The German press : "La Gazette des Ardennes" and the "Liller Kriegszeitung"

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La Gazette des Ardennes

For all the countries participating in the First World War the press was the principal means of controlling public opinion. Newspapers were subject to strict censorship and were obliged to publish official communiqués.

In the occupied territories the local inhabitants had no access to information about their loved ones or the fate of the French Army. The Germans controlled the flow of news and to this end they started publishing the paper La Gazette des Ardennes in November 1914 (it was printed in Charleville-Mézières).

Distributed by the Kommandanturen, it was originally a weekly publication with a small circulation (4,000 copies) whose sole purpose was to publish translations of official German communiqués.

Conscious of the general hostility towards La Gazette des Ardennes the German Army attempted to solve the problem by recruiting a French journalist by the name of Prévost, and the choice turned out to be a good one. Prévost hit upon the idea, in April 1915, of publishing the names of the latest French soldiers to have been taken prisoner or to have died in the prison camps (in all more than 250,000 names would be published) and by October 1917 they were printing 175,000 copies of every edition.

Although the people of Nord despised the paper, nicknaming it the "paper of lies" (journal des minteux), it was the only source of information available to them. The last edition came out on 2 November 1918.

Yves LE MANER, director of La Coupole
History and Remembrance Centre of Northern France

Liller Kriegszeitung

Liller Kriegszeitung was a German language newspaper published in Lille for the occupying troops, and the first of its kind. It was printed on the presses of the regional newspaper Echo du Nord which had been requisitioned for the purpose.

The writing staff were all German and worked under the supervision of two novelists, Oscar Hoecker and Baron Georges Ompteda. The illustrator was an artist called Arnold who worked for a Munich-based satirical newspaper called Simplicissimus. The editorial team took over the offices of the Echo du Nord, next to the old Royal Guard building which is now the theatre, and worked under the protection of a heavily-armed detachment which guarded the building around the clock.

Liller Kriegszeitung was published weekly but a single-page supplement appeared every afternoon with the latest news and various sister publications were also printed, such as Lille in deutscher Hand. The occupying forces could buy other German newspapers from the Crédit Lyonnais Bank on rue Nationale which had been requisitioned and turned into a newsagent's shop.

Claudine WALLART, Head Curator of Heritage
at the Archives Départementales du Nord (Nord Records Office)