Visual History of the World




From Prehistoric to Romanesque  Art
Gothic Art
Renaissance  Art
Baroque and Rococo Art
The Art of Asia
Neoclassicism, Romanticism  Art
Art Styles in 19th century
Art of the 20th century
Artists that Changed the World
Design and Posters
Classical Music
Literature and Philosophy

Visual History of the World
First Empires
The Ancient World
The Middle Ages
The Early Modern Period
The Modern Era
The World Wars and Interwar Period
The Contemporary World

Dictionary of Art and Artists


The World Wars and Interwar Period 



The first half of the 20th century saw the world entangled in two global wars, conducted with an unprecedented brutality. The First World War developed from a purely European affair into a conflict involving the colonies and the United States. It altered Europe's political landscape and shifted the power balance worldwide. In World War II, the nations of Europe, Asia, the Americas, and Africa were drawn into the conflict through the aggressive policies of an ambitious Nazi Germany. The war was conducted with the most up-to-date weapons technology and cost the lives of more than 55 million people. The Holocaust, the systematic annihilation of the European Jews, represented an unparalleled moral catastrophe for modern civilization.


Pablo Picasso "Weeping Woman", 1937




Belgium and the Netherlands: Objects of German Power Politics 



While Belgium became the military invasion route for the German armies during both world wars, the Netherlands survived the Great War unscathed. In World War II, however, it could not hold off the attack of the Germans and became an occupied territory of the Nazi Reich.


Belgium: Victim of Two World Wars

As a strategically important country between Germany and France, Belgium unwillingly became a combat zone in both world wars.


Before attacking France in 1914, Germany demanded free passage through Belgium in an ultimatum.

King Albert I, who wanted his country to remain neutral, refused, and on August 4, German troops proceeded to occupy the country.

3 King Albert I of Belgium,
ca. 1910

The country's neutrality was guaranteed by the Great Powers, which brought Great Britain into the war. The Belgian army mobilized when the country's neutrality was violated, but Liege, Namur, and Brussels soon fell.

Almost the entire country was occupied and the strong resistance of the Belgians was answered with brutal retaliations by the German soldiers, notably in 2 Louvain.

2 The burnt-out library of Louvain, 1914

The government was forced into exile.

Western Belgium, where the French and German troops met, became a battlefield; many cities were 6 destroyed and parts of Flanders 4 utterly devastated.|

6 Ypres after German bombardment, 1915

4 Battlefield at Passchendaele, 1917

At the end of WW I, Belgium annexed the German-speaking region of Eupen-et-Malmedy. A military accord was made with France, and a defensive alliance against Germany was signed with Great Britain.

In 1925, Belgium joined the 5 Locarno Treaty, which was meant to secure Belgium's borders.

All this was to no avail, however, when 1 Germany again invaded France through Belgium in May 1940. A few weeks later, the Belgian army under King Leopold III, who was taken prisoner, capitulated. The Belgian government escaped to London where it remained in exile for the remainder of the war. Leopold was suspected of collaboration and was forced to resign.

5 The Locarno Conference, 1925

1 German forces invade the Netherlands, 1940



Atrocity Propaganda

Lurid propaganda was used by all sides in World War I. During the Belgian campaign, the British started a rumor that German soldiers hacked off the hands of children so that they would no longer be able to use a weapon. Although not a single example of this was found, the propaganda lived on. The rumors probably arose from the German view that civilians must not resist an occupying power. Thus hostages were taken andfranctireurs were shot.

French propaganda postcard, 1914



Atrocity Propaganda

U.S. Army Recruitment Poster from World War I

Lindsay Norman, The Bulletin (1916)

Lindsay Norman, war poster (1914)

Post-War Anti-German Propaganda, 1914

Post-War Anti-German Propaganda, 1914

Post-War Anti-German Propaganda, 1914

Post-War Anti-German Propaganda, 1914

Anti-German Propaganda, 1914
A New Form of Paving for French and Belgian Cities.

German Propaganda, 1914
"Goddam! What kind of fleas have I got in my mane anyway!"

Anti-German Propaganda, 1914
Turkey: "I'm getting a bit fed up with this. I shall kick soon."
Austria: "Well, I was thinking of lying down."

Anti-War poster

Anti-War poster

Anti-German Propaganda, 1914

Anti-War poster



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