Protestant propaganda toward neutral countries

During the Great War a Protestant committee for propaganda was set up to induce neutral countries to join the war on the side of France and its allies, a few months after ‘the Catholic propaganda Committee abroad’ was created.

The Protestant French propaganda committee

  • Soldat lisant dans une tranchée (1915)
    Soldier reading in a trench (1915) © Collection privée

Created in 1915, the committee sent delegations to Switzerland, the Netherlands, Scandinavia, and the United States with a view to inciting them to join the war. Special attention was paid to talks with Woodrow Wilson, the American president, in order that he would relinquish isolationism, reminding him of how the former President Theodore Roosevelt had taken sides with France at the beginning of the conflict.

Spreading the propaganda

  • Aumôniers et soldats malgaches et tahitiens (1917)
    Malagasy and Tahitian chaplains and soldiers (1917) © DEFAP (Service protestant de mission)

The propaganda spread through publications by the committee, such as the monthly Bulletin protestant français (French Protestant Bulletin), and other short pamphlets. The publications studied the war objectives of Germany and gave news about the front, while being severely critical of the German army and government. It aimed at prompting turmoil in neutral countries in order to defend an ideal of civilisation presented as being common to all

The propaganda contributed to The United States joining the war in 1917, which precipitated the rapid defeat of the Germany and Austro-Hungarian Empire. But it was not as effective in the Netherlands who refused to provide troops in the conflict for political reasons, and in Switzerland, who refused because the spirit of the Reformation required them to remain neutral.

An institution for reconciliation

As the war ended, the ‘Protestant committee for French propaganda abroad’ played an important part in the French-German reconciliation. In their bulletin the developments of talks at the Versailles Treaty were recounted.

In 1927 the Committee changed its names called to become the ‘French Protestant Committee for foreign friendship’ to emphasise the end of the war and of biased information, and the need to create and strengthen fraternal bonds between peoples.

Link to: Histoire de l’aumônerie militaire protestante

Author: Nicolas Flandé

Bibliography

  • Articles
    • CARBONNIER Denis, "Le Comité protestant de propagande française à l’étranger (1915-1927)", Bulletin, Société de l’Histoire du Protestantisme Français, Paris, 2014, p. 185-217

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