Who's Who - Louis Raemaekers

Raemaekers cartoon: "Black barbarians?  Good Samaritans!" Louis Raemaekers (1869-1956) was perhaps the best known propaganda cartoonist of the First World War.

Born on 6 April 1869 in Roermond, the Netherlands, Raemaekers' initial career focus was more as a pastoral artist than as a cartoonist.  His first work was published in the Dutch weekly magazine Algemeen Handelsblad in 1906.  However the onset of war in August 1914 was to permanently change Raemaekers career and bring worldwide fame.

Unconvinced by reports of savage German atrocities in invaded - and neutral - Belgium, Raemaekers travelled from his similarly neutral homeland across the Belgian border to witness the alleged atrocities for himself.  He was soon convinced - and outraged.

Shortly after his return home his initial cartoons appeared in the Dutch newspaper Telegraaf.  They gained rapid fame and were shortly afterwards picked up by British authorities who arranged for their republication in cheap format in British paperbacks.  The response from Germany was inevitably one of protesting innocence.  In response to German government pressure the Dutch authorities placed Raemaekers on trial for endangering Dutch neutrality.  He was subsequently cleared by the attending jury.

Undeterred the German government placed a value of 12,000 Guilders on Raemaekers' head, dead or alive.  This prompted the fearful Raemaekers to seek refuge in Britain from where he continued his prolific output - with some 1,000 cartoons produced during wartime - most depicting the Germans as tyrannical aggressors bent upon the destruction of civilisation.

The British government arranged for showings of Raemaekers' cartoons in cities throughout Britain.  These, boosted by publicity from The Times, proved wildly popular with up to 5,000 people attending a showing in Liverpool in a single afternoon.

Within a short space of time Raemaekers' cartoons were picked up for syndication by U.S. newspapers and magazines.  It is estimated that his drawings reached a newspaper circulation of 300 million in the U.S. alone during wartime.  Showings of his cartoons in U.S. cities proved equally as popular as in Britain.

Following the armistice Raemaekers continued to produce cartoons, albeit in more conventional form.  He produced some 1,400 editions of the Flippie Flink cartoon for the Dutch newspaper Telegraaf.

Numerous collections of Raemaekers work appeared following the war.  His Raemaekers Cartoon History of the War appeared in 1919 and the Flippie Flink series was published in collected form in 1935.

Raemaekers died on 26 July 1956 at the age of 87 in Scheveningen in the Netherlands.

The financial cost of the war is said to have amounted to almost $38 billion for Germany alone; Britain spent $35 billion, France $24 billion, Russia $22 billion, USA $22 billion and Austria-Hungary $20 billion.  In total the war cost the Allies around $125 billion; the Central Powers $60 billion.

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