Kultur in Belgium Medal
The 1914 invasion of Belgium in the opening days of World War I brought international condemnation upon Germany and set off widespread campaigns of anti-German propaganda throughout Europe and the United States.
Posters, leaflets, postcards, and even medals with graphic images of dying women and children were created to portray German atrocities, including the sinking of the Lusitania and the execution in Belgium of British nurse Edith Cavell. These media were often explicitly designed to enflame the indignation of men in Allied countries, even in the then-neutral United States, and incite them to enlist in the armed forces and fight against Germany.
This 1918 medal designed and commissioned by American sculptor Paul Manship (1885-1966) caricatures Germany as Kaiser Wilhelm on the obverse wearing a necklace of his victims’ skulls and is subtitled as “His Rosary.” On the reverse, the words “Kultur in Belgium” circle the scene as he carries off a maiden and crushes an infant beneath his feet.
The word “Kultur” mockingly refers to the whole of German culture and its political identity that idealized imperialism at that time. This Kultur was often personified as a sword-wielding skeleton in a black cloak.
The American Numismatic Society has a lengthy article by Peter van Alfen about the use medals in political discourse during this volatile period.
This was the third medal designed by Paul Manship for a relatively young Medallic Art Company. His work appears on forty-seven different medallic items produced by the company from 1915 to 1964, including the 1961 John F. Kennedy Inaugural Medal (MACO 1960-009). He was also the sculptor of the famous gilded statue of Prometheus at Rockefeller Center in New York City.