At the outset of World War II, Louis Raemaekers was a landscape painter and art instructor living in Amsterdam and Brussels. He accepted the request of a local newspaper to produce comics for them, but after his humorous strip wasn’t well received, he turned to political cartoons. He spoke out in his single panel cartoons against German ambitions in Holland and the Alsace district of France. This got him into hot water with his editor, but a rival paper offered him complete editorial freedom, and Raemaekers jumped at the opportunity.
Soon after this, Germany invaded Belgium and rumors of atrocities drifted across the border to the Netherlands. Raemaekers was incensed by the stories and began to produce intensely personal anti-German cartoons which led the Germans to push leaders in his home country to charge him with the crime of “endangering Dutch neutrality”. When those charges were dropped Kaiser Wilhelm II put a bounty of 12,000 marks on his head. Raemaekers fled with his family to Britain, where he was celebrated as a hero and put to work producing propaganda pamphlets for the British government. These cartoons became world famous, and soon Raemaekers was making a tour of the United States, encouraging America to support the European fight.
After the War, Raemaekers quietly retired to the life of a landscape painter again, and by the time of his death in 1956, he was pretty much forgotten. But in his obituary, the New York Times said, “t has been said of Raemaekers that he was the one private individual who exercised a real and great influence on the course of the 1914-18 War. There were a dozen or so people (emperors, kings, statesmen, and commanders-in-chief) who obviously, and notoriously, shaped policies and guided events. Outside that circle of the great, Louis Raemaekers stands conspicuous as the one man who, without any assistance of title or office, indubitably swayed the destinies of peoples.”
Raemaekers deserves to be remembered, not as just a propagandist, but as an artist who stood up for what he believed. His passion carried him from being a provincial landscape painter to becoming one of the most powerful and influential individuals on the world stage. There is tremendous power in the art of cartooning. It’s not just “ducks and rabbits” and mindless children’s entertainment. It can change the world. No cartoonists should ever forget that.
Fore more information on Raemaekers and this important e-book, see… http://animationresources.org/ebook-louis-raemaekers-the-cartoonist-who-helped-win-the-first-world-war-2/