Propaganda

This hook presents a photograph of four New Zealand soldiers in a front line trench, posing beneath a sign that reads “The Cannibals Paradise Supply Den Beware”. This sign was made in response to German propaganda that New Zealanders ate their captured prisoners. Making fun of this idea boosted these New Zealanders’ morale.

NZ soldiers in a trench at entrance to their shelter. Photo by Henry Sanders.

New Zealand soldiers in a trench at the entrance to their shelter. Photograph by Henry Sanders, 1918. Alexander Turnbull Library. 1/2-013460-G.

Context

Propaganda influences the way people think by presenting a carefully selected (or constructed) version of the truth that exploits existing beliefs, asserts authority, appeals to patriotism, and/or evokes fear or humour.

The photo shows four New Zealand soldiers in a front line trench, posing beneath a sign that reads “The Cannibals Paradise Supply Den Beware”. This sign was made in response to German propaganda that New Zealanders ate their captured prisoners. The New Zealanders were entertained by this idea and made fun of it, which boosted their morale.

All countries involved in the First World War used propaganda. For example, in 1917 British newspapers reported that the Germans were using the bodies of dead soldiers to produce lubricating oils and pig food. Despite being completely unfounded, the story spread to many of the neutral and allied countries and was only debunked by the media in 1925.

Possible discussion questions

  • Why are people so susceptible to believing propaganda?
  • Where do you think the idea of New Zealander soldiers being cannibals came from? Why did the Germans specifically target the New Zealanders in this way?
  • Are we subjected to propaganda in any form today? If so, how and by whom?
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