People who stayed at home and prisoners of war harvesting the hay
The picture shows a number of people helping to store the hay in a barn. On the right, an elderly man supervises. On the left, a man, presumably a French prisoner of war, holds a scythe and watches the scene. Another man, possibly another prisoner of war, stands on top of a wagon, and puts the hay into the silo. Women collect hay that has fallen to the ground. The general ambience seems to be peaceful. Only the Frenchman’s shadow to the left of the scene resembles portrayals of the Grim Reaper, a stark reminder to the viewer of war.
German wartime propaganda served not only to strengthen support for the troops or disparage their enemies, but it also promoted morale on the home front. Popular imagery showed workers, peasants, or beautiful landscapes, to belie food shortages and problems with labour supply. Propagandists wanted their citizens to believe that prisoners of war assisting in agriculture or industry were an adequate substitute for the millions of conscripts who were missed sorely during sowing and harvesting season. This kind of propaganda also served as a means to allay people’s fears regarding the prisoners of war. For, since some propaganda campaigns warned of the dangers and savagery of the prisoners, there was a need to reassure the population, if the German authorities wanted the POWs to be deployed to work.
During World War I, prisoners of war were put on work detail in every warring country except for Japan. Only officers were exempt from such deployment, for the Hague Conventions of 1899 and 1907 stipulated that it was forbidden to force them to work.