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Armistice 100: ‘Fictitious’ German report designed to bolster U-boat morale

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Dateline: September 27, 1918: A report of a report graced the pages of the Yorkshire Evening Post on this day 100 years ago and whether it was propaganda or not remains to be seen.

The article in question relates to a report in the German Preussische Zeitung, a German newspaper printed in Berlin from 1848–1939. It was known as the Kreuzzeitung or Kreuz-Zeitung (“Cross Newspaper”) because its emblem was an Iron Cross. It had its origins in the Prussian conservative push for German unification but was later taken over by the Nazi Party, it’s last edition being on June 30, 1939.

Going back to 1918, however, and the Kreuzzeitung ran an article which forewarned German U-boat crews that the British were “making the treatment of German prisoners very much more simple for themselves by taking precautions that Germans shall have no experience at all of imprisonment in England”. The implication being that, having won a battle or seized control of a vessel, rather than going to the trouble of taking prisoners, the British would quietly allow said boats to sink, thereby ridding themselves of the hassle.

The YEP article complained: “Admiralty records show that whenever possible steps have been taken to rescue crews of U-boats.”

It goes on: “It is hard, therefore, to discover the reason for this line of argument in the German Press, the only object of which, apparently, is to bolster up the failing morale of the submarine crews, with the belief that they may expect no mercy at the hands of the British and that, therefore, ‘no surrender’ should be the their motto.”