‘Fly, Zeppelin! Help us in the war. Fly to England, England shall be destroyed by fire. Zeppelin, fly!’ Such was the hymn which the children sang; such the refrain which greeted the aged inventor, Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin, wherever he went. Why was there this reaction across Germany? How did a handful of aircraft giving pleasure cruises become a fearsome fleet of rapacious giants encouraged to punish Germany’s enemies? What were the images that became part of the public’s wartime consciousness?
Books on the Zeppelin raids during the First World War have, traditionally, focused on the direct impact of Britain, from the devastating effects on undefended towns and cities, the psychological impact of this first weapon of total war to the technological and strategic advances that eventually defeated the ‘Baby Killers’. Now, drawing on the largest postcard collection of its kind and other period memorabilia, David Marks tells the story of the Zeppelin during the First World War from a viewpoint that has rarely been considered: Germany itself.
From its maiden flight in July 1900, the Zeppelin evolved into a symbol of technology and national pride that, once war was declared, was at the forefront of German’s propaganda campaign. The Zeppelin links the rampant xenophobia at the outbreak of the conflict against England (it almost never called Britain), France, Russia and their allies to the political doctrines of the day. The postcards that profusely illustrate this book show the wide-ranging types of propaganda from strident Teutonic imagery, myths and legends, biting satire and a surprising amount of humour. This book is a unique contribution to our understanding of the place of the Zeppelin in Germany’s culture and society during the First World War.