The Protestant French propaganda committee
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
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.
Progress in the tour
- 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
The World Huguenot Center
The comité was founded in 1915, with the aim of promulgating information about French Protestantism throughout the world and creating links between Protestants in France and the countries where the Huguenots sought refuge.
Protestants during World War I
Though the Protestant community represented a minority of the French population, i.e. only 1.6% in 1904 since Alsace-Moselle was lost, it played an important role thanks to its commitments and its theological influence during the Great War. Despite the small number of historical works on the period, the role of the Protestants is better known today.
A pacifist trend spread through French Protestantism before and in the early days of the war.
However pastors joined the ‘Sacred Union’ which imposed itself in France and interrupted relations with German Protestants who had justified the invasion of Belgium by their country. The idea that the German elite and the German Kultur were decadent was put forward, alongside exacerbated patriotism. By largely committing themselves, the Protestants were ready for ultimate sacrifices, as they played the last episode of their reintegration into the national community.