Württemberg war exhibition. Stuttgart – May to September: France’s coloured auxiliary peoples

Württ. Kriegsausstellung.jpg


The picture shows a wooden shelter surrounded by various men of colour, who wear different types of uniforms. Two of the men hold rifles, while others are sitting around a wooden object. The whole scene seems to take place in a trench.


The visit to a <em>Völkerschau</em> was a common indulgence in Europe and North America in the 19th and 20th centuries, although the first 'Indian villages' began touring Europe in the 18th century. From 1870 to 1940, in Germany alone, more than 300 non-European people were displayed, usually in a so-called natural state. The shows attracted millions of visitors, not only in the cities but also in the countryside. These shows were an important inclusion in every zoo, circus, and fair and so the scenery had to be as lifelike as possible. In the heyday of colonialism, the exhibitions served to emphasise the cultural differences between European high culture and non-European savagery. In order to strengthen morale on the home front, the human zoo became part of German wartime exhibitions. The Deutsche Kriegsausstellung was displayed in 1916 and 1917 in various cities and glorified the German war effort. It showed weaponry and military life but, as this image reveals, other scenes were shown to strengthen German feeling of superiority. For propaganda rhetoric claimed that if the French had to rely on colonial troops, then they could not truly be a nation of culture. Since the human zoos had been common in Germany for many decades, it is not possible to ascertain that the men displayed on the postcard were actual prisoners of war. They may have been part of an existing show and merely kitted out with the uniforms of French colonial troops.