cause on the ground as a member of the relief committee for Upper Silesia, a violently disputed border region between Germany and Poland.

Fig. 5: Mapa etnograficzna (Ethnographic map), in A. Sujkowski, Geografia ziem dawnej Polski, 2nd ed., Warszawa 1921, p. 160.

Visions of Stability and Anxiety 


In a new edition of his pre-war work, Geografia ziem dawnej Polski (The geography of former Polish lands), 48 maps were also included. Sujkowski stressed in an additional foreword that while Poland was now resurrected as a state, this was not within the old borders30. Like Romer in his Polski atlas kongresowy, he still paid some visual reference to the historic borders of Poland, for example in an ethnographic map (fig. 5) or another map of the distribution of domestic animals, when even regions beyond the 1772 borders, like Eastern Prussia, Upper Silesia, Latvia, and Lusatia appeared fully integrated into the Polish national sphere31 (fig. 6).

Fig. 6: The distribution of domestic animals, in A. Sujkowski, Geografia ziem dawnej Polski, 2nd ed., Warszawa 1921, p. 237.

However, after the peace treaty of Riga 1921, which ended the Polish-Soviet war, references to the 1772 borders soon began to disappear from maps that had no historical content, and all other traces of the imperial legacy were erased from official Polish cartography. Cartographic map representations of Central and Eastern Europe in general downplayed the significance of old dynastic boundaries and long-established regions relevant to the process of national emancipation. Geographers were again involved in the work of the border drawing commissions, with some successor states to Austria-Hungary finding themselves among the victorious powers of the

30 A. Sujkowski, Geografia ziem dawnej Polski [The geography of former Polish lands], 2nd ed., Warszawa 1921. 31 E. Romer, Polski atlas kongresowy; A. Sujkowski, Geografia ziem dawnej Polski.


 Peter Haslinger

world war and striving to establish an impression of stability. These included Poland, Czechoslovakia, Romania, and the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes32. For these countries the focus was on the visualisation of the new country, and the new maps did not only inform of the location of the new borders, but also redefined space in a manner intended to foster identification of the population with the new form of state sovereignty, lending plausibility to the new state territory as such. Some cartographers designed their maps specifically to popularize and stabilize the notion of the new territories and promote structural and emotional unification. In some Austro-Hungarian successor states, geographers were also facing pressing logistical and organizational problems. Sujkowski – who would become the co-founder of the Wyższa Szkola Handlowa (Higher School of Trade) in Warsaw and its rector between 1929 and 1933 – was not the only one who spoke in favor of a complete and profound re-organization of geography in Poland in order to make the discipline independent of the military geography applied by the former empires that had partitioned Poland. He thought that ethnography was another crucial consideration for redefining Polish geography. (“The analysis of the ethnographic material that has been collected in large quantities already would shed light on the specific character of the Polish culture (like the influence of race and historically emerging practices and norms on the fate of the nation in the present and future”33.) It was Romer who founded the Instytut geograficzny in 1921, and a year later became chief editor of the journal, “Polski przegłąd kartograficzny” (Polish cartographical journal), which had the aim of assessing domestic and international cartographic production. Romer explained the motives for this activity as follows: As the cartography of the Polish territories was, for a century and a half, in the hands of the partitioning states, carried out by enemies of the Polish people and their civilization, […] all elements of cartography, above all the Polish nomenclature, were, during the century, distorted and falsified. These polonophobic but official publications were imitated by the cartography of all countries. Fighting against this abuse, attracting everyone’s attention to the relatively low state of the cartography of Polish territories, especially in the synthetic cartography of international science is the main task of the Polish Review of Cartography34.

Romer also reported on the work of the Polish Military-Geographical Institute that assumed the task between 1920 and 1921 of printing 271 special maps of sections of the new state territory: “The war, which in Poland continued for two years after the armistice, and the rapid exhaustion of maps published by the occupying armies, made

32 Due to its ongoing territorial aspirations across the Adriatic Sea, Italy remained a more complex case. 33 A. Sujkowski, Potrzeby nauki polskiej w zakresie gieografji [The needs of Polish science in the field of geography], in “Nauka polska”, 1, 1918, pp. 155–164, here p. 160. 34 E. Romer, Avis de la rédaction, in “Polski przegłąd kartograficzny”, 1, 1923, 1, pp. 1–3, here pp. 2 f.

Visions of Stability and Anxiety 


this imperative.” At the beginning of their work, the mapmakers were confined to reprinting maps used by the governments, which had till then ruled the various divisions of Poland. Even this undertaking presented serious difficulties, for Poland was neither scientifically nor technically prepared for it. The result of the enterprise is certainly satisfactory […]. These maps, though mere photo-lithographed and photo-zincographed reproductions of those used by the Germans, Austrians and Russians, are by no means servile copies; they have all been reduced to the uniform scale of 1:100,000 and many of the names which had been mutilated by foreign topographers have again received their original Polish forms35.

Due to the high level of internal ideological dispute in Poland, however, geopolitical projections were often used to reify concepts of state and society. One example is the work of Joachim Stefan Bartoszewicz (1867–1938), who before the war had studied medicine in Warsaw, political science at the École libre des sciences politiques in Paris, and international law in Lwów / Lemberg / Ľviv. After acting as editor of the journal Dziennik Kijowski based in Kiev, and secretary of the Polish delegation to the Paris Peace Conference, he became Senator for the National Democrats in the Polish Sejm 1921–1937 and 1928–193736. In his work “War over Poland” he stated, Achieving appropriate borders is not the only task for ensuring Poland’s strength and size. This also requires a powerful internal organization and a planned economic policy. Without these, it is impossible to build a truly independent Poland. […] Today, when Poland is in an extremely difficult and dangerous condition, we must not forget that a structure that is too liberal to worry about the comfort of single individuals or social classes can still shake the building of the state37.

In 1929, a year after he had become President of the highest court, Bartoszewicz confirmed his views regarding a strong and united country: “Territory is an essential part of the concept of the nation. An independent nation that has a state organization must have a specific area of land where it carries out its political mission and creates its own history”38. As a consequence, Bartoszewicz felt no need to make a distinction between different regions within the territory of Poland, quite the contrary: The state had the duty to implement a policy that produced not just integration, but also unification. Therefore “our state can only be a national state. This means that the state must serve to implement the nation’s goals, interests and ideals. This in turn means

35 E. Romer, Stan prac nad mapą Polski 1:100.000 [The status of work on the map of Poland 1:100.000], in “Polski przegłąd kartograficzny”, 1, 1923, 1, pp. 3–8, here p. 8. 36 M. Białokur, Myśl społeczno-polityczna Joachima Bartoszewicza [The social-political ideas of Joachim Bartoszewicz], Toruń 2005, pp. 347 f. 37 S. Kilian, Myśl edukacyjna Narodowej demokracji w latach 1918–1939 [The educational ideas of National Democracy in 1918–1939], Kraków 1997, p. 49. 38 J. Bartoszewicz, Zagadnienia polityki polskiej [Issues of Polish politics], Warszawa 1929, p. 99.


 Peter Haslinger

that the Polish policy, for the implementation of which the state exists, must be a national policy”39. The work of Jerzy Józef Smoleński (1881–1940) provides another example of this. Smoleński had studied geology, chemistry, and physics in Krakow until 1902, and earned a scholarship from the Akademia Umjętnosti to continue his studies in geography and geology in Berlin. After a short time in the Austro-Hungarian Army, he returned to Krakow University in 1919, becoming professor of cartography, historical geography, and anthropogeography two years later. Like many Krakow University teachers, he was rounded up by German security police on November 6, 1939 and died in Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp. In 1926, in his book on the natural space of Poland and its boundaries40, he stated that while the Carpathians, and the Black and Baltic seas created natural boundaries to the South and North, the political power of early Poland was too weak to dominate the whole area. It had developed in the West in the border regions but was pushed eastwards by more powerful forces, re-establishing border regions in the East. This was also caused by internal features that inhibited communication between the political centers and the peripheries41. Unintentionally, this form of cartography actually undermined the notion of unity and stability it was attempting to establish. It defined zones of deficiency in terms of security, lack of infrastructure, and developmental or cultural aspects (like language, ethnicity, or religion) that were needed in order to justify the claim of the state over a specific region.

6 Maps of trauma: The example of Hungary Among all the Austro-Hungarian successor states, Hungary was an exception due to extreme levels of violence in 1919, combined with the severe territorial losses inflicted by the Treaty of Trianon on June 4, 1920. Therefore the cartographic discourse on the national territory and its borders contrasted starkly with the maps for unification described above. As Stephen Vardy noted, after the signing of the peace treaty, virtually all Hungarian intellectuals, irrespective of ideological preferences, were extremely bitter about the outcome. At the beginning the reaction of historians was emotional …]. Moreover, it was mixed with elements of disbelief, and a kind of uncertain conviction that the harsh terms of Trianon could not possibly

39 Ibid., p. 15. 40 J. Smoleński, Przyrodzony obszar Polski i jego granice w świetle nowoczesnych poglądów [The natural area of Poland and its borders in the light of modern views], Warszawa 1926. 41 See the review of J. Smoleński, Przyrodzony obszar Polski i jego granice a świetle nowoczesnych poglądów, in “Przegląd geograficzny”, 1926, pp. 33–44, here p. 42–44.

Visions of Stability and Anxiety 


become lasting or permanent. Later, when the hope for a quick return to normalcy faded, historians calmed down and began to organize more systematic attacks against the post-Trianon reality42.

Hungarian geography and cartography were already well developed by around 1900. This was when Pál Teleki (1879–1941), future Prime Minister on two occasions, became the leading geographer and academic mastermind of Hungarian cartography and geopolitics43. In contrast with the Czechoslovak and Polish cases, Hungarian geography was much better prepared institutionally and in terms of man-power. Processes of institution building following the Austro-Hungarian compromise of 186744 meant that map production was driven by an independent, explicitly national Hungarian impetus45. After the end of the war this discourse did not change in substance and message, but only in choice of means. As early as November 1918 the revolutionary government under prime minister Mihály Károly established the Országos Propaganda Bizottság (National Propaganda Commission). They created the slogan “Nem! Nem! Soha!” (No! No! Never!), which later on became widely used as an antiTrianon catchword during the entire Interwar period. Initially, the propaganda activities focused mainly on areas that were overwhelmingly populated by national minorities, and increasingly on Entente countries with publications in French, English, and Italian46. After the short and politically disastrous interlude of the Republic of Councils between March and August 1919, these activities were intensified by the new governments representing the pre-war political elite. The Hungarian delegation appeared at the Paris peace conference as a belated underdog only in January 1920. Teleki and the delegation promoted the idea that Hungary was one of the most striking morphological units on the physical map of Europe, with the “practically 42 S.B. Vardy, The Impact of Trianon upon Hungary and the Hungarian Mind. The Nature of Interwar Hungarian Irredentism, in “Hungarian Studies Review”, 10, 1983, 1, pp. 21–42, here p. 21. 43 A comprehensive academic as well as political biography is B. Ablonczy, Pál Teleki, 1874–1941. The Life of a Controversial Hungarian Politician, Boulder CO 2006. 44 See for other disciplines G. Palló, Scientific Nationalism. A Historical Approach to Nature in Late Nineteenth-Century Hungary, in M.G. Ash / J. Surman (eds.), The Nationalization of Scientific Knowledge in the Habsburg Empire, 1848–1918, London / New York 2012, pp. 102–112; M. Turda, Nationalizing Eugenics. The Hungarian Public Debate of 1910–1911, in M.G. Ash / J. Surman (eds.), The Nationalization of Scientific Knowledge, pp. 183–208. 45 P. Haslinger, National Geopolitics in Habsburg Central Europe. Imperial and Post-Imperial Perspectives on Hungary and Poland, 1890–1930, in J. Arend (ed.), Science and Empire in Eastern Europe. Imperial Russia and the Habsburg Monarchy in the 19th Century, München 2020, pp. 205–236, here pp. 206 and 211. 46 M. Zeidler, Ideas on Territorial Revisionism in Hungary, 1920–1945, New York 2007, p. 93. By mid-December 1918 the National Propaganda Commission had already issued 9 million leaflets (with 6.4 million for minorities), and in 1920/21 alone it issued 24 brochures in the “East European Problems” series and 7 brochures in the “Questions de l’Europe Orientale” series. A. Kovács-Bertrand, der ungarische Revisionismus nach dem Ersten Weltkrieg. Der publizistische Kampf gegen den Friedensvertrag von Trianon (1918–1931), München 1997, pp. 47 and 101.


 Peter Haslinger

uninhabited belt of the Carpathians” surrounding most of the country and creating a natural barrier, similar to the way the Pyrenees and the sea delineated France47. Teleki’s extensive language skills had helped to establish his international reputation before the war (he spoke German, French, and English, as well as some Dutch, Italian, and Romanian)48. Under the circumstances of disintegration and the redefinition of boundaries in former Austria-Hungary he had drafted the famous “carte rouge” as early as December 191849 (fig. 7).

Fig. 7: Carte rouge, in P. Teleki, Magyarorzság néprajzi térképe a népsűrűség alapján (Ethnographic map of Hungary based on population density), Budapest 1919

His method of not including areas that were less populated, and his choice of colors (bright red for Hungarian, faint pink for Romanian) visually overemphasized the Hungarian-speaking minority population in Transylvania at the expense of the

47 P. Teleki, Short Notes on the Economical and Political Geography of Hungary, Budapest 1919, p. 1. A further attempt by leading geographers to underpin Hungary’s geographical unity is the following work, P. Treitz / C. de Papp, Geographical Unity of Hungary, Budapest 1920; L. de Buday, L’unité économique de la Hongrie, Budapest 1919. 48 S. Seegel, Map men, 60. 49 A detailed analysis of this map, other ethnographic maps, and the international reaction to it can be found in D.Z. Segyevy, Térképművek Trianon árnyékában [Map works in the shadow of Trianon], Budapest 2016, pp. 97–122; D.Z. Segyevy, Carte Rouge 100, rouge, accessed January 15, 2020.

Visions of Stability and Anxiety 


Romanian-speaking majority and provided a cartographic counter argument to the French cartography of Emmanuel de Martonne, who supported the Romanian point of view50. This map was now officially used to retain as much territory as possible for Hungary. Teleki’s academic standpoint became the political position, if not to say foreign policy dogma of the Hungarian delegation, a fact also reflected in the passages from the “Memorial on the frontiers of Hungary” presented at Trianon in January 1920: It is no empty phrase, but a severely scientific truth that Hungary’s frontiers, of a thousand years’ standing, enclose a geographic unit. New frontiers cannot be drawn within this boundary without disturbing the peace of the peoples inhabiting this basin. Within this most marked geographic unit, over a thousand years, each district and each people has been interwoven with the others in so close a connection of traditions, history, culture, economics and transport that the connection can only be sundered by ruthlessly destroying it and making for the unhappiness of the peoples living there. Not one of our nationalities has any right whatever to any regions of our country51.

This argument remained central to the Hungarian position even after the treaty of Trianon (which not only included a detailed description of the new boundaries, but also an additional map at the scale of one-to-a-million). Following the loss of vast territories of the former kingdom of Hungary, politicians and geographers strove to develop and implement a cartography of trauma that continued contesting post-war geographies under terms of peace that were felt to be unjust and unreasonable (even more intensively than in Germany and Lithuania, countries that followed the same strategy). An important work in this respect was the atlas Hungary in Economic Maps, commissioned by Teleki and implemented by the Deputy State Secretary, Aladár Edvi Illés. The first edition was published in late 1919 in a limited number of copies, followed by a substantially enlarged 6th edition in 1921, which included 75 maps and 6 diagrams. In order to prove the reliability of the data and validity of the methods applied, the atlas gave a long list of consulted publications and experts. As the authors underline, the aim of the maps was to present Hungary’s unimpaired economy based on data from the last year before the First World War (1913) in contrast with the state of affairs after the war: “It has been done in the conviction that a true picture of the economic

50 S. Seegel, Map men, 66. Also see Z. Krasznai, Földrajztudósok az első világháború után. Emmanuel de Martonne és Teleki Pál [Geographers after World War I. Emmanuel de Martonne and Pál Teleki], in Z.K. Horvath / A. Lugosi / F. Sohajda (eds.), Léptékváltó tarsadalomtörténet. Tanulmányok a 60 éves Benda Gyula tiszteletére [Scale-changing social history. Studies in honor of 60-year-old Gyula Benda], Budapest 2003, pp. 345–366; G. Palsky, Emmanuel de Martonne and the Ethnographical Cartography of Central Europe (1917–1920), in “Imago Mundi. The International Journal for the History of Cartography”, 54, 2002, 1, pp. 111–119; G.P. Bowd / D. Clayton, Emmanuel de Martonne and the Wartime Defence of Greater Romania. Circle, Set-Square and Spine, in “Journal of Historical Geography”, 47, 2015, pp. 50–63. 51 J. Cholnoky, The Hungarian Peace Negotiations. An Account of the Work of the Hungarian Peace Delegation at Neuilly s/S, from January to March 1920, Budapest 1922, p. 75.


 Peter Haslinger

interconnection of the different regions of the country can be rendered only by the aid of data taken under normal circumstances”. The maps were designed to prove that the different regions of Hungary complemented one another almost naturally in economic terms, “the oro- and hydrographical map convincingly shows that in the territories of Hungary the transport, management of forests, regulation of rivers, and the direction of all matters connected with water-policy must be united under one authority in order to attain the best results”52. In a separate introduction to this work, László Teleki set the tone in terms of strategy: This atlas was drafted during the preparation work for the peace conference. From the moment we saw the way in which peace was settled with Germany, we had not the least hope of changing the minds and decisions of the conference taken and fixed without asking much about the conditions or the will of populations. Still we had to put our argument before them, even when our memoranda and maps remained closed and folded. It was our duty towards our nation, towards future generation and – towards our foes and judges. […] And they will see that by having mixed themselves into the affairs of the lands to the North of the Balkans they Balkanized them too, instead of Europeanizing the Balkans. […] We knew the moment would come, when people would look around for remedies to repair the terrible confusion caused by the lack of knowledge of the peace conference. This atlas shows not only what Hungary lost, what she retained, but shows quite abstractly to the foreigner, to the neutral, how an economic unit was cut to pieces53.

Teleki was involved in another atlas project that published maps in four languages54. He worked together with two geographers who had left Transylvania in 1919 after the region was occupied by the Romanian state, Ferenc Fodor (1887–1962), a high school teacher and assistant to Teleki, and Jenő Cholnoky (1870–1950) who had studied in Kolozsvár/Cluj where he later became professor. The latter knew Teleki from travelling to the United States together in 1912. He chose to leave Transylvania and became both a professor at Budapest University in 1920, and a prominent member of the Hungarian Frontier Readjustment League. In May 1921, a month after Pál Teleki’s brief term as Hungarian Prime Minister, government authorities re-examined all anti-Trianon activities in a series of strategy meetings. They came to the conclusion that as long as those activities continued to be pursued by enthusiastic but inexperienced amateurs, they would not produce the desired results. In August, the new Prime Minister István Bethlen intensified government control over revisionist propaganda activities and supported institution building measures. Resources and propaganda materials were taken under control by the

52 A. Edvi Illés / A. Halász, Magyarország gazdasági térképekben [Hungary in economic maps], Budapest 1921. 53 Ibid. 54 F. Fodor, Magyarország gazdaságföldrajzi térképe; Carte de géographie économique de la Hongrie; Economic-geographical map of Hungary, 2nd ed., Budapest 1921. The following work also contains some interesting maps: L. von Buday, Ungarn nach dem Friedensschluss, Berlin / Leipzig 1922.

Visions of Stability and Anxiety 


Hungarian National Alliance, and the government established a control board whose task was to refine the work of the minority and propaganda organizations55. In a confidential meeting, Bethlen said on October 31, 1922: We have to collect materials that document interior weaknesses, problems, and the economic and political unviability of the neighbouring states […] we should also demonstrate the impossible situation as regards politics, economy, and culture that has been created by the peace treaty and the grievances of our minorities. We should illustrate that the new states, due to their structure and their low (meaning Balkan) culture, will be a constant threat to peace in Central Europe and a setback for intellectual culture56.

In the years that followed, a huge scientific apparatus was set up under the supervision of Pál Teleki, who had been very critical of the way the anti-Trianon rhetoric had materialized so far. Teleki was convinced that it had to take much more account of political realities, scholarly attitudes, and scientific facts. He argued from a professional point of view when stressing that because of their emotional tone, many campaigns and publications were unfit for use abroad and so ultimately counter productive57.

Fig. 8: O. Légrády, Gerechtigkeit für Ungarn! Trianons grausame Irrtümer, Budapest 1930, p. 2.

Institutes for sociography and political science were established in 1924 and 1926 respectively and functioned according to strict scientific principles laid down by Teleki himself, providing data for both the propaganda organizations and the govern55 M. Zeidler, Ideas on Territorial Revisionism, pp. 96 f. 56 A. Kovács-Bertrand, Der ungarische Revisionismus, pp. 131 f. 57 Ibid., pp. 134 f.


 Peter Haslinger

ment, assisting the latter in political decision making58. With government sponsorship, the Hungarian Frontier Readjustment League alone published 270 books within 15 years, of which approximately 75% in English, French, and Italian (It is quite telling that only a few works were published in Slovak and Hungarian, and none in Romanian, Czech, or Serbo-Croatian). One aim of this new discourse was to prove that the new boundaries were completely artificial and dangerous to the region’s stability. In this context, formerly Hungarian regions beyond the territory of “rump-Hungary”, as it was now called within its Trianon borders, gained new symbolic visibility. The work of Ferenc Olay is a good example of this alternative or even uprooted worldview, derived from the position of being the victim of unjust decisions. Olay was the official Hungarian representative to the Committee for Moral Disarmament under the aegis of the League of Nations. The book he published in 1927 under the title Critical Years of Hungarian Culture spread quite a different message.

Fig. 9: O. Légrády, Gerechtigkeit für Ungarn! Trianons grausame Irrtümer, Budapest 1930, p. 6.

58 M. Zeidler, Ideas on Territorial Revisionism, pp. 99 f.

Visions of Stability and Anxiety 


He documented the fate of Hungarian national monuments, schools, and libraries that had been plundered, destroyed, or damaged since the end of the war and argued that this testified to the attitude and low civic potential of the new neighboring states. He saw this as evidence that the natural cultural hierarchy had been turned on its head by the peace treaty59. The cartographic representation of this distorted image appeared in some important propaganda works, like the volume Justice for Hungary (Igazságot Magyarországnak), which was published by the Hungarian Society for Foreign Affairs in January 1928 in Hungarian, and in May in English60. The German language version displayed the dystopian vision of the cruzification of Hungary by the Trianon peace treaty (fig. 8) and hoped to provoke some solidarity by just simulating what would have happened if the “cruelty of the Trianon treaty” were being applied in the case of Germany (fig. 9).

7 Conclusions As observed above, during the postwar war years many cartographic representations were characterized by a mediatic invention of nations with their fringes and boundaries. In general, these conceptions expressed national defense concerns and anxieties about the safety of the state. These motifs coalesced with geopolitical concepts that aspired towards open futures with new possibilities for national development and state building. Therefore, most leading geographers of Austro-Hungarian successor states embraced a combination of speculative national-political imagination on the one hand, and a geopolitics of risk assessment and worst case thinking on the other. This did not occupy the minds of experts only during the turbulent post-war years, but endured for the entire interwar period, greatly influencing the re-drawing of borders and the disputes of experts between 1938 and 1947. Due to their locations and ethnic compositions, border regions were ideal territories for the projection of this ambivalent anxiety. By attracting intense monitoring, border regions transformed into objects of geopolitical pride and/or anxiety. The attention they received was multi-layered with regional and local motives which also functioned as discursive resources for an overall argument. Apart from visual aspects and the cartographic language, they depended on economies of attention, opportunity structures, and highly selective reception and monitoring processes that resulted in diverging epistemologies and contrary interpretations of the histories and futures of contested regions.

59 F. Olay, A magyar kultúra válságos évei 1918–1927 [Years of crisis for Hungarian culture, 1918–1927], Budapest 1927; see also F. Olay, Csonkamagyarország ellenséges megszállása és kulturális káraink, [Hungary’s occupation by her enemies and our cultural damages], Budapest 1929. 60 M. Zeidler, Ideas on Territorial Revisionism, pp. 135 f.

Barbara Bracco

The Failed Exit from the War The Problematic Return of Veterans and War Wounded in the Media (1918–1945) During Italy’s difficult transition through the interwar period, public concern for war veterans and war wounded was one of the most important social and political issues for Italian society. While the Italian experience of the violated body shared many features with other belligerent nations, it also presented some cultural and political peculiarities that make the disabled war veteran one a the most important symbolic loci of the Italian narrative. This discussion aims to illustrate the role of disabled war veterans in the political scenario from the last year of the Great War up to the Second World War. Such an extended temporal span will inevitably result in some simplification and a few gaps. However, this is the only way to gain an overview of a long and highly complex period, which in some respects was defining for Italian life during the first half of the twentieth century. It is first important to review some figures that delineate the Italian military experience. These numbers are still highly debated but they do give a fair overall picture of the Italian sacrifice. From more than four million men sent to the front (six million were mobilized in total), there were about 650,000 casualties (some estimate as many as 670,000, others around 570,000). This shocking and rather imprecise accounting of the war sacrifice becomes even less certain as regards the number of wounded. The generally accepted figure is about a million, but as many as a million and a half or even two million cannot be excluded. These higher estimates were calculated by military doctors at the end of the war based on statistics and tables that were effectively very imprecise. In any case, at least one soldier out of four was wounded. The figures for the number of war-disfigured and disabled appear to be much more reliable. Based on the pensions paid out in the immediate post-war period, just under half a million men emerged from the conflict with disabling impairments. This number increased over the years of the Fascist regime when payments to disfigured and disabled war veterans amounted to more than 600,000. As already noted, these were official figures that have been carefully verified in recent years. On the basis of tables and statistical comparisons it has been suggested that the number of disfigured and disabled was in fact much lower, perhaps no more than 400,0001. 1 G. Mortara, La salute pubblica in Italia prima e durante la guerra, Bari 1925; F. Zugaro (ed.), La forza dell’esercito, Roma 1927; A. Fornasin, Le perdite dell’esercito italiano nella Prima guerra mondiale, Translation: Gavin Taylor


 Barbara Bracco

While these figures fall short of the terrible military cost to countries like France or Germany, in absolute and relative terms they still had a devastating impact on Italian society, certainly without precedent in the brief national history. The numbers clearly explain the genesis, political meaning, and widespread success of Gabriele D’Annunzio’s well-known definition of a “mutilated victory” of October 1918. Underlying this famous and enduring metaphor was a concrete social, political, and cultural reality: hundreds of thousands of men and their families were facing a long and painful physical and bureaucratic via crucis in their efforts for reintegration into civilian society2. Starting from the essay by Giovanni Sabbatucci on Italian combatants from 1974, Italian historiography has widely explored the dense network of initiatives in the civilian and war-veteran spheres dedicated to the physiological, work, and social reintegration of the unluckiest combatants3. A web of civil support organizations, workers’ leagues, action committees for disabled veterans, and various other associations called on the Italian government in March 1917 for legal regulation of war pensions and the organizational structure for assistance through the foundation of the Opera Nazionale per gli Invalidi di Guerra (National initiative for disabled war veterans). They also pressed the veterans themselves to establish the Associazione Nazionale fra Mutilati e Invalidi di Guerra (National association for disabled war veterans). State systems along with civil and military organizations thus acted to encourage the social reintegration of disabled veterans, and this call on the vast and articulated network of support mechanisms to help the disfigured and disabled indicates that from the days of the conflict onwards these represented a cumbersome social reality from multiple perspectives4. Little more than a year after the start of the war that was expected to finish quickly and victoriously, it was producing masses of ill, traumatized, injured, and frequently also deformed men. Men whose return to the home front incarnated the living proof of the devastating power of modern war. The sight of this disquieting spectacle of military destruction could induce anti-war sentiments, which in a largely neutralist country like Italy was partly what happened. While for the dead, the void of the fallen, it is (always) possible to hide behind rhetoric, but the scarred bodies violated by the destructive force of the first industrial war stood out like the stigmata of the most terrible modernity. It was in the public representation of these bodies, that

Università degli Studi di Udine, Dipartimento di Scienze Economiche e Statistiche – maggio 2014, rev. Dicembre 2014, n. 1/2014; M. Isnenghi / G. Rochat, La Grande Guerra. 1914–1918, Milano 2000. 2  G. Sabbatucci, La vittoria mutilata, in G. Belardelli / L. Cafagna / E. Galli della Loggia / G. Sabbatucci (eds.), Miti e storia dell’Italia unita, Bologna 1999, pp. 101–106. 3  G. Sabbatucci, I combattenti del primo dopoguerra, Roma / Bari 1974; G. Sabbatucci, Il movimento dei combattenti, in G. Sabbatucci, Partiti e culture politiche nell’Italia unita, Roma / Bari 2014. 4  U. Pavan Dalla Torre, Le origini dell’ANMIG, in V. Del Lucchese (ed.), Passato, presente e futuro. Compendio di storia dell’ANMIG, Roma 2012, pp. 20–117; P. Dogliani, Il fascismo degli italiani. Una storia sociale, Torino 2008.

The Failed Exit from the War 


the most difficult part of the social, cultural, and political game of the Italian transition was played out. Giving an acceptable sense to the physical devastation became the objective of the civil and military institutions, in particular within the varied and aggressive interventionist world. It was thanks to them, and only in appearance paradoxical, that the image of the disabled war veteran was transformed from a symbol of the horror of war into an icon of military sacrifice5. Almost non-existent until 1916, the image of the disabled war veteran started to circulate in iconography and public communication a year after the start of the war. The end of the illusion of a short war and the return from the front of men scarred in mind and body made it impossible to hide the physical brutalization of war. In the eyes of civilians, the presence of these disfigured men (often not even the most serious cases) revealed the most dramatic aspect of the patriotic holy war. The sight of disfigured limbs or faces also helped fuel fake news and popular fantasies according to which, for example, the soldiers registered as fallen or missing had been put into care for their deformities, hidden in special hospitals6. The “mediatic discovery” of physical mutilation came about with a mutilated civilian, Enrico Toti, to whom “La Domenica del Corriere”, one of the most popular periodicals of the time, dedicated a famous cover in the summer of 1916. The heroic death of this irregular soldier (who had joined the combatants despite the amputation of a leg in a work accident) not only publicly “officialized” the figure of the disabled war veteran but also lent him a patriotic significance7. Anatomic sacrifice transformed the disfigured into symbols of war. The socially stigmatized figure of the disabled – marginalized by cultural prejudice8 – became a national icon. It is only an apparent paradox that the public scene came to be dominated not by the figure of the simply invalid, comprising most victims affected by tuberculosis and other afflictions like nervous disorders, but instead specifically the anatomic cripple. Only his sacrifice 5  N. Labanca (ed.), Guerra e disabilità. Mutilati e invalidi italiani nel primo conflitto mondiale, Milano 2016; B. Bracco, La patria ferita. I corpi dei soldati italiani e la Grande Guerra, Firenze 2012. 6  “To date nothing has been ascertained regarding the rumours regarding the existence of special hospitals for the forced hospitalization of the most deformed war crippled, who were supposedly impeded from communicating with their spouses in order induce the belief that they are dead or missing. There will unfailing vigilance to ensure that the perpetrators of such false information are not allowed to escape legal sanctions”, this was the response of the Chief of Police of Milan to the request for clarifications about the fake news regarding the forced hospitalization of disabled war veterans (in the Archivio di Stato di Milano, Fondo Prefettura di Milano, Gabinetto, versamento I, b. 373, dispaccio n. 17601 del Questore di Milano alla Prefettura di Milano, September 17, 1919) in response to a telegram from the Ministry of the Interior on September 9, 1919, for “gossip regarding the existence of special hospitals” for “the most deformed war veterans impeding them from corresponding with their spouses to whom they are reported as dead or missing”. 7  Cover of “La Domenica del Corriere”, September 24 – October 1, 1916. On the myth of Toti: L. Fabi, Enrico Toti. Una storia tra mito e realtà, Cremona 2005. 8  M. Schianchi, Il debito simbolico. Una storia sociale della disabilità in Italia tra Otto e Novecento, Roma 2019.


 Barbara Bracco

could and had to fully incarnate the heroic trial of war and – as will be seen – the reparatory efforts of the state and society. The close link between mutilation and heroism was first established in the civil and military propaganda activities that these men dedicated themselves to in the last year of the war, after defeat in the Battle of Caporetto. Intense patriotic activity was conducted for example by Paulucci de Calboli, the “saint of the disabled”, active in Milan, the central city of the political mobilization9. A “legion of cripples” was deployed at the front to give moral support to the soldiers, however not always with positive results. The amputation of the national territory with the Austro-German occupation of the north-eastern part of Italy, could and had to be liberated by the action of disabled men. However, in the dramatic context of the final year of war, and in following years, the most active subjects (and the most dangerous in the eyes of the authorities due to their frequently anti-institutional and subversive nature) were the action committees for the war mutilated and disabled that operated mainly in Milan. Among these were numerous nationalists, ex-revolutionaries, and ex-socialists such as Benito Mussolini – basically a diverse nationalism – who even before the end of hostilities saw in the combatants and disabled war veterans the nucleus not only for resistance to the enemy (internal and external), but also living, physical symbols for the new Italy10. Patriotic propaganda was not the only way of giving a voice to the mutilations of war; two other entities were also publicly circulating images of disabled war veterans. The first were the hospitals and doctors who toiled in the treatment and rehabilitation of these war veterans. The publication or collection of images was intended to document the reparatory efforts of science and the state in relation to the most unfortunate victims, an effort in keeping with the dramatic nature of modern warfare11. At the onset of hostilities Italian doctors had foreseen a military experience not unlike the battlefield encounters of the Napoleonic era, but trench warfare soon revealed to medical science the radical difficulties of modern mass conflict with completely new clinical and surgical demands. The enormous reparatory efforts required (and in part

9  F. Paulucci di Calboli, La patria, l’amore, la guerra. Lettere e scritti 1911-1919, Bologna, 1999. 10  R. Fasani, Il Comitato d’azione fra mutilati, invalidi e feriti di guerra. Da Caporetto a Vittorio Veneto, Milano 1938. 11  On the power of photography in Italy during the war years: A. Schwarz, Le fotografie e la grande guerra rappresentata, in La Grande Guerra. Esperienza, memoria, immagini, Bologna 1986, p. 753, A. Schwarz, La guerra rappresentata [special issue], “Rivista di storia e critica della fotografia”, 1980, 1. Fundamental is the most recent A. Gibelli, La nazione in armi. Grande Guerra e organizzazione del consenso, in G. De Luna / G. D’Autilia / L. Criscenti (eds.), L’Italia del Novecento. Le fotografie e la storia, vol. 1: Il potere da Giolitti a Mussolini (1900-1945), Torino 2005, pp. 39–71 and L. Tomassini, “Conservare per sempre l’eccezionalità del presente”. Dispositivi, immaginari, memorie della fotografia nella Grande Guerra. 1914-1918, in G. Procacci (ed.), La società italiana e la Grande Guerra [special issue], “Annali della Fondazione Ugo La Malfa”, 28, 2013. On this point, see by E. Rossoni (ed), Grande guerra e costruzione della memoria. L’Esposizione nazionale della Guerra del 1918 a Bologna, Bologna 2009.

The Failed Exit from the War 


achieved by European medicine, which perhaps found its most important laboratory in the wartime clinics) may also help explain this medical and scientific “protagonism”, not hesitating to illustrate the amazing scientific progress in dealing with the dramatic needs of men returning from the battlefield to the wider public. The second category that strove to raise awareness of the problems of social reintegration were obviously the associations of disabled men themselves. In addition to reporting public measures and requests on behalf of veterans, their bulletins and other publications presented photographs for public viewing, showing progress in the field of prostheses and/or the successful return to work of disabled men. These images were clearly intended to tranquilize veterans and their families, but nevertheless they also unequivocally documented the devastating power of war, reinforcing the political dissent of the socialist party and, through their representative Fabrizio Maffi, giving voice to the most far-reaching social demands in favor of these veterans12. Disturbing as it might have been, by the end of the conflict the image of the disabled war veteran had assumed more reassuring connotations. It is worth noting that heroic emphasis on anatomic sacrifice was a longstanding cultural tradition in Italy. Stigmata were not only part of Catholic culture (and its imposing iconography) but also of lay culture. Even though on a more vast and dramatic scale, the icon of the disabled war veteran recalled, or could potentially recall, the body of the Risorgimento patriot. No disabled veteran of the Great War, perhaps not even Gabriele D’Annunzio, could compare to the icon (so often immortalized in Italian painting of the nineteenth century, above all by Gerolamo Induno) of the wounded Giuseppe Garibaldi13. Certainly, this model – the metaphor of the injured body resurrected from the tempest of war to achieve national redemption – was effective. While perhaps not aspiring to achieve the symbolic heights of the long Italian Risorgimento, the more politically and culturally aware among the disabled war veterans did nevertheless fully interiorize an image of themselves as symbols of martial sacrifice. A telling example is the reaction of Paulucci di Calboli to the words of pity pronounced by a woman during a demonstration at the Scala di Milano theatre. Seeing the disfigured man, the woman had commiserated: “Poor soul! Poor soul!”, to which, according to news reports, the saint of disabled war veterans retorted angrily: “The poor soul is you who does not understand how giving one’s blood for the patria can be the highest achievement and never a calamity!”14. Even among the veterans of the most modest socio-cultural extraction, the horror of physical disfigurement ended up being recast within a conceptual framework deriving from the extensive popular literature. As in the case of the soldier Angelo Carlo Giussani from Bergamo: 12  T. Detti, Fabrizio Maffi. Vita di un medico socialista, Milano 1987. On the requests for assistance see G. Procacci, Warfare - welfare. Intervento dello Stato e diritti dei cittadini (1914-1918), Roma 2013. 13  O. Calabrese, Garibaldi tra Ivanhoe e Sandokan, Milano 1982; S. Barisione / M. Fochessati / G. Franzone (eds.), Garibaldi il mito. Manifesti e propaganda, Prato 2007. 14  Letter to mother, November 18, 1917, in F. Paulucci di Calboli, La patria, l’amore, la guerra, p. 229.


 Barbara Bracco

For eight days of terrible weather, in mud that came up to the knees and humidity that penetrated to the bone, in the cold of night, always facing the enemy […] I sacrificed my feet to the victory of my nation! […] My companions started calling me Pinocchio. I laugh about it now, hoping to find a Blue Fairy one day who might convert my wooden feet […] back into flesh and blood. But the time of miracles is over15.

It was no accident that Collodi’s nephew, Paolo Lorenzini, destined not to remain impervious to Fascist rhetoric, reproposed the adventures of the famous puppet in 1917. The protagonist of his story, Il cuore di Pinocchio, was no longer the piece of wood that aspires to become a boy, but a soldier repeatedly wounded and “reassembled” by medical science and patriotic love16. In Italy, perhaps even more than in the other belligerent nations, by the end of the war the horror appears to have been exorcised by a heroic or at least reassuring image of the disabled war veteran. This figure became part of every war narrative with the ritual of the Unknown Soldier being its most concrete expression. While D’Annunzio, the “blind soothsayer” of the Italian war, had been excluded for political reasons (only one year had passed since the end of the violent Fiume escapade) from his complex Unknown Soldier liturgy, the disabled war veterans became an essential component of the narration and elaboration of national grief, indeed the living symbol itself of military heroism17. The social history of Italian war disfigured and disabled, as in other European nations, was an integral component in the economic and political demands of war veterans. Almost without interruption through the interwar years, the National Association, and all the disabled war veteran associations in general, pursued two goals. The first was recognition of full pension rights for these veterans even in the most controversial cases (like military accidents, about which the socialists had debated at length). Secondly, as already mentioned, the disfigured and disabled immediately emerged as political actors, intent on promoting the political and cultural renewal of the nation. The political developments that induced these organizations (and in particular the Associazione Nazionale fra Mutilati e Invalidi di Guerra) to shift from democratic and reformist socialist positions, to a Fascist stance were long and complicated. From 1924-25 the Fascist Party gained control of the directional bodies of these associations 15  Letters from soldiers, “I piedi di pinocchio”, in “Corriere della Sera”, March 23, 1916. 16  Collodi Nipote (Paolo Lorenzini), Il cuore di Pinocchio, Firenze 1917. The illustrations in this edition were by Carlo Chiostri, who was one of the first to draw Pinocchio. In 1919, almost uniquely for a contemporary Italian work, the publishers Harper & Brothers presented an English translation of the story by Collodi Nipote under the title The Heart of Pinocchio. New Adventures of the Celebrated Little Puppet. Fundamental for the “mask” of Pinocchio, A. Asor Rosa, Le voci di un’Italia bambina: “Cuore” e “Pinocchio”, in Storia d’Italia, La cultura, vol. 4/2, Torino 1979, pp. 925–940. 17  On the monumentalization of the war sacrifice also see M. Mondini, La guerra italiana. Partire, raccontare, tornare. 1914–1918, Bologna 2014.

The Failed Exit from the War 


and in 1940 it assumed direct control over the management of the National Association. Nevertheless, Fascist supervision over the activism of war veterans, disabled or otherwise, was not always easy. In the 1920s and 1930s there was no lack of resistance to Fascist invasiveness by the leaders of the association. So much so that the President of the Associazione Nazionale, Eugenio Delcroix, was often accused of belonging to a group subversive to the regime. Certainly Fascism, and most of all Mussolini, right from the start identified the devastated body of the soldier as a social issue and a symbol of enormous political weight in the interwar period. The political and symbolic monopoly of physical sacrifice in war would become, as will soon be seen, one of the hinge pins of the Fascist imaginary. Some recent studies have highlighted the welfare policies of the regime, which extended disabled war veteran pensions to over 600,000 men. This warfare-welfare was aimed at establishing consensus across the vast scenario of veterans, often to the advantage of those lacking the necessary requirements, provoking protests and dissent within the regime itself. Nevertheless, the generous support provided by the Fascist state to disabled war veterans did not prevent criticisms about pensions, health care, and labor support. Throughout the Fascist period the issue of the veterans remained simultaneously a symbolic resource of great value, and a thorn in the side of the regime. As custodians of the spirit of war, disabled veterans and their associations – even when overseen by the regime – always appeared to claim an autonomous role relative to the state and Fascist organizations18. Notwithstanding the disagreements with the Associazione Nazionale, Fascism invested much of its symbolic and ritual resources in the violated body. For Mussolini and many of the other early Fascists, the iconic power of the disabled war veteran represented one of the most striking symbols of Fascism already during the war years. This was testified by the presence of Mussolini on the action committee of the disabled war veterans of Milan and other war veterans’ organizations. Even more significant was how the body of Mussolini himself, convalescing in a Milan hospital after being injured in an accident on the front, became the subject of a propaganda campaign in the period after the battle of Caporetto. In addition to a number of photographs circulated in interventionist circles, in Milan the action committee issued a poster bearing the image of the injured Mussolini in order to publicly testify to his contribution to the war19. The interest of the Fascist movement in disabled war veterans was not merely a political calculation and when striving for consensus, all representatives of war-veteran activism became important interlocutors for the nascent Fascism. However, the violated body offered Fascism something more. If the narration of Italian history comprised the fundamental fulcrum for the construction of the political religion of

18  P. Pironti, Grande Guerra e Stato sociale in Italia. Assistenza a invalidi e superstiti e sviluppo della legislazione sulle pensioni di guerra, in “Italia contemporanea”, 66, 2015, 277, pp. 63–89. 19  R. Fasani, Il Comitato d’azione fra mutilati, invalidi e feriti di guerra, p. 38.


 Barbara Bracco

Fascism, the disabled war veteran represented the center, indeed the heart of the myth of the foundation of a New Italy. As the living manifestation of the sacrifice of war, the disabled war veteran became for Fascism the symbolic image of the end of a timorous Italy, overcoming the test of war, and the beginning of the political “resurrection” of the nation. The injured and resurrected body was effectively the beginning and substance for every hypothesis of national and political “regeneration”. A true political and symbolic epiphany of the Fascist movement and the entire nation20. An analysis of the public celebrations for the twentieth anniversary of Fascism demonstrates the importance of the figure of the disabled war veteran in public perception and in the media. There were three main occasions for the public exhibition of the war-damaged body. The first were events at places linked to the veterans’ lives, in other words the numerous homes for disabled veterans constructed and opened in many Italian cities from the end of the 1920s onwards. These were mostly in Rome, where on the anniversary of the victory of 1928, the Casa Madre dei Mutilati ed Invalidi di Guerra [National center for disabled war veterans] was inaugurated, designed by Marcello Piacentini, one of the regime’s most important buildings. But from Modena to Bari, Palermo to Milan, and Ravenna to Como, these centers for disabled veterans, almost all in rationalist style, represented a place of aggregation for veterans, and even more importantly a permanent physical and symbolic monument to the experience of war within the urban and cultural landscapes of the New Italy21. The second were events organized for the anniversary of the start and end of the Great War and other defining dates for the Fascist movement in which disabled war veterans played a fundamental role. They were always presented in leading positions and roles, with their bodies offered up as essential “mementos” to commemorate the war. Even more than the widows, orphans, and parents of the fallen, these men represented a genuine symbolic “scar” on the body of the nation that was successfully used to periodically call back to mind the experience of war. The public “exhibition” of these men on the dates defined by the regime did not follow a purely celebrative logic (as was also true in other countries) but was determined by a wider and deeper metapolitical dimension22.

20  S. Luzzatto, Il corpo del duce. Un cadavere tra immaginazione, storia e memoria, Torino 1998; E. Gentile, Il culto del littorio. La sacralizzazione della politica nell’Italia fascista (1994), Roma / Bari 1994. 21  A photographic review of homes for disabled war veterans is at On the center for disabled war veterans, see R. Barbiellini Amidei et al., La Casa madre dei mutilati di guerra, Roma 1993. 22  Regarding the regime’s liturgy, here I adopt the observations developed in B. Bracco, Il decennale e il ventennale della Vittoria. Continuità e discontinuità della memoria di guerra nell’era fascista, in M. Baioni / F. Conti / M. Ridolfi (eds.), Celebrare la nazione. Commemorazioni e memorie pubbliche nella società contemporanea, Milano 2012.

The Failed Exit from the War 


When the regime was almost fully consolidated, the first important appointment with the history of the conflict was the tenth anniversary of victory. During the complicated commemoration rituals on the November 4, 1928, the Fascist Party and the Associazione Nazionale fra Mutilitati e Invalidi di Guerra assigned leading roles to veterans, widows, orphans, and above all the war disabled. The celebrations started in the presence of the royal couple with the inauguration of the Casa Madre dei Mutilati ed Invalidi di Guerra designed by Marcello Piacentini (the building would be completed over the following years). It ended in Piazza Venezia where the long procession headed by forty thousand disabled veterans, stopped in front of the famous balcony of Palazzo Venezia. The history and memory of a renewed Italy, resurrected from the war and regenerated by Fascism, had to start with the physical and living testimony of the most unfortunate veterans. No manifesto or figurative representation could have better illustrated the Fascist conception of recent Italian history than this procession, an unwinding narrative of the country, starting from the indelible injuries inflicted on its veterans, and then moving on towards glorious new horizons23. If the evocations of the Great War required the participation of the disfigured and disabled, in public events commemorating the March on Rome, or the foundation of the Fasci of Combat, their role was even more politically important. Emilio Gentile, among other historians, highlighted how Fascism appropriated the national symbols, rituals, and myths. Despite sometimes bitter debate between party chiefs and Fascist intellectuals regarding the continuity or otherwise between past history and Fascism, the Great War was presented as a key moment of overlap or bonding between Italy and Fascism. It is therefore no accident that party events always included a strong representation of disabled war veterans and the canonical dates of Fascism were always accompanied and underlined by their presence. They played a central role in the most important celebration, the tenth anniversary of the March on Rome, with the start of the ceremony being signaled by the arrival of a legion of disabled war veterans before il Duce. In the construction of the Fascist narrative the violation of the body during the Great War represented the decisive factor of national life: simultaneously a wound but also the living sign of regeneration. It was no accident that the first Mostra della Rivoulzione Fascista (Exhibition of the Fascist revolution) dedicated a large section to the historical role of disabled veterans in the national resurrection. The issue of the disfigured and disabled of the Great War drew to a close, at least partially, on the eve of the Second World War. Returning to the celebrations commemorating the victory, the events in 1938 for the twentieth anniversary of victory made it clear that the role of disabled war veterans had been partially subsumed. In the celebrations held between the anniversary of the Battle of the Piave River and November 1938, military monuments and shrines were inaugurated in the areas of

23  P. Colombo, La monarchia fascista. 1922–1940, Bologna 2010.


 Barbara Bracco

the old front lines (the most important obviously being at Redipuglia24), and here the bodies of disabled veterans still played a leading role in the national narrative. Beyond Delcroix’s official oration, the presence of the disabled veterans appears to have represented a symbolic border guard, as if their wounds as tangible physical signs of the Italian military experience could help demarcate the sacred national boundaries. Their deep bodily scars were meant to resonate in some sense with the long boundary of a north-eastern Italy marked with the deep scars of large military cemeteries. However, in the long cycle of celebrations organized in Rome between June and November of the same year, the disabled veterans were assigned a less central role. The wound of the war was absorbed into the commemoration of all wars. Merging with the regular veterans of the Great War and African campaign, by now absorbed into the party organizations, the disabled war veterans appear to have exhausted their function as “mementos” in the New Fascist Italy. The winds of war and new international alliances began to discourage the presentation of disabled veterans on the stage of the capital as key representatives of victory and the nation. In the Italy regenerated by Fascist conquests and projected towards new horizons, the body of the disabled war veteran faded away. It was to re-emerge, with different traumas in the veterans of another war, in the political and cultural context of the second post-war period, which would partially rewrite the history of the violation of the body and of the nation25.

24  P. Dogliani, Redipuglia, in M. Isnenghi (ed.), I luoghi della memoria. Simboli e miti dell’Italia unita, Roma / Bari 1996, pp. 375–389. On the war cemeteries, see M. Mondini, Andare per i luoghi della Grande Guerra, Bologna 2015.

Gabriele D’Ottavio

When the Decline of Europe Turned Topical From World War I to Peace

1 Introduction The First World War forms a cutoff point to which anyone retracing the origin of today’s public discourse on Europe is constantly driven back. Besides the nearly fifteen million dead and wounded, huge material destruction and unresolved geopolitical problems, the war brought moral exhaustion and cultural malaise, causing philosophers, historians, writers, and politicians to update their fin de siècle views on the crisis of the Old Continent. By the early Twenties, in the wake of the debate over the Paris Peace Conference, the subject had ceased to be the exclusive stamping-ground of individuals. Circles, movements and associations, through their reviews, conferences, and cultural or political enterprises, were turning the issue of Europe’s destiny into an international public and media debate1. Nonetheless, during the transition from war to peace Europe’s intellectuals did preserve, and in some cases, bolster, their role as transnational champions of the public debate2. Their appeals and tracts circulated ideas making the crisis of Europe common parlance. The finis Europae became a topos of that phase, crystallizing the concept of a waning Europe badly in need of rebirth. Beside those who perceived that the decline of Europe was imminent, or already a fact, various European intellectuals expressed the view that this dark hour of the Old Continent might be a passing moment, quite possibly followed by a new birth. As a narrative topos or schema it is chiefly distinguished by its political impact, by being increasingly politicized between the two World Wars, and by its lasting relevance. It is a narrative framework based on the awareness of a potentially fatal crisis, a negative trend to which solutions were being sought, and as such one might see it as one of the rare common matrixes to some of the many political, economic, social, and cultural views of Europe that would circulate in the course of the twentieth century. Some of those visions of Europe postulated development towards a liberal and demo-

1 C. Curcio, Europa. Storia di un’idea, Turin 1978, pp. 511–558; H. Duchhardt, Europa-Diskurs und Europa-Forschung: Ein Rückblick auf ein Jahrhundert, in “Jahrbuch für europäische Geschichte”, 1, 2001, pp. 1–14. 2 H.M. Hewitson / M. D’Auria (eds.), Europe in Crisis. Intellectuals and the European Idea, 1917–1957, New York 2012. Translsation: Ralph Nisbet


 Gabriele D’Ottavio

cratic order; others, though, sketched an alternative, and intrinsically illiberal, political scenario3. Italy provides a privileged observatory from which to scan and understand the transition from World War I to peacetime as a generative phase in the public discourse about Europe, a moment that defined some narrative patterns that would not only acquire growing public resonance in the media and in politics, but also surface in some widely differing political and cultural constellations4. The present chapter will focus on a restricted group of scholars, academics, leading Italian entrepreneurs and politicians who made that ‘war-into-peace’ decline-of-Europe issue a veritable (and successful) literary genre that appealed to European and western culture. We shall see that the core of this phenomenon was formed of an erudite, learned elite but at the same time of some highly modern figures, perfectly fitting into the international intellectual panorama. Largely by their intense publicizing of the European crisis issue and their presence in the media of that age, they gained the cultural authority and personal popularity we associate with the “public intellectual”5. It will be argued that their writings capture something more than simple snapshots: they throw light on certain more general features of the international and Italian debate on the Europe of those times. Analyzing some of the most representative works from this publishing and media field will give a broad picture of the semantic universe we are considering, as well as the role of cultural mediation that such authors played through their writings. We shall look closely into some notions of decline circulating at the time, taking them as “travelling concepts”6: ideas that would travel in time and space, cross national frontiers and underpin the public debate over Europe down to our own day.

2 The crisis of a civilization before and after the “hyperbolic war” First on the list should probably be Guglielmo Ferrero (1871–1942): journalist, writer, historian, and sociologist of international repute7. Though clearly rather an excep-

3 J.-W. Müller, Contesting Democracy. Political Ideas in Twentieth-Century Europe, New Haven CT 2013; D. Gosewinkel (ed.), Anti-liberal Europe. A Neglected Story of Europeanization, New York / London 2015. 4 For a recent viewpoint, G.C. Laicata (ed.), Grande guerra e idea d’Europa, Milano 2017. 5 Note especially the definition of “public intellectuals” proposed by Stephan Collini: “Intellectuals are those who are regarded as possessing some kind of ‘cultural authority’, that is, who deploy an acknowledged intellectual position or achievement in addressing a broader, non-specialist public”, S. Collini, Absent Minds. Intellectuals in Britain, Oxford 2006, p. 117. 6 The expression is taken from B. Neumannn / A. Nünning (eds.), Travelling Concepts for the Study of Culture, Berlin 2012, pp. 23–43. 7 L. Cedroni, Guglielmo Ferrero. Una biografia intellettuale, Roma 2006.

When the Decline of Europe Turned Topical 


tional case, his intellectual journey and his thoughts on Europe have something emblematic about them. In the late nineteenth century his contribution was consistent with an age of social Darwinism when Europe was beginning to be seen less and less as one civilization – one anthropologically, psychologically, and culturally identifiable unit – and increasingly as something utterly and structurally divided: an entity that only became recognizable and – true to the times – ‘measurable’ via analysis of its inconsistencies and contradictions. In the eyes of many European intellectuals, from Hippolyte Taine to Ferrero himself, the idea of a united Europe was breaking down into peoples. Come the First World War, Ferrero’s writings on Europe reflected a more general shift of perspective. As with many other Italian intellectuals, his views on other European peoples became more and more politicized. Like other Italian and European intellectuals, Ferrero began to foresee an imminent, and potentially mortal, crisis of values and culture. Of this, the First World War was but one manifestation8. Between 1913 and 1918, Ferrero published a number of studies on the subject of Europe, the most important being Tra i due mondi 1913, which was also published in French, German and English9, La guerra europea (The European war), 1915, a collection of studies published in the international press at various intervals between 1913 and 191510, Le génie latin et le monde moderne (The Latin genius and the modern world), published in French in 191711, and lastly, La vecchia Europa e la nuova (The old Europe and the new), 1918, a collection of studies and essays most of which had already appeared in print12. The image of Europe transpiring from these studies differs sharply from the line he took in his 1897 book L’Europa giovane (Young Europe), where the influence of late-nineteenth-century evolutionist positivism was plain to see from the psychological approach (psychology being reduced to physiology) from which Ferrero argued that some peoples progress and others decline13. At that time, L’Europa giovane met with immediate acclaim from public and critics; with it, Ferrero gained a name in Italian culture, thanks partly to an enthusiastic review by Gaetano Mosca, who frequented the salon of the positivist anthropologist and criminologist Cesare Lombroso, founder of modern Italian political science14. However, Ferrero’s ideas were also harshly criticized in Italy, especially by the academic historians. One of the most scathing critics was the well-known philosopher Benedetto Croce, who dismissed Ferrero’s output in these terms: “With theories like

8 G. Ferrero, La Vecchia e la Giovane Europa, in La Vecchia Europa e la nuova, Milano 1918, pp. 9–43. 9 G. Ferrero, Tra i due mondi, Milano 1913; Between the Old World and the New, New York 1914; Zwischen zwei Welten, Wien 1925, Entre le passé et l’avenir, Paris 1926. 10 Milano 1915. 11 Paris 1917. 12 Milano 1918. 13 G. Ferrero, L’Europa giovane: studi e viaggi nell’Europa del Nord, Milano 1897. 14 G. Mosca, Il fenomeno Ferrero, in “La Riforma sociale”, 12, 1897, 7.


 Gabriele D’Ottavio

these of race, youth, and age of peoples one cannot fathom a single page of history”15. The judgment was nonetheless understandable at a moment when positivism clashed with the view of history taken by the dominant idealist school of philosophy, which was prejudiced against all use of sociological categories as being too abstract, politically slanted and unrepresentative of the broad canvas of history16. The topic of civilizations rising and falling continued to be central even to Ferrero’s later scientific output, but drew on different arguments from the past. Whereas Europa giovane depicted the Germanic race as the vanguard of modern Europe, his later writings portrayed it as looming barbarism. Ferrero had once been an esteemer of Germany for certain forms of social progress (including women’s emancipation, the social state, ruling class participation in the production system), as well as a convinced anti-militarist. But with the outbreak of WWI he changed into a proud interventionist, fiercely anti-German. As with many other Italian intellectuals, Ferrero took back his admiration for German culture and civilization17. The late-nineteenth-century idea of an insuperable gulf between Germans and Latins was rephrased as a clash of civilizations between a barbarian people responsible for what Ferrero called a “historic cataclysm” and a frankly decadent population that had lost its capacity for reason, its ability to restore the proper age-old equilibrium between power and wealth, which is to say between government and the production system18. What he styled the “European war” was, he thought, a new phenomenon stemming from political a “imbalance” among European nations, especially France, England, and Germany. Ferrero adopted the expression “modern European war” to mean war lacking all sense of proportion, something to be stigmatized as a “hyperbolical war”19. This, he realized, was “total” war between peoples, driven by a “mystical” belief that theirs was a just cause against infamous aggression. The European war was a sign of a civilization on the point of ruin, as he wrote in the Preface to La guerra europea: […] this war is not a war like so many others the world has seen but, like the French Revolution, the crisis of a civilization from which nothing will be saved, and which for the time being is taking the form and appearance of war. Let us not deceive ourselves. The Europe we were born into is no more than an aged building in ruins20.

To observe the modern world – as he wrote in Between Two Worlds back in 1913, and later on in Le génie latin et le monde moderne – one must shift one’s focus, in melancholy resignation, across the ocean. There, in the United States, amazing 15 B. Croce, Il dissidio spirituale della Germania, Bari 1944, p. 10. 16 B. Croce, Teoria e storia della storiografia, Bari 1913, pp. 29 f. 17 K. Heitmann, Das italienische Deutschlandbild in seiner Geschichte, vol. 3/1: Das kurze zwanzigste Jahrhundert (1914–1989). Italien gegen Deutschland: der Erste Weltkrieg, Heidelberg 2012. 18 G. Ferrero, L’equilibrio politico dell’Europa, in La guerra europea, p. 142. 19 Ibid., p. 125. 20 G. Ferrero, La guerra europea, p. X.

When the Decline of Europe Turned Topical 


developments had been made in methods of industrial mass production (so-called “Taylorism”). In what he published between 1913 and 1918 Ferrero changed the old dyad “Northern-Europe – Latin Europe” into the new dyad of “America – Europe”. In particular, his 1913 work Between Two Worlds and its 1917 successor Le génie latin et le monde modern compare the (qualitative) European to the (quantitative) American civilization, pointing out the clean contrast between social models, which in turn expressed a profound distinction between the kinds of society deriving from capitalism and industrialism21. The author produced a theory of two civilizations and a frontier philosophy, contrasting quantitative modern society with qualitative ancient society: “A civilization cannot but be qualitative: progress consists in creating qualitative societies that increasingly escape the danger of fossilising in the original definitions from which they developed”22. Thus, Ferrero acknowledged a cultural and socio-political superiority in that waning European civilization and crisis-torn liberalism: it was manifest in its respect for natural and human limits, a respect it inherited from classical culture. By contrast, those limits were constantly overstepped by the Nordic and Anglo-Saxon systems, giving rise to phenomena which, thought Ferrero, had paved the way to the early-century moral and political crisis and the catastrophe of the Great War: militarism, pauperism, machinism, and a tendency to authoritarianism. In a modern world where “quantity” (the relentless accumulation of wealth and power) outweighed “quality” (the ability to govern social equilibriums wisely), Ferrero made a plea for a civic and ethical return to the past, meaning Europe’s former civilization23. Ferrero closely observed postwar affairs as well. He published a number of articles in the daily “Il Secolo”, as well as some short essays including: Memorie e confessioni di un sovrano deposto (Memories and confessions of a deposed sovereign), 1920; La ruine de la civilisation antique (The downfall of the old civilization), 1921; La tragedia della pace: da Versailles alla Ruhr (The tragedy of peace: from Versailles to the Ruhr), 1923; Da Fiume a Roma (From Fiume to Rome), 1924; La democrazia in Italia (Democracy in Italy), 1925; L’enigma democratico (The democratic enigma), 1926. Besides warning against the fascist rise to power, these writings stress the implications of the European dynasty system collapsing. What especially weighed on Ferrero was “the catastrophe of the end; the fall of the Russian dynasty, the Austrian dynasty, and all the German dynasties, large and small”, with the impending threat of “a long period of bleak convulsions”24. This did not prevent him from wondering about future prospects and how to rally a sinking Europe. His program of political reconstruction envisaged a return to a past of “political infancy”: “we should begin at the bottom, 21 S. Suppa, “Génie Latin”, Germanesimo e Americanismo nel “monde moderne”. Guglielmo Ferrero e la crisi del’900, in L. Cedroni (ed.), Nuovi Studi su Guglielmo Ferrero, Roma 1998, pp. 123–138. 22 B. Raditza, Colloqui con Guglielmo Ferrero seguiti dalle grandi pagine, Lugano 1939, p. 48. 23 Ibid., pp. 27 f. 24 Ibid., p. 61.


 Gabriele D’Ottavio

with the individual states, setting up functioning democratic parliamentary republics in the Germanic world and Russia, as far as possible eschewing forms midway between republic and monarchy […]”25. Somewhat more paradoxically, this approach, like the whole Italian cultural debate at the time, echoed the great intellectual influence of Benedetto Croce who, long before publishing his Storia d’Europa nel secolo decimonono (History of Europe in the Nineteenth Century), 1932, spoke of a “European spirit”, that tendency to gain liberty on behalf of individuals, groups, and nations, that had given rise to liberal institutions26. Again dealing with the aftermath of war, Ferrero published three short volumes in France, drawing on articles that had appeared in “L’illustration” – Discours aux sourds (Speach to the deaf), 1924, Entre le passé et l’avenir (Between the past and the future), 1926, and L’unité du monde (The unity of the world), 1927 – in which he voiced his strictures on the post-Versailles set-up for its inability to restore “balance and orderly development”, and once again his argument that “limited and humane objectives” should be reintroduced “to politics in peacetime and war”27. With his international reputation, Ferrero was a candidate for the 1926 Nobel for literature; but his chances were thwarted when the fascist regime mounted a defamatory campaign against him. In 1930, at the intercession of the Belgian king among many others, Ferrero managed to obtain a passport and moved to Geneva where he became Professor of Modern History both at the Faculty of Letters and at the Institut des Hautes Études Internationales. He taught in exile at Geneva for ten years until his death on August 3, 1942 at Mont-Pèlerin28.

3 Federal Europe as a Solution to the decline of the old continent Other Italian intellectuals, though differing widely in form and content, would share Ferrero’s concern over the end of Europe and the need for it to rise again. One major figure was undoubtedly Luigi Einaudi (1874–1961) – internationally renowned for his flair as an economist, and future founding father and President of the Italian Republic29. Einaudi was one of the first in Italy to face the decline of Europe issue from an

25 Ibid., p. 62. 26 Benedetto Croce’s most important writings of that period include Teoria e storia della storiografia, 1917 (Theory & History of Historiography, 1921), Contributo alla critica di me stesso [Contribution to a criticism of myself], 1918, and L’Italia dal 1914 al 1918. Pagine sulla guerra [Italy from 1914 to 1918], 1918. 27 B. Raditza, Colloqui con Guglielmo Ferrero seguiti dalle grandi pagine, pp. 58–60. 28 L. Cedroni, Guglielmo Ferrero. Una biografia intellettuale, pp. 56–66. 29 N. Acocella (ed), Luigi Einaudi: studioso, statista, governatore, Roma 2010.

When the Decline of Europe Turned Topical 


explicitly political angle, anchoring his thinking to the broader international debate over the real chances of the European state system surviving the trauma of the First World War30. Between 1915 and 1918 Einaudi published a number of articles in the journal “Minerva” where he developed his argument that Europe needed a new awareness of the limitations of national sovereignty when it came to managing problems that straddled national frontiers31. Einaudi made explicit reference to British federalist thought, especially the work of John Robert Seeley (1834–1895) who had advocated transformation of the British Empire into a proper North American-style federation32. In the last year of the war Einaudi concentrated on voicing a critique of Wilson’s League of Nations proposal; again he called for a federal set-up in Europe and the world, of a kind truly transcending the “dogma of national sovereignty”. In 1918 Einaudi argued his case in a series of “Corriere della Sera” articles, taking the pseudonym of Junius. These went to form the 1920 collection that the publishers Laterza brought out that year33, as well as other writings continuing until 1925. Einaudi’s main argument was that, to test their real agreement with Wilson’s project, we should “ask how far the latest newcomers are prepared to waive the dogma of the absolute sovereignty of the imperial, democratic or proletarian State”34. That dogma had penetrated Europe to the core, dictating that each state be considered an entity “independent of other states, a unit perfect in itself, as admired in school textbooks and jealously cherished as the most precious jewel in the national treasure-house”. To Einaudi-Junius such a view of the state, elevated into a dogma despite the evidence of the facts, was in “irredeemable conflict” with the idea of a League of Nations and the chance of any peaceful cooperation among states. For that selfsame idea of sovereignty was the root cause of Germany’s “attempt at world dominion”35. Einaudi’s letters to the “Corriere della Sera” tackling the need for absolute sovereignty to evolve into a Europe-wide federalist system, greatly enlivened the postwar debate over Europe, shifting public focus back onto the concept of federalism, which stemmed from liberal thinking about government and had been most clearly outlined in the press in the form of The Federalist papers. One aspect of the 1920 collection deserves highlighting, being only apparently marginal: the choice of title harked back to a late-eighteenth century media phenomenon when anonymous letters critical of those in high office were published in the London daily “Public Advertiser” and met with wide acclaim. In his famous study History and Theory of Public Opinion

30 U. Morelli, Contro il mito dello Stato sovrano. Luigi Einaudi e l’unità europea, Milano 1990. 31 L. Einaudi, Unioni politiche e unioni doganali, in “Minerva”, February 1, 1916, pp. 97–99. 32 J.R. Seeley, The Expansion of England, London 1895. 33 Junius, Lettere politiche, Bari, 1920. 34 The quotations come from the two best-known articles: La Società delle Nazioni è un ideale possibile? (January 5, 1918) and Il dogma della sovranità e l’idea della Società delle Nazioni (December 28, 1918), both re-published in Junius, Lettere politiche, Bari 1920. 35 Ibid.


 Gabriele D’Ottavio

Jürgen Habermas would call the Letters of Junius “the outrider of the modern press”36. In this ‘detail’ we can read an instance of the way certain European intellectuals at the time were culturally well-disposed to speak on behalf of such public opinion as criticized the ruling class and its would-be handling of the transition from war to peace. Einaudi’s writings made a big noise in the media and certainly contributed greatly to the Italian public discussion over Europe in the wake of World War I37. They were a direct source of inspiration for the book European Federation or League of Nations?, published in the last year of the war by the well-known industrialist and founder of FIAT, Giovanni Agnelli (1866–1945)38 and the renowned economist Attilio Cabiati (1872–1950)39 who then occupied the Chair of Political Economy at Genoa University and the Milan Bocconi. The book argued in forthright terms on the subject of Europe’s decline and the need for it to rise again: “We unhesitatingly believe there is only one way of ensuring that war will never break out in Europe again, a way which requires very careful consideration: the federation of the European states under a single ruling and governing body”40. The fruit of thoughts dating from 1916, the book came out in August 1918 via the Turin Publisher, Bocca. The following year it appeared in a French version41, while for an English edition one would have to wait for the Luigi Einaudi Foundation reprint of 198642. In it the two authors picked up and spelt out two aspects of Einaudi’s federalist thinking: first, the historical lesson of the United States; second, an explicit reference to the thoughts of various British liberals and hence the importance of combining the economic with the political side. Unlike the less binding proposal of a League of Nations, a federal Europe would entail removing customs barriers and creating new markets, enabling prices to fall and production to increase. That would finally put an end to economic rivalry, which the authors saw as responsible for the decline of the European states in face of new powers emerging on a continental scale. Although the war had prostrated European societies, the authors glimpsed the signs of an inversion of trend among both governing elites and the populations of the various countries. Thus, as well as noting the decline, Chapter 3 (entitled The New Europe) expressed

36 J. Habermas (Storia e critica dell’opinione pubblica), quoted in P. Silvestri, Il liberalismo di Luigi Einaudi o del Buongoverno, Soveria Mannelli 2008, p. 128. 37 On this point, see particularly C. Cressati, L’unità europea nel pensiero e nell’opera di Luigi Einaudi, Torino 1990. 38 G. Arfé, Giovanni Agnelli, in Dizionario Biografico degli italiani, vol. 1, Roma 1960. 39 E. Galli della Loggia, Attilio Cabiati, in Dizionario Biografico degli italiani, vol. 15, Roma 1972. 40 G. Agnelli / A. Cabiati, Federazione europea o Lega delle Nazioni?, Torino 1918, p. 53. 41 G. Agnelli / A. Cabiati, Fédération europeéenne ou Ligue des nations?, Paris 1919. 42 G. Agnelli / A. Cabiati, Federazione Europea o Lega delle nazioni, Torino 1986 (European Federation or League of Nations?, Torino 1996 ( mode/2up).

When the Decline of Europe Turned Topical 


the hope that Europe might embrace that “truly novel psychology” which rejected the sovereignty dogma43. That British liberal thinking greatly influenced Agnelli and Cabiati’s ideas is clear if one simply scans the list of works they consulted44. Twenty-one out of the twenty-five references listed at the beginning of the volume were British. It was authors like Lord Acton45, Lionel Curtis46, Henry Sidgwick47, and H.G. Wells48 that Agnelli and Cabiati mainly drew on in criticizing Wilson’s League of Nations idea and preferring a Federation of European states. The book also made reference to other schools of thought and other authors, such as Heinrich von Treitschke (La politica, 1918, Italian translation of Politik, Vorlesungen an d. Universität zu Berlin), though they surreptitiously turned the latter’s arguments on the doctrine of the state in support of their own line that the League of Nations would offer an inadequate guarantee of peace49. The only Italian scholar cited in the volume, albeit under a pseudonym, was Luigi Einaudi, who helped bring it to the Italian public’s notice by a lengthy book review appearing in the periodical “La Riforma Sociale”50. Einaudi there supported both the criticisms of the Wilsonian League of Nations – which he thought “too vague and unstable” as a basis for any permanent political creation – and the economic rationality of Agnelli and Cabiati’s arguments. However, Einaudi thought the time was not yet ripe for any actual rising above the “profound differences between one European land and another”51. Here he introduced a new argument: namely that, to put an end to nationalist dis-integration, a Europeanist project would have to take account not just of the rational economic side, but also those “imponderables: national sentiment, tradition, love of independence, the choice of living poorly provided one could claw back a peak or a river”52. Einaudi was hinting at nothing less than the need for Europe itself to acquire the historical traits of nationhood, an idea that would later circulate among the supporters of quite distant ideologies from that embraced by Agnelli and Cabiati or Einaudi himself. But at the same time Einaudi would not abandon his orig-

43 G. Agnelli / A. Cabiati, Federazione europea o Lega delle Nazioni?, p. 49. 44 J. Pinder, Federalism in Britain and Italy. Radicals and the English Liberal Tradition, in M.R. Stirk (ed.), The European Union in Context, London 2016, pp. 201–223, here p. 202. 45 Lord Acton, The History of Freedom and Other Essays, London, 1907. 46 L. Curtis, The Commonwealth of Nations, An Inquiry into the Nature of Citizenship in the British Empire, and into the Mutual Relations of the Several Communities Thereof, vol. 1, London 1918. 47 H. Sidgwick, The Elements of Politics, London 1897. 48 H.G. Wells, La Guerre et L’avenir: L’Italie, la France et la Grande-Bretagne en Guerre, Paris 1917; H.G. Wells, In the Fourth Year. Anticipitation of a World Peace, London 1918. 49 G. Agnelli / A. Cabiati, Federazione europea o Lega delle Nazioni?, p. 49. 50 L. Einaudi, Federazione europea o Società delle Nazioni?, in “La Riforma Sociale”, November/December 1918, pp. 621–624. 51 Ibid., pp. 623 f. 52 Ibid., p. 623.


 Gabriele D’Ottavio

inal idea for “a supreme organ, which we could not even define today, regulating the common affairs of all the world’s peoples”, a solution which, he thought, would forestall the exclusion of Britain as well as the scenario of a “larger Mitteleuropa probably dominated by the most compact national group, the Germanic”53. It can be claimed that Einaudi’s work enjoyed a protracted influence: several decades later Altiero Spinelli would acknowledge in his memoirs how in the late Thirties the Political Letters of Junius were staple reading for the intellectuals and politicians who took part in the discussions leading to the Ventotene Manifesto and the development of the federalist movement54. After the Second World War ended and the Republic took off, Einaudi’s ideas about European union still held considerable appeal for the Italian people – and were taken up by a publisher closely involved with Europeanism: Adriano Olivetti. Only a few months after founding the Edizioni di Comunità publishing venture, Olivetti decided to include Einaudi’s speech to the Constituent Assembly on July 29, 1947 (La guerra e l’unità europea [The war and European unity]55) among a group of writings on the subject of a European federation. On that occasion Einaudi had referred to the interwar period in these terms: “The first world war was hence fought in vain, since it failed to solve the Europe problem” which consisted in the fact that the states of Europe had become “a historical anachronism”. The result was that European unification was attempted from 1938 on “by the sword of Satan” rather than “that of God”, leaving behind it a “frightful vacuum of ideals”. Whether in 1918 or in 1947, that, to Einaudi, was the sign of European decadence and the main reason for it should be sought in the myth of absolute sovereignty. Hence, he argued, rebirth could only come via the political search for “a humane, modern ideal in today’s Europe, bewildered and groping for the right way forward”56.

4 The decadence of Europe

in the reflections of an “intellectual politician”

The last personage in this review of intellectuals who pondered the decline of Europe is Francesco Saverio Nitti (1868–1953): freelance journalist, economist, Chair of Financial Science at the University of Naples, and above all a leading politician57. Nitti was several times a minister in liberal Italy and prime minister after the Paris Conference foundered diplomatically between June 1919 and June 1920. He was then replaced by Giolitti in 1920, before the liberal state collapsed and fascism came to the fore in 1922. 53 Ibid. 54 A. Spinelli, Come ho tentato di diventare saggio, Bologna 1984, pp. 307 f. 55 L. Einaudi, La guerra e l’unità europea, Milano 1948. 56 Ibid, pp. 75 f. 57 F. Barbagallo, Nitti, Torino 1984.

When the Decline of Europe Turned Topical 


Nitti is probably the most interesting case, whether for his leading role during the war’s conclusion, or for the international success of his writings. Of the figures we have so far examined, Nitti may be seen as the chief Italian author of ‘decline of Europe’-bestsellers. Between 1921 and 1924 he brought out three books on the subject of Europe torn by war and its aftermath: L’Europa senza pace, 192158, La decadenza dell’Europa. Le vie della ricostruzione, 192259, La tragedia dell’Europa. Che farà l’America?, 192460. The first two of the trilogy were written from his holiday home at Acquafredda in Basilicata, and published by the Florentine house of R. Bemporad; the third, again written at Acquafredda, was published by the Turin publisher Piero Gobetti when Nitti was already self-exiled in Zurich, his refuge after eluding a fascist attack in 1923. The close dates of the three publications and the similarity of their titles might suggest he was repeating his argument as to the crisis of Europe. Nothing of the sort. Though forming an organic coverage of the issues raised by the war and peace, the three volumes differed in structure and reflected Nitti’s changing judgement not so much on the reasons for Europe’s decline, as on the responsibilities of the individual international actors and on prospects for the future61. Like other exponents of nineteenth-century liberalism, Nitti had been raised on an idea of Europe which, though not divorced from the nation-state, anticipated an irreversible trend towards harmony between national and regional realities and among the conflicting political, economic, social, and cultural claims62. Before the war broke out Nitti had shared the idealistic, optimistic view of Europe’s destiny, judging the ferment and tension linked to transition from nineteenth-century liberalism to industrial democracy not as a sign of decline, but as growing pains that would soon resolve into a positive transformation. At the same time, unlike the Anglo-Saxon school of federalist thinking, Nitti felt that the trend towards greater interdependency and harmony among the various European fatherlands would suffer, rather than benefit, by the constraint of formal institutionalization. Moving from a de facto to a de iure set-up would be a straitjacket on the spontaneous integration process afoot, and might even give rise to claims of hegemony by some great power, endangering the future of any liberal, democratic principle and equality among the states comprising the European system63. In this sense Nitti might be ranked among the forerunners of the idea of Europe as the

58 Firenze 1921; Peaceless Europe, London 1922. 59 Firenze 1922; The Decadence of Europe, London 1922. 60 Torino 1924; They Make a Desert, London 1924. 61 For the evolution of Nitti’s thinking about matters European between 1921 and 1924, see also P. Alatri, Europa e sistema europeo in 22 articoli inediti di F.S. Nitti (September 10, 1921–April 28, 1924, in “Rivista di Studi Politici Internazionali”, 3, 1981, pp. 375–394. 62 D. Veneruso, L’Europa dopo la prima guerra mondiale nella riflessione di Francesco Saverio Nitti, in Francesco Saverio Nitti. Meridionalismo e europeismo, Bari 1985, pp. 135–171, here pp. 134 ff. 63 Ibid., p. 137.


 Gabriele D’Ottavio

“external constraint” in a negative meaning: that is, not a tool for positive conditioning of nation-state development, but an obligation, the institutionalizing of which might lead to “hierarchy” outstripping “solidarity”64. However, the war would cripple that vision beloved of liberalism. Perceiving the full gravity of the situation into which Europe had plunged in 1914, and dispassionately judging the winning nations incapable of restoring any stable, legitimate equilibrium, he was driven not just to reappraise the Vienna order and the role in it of the Holy Alliance, but also gradually to lessen his suspicions of scenarios that heralded dissolution of that Europe of fatherlands. In the first volume of the trilogy, L’Europa senza pace, one still glimpses a basic reluctance to accept European cooperation being confined within institutional rules and ties. L’Europa senza pace was the fruit of Nitti’s collaboration with the American United Press agency throughout 1920; it was such a publishing success that it was translated into twenty-two languages65. In it, Nitti was outspokenly critical of the Treaty of Versailles – a leitmotiv that would run throughout the trilogy – and argued that such a peace born of war was fragile, vitiated by the hostile, punitive mentality that had characterized the Paris Conference66. Nitti countered such thinking with an idea of peace based on respect and solidarity for the vanquished, inspired by principles of extended democracy and broad entente among the big European countries, instead of the “Balkanization” heralded by the decisions taken at Versailles. Again, disappointment over Wilson’s acquiescence with the French hard line drove Nitti to conclude that Europe had better solve its problems by itself, without help from the United States67. This position too, as we shall see, he would rethink in years to come. L’Europa senza pace came under attack, above all by those who found it inconsistent that the treaty was being criticized by one who had had to sign it; yet it had its admirers, Lloyd George to the fore68. Its arguments broadly coincided with J.M. Keynes: it is no accident that The Economic Consequences of the Peace was translated into Italian in 1921 with a preface by an extreme ‘loyalist’, Vincenzo Giuffrida. In 1921 and 1922 Nitti was twice proposed for a Nobel Prize, by the University of Naples and by the Danish Parliament. L’Europa senza pace even found its way into US politics and was several times quoted before the American Senate by deputies of both parties. Nitti’s ideas outlined in the second volume, The Decadence of Europe, were likewise

64 On the concept “external constraint” and how it evolved in Republican Italy’s European integration policy, see R. Gualtieri, L’Europa come vincolo esterno, in P. Craveri / A. Varsori (eds.), L’Italia nella costruzione europea. Un bilancio storico (1957–2007), Milano 2009, pp. 313–331. 65 This is the date given by F. Barbagallo in his postscript to the latest edition of F.S. Nitti’s volume, La Tragedia dell’Europa. Che farà l’America?, Roma 2012, p. 319. 66 F.S. Nitti, L’Europa senza pace, pp. 3–9, 15–30 and 32–53. 67 Ibid., pp. 15–30 and 199–220. 68 For the international reception of Nitti’s work, again see F. Barbagallo’s postscript to F.S. Nitti, La Tragedia dell’Europa. Che farà l’America?, pp. 315–329. 69 Ibid., p. 320.

When the Decline of Europe Turned Topical 


appreciated across the ocean – especially by the President of the US Senate’s Foreign Commission, Henry Cabot Lodge69. In this second book, where Nitti joins issue with the French nationalist claims and the wavering line taken by the American administration, the tone becomes even more outspoken. But despite his pessimism, even Nitti felt that the crisis theme should not be taken as exclusively negative, leading to cheerless prophecies of doom for the Old Continent, but be turned into a positive opportunity. On this tack, more and more determinedly Nitti began to urge the need for entente across the Atlantic: it might serve to have an outside prompter of collaboration among the states of Europe70. Following the international success of the first two books, in drafting the third (La tragedia dell’Europa. Che farà l’America?) Nitti decided to address his American readers directly, asking them to bring pressure to bear on their government and get it to take a balancing role in European affairs, instead of the new isolationism that Wilson’s successors had been practicing. This last text linked up with a more general transformation occurring in the public discourse on Europe following America’s intervention in 1917 as an associate power flanking the Entente. It concerned the upcoming concept of “democratic West”, which would take on a still more markedly ideological connotation after World War II71. When it came out, Nitti’s third contribution to the discussion of the Versailles peace settlement again aroused lively interest in Italy and abroad. Orders began to be placed months before it was printed – which was later that the original date agreed by the author and his publisher, partly because the fascist censorship began to take an interest in the work. The Italian version ran to 5,000 copies, a considerable number, and a reprint was mooted at first, though it never came off72. La tragedia dell’Europa was translated straightaway into German, English, Russian Bulgarian, Spanish, Portuguese and Esperanto73. Once published, it received dozens of comments and reviews in dailies, periodicals, and gazettes. Among the 40 reviews we should note Luigi Einaudi’s in the “Corriere della Sera” and Claudio Treves’ in “Critica sociale”, both appearing in August 192474. Einaudi’s judgement on Nitti’s main argument in the book was trenchant. “Europe is not heading for ruin; and peace treaties, like everything human, are imperfect but not criminal”75. However, he did stress the impor70 F.S. Nitti, La decadenza dell’Europa, pp. 428–455. On Nitti’s Atlantic liberalism, see also M. Cento, Tra capitalismo e amministrazione: il liberalismo atlantico di Nitti, Bologna 2017. 71 C. Curcio, Europa. Storia di un’idea, p. 515. 72 Cf. Alessia Pedio in F.S. Nitti, La Tragedia dell’Europa. Che farà l’America?, pp. 331–335. 73 Die Tragödie Europas – und Amerika?, Frankfurt 1924; They Make a Desert, London 1924; Tragedija Evropy cto sdelaet Amerika?, Knigoizdatelstvo Volga 1924; Kak Frantsiia Grabila Grabila Germaniu, Moskow / Berlin 1924; La tragedia de Europa¿ Que haran los Estados Unidos, Madrid 1924; A tragedia da Europa, Rio 1924; Europa ce la abismo, Frankfurt a.M. 1924. 74 L. Einaudi, La tragedia dell’Europa, in “Corriere della Sera”, August 10, 1924; C. Treves, Luce nelle tenebre, in “Critica sociale”, 34, August 16–31, 1924, 16, pp. 241–244. 75 Ibid.


 Gabriele D’Ottavio

tance of correctly interpreting the postwar context in all efforts at peace-building, and shared Nitti’s concern about the existence of a “dream of domination, budding among certain anachronistic French ruling classes”76 which would jeopardize the stability of the European system. To Einaudi, Nitti was guilty of naivety when he appealed to the Americans’ sense of justice and love of liberty to prevail over isolationism; as in 1917, it was not universalism but pursuit of national interest alone that might involve the power of America in European affairs77.

5 The decline of Europe through the lens of a group of Italian public intellectuals The protagonists in this story stand like a group portrait, albeit impressionistic and partial; useful, nonetheless in delineating one of the main press/publishing fields in the transition from World War I to peace. These five ‘snapshots’ of Guglielmo Ferrero, Luigi Einaudi, Giovanni Agnelli, Attilio Cabiati ,and Francesco Saverio Nitti might form a single case study: an intellectual group biography revealing ideas about Europe, like some shared experience that would help define the cultural coordinates of leaders in Italy’s intellectual and political world at the time. Our five successful authors were all born in the 1860s and 1870s and raised on a basically Eurocentric, progressive idea of the Old Continent: they identified the dynamics of progress and European modernity with ‘universal’ progress. Some began to waver in their certainty that Europe was the sole cradle of progress: in Guglielmo Ferrero’s case this set in towards the end of the nineteenth century. But it was only after the outbreak of the Great War that our five authors seriously began to question their previous idealized view of Europe and reflect on the declining destiny of the Old Continent – to which they nonetheless proffered solutions or remedies. Against the shared background of such developing viewpoints, the five authors may be grouped under one classic heading: in voicing their thoughts about the First World War and its aftermath, they represented the rise of the public intellectual. When the Great War broke out, a Ferrero, Einaudi, Agnelli, Cabiati. or Nitti were already known personalities in their respective spheres; but it was mainly through their ideas about the crisis of Europe that they came to the fore as famous intellectuals or, in Francesco Saverio Nitti’s case, “intellectual politicians” whose reputation reached the top echelons of American politics. Intense journalistic coverage of the decline-ofEurope theme brought some of them international recognition: both Ferrero and Nitti were candidates for a Nobel Peace Prize, only thwarted by the open hostility of their

76 Ibid. 77 Ibid.

When the Decline of Europe Turned Topical 


many enemies on the home front. Despite, or probably because of, their national and international fame, they were instantly singled out by fascism, when it came to power, as personae non gratae to the regime, and forced into exile, one way or another. In the case of Luigi Einaudi, the influence of his thinking was far from short-lived: it went on setting the cultural and intellectual coordinates for many prominent Italian politicians throughout the first postwar, and even into the second. By their works these modern public intellectuals managed to circulate a number of kernel concepts as to the crisis of Europe, which would surface again and again in years to come. In examining these various writings we have found: a new ‘take’ on the idea of Europe waning because of an intrinsic fracture line separating profoundly different civilizations; interpretation of European crisis as the self-dissolution of a state-centered international system; hence the view that Europe as a political project was destined to fail unless pursued from a federal angle or under the banner of ideals shared by the powers that won the war, or in a world framework guaranteed by the United States. Though elaborated in profoundly different cultural and geopolitical contexts, such kernel concepts went on shaping and informing public thinking about Europe not just after the First, but also after the Second World War. To limit the picture to Italy alone, we can find traces of these kernel schemas in the so-called “fascist Europeanism of the Thirties”78, or the federalist-inclined antifascist Europeanism of the early Forties79, and likewise in political discourse and mass-media terminology on Europe running throughout the Forties and Fifties80. This is clearly not the time or place to extend the analysis down to the present day, but it would be hardly surprising to find, in today’s coverage of the European crisis, traces of narrative schemas that date from the transition years from World War I to peacetime.

78 S. Giustibelli, Europa, Paneuropa, Antieuropa. Il dialogo tra Francia democratica e Italia fascista nell’epoca del memorandum Briand (1929–1934), Soveria Manelli 2006; G. Longo, Il fascismo e l’idea di Europa. Il convegno dell’Istituto nazionale di cultura fascista (1942), Roma 2000. 79 S. Pistone, Die Europadiskussion in Italien, in W. Loth (ed.), Die Anfänge der Europäischen Integration 1945–1950, Bonn 1990, pp. 53–68. 80 See G. D’Ottavio, Il discorso politico sull’Europa nell’immediato dopoguerra (1945–1947), in G. Bernardini / M. Cau / G. D’Ottavio / C. Nubola (eds.), L’età costituente. Italia 1945–1948 (Annali dell’Istituto storico italo-germanico in Trento. Quaderni, 99), Bologna 2017, pp. 397–424; G. D’Ottavio, Broadcasting Europe. The Treaties of Rome as a Media Event, in “Annali dell’Istituto storico italo-germanico”, 45, 2019, 1, pp. 143–168.

Maurizio Cau

The Execution of Cesare Battisti Representation and Memory of a Media Event

1 The death sentence as “media event” The condemnation to death by hanging of Cesare Battisti, Trentino socialist, member of the Vienna Parliament, and leading irredentist figure, was one of the most symbolically important events that occurred on the Italian front during the First World War1. As recently noted, this was a “media event” in which “dozens of photographers, authorized or not, bustled to get pictures that would trigger an uncontrolled commerce of the spectacle of the ‘traitor’s’ death”2. In their seminal study of “media events”, focused on the medium of television, Daniel Dayan and Elihu Katz reflected on how the processes of mass communication contributed to reshaping the ceremonial and ritual aspects of events3. If we adapt the paradigm defined by the two scholars to our case study, applying certain proposals for reformulation of the concept to lend it greater flexibility4, we can consider the execution of Battisti a sort of ante litteram media event. Not only because it received wide coverage in the European newspapers of the time, but because it was effectively

1 Cesare Battisti (Trento, 1875–1916). Inclined towards the socialist cause starting from his university years in Florence, he founded the Società degli studenti trentini (Society of Trentino students), the socialist weekly periodical “L’Avvenire del lavoratore” (1896) and subsequently the socialist newspaper “il Popolo” (1904). He was very active in the Trentino political scene in the early 1900s, focusing the local socialist programme on the struggle for the administrative autonomy of Trentino, and calling for an Italian university in Trento. He was elected in 1911 as a representative in the Vienna Parliament where he assumed a political position openly oriented towards irredentism. He moved to Milan when the First World War broke out in August 1914, where he actively promoted Italian intervention in the conflict. When Italy entered the war, he enrolled in the 5th regiment of the Alpini troops, participating in numerous military operations in the rank of sub-lieutenant. He was captured on July 10, 1916, on Monte Corno in southern Trentino, subjected to martial law, and condemned to death. The sentence was carried out on July 12 at the Buonconsiglio Castle in Trento. 2 G. D’Autilia, La guerra cieca. Esperienze ottiche e cultura visuale nella Grande guerra, Milano 2018, p. 351. 3 D. Dayan / E. Katz, Media Events. The Live Broadcasting of History, Cambridge MA 1992. 4 B. Mitu / S. Poulakidakos (eds.), Media Events. A Critical Contemporary Approach, New York 2016; N. Couldry / A. Hepp / F. Krotz (eds.), Media Events in a Global Age, Routledge 2009; F. Bösch / P. Schmidt (eds.), Medialisierte Ereignisse. Performanz, Inszenierung und Medien seit dem 18. Jahrhundert, Frankfurt a.M. / New York, 2010. Translation: Gavin Taylor


 Maurizio Cau

constructed as an example of “certain situated, thickened, centering performances of mediated communication that are focused on a specific thematic core, cross different media products and reach a wide and diverse multiplicity of audiences and participants”5. The case of Battisti not only testified to the centrality that the information system has progressively assumed in modern society, but also highlighted the social function that mediatic construction of events has increasingly acquired in the contemporary age. Like the grand rituals of coronations, public ceremonies, or the celebration of military victories, the execution of Battisti effectively represented “an occasion to confirm loyalty, to invoke the pact between leaders and followers, to reaffirm core values”6 in which a precise institutional role can be recognized. Like most media events, it derived from a practice of exhibition and self-affirmation of power. The communicative aspect represents a central element in this affair. Not only because the sentencing to death of the Trentino parliamentarian was publicly staged, but because it initiated a communicative process within which divergent images and narratives converged7. The role of the media, photography, and press was not limited to making the event known and observable, but also contributed towards its cultural construction, endowing it with meaning and content that transcended the naked representation of the facts. This markedly performative dimension, the intermediary role that the account of the facts assumed, the multiplicity of the points of view that it generated, and the arguments that developed around its interpretations, all make Cesare Battisti’s condemnation to death by hanging a particularly interesting “media event” for analysis. The photographic image was one of the central elements in the communicative circuit generated by the event. It could be said to represent an event within the event, so much so that the many images that recount Battisti’s execution, and in particular those that fix the moment of death, rapidly lost the connotations of the photo-document, instead assuming those of the photo-monument. The “scandalous”8 image of the execution of Battisti is a full-fledged part of the iconographic heritage of the conflict and generated a genuine rejection – as Martin Jay says – of the “scopic regime” of modernity9, this being the interweaving of images, visual conventions, viewing devices, and social habits of image consumption. In the mid 1910s, Trentino thus experienced the entirely contemporary indissolubility between events and the narrative constructions within which they were inscribed.

5 N. Couldry / A. Hepp, Media Events in Globalised Media Cultures, in N. Couldry / A. Hepp (eds.), Media Events, p. 1. 6 D. Dayan / E. Katz, Le grandi cerimonie dei media. La storia in diretta, Baskerville, pp. 46 f. 7 F. Bösch, Ereignisse, Performanz und Medien in historischer Perspektive, in F. Bösch / P. Schmidt (eds.), Medialisierte Ereignisse. Performanz, Inszenierung und Medien seit dem 18. Jahrhundert, pp. 7 f. 8 Ibid. 9 M. Jay, Scopic Regimes of Modernity, in H. Forster (ed.), Visions and Visuality, Seattle 1988.

The Execution of Cesare Battisti 


If it is true that images “are” the event, the question arises as to what the signifying forms were with which the media “dressed up” this specific event, and in what way the images and information that the media produced regarding the event influenced its memory and so its elaboration10. The snapshots depicting the death of the “martyr of irredentism” better than any others illustrate not only what the images “are”, but also what they “do”11. In these photographs the war gave “the visual imaginary of the following decades perhaps the first example of a staged death in which the optical lens plays an active role in the dynamics of the event itself”12. As is well known, the Great War was the first modern war in which photographs could be reproduced and multiplied in the daily press and periodicals. This significantly modified the social statute of the photographic medium, which became fully integrated into the mass communication process. It was precisely around these pictures that the divergent mental images and imaginaries crystalized, significantly shaping the Battisti myth. The cultural aspect of images, the fact they are “constructed, artefactual, technically determined”, is worth particular attention, since – as widely demonstrated in visual culture studies – images are not simple signs, but facts13. Even more, they are historical actors. When examining the execution of Battisti as a media event it is useful to consider two levels of analysis: the performative dimension on the one hand, and the process of mediatization of the affair on the other.

2 “A staged public exhibition”. Performativity and representation The capture, trial, and execution of Battisti represent a clear example of the interweaving of representation and performativity in public rituals, which frequently characterizes social conflicts and dramas. The studies that developed around the so-called 10 Relevant in this respect are the acute observations of M. Dinoi, Lo sguardo e l’evento. I media, la memoria, il cinema, Le Lettere, 2008. 11 E. Agazzi, Regime scopico ed ekphrasis nel dibattito sulle arti visuali. Una ricognizione, in “Intersezioni. Rivista di storia delle idee”, 33, 2013, 2, pp. 271–284, here p. 271. 12 G. D’Autilia, La guerra cieca, p. 352. As stated elsewhere, the story in images of the execution of Battisti constitutes, “one of the most spectacular representations of death of the twentieth century and you need to go back to Place de Grève and the decapitation of a king to find something comparable”; A. Gilardi, L’altalena delle Vergini sulla fotografia spontanea della morte, in D. Leoni (ed.), Come si porta un uomo alla morte. La fotografia della cattura e dell’esecuzione di Cesare Battisti, Trento 2007, p. 268. 13 See the classic texts W.J.T. Mitchell, Iconology: Image, Text, Ideology, Chicago IL 1987; G. Boehm, Was ist ein Bild?, München 1995; H. Bredekamp, Theorie des Bildakts, Berlin 2010, A. Somaini / A. Pinotti, Cultura visuale. Immagini, sguardi, media, dispositivi, Torino 2016.


 Maurizio Cau

“performative turn” have demonstrated the relevance of ritual and symbolic practices in the management of political crises14. The procedure of public execution, at other times relegated to obscurity, is displayed, ritualized, theatricalized: “Through the process itself of performance, what in normal conditions is hermetically sealed, inaccessible to everyday observation and reasoning, buried in the depths of cultural life, is brought out into the light”15. In order to re-establish the social ties thrown into crisis by the irredentist ideal, the Habsburg authorities chose to stage their victory over one of their declared enemies. It was a performance born out of a combination of a precise political and martial context with a particular ceremonial form, involving the setting of a scene (the city streets, the castle moat) and an audience (soldiers, civilians, and the potential viewers of the photographs taken). It was a mechanism that used the exhibition and elimination of the body of the enemy to re-affirm the symbolic system on which the authority rested. The theatricalization of the capture and execution of Battisti thus satisfied a wider political objective than simple repression. The construction of the scenic-performative apparatus is, from this perspective, an integral part of the event, which is not exhausted in the naked fact (the killing of the “traitor”) but gains decisive weight in its representation and spectacularization. The performative nature of an event does not refer simply to the act of carrying it out, but also includes the aspect of representation16. In this sense the mediatic dimension and the existence of an audience to whom the performative gesture is addressed represent determining components of the event itself. The presence of an audience at the execution of Battisti, along with the massive use of photographic devices capable of exponentially multiplying the possible number of witnesses, decisively distinguished the performative action of the Habsburg authorities, inevitably modifying the essence of the event. In this respect, the observations of Frank Bösch could be applied to the case of Battisti. Bösch noted an interweaving of action, mediatic frame, and practices for assigning meaning when discussing a famous photograph showing a South Vietnamese general, Nguyen Ngoc Loan, head of the national police, shooting a prisoner suspected of being a member of the Viet Cong in the head, in front of an NBC operator and a photographer: “The media can assume a function of representation in relation to the spectators, in such a way that their physical presence is not required, replaced by the mediatic presence. By their presence the media transform ordinary actions into events”17.

14 Cf. P. Burke, Performing History: The Importance of Occasions, in “Rethinking History. The Journal of Theory and Practice”, 2005, 1, pp. 35–52. 15 V. Turner, The Ritual Process: Structure and Antistructure, New York 1969, p. 36. 16 S. Krämer, Sprache, Stimme, Schrift. Sieben Gedanken über Performativität als Medialität, in U.  Wirth (ed.), Performanz. Zwischen Sprachphilosophie und Kulturgeschichte, Frankfurt a.M. 2002, pp. 323–346. 17 F. Bösch, Ereignisse, Performanz und Medien in historischer Perspektive, p. 16.

The Execution of Cesare Battisti 


This is achieved through their structural performativity, guaranteed in particular by theircapacity to simulate presence, and the attestation of authenticity that they appear able to provide. As regards types and abundance of documentation produced, the case of Battisti is very unusual. Right from the moment of his capture the fate of the lieutenant of the Royal Italian Army was followed and documented in unusual detail. It generated “macabre and mesmerizing reporting”18 that appears unequalled in the context of the war. The spectacularization of the capture, deliberation, judgement, and execution of Battisti, in a word his “passion”, was not avoided but indeed encouraged. First the participation of the civil population in the public spectacle of the procession of the prisoner to the place of justice was actively promoted, and secondly the prohibition for civilians to take photographs during wartime was suspended due to the exceptional nature of the event. The “grand scenographic apparatus”19 that marked Battisti’s final hours of life started taking shape right from the time of his capture on July 10, 1916, during a military action to take control of Monte Corno, conducted by the Vicenza Battalion command. The news spread quickly, generating a considerable mobilization of curious parties, both military and civilian, hastening to see the prisoner. The procession that accompanied Battisti along the streets of Trento towards Buonconsiglio Castle quickly assumed the appearance of a public pillory. The photographic documentation is particularly abundant20 and demonstrates the care taken by the Habsburg military authorities for the staging of the event. On the evening of July 10, the Trento Command received an instruction by telephone stating: “Already today this news can be announced in the city so that the population are informed and might choose to witness the arrival of the two prisoners tomorrow”21. A report was dispatched to the fortress command describing how the procession was conducted: “the convoy consisting of two wagons reached the bridge over the Fersina river at about 9.45. Since the arrival was known to everyone, there was already a large crowd of soldiers and civilians gathered along Viale Fersina and the city streets, that accompanied the convoy”22. Oreste Ferrari, journalist, intellectual, and author in 1925 of an extremely well documented homage to Battisti, reported it as follows, “the procession set off, escorted by a detachment of soldiers. It halted every twenty paces so that the onlook-

18 S. Pinato, Ma dopo il boia doveva venire anche il fotografo. Le fonti archivistiche, in D. Leoni (ed.), Come si porta un uomo alla morte, p. 224. 19 Ibid., p. 18. 20 For an exhaustive examination of the photographic materials linked to the event see D. Leoni (ed.), Come si porta un uomo alla morte. 21 O. Ferrari, Martiri ed eroi trentini della guerra di redenzione, Trento 1925, pp. 150 f. 22 Cited ibid., p. 161.


 Maurizio Cau

ers had the opportunity to stare and sneer at him; in the meantime, the officials shouted comments, smirked, and photographed with obvious delight”23. The public was an integral (and active) part of the spectacle staged by the Austro-Hungarian authorities. It should be remembered that many citizens were forced to leave Trento in 1915 and a substantial part of the gathered public consisted of soldiers and civilians faithful to the government authorities: “The courtyard was crowded with spectators: all officers […]. Curious men and women, especially the officers’ wives, watched the spectacle from the windows of the houses and apartments facing the Castle. The local citizens, reduced as they were to a few thousand individuals, mostly abstained”24. It is not possible to establish whether the Trentino citizens genuinely “abstained”, but what emerges is the actual presence of a significant public which took part (or which was invited to participate) in the event: During the night and the early hours of the morning the police […] had conducted an intense propaganda campaign, resorting to more or less polite invitations or even threats according to individual cases. The employees of the various government offices had been given a holiday and the soldiers had leave. Even small shopkeepers […] were warned that it would be better if they turned out to witness the transit of the prisoners25.

Ferrari adds that some washerwomen who watched the passage of the procession admitted to having been being paid to attend by the authorities. This detail cannot be confirmed, but the various testimonies agree in underlining a substantial number of the public crowding the route that led Battisti towards the Castle. Citizens and officers were again numerous at the execution in the castle moat after the death sentence was passed: The gates to the moat opened for an instant for the passage of the two groups: a compact crowd of lower ranks, and officers in dress uniform – including a few policemen – packed the sad location. The most curious or zealous positioned themselves on rocky outcrops around the moat, holding each other for support. Other spectators could be seen facing down from the first section of parapet along the road running above the moat. A group of kids who had climbed onto the wall enclosing the moat were chased away. And there were cameras everywhere, ready to snap their shutters26.

The vast public was therefore not composed entirely of policemen and officers called on to participate in the public execution of an enemy, and also included civilians (and even some children attempted to get in) hurrying to see what the memoirs of the

23 Ibid., p. 151. 24 Ibid., p. 127. 25 Ibid., p. 124. 26 Ibid., p. 179.

The Execution of Cesare Battisti 


executioner Josef Lang would define as, “the most interesting execution of this era”27. The testimony of Franz Gottinger, and Austrian official present at the event, helps to establish the level of theatricality of the affair: Everything was so theatrical and artificial as to induce a sincere disgust. […] Only the officers and leading civil authorities could take part. Hundreds of people surrounded a barrier formed by infantry with fixed bayonets. It was in considerably bad taste that the windows of the fortress were occupied by a whole company of showy officers’ wives, so that the sad performance assumed the appearance of a public exhibition on a stage28.

3 The role of photographic images in the mediatization of the event Numerous pictures remain from this macabre theatrical production. Without such an abundant iconographic heritage, the process of mediatization of the affair would have followed different routes. The photographic image thus significantly conditioned not only the discursive register within which the news of the death of Battisti was circulated by the press, but the interpretation and meaning of the event itself. It was a clear and complete example of the extent to which the processes of mediatization of public events in the contemporary age ends up influencing the blueprint of historical facts themselves29. Photographing the death of Battisti in this particular manner radically modified the nature and historical weight of the occasion. In the developments after his capture on Monte Corno, Battisti was photographed on multiple occasions by different people30. The first images show him soon after capture and on the descent that led back to the valley. Other snapshots by soldiers were taken near Rovereto, and again in Aldeno, where Battisti was transferred as a prisoner. During the long procession to Buonconsiglio Castle many onlookers were armed with cameras. These were amateur photographers, who were in turn immortalized in the snapshots of other photographers. It was here, in the city streets, that the photographic crossfire began, reaching its climax in the Buonconsiglio Castle moat.

27 J. Lang, Erinnerungen des letzten Scharfrichters im k.k. Österreich, Leipzig / Wien 1920. 28 F. Göttinger, Sturmbatterie, Graz 1937, p. 223. 29 For a general reflection on the theme see G. Bernardini / C. Cornelissen, La medialità della storia. Nuovi studi sulla rappresentazione della politica e della società (Annali dell’Istituto Storico Italo-Germanico in Trento. Quaderni, 104), Bologna 2019; C. Cornelissen, Medialisierung und Medialität. Erkundungen zur Mediengeschichte seit der Moderne, in “Annali dell’Istituto Storico Italo-Germanico”, 44, 2018, 1, pp. 13–35. 30 Estimates are of around thirty photographers taking pictures during these hours; cf. A. Gilardi, L’altalena delle vergini, p. 268.


 Maurizio Cau

The presence of “countless lenses pointed towards the deathly procession” was noted by Karl Issleib himself, the judge who read the sentence of condemnation31. The images that have come down to us of Battisti’s ordeal represent an unusual iconographic documentation for breadth32. Apart from documenting the growing spread of photography during the war, it also reveals the propensity of the military authorities to “construct” the event, lending it an extraordinary level of public prominence. Ferrari noted further that even though at the time photography was forbidden for normal citizens, not only in the surroundings but even inside the city, the various amateur and professional photographers were informed that for the occasion not only was the ban lifted, but the authorities strongly desired that the event be photographically recorded in all its most relevant details and with maximum precision33.

All of this reveals a clear intention of the Habsburg authorities as regards the public impact of the capture, trial, and execution of Battisti. The photographic documentation becomes less abundant after arrival at Buonconsiglio Castle. Between sentencing and execution there are only a couple of pictures: one on July 11, when Battisti was escorted to his cell, and another on July 12, which would become central to the iconography of Battisti’s martyrdom, when he was leaving the military court after hearing his death sentence34. The sinister theater moved to the castle moat, busy with the preparations for the public spectacle of death. Here the photographs multiply, the perspectives intersect, and photographers photograph each other. In a general view of the moat a few moments before the hanging more than twenty photographers can be counted. There was a tangled play of perspectives, in which “the guilty photographed the victim and at the same time the spectators. And they also photographed the photographers, who were directing their gaze onto the spectators and the victim”35. See figure 1. Most were using small cameras, handheld or supported on stands. However, space had also been made available for large format cameras, confirming the intended degree of solemnity for immortalizing the event and the care taken to set up the scenographic features. A large 20 x 20 format camera was also used, requiring a certain time to change plates from one frame to

31 Cf. O. Ferrari, Martiri ed eroi trentini della guerra di redenzione, p. 181. 32 It is impossible to establish the number of photographs taken during Battisti’s procession as a prisoner, nor the number taken at the execution. The most reliable estimates are of around a hundred pictures by about thirty amateur photographers; cf. A. Gilardi, L’altalena delle vergini, p. 270. 33 O. Ferrari, Martiri ed eroi trentini della guerra di redenzione, p. 125. 34 The same picture had a different circulation in Italy and Austria, with different captions; cf. S. Pinato, Ma dopo il boia doveva venire anche il fotografo. Le fonti archivistiche, p. 225. 35 A. Holzer, Das Lächeln der Henker. Der unbekannte Krieg gegen die Zivilbevölkerung 1914–1918, Darmstadt 2008, p. 26.

The Execution of Cesare Battisti 


the next, which leads to the supposition that in order to achieve photographic documentation the action of the executioner was conducted slowly36. Some witnesses even noted the possible presence of a movie camera, which was rendered unusable though by a play of light that developed in the moat during the last moments of Battisti’s life: “Everywhere there was a multitude of photographic devices, among which one enormous, which might have been a cinema camera. Fortunately, there was a hole in the enclosing wall, and just before 7 the setting sun shone through the hole directly onto the lenses of most of the cameras, rendering them unable to function, among these the abovementioned cinema camera”37.

This fact has never been confirmed by historical research, but gives a good impression of the imposing atmosphere of mediatization within which the events unfolded.

Fig. 1: Execution of Cesare Battisti, July 12, 1916, Soprintendenza per i beni culturali della Provincia Autonoma di Trento, Archivio fotografico storico, Fondo Perdomi.

Right from the time of capture, Battisti’s body was put on display for curious eyes, those encountered along the slow procession towards the execution, and those who would look at the Hochverräter, the traitor, in the thousands of reproductions that circulated immediately after his death. The whole macabre theater achieved its apex in the image showing his deceased body surrounded by the faces of the smiling executioner and a group of clearly jovial soldiers and onlookers. This is the classic pho-

36 A. Gilardi, L’altalena delle vergini, p. 269. 37 P. Zumin, Le ultime ore di Cesare Battisti, in “L’Unità”, July 17, 1919.


 Maurizio Cau

tograph of Battisti’s ordeal, around which the contradictory interpretations of his political experience crystalized: the irredentist martyr on one hand, the traitor to the patria on the other. A multivocal, unofficial photographic narrative thus took shape between capture and execution, recorded along the city streets and in the castle moat. The abundant traces of this narrative in the archives clearly indicate the centrality of photography in the construction and mediatization of the event. The aim of the authorities, which as already noted permitted and to some extent even promoted widespread photography, was not limited to mere documentation. The images of the elimination of the traitor carried a strong propaganda message. As had already happened and would continue to happen in numerous photographs of hangings distributed in the Habsburg Empire over the course of the war38, the images of Battisti’s execution were intended to serve as “a threat to civilians, who by then had become fully fledged protagonists in the ‘scenario’ of the war”39. The spectacular and typically 1900s use of the enemy corpse achieved one of its most archetypal expressions in those images. The dual significance that such images carried was emblematic: for the executioners they represented a measure of triumph, a threat, and a caution; for the victims (and supporters of the cause) they demonstrated the ruthless inhumanity of the enemy40. This aspect leads naturally to the theme of the presumed objectivity of the photographic medium. The images in themselves do not express content, but crystalize portions of reality. While avoiding the debate on the ontological or semiotic nature of photography, it is nevertheless useful to recall the observations of John Berger, one of the most acute investigators of this medium, about the capacity of images to become the memory of events: Unlike memory, photographs in themselves do not conserve the meaning of an event. They provide appearances – with all the credibility and weight that we ascribe to appearances – extrapolated from their meaning. The meaning is the product of cognitive processes. […] Photographs in themselves do not narrate, they retain instantaneous appearances41.

The representatives of the Habsburg authorities based in Trento must have been well aware of this. After having permitted and even encouraged photographic documentation of the event by suspending the prohibitions in force, they later sought to prevent the risk of uncontrolled circulation of images taken on the occasion. On July 16, just four days after the execution, the military commander of the Fortress of Trento issued an order stipulating that “photographic copies of the transport and execution of

38 Cf. A. Henker, Das Lächeln der Henker. 39 G. D’Autilia, La guerra cieca, p. 402. 40 G. De Luna, Il corpo del nemico ucciso. Violenza e morte nella guerra contemporanea, Torino 2006, p. 76. 41 J. Berger, Sul guardare, Milano 2004, pp. 57 f.

The Execution of Cesare Battisti 


Battisti and Filzi cannot be sold or reproduced in newspapers”42. After having allowed and promoted photographic documentation, an effort was made to repair the damage by requisitioning and destroying the pictures43 for fear that their uncontrolled circulation might harm the Royal image and facilitate the sanctification of the condemned. The growing concern immediately following the execution about the potential power of images of Battisti is confirmed by the request of Dr. Muck, police commissioner in Trento, to requisition two oil paintings of Battisti located in his former home, in order to prevent them entering the market as relics for the “glorification of the traitor”44. By first encouraging and then immediately prohibiting the reproduction and circulation of the photographs the military authorities revealed a contradictory attitude, and the dialectic between censorship and propaganda, between concealment and revelation appears to have gone into short circuit. These snapshots represent an emblematic example of how the “meaning” of pictures depends on the context in which they are placed. Studies of visual culture have repeatedly insisted on the centrality of the practice of “framing”, in other words the rhetorical and referential outlines within which communicative processes are contained. The same image assumes different meanings and conveys different ideas depending on the public to whom it is addressed and the cultural frame within which it is delimited and conveyed. Despite the same iconological content, the meaning of the image is binary: for the activists of the defense of the imperial cause Battisti’s face on the scaffold represented the incarnation of a traitor’s guilt, for the defenders of the irredentist ideal it testified above all to the brutality of the enemy.

4 The circulation of the news in the press It is worth tracing out the pathways along which the news of the event spread, noting the narrative models applied to describe it in the various national contexts, and the role played by images. As Ferrari notes with some emphasis, the news of the barbarous assassination spread with unforeseen speed, passing the well-guarded frontiers, embroidered with details that were not always entirely accurate, but the bleak reality of the underlying truth was too tragic not to have moved all of Italy and stirred up an enormous echo around the world. For those who consult the newspapers of the day […] no event presents as sinister an aspect as this45.

42 The document is cited in S. Pinato, Ma dopo il boia doveva venire anche il fotografo, p. 224. 43 The prohibition to sell and reproduce photographs was followed by a “hunt for negatives” that led to the destruction of much material, which, as testified by Ferrari, was burnt at night at the Gardolo airfield, close to Trento; O. Ferrari, Martiri ed eroi trentini della guerra di redenzione, p. 195. 44 Reported ibid., p. 196. 45 Ibid., p. 193.


 Maurizio Cau

The news was released in the Austrian newspapers before it reached Italy. The first mention of the capture of Battisti appeared on July 13, 1916, in the “Innsbrucker Nachrichten”, in an article underlining the guilt of the socialist parliamentarian, depicted as a political trafficker oriented towards gaining profit from the betrayal of his patria (“Dr. Battisti”, it stated, “is not made from a substance suitable for sculpting heroes and martyrs”46). Battisti’s capture was also reported the same day in “Il risveglio austriaco”, the official (Italian language) press of the Fortress of Trento, which recounted the “brilliant victories” of “our valorous Bersaglieri Provinciali Tirolesi”, culminating in the capture “that brought into our hands one of the leaders – or more simply stated the most responsible – of the patricidal agitation that has perturbed so many young people and has enveloped our country in a sea of blood and suffering”47. The newspaper did not provide details of Battisti’s fate, limiting itself to describing in emphatic terms the triumph of the army. It also launched a “patriotic” subscription for the soldiers on the Austro-Italian front in honor of their successful military operation on Monte Corno, and characterizing the event: “The capture of Cesare Battisti – he who, as elected parliamentarian of Trento, has brought to the honor of our city, to the centuries long loyalty of our people, great injury and bloody wounds – does not constitute a simple military episode, but instead and above all a political event”48. Both newspapers remained silent about the trial and execution of Battisti. In the following days, even when the news of the execution had been reported by the international press agencies, they continued to avoid discussing the hanging, which at most was evoked as the logical consequence of his capture. In Italy, the first news of the death of Battisti was released by the “Idea nazionale” on July 14, 1916. Reference was made to the “heroic death of Battisti”49 without giving details to explain the circumstances in which it happened, leaving the impression that it occurred during the course of military action. On the same day the “Vorarlberger Landes-Zeitung” mentioned Battisti’s imprisonment without giving information about the outcome of the affair, and the same was true for the “Innsbrucker Nachrichten” on July 15. There was immediate polarization in the assessment of the event and according to the different political-national orientations the newspapers focused on describing either the heroism and tragic greatness of Battisti’s sacrifice, or on the shameful betrayal he had perpetrated for which death represented the inevitable (and rightful) consequence. Emblematic from this perspective was the obituary that appeared on July 15 in the “Arbeiter-Zeitung”, the official organ of the Austrian Social Democratic

46 “Innsbrucker Nachrichten”, July, 13, 1916, p. 1. 47 “Il risveglio austriaco”, July, 13, 1916, p. 1. 48 Ibid. 49 “L’idea nazionale”, July 14, 1916, p. 1.

The Execution of Cesare Battisti 


Party. Picking up from what had already been published in the “Innsbrucker Volkszeitung”, Battisti’s political career was traced out in very critical terms, presenting him as a speculator corrupted by the greed of capitalism and a political agitator blinded by nationalism and the germs of irredentism50. Over these days numerous news agency dispatches dedicated to the capture and execution of Battisti were taken up by European newspapers. The details of the death of the socialist parliamentarian emerged only a few days after the event. On July 18, almost a week after the execution, “Il secolo” referred to Battisti having “fallen fighting for the patria”51, while the “Giornale d’Italia” drew on Austrian press information and reported the “martyrdom of the Trento parliamentarian”, “assassinated by Austria” after being tried by a military court under the charge of high treason52. The “Corriere della Sera”, was more explicit, citing a Swiss press release of July 17, titled, “The Hon. Battisti has been hung”. According to the leading Italian newspaper, this was the execution of an “apostle” of the future: “Battisti was the soul of Trentino propaganda and soon became the soul of Italian propaganda”53. The outlines of argumentation around the accounts of Battisti’s death immediately appeared clear: the Italian perspective celebrated the glorious death of the irredentist hero and attacked the oppressive ferocity of the enemy, the Austrian perspective emphasized the victory of authority against the threat of disintegration embodied in the traitor, and by extension the disloyalty of the entire Italian nation54. As the details of the event became clear and the initial imaginative reconstructions were rejected (there had been widespread talk of injury in combat or attempted suicide by Battisti55) the two narrative approaches consolidated. The Italian press presented the event within the framework of martyrdom, while the Austrian press constantly reiterated the inevitability of the death sentence for the betrayal of a deserter56. The accounts that appeared in the press in other countries were no less characterized. In Germany, the news of the trial and hanging of Battisti was reported by the main newspapers on July 15 limiting themselves to citing news agency dispatches57 and without much emphasis. Over the following weeks they returned to the case in greater detail, describing the consequences of the killing of the Trentino parliamen-

50 “Arbeiter Zeitung”, July 15, 1916, p. 4. For an analysis of Battisti’s obituary in the German language cf. I.M. Battafarano, Cesare Battisti da Kraus in poi, Frankfurt a.M. 2018, pp. 139–172. 51 “Il secolo XX”, July 18, 1916, p. 1. 52 “Il Giornale d’Italia”, July 18, 1916, p. 1. 53 “Corriere della sera”, July 18, 1916, p. 1. 54 D. Curti / R. Taiani, Cesare Battisti, in “L’Adige”, July 11, 2016. 55 See the report in “Der Tiroler”, June 25, 1916, p. 4. 56 In this respect see the report in the “Salzburger Chronik”, August 1, 1916, p. 2. 57 This is true for the evening edition of the “Frankfurter Zeitung”, July 15, 1916, p. 3 and the morning edition of the “Berliner Volkszeitung”, July 15, 1916, p. 3.


 Maurizio Cau

tarian on Italian public opinion58 or new details about the capture and trial that had emerged in the meantime59. The French press dedicated some attention to the case around July 25, when the news of the capture and execution of the Trentino irredentist was published by the socialist newspaper “L’Humanité”. The report drew on an article by Luigi Barzini that had appeared in the “Corriere della Sera”, on “L’Action française”, and on the “Journal des débats politiques et littéraires”. This organ of united French nationalism was more expansive in its description of “Austrian barbarism” with some rather imaginative reconstructions: Battisti was described as being seriously wounded and led bleeding to the scaffold where he remained hanging for two days to allow the citizens of Trentino to “contemplate the macabre spectacle” of the hung traitor60. The obvious discrepancy with the actual events illustrates the well-known limitations to circulation of information during the war, as well as the openly propagandistic tone of the accounts presented by many daily newspapers. On July 30, 1916, the “Domenica del Corriere”, the weekly illustrated supplement to the “Corriere della Sera”, was dedicated to the Battisti affair and the cover illustration provided an interesting variation. The artwork was entrusted to Achille Beltrame, famous author of the periodical’s most important cover illustrations. Lacking photographic testimony of the event, he “constructed” the scene, imagining a large stage surrounded by officers in dress uniform. Battisti, wearing military uniform, is depicted looking proud and apparently ready to face execution with a challenging demeanor. From a graphic perspective there are allusions to certain motifs from Risorgimento iconography, while the caption (“The latest Austrian infamy: the martyrdom of Cesare Battisti in the Castle of Trento”) sets the account within an obviously nationalistic (the enemy as the symbol of barbarism) and religious framework (Battisti’s sacrifice as the highest expression of the religion of the patria)61. See figure 2. Images became integral to the Battisti narrative, key elements in the construction of the myth of the irredentist hero. For several months these were only artistic impressions, but over time the photographs taken in the castle moat started to circulate through clandestine channels. The intervention of the military authorities was not sufficient to prevent some of these materials being copied and passed on unofficially from hand to hand like holy relics. The circulation of the pictures had been

58 “Frankfurter Zeitung”, July 22, 1916, p. 1; ibid., July 28, 1916, p. 2. 59 Ibid., August 2, 1916, p. 2. 60 “L’Action française”, July 25, 1916, p. 5. 61 Cf. L. Dal Prà, Artisti per Battisti. Prima e dopo, in L. Dal Prà (ed.), Tempi della storia, tempi dell’arte. Cesare Battisti tra Vienna e Roma, Castello del Buonconsiglio, Trento 2016, p. 391. On the transfer into the religious sphere, characteristic of the Battisti case cf. M. Isnenghi, Vom Leben und Tod eines Symbols: Cesare Battisti, in M. Isnenghi / T. Stauder / L. Bregantin, Identitätskonflikte und Gedächtniskonstruktionen, Berlin 2018, p. 124.

The Execution of Cesare Battisti 


prohibited, but nevertheless some did circulate and Battisti “continued to die”62 at every corner of the disintegrating empire.

Fig. 2: Front page of “La Domenica del Corriere”, July 30 - August 6, 1916, Fondazione Corriere della Sera, Archivio Storico.

It is not easy to retrace the paths taken by these photographs, but it is known that the image of Battisti in chains was reproduced on military postcards (one of the main vehicles for transmitting war images from the front to civilian populations63) and that reproductions of other images taken those days circulated among soldiers. Ferrari recalls an episode involving some Italian prisoners in Mauthausen who were given around a hundred printed postcards showing Battisti on the scaffold as a warning 64. The photographs of the execution of Battisti were not only seen by soldiers and Austrian civilians but also enjoyed wide circulation in the opposite camp. In Italy the first public reproductions of photographs showing the event appeared in the spring of 1917. In a publication printed in Arezzo, and in a special issue of “Alba Trentina” ded-

62 A. Gilardi, L’altalena delle vergini, p. 269. 63 G. D’Autilia, La guerra cieca, p. 304. 64 O. Ferrari, Martiri ed eroi trentini della guerra di redenzione, p. 193.


 Maurizio Cau

icated to Battisti, an image was taken from “Münchener Illustrierte Zeitung” showing him on a cart surrounded by Austrian soldiers. In June 1917, the illustrated magazine “Il Mondo” published a copy of a photograph taken in Aldeno in which Battisti is surrounded by children from the village. His portrait in prison by Aldo Carpi in July 1917 was inspired by a print found on an Austrian prisoner of war, and it was widely circulated as a poster and postcard with the significant title Delenda Austria (Destroy Austria). August 1917 saw the publication in “Le Miroir”, the illustrated French magazine that helped to establish the iconographic canon of the Great War, of an illustration titled Le patriote italien Battisti allant au supplice [The Italian patriot Battisti going to his execution], derived from a photograph depicting him under escort by policemen just after the reading of his sentence. This same photograph was widely circulated in Italy under the title C. Battisti dopo la condanna (C. Battisti after sentencing) and in Austria with the title Hochverräter Dr. Battisti. Sein letzter Gang (The traitor Dr. Battisti. His final journey). See figure 3.

Fig. 3: Reproduction of an image of Battisti escorted by the guards after reading the sentence, “Le Miroir”, August 12, 1917, p. 11, Bibliothèque nationale de France.

The captions accompanying these early images maintained a discursive register clearly promoting the construction of the myth and anti-Austrian invective. The Battisti narrated by the Italian press was not a traitor but a martyr, his case was not a condemnation but a sacrifice. The July 21, 1917, edition of “La Libertà”, the Trentino

The Execution of Cesare Battisti 


magazine published in Milan, for the first time presented a “photographic document of the sacrifice made on July 12, 1916” that had come into its possession, updating the iconography of the martyrdom of the Trentino parliamentarian, up to that time based on traditional style illustrations like the one that appeared in the “Domenica del Corriere” at the beginning of August 1916. The words accompanying the picture clearly define the conceptual context into which the images were inserted: The Martyr, with head erect in a gesture of supreme defiance, already has the noose around his neck. His bearing is sublimely strong and must have obliged respect at that time even among his executioners. This figure expresses everything about Battisti that we and all of Italy ever knew, upright and inflexible in his will and demanding justice, undaunted to the last moments of extreme sacrifice, which he was able to face without the slightest weakness in the sacred cause of the patria65.

This was the same register that Ferrari would use in the early 1920s to describe the snapshot: “The photograph depicting Cesare Battisti at the moment he is about to cross the Cortile dei Leoni is the best and most meaningful document in all the history of Italian martyrdom: it shows us what moral beauty illuminated the heroic vocation of the figure of Cesare Battisti in his ultimate hours”66. The seminal image of Battisti’s ordeal, depicting him on the scaffold surrounded by the happily smiling hangman and various onlookers, was instead published on February 23, 1918, in the “Popolo d’Italia” directed by Benito Mussolini67. See figure 4. The page was headlined, “Italians, look and learn to hate! The martyrdom of Cesare Battisti photographed by his executioners”, perfectly encapsulating the intended reprobation that was attributed to the photograph, “a ferocious document that brings shivers and nausea to those who look upon it”68. The enemy had not limited themselves to killing, but had documented their own criminal deed, so that looking at this image in itself represented an action directed against the enemy. The image was brought to Italy by a soldier “released from Austria” and was subsequently duplicated in tens of thousands of copies by the Comitato d’Azione Mutilati e Invalidi di Guerra (Action committee for war crippled and disabled) and by the Anglo-Italian Institute, rapidly becoming a valuable anti-Austrian propaganda instrument and widely distributed internationally69.

65 “La Libertà”, July 21, 1917, p. 1. 66 O. Ferrari, Martiri ed eroi trentini della guerra di redenzione, p. 156. 67 It appears that the image was brought to Italy by an Italian officer after a period of imprisonment in Mauthausen; cf. F. Rasera, Immagini di un martirio, pp. 245 f. 68 “Il Popolo d’Italia”, February 23, 1918, p. 1. 69 For an accurate reconstruction cf. S. Pinato, Ma dopo il boia doveva venire anche il fotografo, pp. 225–231. The images from the last hours of Battisti’s life also appeared in the Scandinavian daily newspapers, see F. Rasera, Immagini di un martirio, pp. 247 f.


 Maurizio Cau

Fig. 4: Home page of “Il Popolo d’Italia”, February 23, 1918, Biblioteca di Storia moderna e contemporanea di Roma.

Up until that time the prevalent image circulating of Battisti, even after his death, had been one derived from portraits and photographs depicting him dressed as a conference speaker and political figure. Following its distribution, the image of Battisti’s face with the smiling executioner became a sort of metonym for his entire political career, an icon condensing the complexity of a varied and problematic political struggle.

5 In peacetime. Commemorative iconography and politics In the abundant iconographic heritage left behind after the First World War, the images of the death of Cesare Battisti occupy an extremely relevant position. Not only due to the widespread (partly clandestine) circulation of these photographs right from the start, but also for the symbolic value that the documentation of the killing of the Trentino politician manifested in the eyes of the observers. In peacetime these photographs rapidly became a paradigm for the brutal and inhuman nature of the

The Execution of Cesare Battisti 


conflict. The mediatic importance of this photographic material in post-war European public discourse can be gleaned from its use by Karl Kraus, one of the most acute intellectuals who dealt with the tragic dimension of the war and the limits to its representability. His five-act play called Die letzten Tage der Menschheit (The Last Days of Mankind) published in 1922, is unique in the literary history of the 1900s: a denunciation of the irrationality of war constructed out of a fast paced montage of voices taken from discussions in cafes, newspaper background articles, war reporting, advertising posters, military court sentences, and speeches by politicians or businessmen. This monumental work poised between documentation and allegory leaves space for just two images: one of a crucifix shattered by a shell in which Christ has his arms raised in surrender, and the other, reproduced on the title page, taken in the moat of Buonconsiglio Castle on July 12, 1916, on occasion of Battisti’s execution. The photograph of Battisti, whose author is not known, represents a sort of contemporary Ecce Homo, the implications and subtexts of which were analyzed by Kraus with exemplary effectiveness. See figure 5. What is staged, according to the Grumbler character, who in the play represents a sort of alter ego for Kraus, is the “Austrian face, its left eye twinkling”70. What strikes the Viennese intellectual even more than the brutality of Battisti’s execution, was the “jovial satisfaction” with which the hangman holds his hands over the head of the executed and the grins of the civilians who crowd around the corpse trying to get into the postcard picture. This snapshot is emblematic of the process of mediatization that characterized Battisti’s execution: not only was an audience secured and the event constructed in scenic and dramatic terms, but the public was even invited to “take part” mediatically in the event by getting themselves photographed alongside the dead body of the hanged man. The image went on to become a postcard that travelled rapidly to the furthest corners of the empire. Below is a passage from the dialogue between the Optimist and Grumbler characters from the fourth act of the tragedy: OPTIMIST: What? Is there really such a picture postcard? GRUMBLER: It was produced on official instructions, circulated at the scene of the crime, “those in a position of trust” showed it to their confidants, and now it’s on display in the shop windows of all enemy cities as a group portrait of Austro-Hungarian humanity, a monument to our executioners’ black humour, transformed int the scalp of Austrian culture. It was perhaps the first time since the world began that if you cried “the Devil take you!” – the Devil would refuse! OPTIMIST: But those who witnessed the execution surely didn’t volunteer to have their photographs taken? GRUMBLER: They all wanted to be part of the action. Not only to be present at one of the most bestial executions, but to stay afterwards; and they all wore a happy smile on their face71.

70 K. Kraus, The Last Days of Mankind, transl. by F. Bridgham and E. Timms, New Haven CT / London 2015, Act IV, Scene 29: Optimist and Grumbler in Conversation. 71 Ibid.


 Maurizio Cau

Fig. 5: Execution of Cesare Battisti, July 12, 1916, Trento, Fondazione Museo Storico del Trentino.

In war, wrote Kraus, a smile is more disturbing than tears. Especially if the smile seals a triumph over a “traitor”. More than the execution of Battisti and the cursory procedure leading to his death, the guilt of the Habsburg civilization was that of having posed for photographs: OPTIMIST: And do you believe similar things didn’t happen among the enemy? The English also executed their traitors. Think of Casement. GRUMBLER: I possess non picture postcard about that case. […] it is unlikely that official photographs were taken of Casement’s execution, which England did not celebrate as if it were some country fair. […] For while some were being hanged, others were posing for the camera; and photos were taken not only of executions, but also of the spectators, and even of the photographers72.

Even more than having done to death a fellow citizen, what weighs most heavily is the proud flagrance that uses photography as a form of personal ostentation, because “it is not the fact that he is a killer, nor that he photographed his crime, but that he 72 Ibid.

The Execution of Cesare Battisti 


photographed himself as well, and that he photographed himself photographing it – that’s what makes this type an imperishable snapshot of our civilization. As if what we have done did not speak for itself!”73. What condemned Habsburg civilization to eternal infamy was not the act of the hangman in itself, but the fact that the photographers arrived with him. In “Die Fackel”, the magazine directed and written by Kraus, the first reference to the illustrated postcard of the death of Battisti was in January 191974. In the epitaph, which to some extent anticipated the themes and content of The Last Days of Mankind, the execution of Battisti and his image are mentioned as the “highest example of Habsburg loathsomeness”75 and the anthropological degeneration encouraged by Austrian brutality. Austrian journalism made some explicit references to those images in November 1918, when an article by Alpheus appeared in the Viennese newspaper “Der Abend”, describing the emotions that the postcard, circulated clandestinely during the final years of the conflict, had always aroused in himself: “The first time I saw it, that night I was unable to sleep and even today, when I happen to see it, it takes hours before the shock wears off. It was too frightful, the degeneration of men could not go any deeper”76. This was not a widely shared point of view. As the author recalls, a few weeks after the end of the war those images inspired an opposite response in a section of the public. Not everyone identified it as a gesture of barbarism, for many it was the inevitable and logical consequence of the necessities of war. Immediately after the end of the conflict the memory of the execution of Battisti represented one of the most frequent themes in Italian public discourse. The Trentino socialist parliamentarian and the memory of his end became the object of commemorations, conferences, discussions, orations, epigraphs, stone memorials, plaques, roads, squares, statues, paintings, and songs. In the editorial world alone, there were almost 200 publications from his death to the end of 1918, which “made Cesare Battisti the main object of celebrative homages, and an unequalled cult figure”77. The public (and private) use of the memory of Battisti was channeled in particular into street names. During the final years of the war and the interwar period Italian local councils produced a rash of streets and squares named after symbols of recent national political events. Alongside Trento and Trieste, Cesare Battisti was the most widely used name, immediately following his execution, to redefine and politically

73 Ibid. 74 “Die Fackel”, 501–507, January 25, 1919, p. 53. 75 M. Battafarano, Cesare Battisti da Kraus in poi, pp. 79 f. 76 Alpheus, Die Henker, in “Der Abend”, November 26, 1918, p. 3. 77 Q. Antonelli, Cento anni di Grande Guerra. Cerimonie, monumenti, memorie e contromemorie, Roma 2018, p. 110.


 Maurizio Cau

underscore city corners and various sectors of urban fabric78. A survey in 1917 conducted by the Commissione dell’emigrazione trentina (Trentino emigration commission) found that 150 of the 251 local councils that replied to the survey had named a street or square after Battisti, without considering public events held in his honor, or the naming of schools and other public facilities79. Images played an important role in the shaping of the Battisti myth during the interwar period. The events captured in the photographic frames of the socialist irredentist’s ordeal became a very precious iconographic heritage, useful for the monumentalization of a political experience that death had helped to render heroic. Among the most important voices that animated the incredible profusion of publications, articles, and public occasions that helped form the image of Battisti as a “martyred hero”, Francesco Ruffini stands out, a senator of the Kingdom of Italy and well-known historian of legal culture. In 1918 he wrote one of the most vibrant portraits of the entire Battisti literature. In a passage dedicated to “The heroic in Cesare Battisti” he makes immediate reference to the iconography of the martyrdom: The Austrian official, to whom we owe the marvelous photograph of Battisti walking under armed escort towards the scaffold, was clearly only thinking to enhance his album with a rather rare snapshot. And certainly, the least suspicion did not pass through his distracted mind that he was rendering a greater homage to the memory of the prisoner than the most fervent of his admirers could ever dream of. In the iconography of other martyred heroes there is perhaps nothing that can compete with this instantaneous moment of strength in ideal sublimation. And art will achieve nothing greater […]. Is it not a reality, indeed his figure already a symbol, that rises up with a nobility and grace of demeanor that the photograph, pitiful fragmentizer of all human motion, cannot diminish?80.

In this portrait and the many others over coming years that would contribute to the myth of Battisti as martyr and hero, the Trentino parliamentarian appears to figure more on the level of myth than that of history. During the war years Oreste Ferrari was director of the liberal Trentino magazine “La Libertà” published in Milan. In 1925 he completed another step in the construction of the public memory of Battisti with the publication of the volume mentioned above, dedicated to the Trentino martyrs and heroes of the war of redemption. The volume presented a highly documented study of the Battisti affair. The framework was clearly a celebration of the cult of Battisti, who in the meantime had been absorbed into Fascist public rhetoric. Ferrari’s study was important from various perspectives, not least as the first significant reconstruction of how the media depicted Battisti’s end,

78 On this point see the reflections of S. Raffaelli, I nomi delle vie, in M. Isnenghi (ed.), I luoghi della memoria. Simboli e miti dell’Italia, Roma / Bari 1996, pp. 217–242. 79 Cf. M. Tiezzi, L’eroe conteso. La costruzione del mito di Cesare Battisti negli anni 1916–1935, Trento, Museo storico in Trento, 2007, p. 145. 80 F. Ruffini, Cesare Battisti, Milano 1918.

The Execution of Cesare Battisti 


and the exploitation of the affair by the Habsburg authorities for propaganda purposes. It also confirmed in very fluid terms the centrality of the iconographic dimension in the construction of the public image of the Trentino irredentist. A reflection on the mediatization of the memory of Battisti in the interwar period could not fail to note the role played by images, busts, plaques, and mausoleums in perpetuating his memory. This phenomenon expanded considerably during the Fascist period. Central to the regime’s project for monumentalizing Battisti’s memory was the representation of the sacrifice of the heroic martyr. In an effort to “hide – through a gigantic story-telling operation – the biological face of war, to transcend it and displace it into the ideological, patriotic, and religious”81, Fascism strove to appropriate Battisti’s memory, making it an integral part of the heroic discourse on war and the nation, around which a basis was established for consensus. The theme would deserve much deeper discussion, but here this is limited to noting that one of the cardinal elements in the media celebration of the patriotic memory of Battisti, was the sculptural and architectural monumentalization of his figure. Among the many monuments, two are most deserving of mention in this respect. The first is a marble effigy by the sculptor Adolfo Wildt for the Victory Monument depicting Battisti with a noose around his neck and an empty but stern gaze. It was inaugurated on July 12, 1928, the anniversary of the death of Battisti, and originally the entire monument was going to be dedicated to him. The second is an imposing monumental structure (25m in height, 50 in diameter) erected on a promontory in Trento, on the opposite side of the valley from the castle moat where he was executed. It was inaugurated in May 1935 with the aim of celebrating Battisti as a precursor of Fascism82. From the two-dimensional world of newspaper articles and photographs the public memory of Battisti was progressively displaced into the plastic three-dimensional forms of marble. Right from the beginning, the sad end of one of the symbols of irredentism represented a central focus for public debate (not only in Italy, as already seen) around the (perhaps) inevitable atrocities of the war and the dramatic nature of the conflict that exploded along the fracture lines of nationalism. The mediatization of the Battisti political affair was not exhausted soon after his death but persisted in his commemoration and continued – albeit in different forms – throughout the interwar period.

81 A. Gibelli, La grande guerra degli italiani, Milano 2014, p. 342. 82 See Q. Antonelli, Cento anni di Grande Guerra, pp. 127-131; M. Tiezzi, L’eroe conteso, pp. 191 ff.; L. Dal Prà, Artisti per Battisti. Prima e dopo, pp. 390 ff.

Contributors Giovanni Bernardini, Assistant Professor, University of Verona Étienne Boisserie, Co-Director of the Centre de recherche Europe-Eurasie, Institut national des langues et civilisations orientales, Paris Barbara Bracco, Professor of Contemporary History, University of Milano-Bicocca Maurizio Cau, Researcher, Fondazione Bruno Kessler, Istituto Storico Italo-Germanico in Trento Christoph Cornelissen, Professor of Contemporary History, Goethe University Frankfurt / Director, Fondazione Bruno Kessler, Istituto Storico Italo-Germanico in Trento Gabriele D’Ottavio, Assistant Professor of Contemporary History, University of Trento Peter Haslinger, Professor of the History of Eastern Central Europe Justus-Liebig-University Gießen / Director, Herder-Institut für historische Ostmitteleuropaforschung, Marburg Hannes Leidinger, Director of the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute in Graz / Lecturer at the Institute of Contemporary History, University of Vienna Federico Mazzini, Assistant Professor, University of Padua Marco Mondini, Assistant Professor of Contemporary History and History of Conflicts, University of Padua Michael S. Neiberg, Professor of History, US Army War College, Carlisle, Pennsylvania Pierre Purseigle, Associate Professor in Modern Continental European History, University of Warwick Mirko Saltori, Researcher, Fondazione Museo Storico del Trentino, Trento Leonard V. Smith, Professor of History, Oberlin College and Conservatory, Ohio Angelo Ventrone, Professor of Contemporary History, University of Macerata Laurence van Ypersele, Professor of Contemporary History, Catholic University of Louvain

Index Abram, Simon 133 Agnelli, Arnaldo 138 Agnelli, Giovanni 256–257, 262 Albertini, Luigi 194 Alby, Henri 167 Avancini, Augusto 136–137, 142 Bonomi, Ivanoe 179, 183 Bacchelli, Riccardo 191 Baker, Ray Stannard 96 Balfour, Arthur J. 95–96, 100, 180 Barbusse, Henri 21, 26, 31, 33 Barthélémy, Georges 207 Bartoszewicz, Joachim Stefan 229 Barzilai, Salvatore 2 Barzini, Luigi 179, 278 Battisti, Cesare 12, 126–127, 129–130, 136, 142–144, 265–287 Bäumer, Paul 24, 25 Beaupré, Nicolas 18, 19 Bebel 134 Bell, Edward Price 98 Beltrame, Achille 278 Beneš, Edvard 119 Benjamin, Walter 211 Bentham, Jeremy 106 Berger, John 274 Bernardini, Giovanni 9 Berthelot, Henri 172 Bessel, Richard 21 Bethlen, István 234, 235 Binkley, Robert 95 Bissolati, Leonida 129, 137–138, 140–144, 185–186 Bittanti, Ernesta 136–137, 143–144 Bliss, Tasker 79–81, 92 Bloch, Marc 161–162 Blunden, Charles 24 Boisserie, Étienne 8 Bösch, Frank 268 Bourdieu, Pierre 22, 27 Bourgeois, Léon 106 Bradley, John 163 Bremm, Klaus–Jürgen 51

Note: Index compiled by Tatiana Rocha da Oliveira

Bright, John 103 Bush, George W. 108 Cabiati, Attilio 256–257, 262 Cadorna, Luigi 184 Calboli, Paulucci de 242–243 Campana, Michele 32 Carpi, Aldo 280 Cau, Maurizio 12 Cavour, Camillo Benso von 180 Cecil, Robert 106, 203 Chevallier, Gabriel 27 Cholnoky, Jenő 234 Churchill, Winston 25, 93, 98, 210 Clemenceau, Georges 106, 166, 171–172, 188, 191, 204 Clémentel, Étienne 203 Cobden, Richard 103 Collodi, Carlo 244 Columbus, Christopher 99 Conci, Enrico 143 Cornelissen, Christoph 6 Corradini, Enrico 190 Creel, George 97 Croce, Benedetto 251, 254 Crossman, Edward 74 Cru, Jean Norton 18, 21 Curtis, Lionel 257 D’Annunzio, Gabriele 180–182, 189–190, 193, 240, 243–244 D’Anselme, Philippe 171–72 D’Ottavio, Gabriele 12 Daniels, Josephus 71 David, Anne 222 David, Émile 153 Dayan, Daniel 265 Degasperi, Alcide 136, 143 Delbrück, Hans 43 Delcroix, Eugenio 245, 248 Derby, Edward Stanley 100 Derveaux, Adolphe 202 Deschanel, Paul 180, 206 Dix, Otto 211



Dorgelès, Roland 32, 206 Dula, Matúš 115 Dvorský, Viktor 215–217 Edison, Thomas 70–71 Edmond, Chales 24–25 Einaudi, Luigi 254–263 Emer, Dario 142 Erler, Josef 131 Fall, Albert 86 Falls, Cyrill 17 Ferrari, Oreste 269–270, 272, 275, 279, 281, 286 Ferrero, Guglielmo 250–254, 262 Filzi, Fabio 126, 275 Foch, Ferdinand 166–67 Ford, Geo B. 209 Foucault, Michel 106 Fussel, Paul 17, 19 Galantara, Gabriele 184, 191 Garibaldi, Giuseppe 180, 243 Gentile, Emilio 247 Gentili, Guido De 143 George, David Lloyd 10, 180, 188, 191, 204, 260 Gernsback, Hans 68 Gerwarth, Robert 197 Giolitti, Giovanni 193–194, 260 Giuffrida, Vincenzo 260 Giussani, Angelo Carlo 243 Gobetti, Piero 258 Goetz, Walter 36, 43, 47 Gottinger, Franz 271 Graham, Stephen 210 Grandi, Rodolfo 143 Graves, Robert 24, 29 Grayson, Cary T. 98 Habermas, Jürgen 256 Hampe, Karl 36–41, 43–46 Handlowa, Wyższa Szkola 228 Hanotaux, Gabriel 201 Harlingue, Alfred E. 67 Hénault, Valère 153 Herbert, Alan Patrick 25 Hjiarvard, Stig 6 Honza, Jozef 118 Hornbeck, Stanley 81 Horne, John 198, 200

Hoskins, Andrew 3 Houdek, Fredor 114 House, Edward 81, 95–97 Hubert, Lucien 207 Illés, Aladár Edvi 233 Induno, Gerolamo 243 Issleib, Karl 272 Jay, Martin 266 Jonnart, Chales 207 Jonni, Raffaello 188 Kaempffert, Waldemar 63–64, 67, 69, 73–75 Kálal, Karel 220 Károly, Mihály 231 Katz, Elihu 265 Kellermann, Hermann 41 Kerensky, Alexander Fjodorowitsch 164, 170 Kijowski, Dziennik 229 King Albert 204 King George V. 97, 103 King Vittorio Emanuele III. 194 Klee, Paul 211 Koo, Wllington 80, 89 Kramer, Alan 200 Kraus, Karl 283–285 Kun, Bela 171 LaFolette, Marcel 70 Lang, Josef 271 Lansing, Robert 88–90 Lassalle, Ferdinand 134–135 Leidinger, Hannes 6 Lenin, Wladimir Iljitsch 163, 165, 170–171 Loan, Nguyen Ngoc 268 Lodge, Henry Cabot 86, 261 Lorenzoni, Giovanni 141 Lorezini, Paolo 244 Lussu, Emilio 21 Lybeck, Nels A. 69–70 Maffi, Fabrizio 243 Manela, Erez 107 Manuilsky, Dmitri 174–75 Mariani, Mario 32 Marinetti, Filippo Tommaso 141 Markovič, Ivan 111–112, 115, 119 Martin, Turčiansky Svätý 110, 120


Martonne, Emmanuel de 233 Marx, Karl 103, 134 Masaryk, Tomáš Garrigue 111, 120 Mazzini, Frederico 6 Meinecke, Friedrich 39, 41–43 Méliès, George 56 Meunier, Pierre–Alexis 23, 25–26, 33 Miller, William 140 Mondini, Marco 6 Monelli, Paolo 23, 25 Mosca, Gaetano 251 Mosse, George 3, 33, 61, 72, Muck, Rudolf 131, 133, 275 Mussolini, Benito 130, 141, 185, 188, 189, 191, 242, 245, 281 Neiberg, Michael 7, 8 Nitti, Franceso Saverio 185, 191, 193, 258–262 Nobuaki, Makino 106 Nothomb, Pierre 201 O’Leary, Jermiah 91 O’Loughlin, Ben 3 Olay, Ferenc 236 Olivetti, Adriano 258 Oncken, Hermann 37–38, 42–44, 46, 47 Orlando, Vittorio 99, 106, 107, 191 Owen, Wilfred 20, 23 Pastorino, Carlo 32 Pfohl, Ernst 223 Piacentini, Marcello 246, 247 Pichon, Stephen 166 Pirenne, Jacques 152 Piscel, Antonio 127, 129, 130, 132, 141, 142 Pittoni, Valentino 127, 137 Plowman, Max 24 Popovici, Aurel 221 Prezzolini, Guiseppe 182 Purseigle, Pierre 10 Queen Alexandra 97 Queen Mary 97, 103 Queen Maud of Norway 97 Raede, Frank 69 Read, Herbert 28 Reggio, Isidoro 179 Remarque, Erich Maria 23–24, 30


Renn, Ludwig 25 Ritter, Gerhard 42, 46 Romer, Eugeniusz 225–228 Roosevelt Longworth, Alice 86 Roosevelt, Franklin 93 Roosevelt, Theodore 86 Roper, Michael 28 Rousseau, Jean Jacques 107 Ruffini, Francesco 286 Sabbatucci, Giovanni 240 Sadoul, Jacques 170–172 Salandra 191 Salomon, Ernst von 26 Salsa, Carlo 22 Salvemini, Gaetano 143–144, 185–186 Sartori, Guido 141 Sassoon, Siegfried 20, 24, 29 Scalarini, Giuseppe 184 Schäfer, Dietrich 39 Schmidt–Ott, Friedrich 42 Schmoller, Gustav 43 Schnabel, Franz 48 Schneider, Thomas 24 Schweiger, Alexandra 219 Scott, Lloyd N. 71 Secord, James 62 Seeley, John Robert 255 Shikai, Yuan 79 Sidgwick, Henry 257 Smith, Adam 100 Smith, Leonard 7, 8, 24, 27, 34, Smoleński, Jerzy Józef 230 Sonnino, Sidney 99, 140–41, 183, 186, 191 Spinelli, Altiero 258 Šrobár, Vavro 114–115, 120–122 Štefánik, Milan 122 Stefenelli, Antonio 138–139, 140 Stuart, John 100 Sujkowski, Antoni 226–228 Swift, Tom 69 Teleki, László 234 Teleki, Pál 231–35 Thimme, Friedrich 43 Tittoni, Tommaso 190 Toffol, Valentino 143 Tolomei, Ettore 139, 142 Toti, Enrico 241



Treitschke, Heinrich von 257 Treves, Claudio 26, 261 Trevisan, Carine 32 Troeltsch, Hans 44 Trotsky, Leo 170–171 Turati, Filippo 134 Vachon, Marius 201 Valenti, Silvestro 126 Van de Woestijne, Karel 152 Vardy, Stephen 230 Veneto, Vittorio 180, 182, 194 Verne, Jules 68 Washington, George 96–97

Weber, Max 40, 43 Wells, Herbert George 68, 257 Wierling, Dorothee 21 Wildt, Adolfo 287 Wilhelm II. 2, 191 Williams, Edward T. 79–81 Wilson, Woodrow 7–11, 45, 79–82, 85–108, 132–33, 135, 138, 141, 169, 185, 188, 190–191, 205, 255, 257, 260–61 Winter, Jay 12, 20 Woodrow, Jessie Janet 99 Ypersele, Laurence van 9 Zinovev, Grigori Jewsejewitsch 168 Zweig, Arnold 29