Political cartooning has always been fraught with controversy and even danger; today’s cartoonists are not the first to have their work condemned. During World War I, Dutch artist Louis Raemaekers–called the Great Cartoonist of the Great War–was nearly put on trial by his government for his scathing anti-German political cartoons, which it feared would jeopardize Dutch neutrality. The impact of his work was felt around the world. In 1917, President Theodore Roosevelt was quoted as saying, “The cartoons of Louis Raemaekers constitute the most powerful of the honorable contributions made by neutrals to the cause of civilization in the World War.”
He was born in Roermond, Netherlands in 1869 as the son of an ethnically German newspaper editor. He worked for the Algemeen Handelsblad from 1906 to 1909. His graphic cartoons depicted the rule of the Germanmilitary in Belgium, portrayed the Germans as barbarians and Kaiser Wilhelm II as an ally of Satan. The German government offered a reward of 12,000 guilders for Raemaekers, dead or alive. The German government forced the Dutch government to place Raemaekers on trial for ‘endangering Dutch neutrality’, but a jury acquitted him.
He later left for England because of the bounty on his head. There, his work was published in The Times and he released a collection, Raemaekers Cartoon History of the War, in 1919. 150 of his works toured the United Kingdom and France in an exhibit.