Freiheit der Meere
- Publisher: Militärische Stelle des auswärtigen Amtes [MAA] [Military Dept of the Office of Foreign Affairs] (Publisher) / Dietrich Reimer, Berlin (Printer)
- Date: 1918
- Dimensions: Sheet: 49.5 x 41 cms.
1918 German propaganda poster entitled “Freedom of the Seas” & depicting Britain as a globe-encircling imperial octopus
About this piece:
Freiheit der Meere [Freedom of the Seas]
Printed colours. Three or four short tears from sheet edge into image along top and bottom edges, now repaired and made good. Unusual original thick double layer white glossed paper with several old surface creases & cracks within image, now made good as best possible, given the type of paper.
In early 1918, the MAA, the Military Department of the German Foreign Office, began a new poster campaign, powerfully directed at the perceived hypocrisy of US President Woodrow Wilson’s idealism in his principles for the post-war Peace settlement, as propounded in his January 1918 speech to Congress, in what became known as the Fourteen Points. German propagandists inferred that these simply did not square with the enduring imperialist legacies & agendas of the Allied Powers, particularly France and Great Britain, nor with the pragmatic realpolitik of the unfolding political and military endgame in these final months of the War. One of Wilson’s Fourteen Points, was the principle of “Freedom of the Seas”:
Absolute freedom of navigation upon the seas, outside territorial waters in peace and in war, except as the seas may be closed in whole or in part by international action for the enforcement of international covenants.
It was a principle rejected by both Britain & France, and by Germany as well. It is interesting to compare this poster with a c.1917 British propaganda poster, “Freedom of the Seas from the Hun Point of View”, in which a German U-boat captain ironically exhorts the lifeboat survivors of a sinking British merchantman to enjoy the freedom of the seas & “go ver you tam please”!
Britain now takes on the symbolic guise of the much-maligned Octopus, “the bloodsucker of the World”, her entangling tentacles touching all corners of the globe & pinpointing twenty seven colonial acquisitions & conquests from 1609 (Bermuda) to 1917 (Kronstadt), made possible through Britain’s position as one of the World’s leading maritime powers, backed by the unrivalled naval & military resources of Empire.