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P R E S S A N D P OLITIC S IN THE W E I M AR R EPUB LI C

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Press and Politics


in the Weimar Republic
BERNHARD FULDA

Great Clarendon Street, Oxford


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Bernhard Fulda 2009

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Fulda, Bernhard.
Press and politics in the Weimar Republic / Bernhard Fulda.
p. cm.
Includes bibliographical references and index.
ISBN 9780199547784
1. Press and politicsGermanyHistory20th century. 2. PressGermany
History20th century. I. Title.
PN5208.F85 2008
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2008041402
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ISBN 9780199547784
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For my parents

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Acknowledgements
When I rst set out to write my Ph.D., I wanted to write a history of the
economics and politics of the German press between 1910 and 1924. However,
I was soon to discover the reasons for what I considered an exciting gap in
the existing literature: air raids towards the end of the Second World War and
newspaper archives containing tons of paper in the heart of city centres had failed
to co-exist harmoniously. In fact, any historian of the German press before 1945
has to make do with a very sparse and eclectic archival source base, while at the
same time facing a deluge of surviving newspaper issues. I faced two choices:
either to give up the entire enterprise; or to change the research question to one
that would rely less on sources from publishing houses. So I decided to widen the
scope of the book, and to assess the signicance of the press within the political
culture of the Weimar Republic more generally. With the benet of hindsight, I
could not have asked for a more fascinating research topic. At the time, however,
the happy ending of this odyssey was not always as obvious, and I owe great
thanks to three historians without whom this book would not have come into
existence: my doctoral supervisor, Richard J. Evans, offered constant support,
displayed an unwavering interest in my research, and successfully kept me going.
My undergraduate tutor, Niall Ferguson, continued over the years to provide
thought-provoking and stimulating feedback on my writing, and has been very
helpful in many ways. Last, but certainly not least, Adam Tooze read the entire
manuscript not just once but twice: rst as a Ph.D. examiner some years ago,
then the expanded version as a friend and colleague. It is difcult to express in
words how important his advice has been. When I say that this is certainly a
much better book as a result of his criticisms and suggestions, this ought to be
taken as evidence for the fact that I am getting ever closer to mastering the art of
British understatement.
I am also very grateful to those who, over the last few years, have read and
commented on parts of this book, and who have helped form my ideas, in
particular to Richard Bessel, Frank Bosch, Chris Clark, Moritz Follmer, Norbert
Frei, Karl Christian Fuhrer, Jocasta Gardner, Dominik Geppert, Stefan Goebel,
Oliver Grant, Abigail Green, Oliver Kruger, Naomi Ling, David Midgley,
Gerhard Paul, Hartmut Pogge-von Strandmann, Matthew Robinson, Torsten
Riotte, Corey Ross, Emma Rothschild, Sujit Sivasundaram, Andrew Zurcher,
and my brothers Joachim, Andreas, and Christian. Christopher Wheeler, my
editor at Oxford University Press, was everything that an author could wish for:
highly informed, interested, helpful, and reliable. Working with him was both a
joy and a privilege. I owe further thanks to the participants of our weekly Monday
workshop in German History, who read through early drafts and helped me cut

viii

Acknowledgements

a lane through the maze of historical detail. From this beneted the participants
of seminars at the University of Oxford, the Institute for Historical Research
in London, the German Historical Institute in London, and the Deutscher
Historikertag in Kiel, who provided me with further thoughtful comments and
criticism.
I would also like to thank the many institutions which have funded my
research and often provided a very stimulating environment, in particular the
Studienstiftung des deutschen Volkes; the Centre for History and Economics, Kings
College, Cambridge; St Johns College, Cambridge; the Arts and Humanities
Research Council; the Kurt Hahn Trust; and the Sir John Plumb Charitable
Trust. Over the last few years, I have enjoyed the invaluable privilege of being
a Research Fellow at Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge. It is a wonderful
place for a historian, and I am deeply grateful to my colleagues and my students
there. Further thanks go to Mrs Lilian Grosz and Ralph Jentsch of The Estate
of George Grosz, Princeton, New Jersey, USA, for the permission to use Groszs
great painting Stutzen der Gesellschaft; to Elke Schwichtenberg and Romana
Berg from the Bildarchiv Preussischer Kulturbesitz; and to Walter Muhlhausen
and the Stiftung Reichsprasident-Friedrich-Ebert-Gedenkstatte in Heidelberg
for all his help. Finally, I could not have written this dissertation without the
support of archives and their archivists. I would therefore like to thank the
staff of the Bundesarchiv in Koblenz and Berlin-Lichterfelde, of the Geheimes
Staatsarchiv Preussischer Kulturbesitz in Berlin-Dahlem, and of the Landesarchiv
in Berlin; of the Politisches Archiv des Auswartigen Amtes, then still in Bonn;
Joachim Zeller and his colleagues at the Zeitungsabteilung der Staatsbibliothek in
Berlin-Westhafen; Hans Bohrmann at the Zeitungsinstitut in Dortmund; and
Dr Labs of the Springer Archive in Berlin.
Above all, however, I am extremely grateful to Aya Soika for the unquestioning
love and support she has given me over the last ten years, and to my parents,
from whom I have my love of books and interest in politics. They have given me
more than I shall ever be able to thank them for; this book is dedicated to them.

Contents
List of Illustrations
List of Figures
List of Tables
List of Abbreviations

xiii
xiv
xiv
xv

Introduction
1. The Berlin Press, 191832

1
13

Commercialization and consumer orientation


Weltanschauung and politicization
Newspaper circulation and elections
Readers and content
Newspaper nances
Tabloids
Press support and electoral behaviour
Conclusion
2. Media Personalities, 191824
The personication of defeat
The press campaign against Erzberger
Erzberger on trial
Climate of hate
Rising from obscurity
Putsch stories
Creation of a media personality
Conclusion
3. Competing Stories, 19245
Press politics and scandal-mongering
The Magdeburg trial
Staging Barmat: the judiciary as catalyst
Scandal as a political weapon
The proliferation of scandal
The consequences of scandal
Conclusion

15
17
21
26
29
32
38
42
45
46
50
55
60
63
65
68
72
75
76
80
89
91
96
98
103

Contents

4. The Unpolitical Press: Provincial Newspapers around Berlin,


19258
The unpolitical Fuhrer: rallying for Hindenburg
Politics of the unpolitical press
Expropriating the princes
Conclusion
5. Conquering Headlines: Violence, Sensations, and the Rise of the
Nazis, 192830
The crisis of the parliamentary system
The rise of political violence
May Day 1929: creation of scapegoats
Hugenberg, Young, and the Nazis
Scandal-mongering
The making and breaking of parties
Spinning murder stories
The perception of dynamism
Campaigning against the Nazis
Breakthrough
Conclusion
6. War of Words: The Spectre of Civil War, 19312
Facing an unruly press
The spectre of civil war
Crisis
Gauging public opinion
Spreading terror
The proliferation of violence
Press manipulations
The making of the president
Hindenburgs non-partisanship
Rolling back democracy
Conclusion
7. Conclusion
The imagination of inuence
The dynamics of political communication
The Weimar Republic in the eyes of the beholder

107
109
117
120
126
131
132
134
136
143
146
150
152
155
159
162
166
169
170
172
174
178
180
184
187
190
195
198
200
203
203
207
211

Contents
Salesmen of ideology
Governing the press
Consequences
Notes
Bibliography
Index

xi
216
218
222
225
299
317

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List of Illustrations
2.1
2.2
4.1
5.1
5.2
5.3
5.4
5.5
5.6
5.7
5.8
6.1
6.2
7.1

Anti-Erzberger caricature in Kladderadatsch, August 1919


Anti-Erzberger caricature in Kladderadatsch, March 1920
Local newspapers campaigning for Hindenburg in April 1925
Photo-collage from Mosses 8-Uhr-Abendblatt, 101, 2 May 1929
Press photo of barricade, May 1929
Vorwarts caricature of Communist accounts of the May riots 1929
Angriff caricature at the occasion of the anti-Young Plan campaign 1929
Angriff illustrations of Communist violence, 192930
Angriff caricature after Nazi election success in Saxony in June 1930
Angriff caricature of anti-Nazi press coverage, September 1930
Angriff caricature of putsch scare in liberal press, September 1930
Front page of Hugenbergs Nachtausgabe on 31 October 1931
Hindenburg election poster, spring 1932 ( Bundesarchiv)
George Grosz, Pillars of Society, 1926 ( The Estate of George Grosz,
Princeton/New Jersey, USA)

54
59
111
139
140
142
145
154
157
160
164
182
193
208

Unless otherwise stated, copyright of these illustrations is held by the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin, Preussischer Kulturbesitz, Zeitungsabteilung. The publisher
and the author apologize for any errors or omissions in the above list. If contacted
they will be pleased to rectify these at the earliest opportunity.

xiv

List of Figures and Tables

List of Figures
Fig. 1.1 Berlin elections to Reichstag, Prussian parliament, and city council,
192432
Fig. 1.2 Advertising and sales income of Hugenberg papers, 192532

25
31

List of Tables
Table 1.1
Table 4.1
Table 4.2
Table 4.3

Circulation gures for the Berlin press, 192532


Elections to the Reich presidency, 1925
Expropriation referendum, 1926
Elections to the Reichstag, 192432

24
115
124
128

Abbreviations
12UB

(Neue Berliner Zeitung) Das 12-Uhr-Blatt

Angriff

AZ

Angermunder Zeitung und Kreisblatt

BA

Brandenburger Anzeiger

BArchK

Bundesarchiv Koblenz

BArchL

Bundesarchiv Berlin-Lichterfelde

BaM

Berlin am Morgen

BBC

Berliner Borsen-Courier

BBZ

Berliner Borsen-Zeitung

BLA

Berliner Lokal-Anzeiger

BM

Berliner Morgenpost

BT

Berliner Tageblatt

BVP

Bayerische Volkspartei (Bavarian Peoples Party)

BVZ

Berliner Volks-Zeitung

BZ

Brandenburger Zeitung

BZaM

BZ am Mittag

DAZ

Deutsche Allgemeine Zeitung

DDP

Deutsche Demokratische Partei (German Democratic Party)

DNVP

Deutschnationale Volks-Partei (German Nationalist Peoples


Party)

DP

Deutsche Presse

DTgbl

Deutsche Tageblatt

DTztg

Deutsche Tageszeitung

xvi

Abbreviations

DVP

Deutsche Volks-Partei (German Peoples Party)

DZ

Deutsche Zeitung

FZ

Frankfurter Zeitung

Germania

GG

Geschichte und Gesellschaft

GStAPK

Geheimes Staats-Archiv Preuischer Kulturbesitz, BerlinDahlem

KPD

Kommunistische Partei Deutschlands (Communist Party of


Germany)

KrZ

Neue Preuische (Kreuz-)Zeitung

KZ

Konigswusterhausener Zeitung

LAB

Landesarchiv Berlin

MM

Montag-Morgen

NA

Nachtausgabe

NbKbl

Niederbarnimer Kreisblatt und Bernauer Zeitung

NP

National-Post

NSDAP

Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei (National


Socialist German Workers Party)

OGA

Oranienburger General-Anzeiger

Der Prignitzer

PolArchAA

Politisches Archiv Auswartiges Amt (Foreign Ofce Archive,


Berlin)

PZ

Prenzlauer Zeitung

RF

Rote Fahne

RM

Reichsmark

SA

Sturmabteilungen (Storm Troopers)

SPD

Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands (Social Democratic


Party of Germany)

Tempo

Abbreviations
UK

Uckermarkischer Kurier

Vorwarts

VolksZ

Volks-Zeitung

VZ

Vossische Zeitung

WaA

Welt am Abend

Zentrum (Catholic Centre party)

xvii

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Introduction
What is truth? For the masses that which they continually read and hear.
May some poor blighter sit around somewhere and collect facts to determine
the truthit will remain his own truth. The other, the public truth of the
moment, which alone matters for effects and successes in the real world, is
today a product of the Press. What the Press wills, is true. Its commanders
evoke, transform, interchange truths. Three weeks of press work, and all
the world has acknowledged the truth. . . . No tamer has his animals more
under his power. Unleash the people as reader-mass and it will storm through
the streets and hurl itself upon the target indicated, terrifying and smashing
windows. A hint to the press-staff and it will become quiet and go home.
(Oswald Spengler, The Decline of the West, vol. 2, 1922)

There was no shadow of a doubt in Oswald Spengler. The press, he proclaimed


in his bestselling book, The Decline of the West, had become an overwhelming
power in Western culture and was currently bringing about the end of democracy.
Dictators of the press like the British press magnate Northcliffe were keeping
the slave-gang of their readers under the whip of leading articles, telegrams,
and pictures. With its destructive potential, Spengler declared, the press today
was an army, with journalists as ofcers and readers as soldiers. Like in every
army, the soldier obeys blindly, oblivious of war-aims and operation plans. Kept
in unqualied intellectual slavery, the modern newspaper reader was a hapless
subject to the whims of those who controlled the press. It is unclear how many
of Spenglers own readers actually made it to these pronouncements, which came
towards the very end of a rather fat second volume. What is clear, however, is
that Spenglers belief in the power of the press was neither specically German
nor simply the transient product of a particular moment in time, namely the
years immediately after the First World War. For more than two hundred years
now, ever since commentators of British politics pointed to the emergence of
a fourth estate, academics, politicians, and journalists have subscribed to the
idea that the press (and the media more generally) wields enormous political
power. However, how this power actually translates into political inuence is
one of the most puzzling questions historians and media scientists have tried to
address.

Press and Politics in the Weimar Republic

The Weimar Republic is a case in point. It was abolished by a politician,


Adolf Hitler, who beneted from landslide gains at elections, yet his party
press was miserably unsuccessful. At the same time, the newspaper with the
largest circulation in Germany, the Berliner Morgenpost, was a product of
the phenomenally successful publishing house Ullstein, a Berlin-based Jewish
enterprise supporting the left-liberal Democratic Party, whichdespite this
supporthad ceased to exist by the end of 1930. This paradox is addressed
by the present study, which sets out to analyse the inuence of the press on
politics and political culture in Germanys rst republic. Of particular interest is
the relationship between press and electoral behaviour. Historians still struggle
to explain the crucial loss of legitimacy that democracy suffered, for which the
Nazi electoral breakthrough in September 1930 was but one symptom. Hitlers
success at the 1930 elections is no longer explained simply by the onset of the
Great Depression and its concurrent rise in unemployment. Most of the recent
electoral analyses have concluded that conventional approaches to the complex
electoral movements towards the end of the Republic have been insufcient. The
one factor they all emphasize needs more research is local newspaper climate.
The idea that the Nazi breakthrough could be linked to a particular press
climate is not exactly new. In fact, one of the key tenets of Weimar history
is that the press magnate Alfred Hugenberg helped Hitler to achieve national
stature through an alliance in 1929 against the reparations plan, the Young Plan.
Through the press support that Hitler received from the Hugenberg papers,
many researchers explain the sudden rise of the Nazis in the early 1930s. Yet to
assume that the Nazi breakthrough of 1930 was brought about in Cinderella
fasion by the magic touch of Hugenbergs headlines raises more questions than it
answers. It does not explain why Hugenberg, himself the leader of the right-wing
nationalist party DNVP and radically anti-republican, failed to achieve electoral
success, despite the continuous backing he received in his own papers. It is the
same phenomenon we encounter in Berlins newspaper market, where over 50 per
cent of all newspapers sold in the early 1930s originated in the Jewish publishing
houses of Mosse and Ullstein, staunch supporters of political liberalism, whilst
electoral support for liberal parties was on the point of vanishing. In fact, for
all those who consider the Republic doomed right from its beginning, it should
come as a surprise that until the very end of Weimar democracy newspapers of
Jewish publishing houses were the most popular in Germany. By 1931, Ullstein
publications had a weekly circulation of well over four million, making the
company the giant of German publishing. Its development was the liberal success
story of the 1920s; Ullstein came to be regarded as a pillar of the Weimar state
like the Bauhaus, the Reichstag, and Stresemann. As it turned out, it was a
crumbling pillar.
Thus, the power of the press remains a questionable concept for Weimar
Germany, and numerous questions about the press and its effects for the new
democracy arise. What newspapers did people read? why did they read them?

Introduction

and whatif anypolitical effect did newspaper consumption have? What


was the nature of political coverage in the German press of this time? What
did the great majority of German contemporaries actually know about the
democracy in which they were living? These are anything but easy questions to
answer, not least because of the particular structure of the decentralized German
newspaper market in the 1920s. There was a greater wealth of newspaper
types than ever before or after. Many a small provincial town had its own
newspaper with a circulation of a few hundred copies. Ofcial party organs
competed for readers with commercial mass newspapers which offered light
entertainment, advertisements, and a strong regional focus. In the cities there
were newspapers which only appeared on Mondays, or only in a specic district.
Tabloid newspapers experienced their breakthrough in the Weimar Republic
and existed alongside daily newspapers published by trade unions or the Reich
Agrarian Association. Statistical handbooks and advertisers manuals at the time
listed well over 3,000 newspapers in all of Germany during the 1920s and early
1930s. Contrary to the impression conveyed by Spengler, the press in this period
was not a homogeneous collective but a colourful assortment of very different
publishing enterprises.
The mass media of the 1920s have recently attracted an increasing amount of
scholarly work. However, historians of German mass culture have mostly chosen
to concentrate on radio and lm. This is surprising, because throughout the
1920s newspapers were the predominant medium of mass communication in
Germany. Radio broadcasting was only beginning to take off, with 3.5 million
registered listeners by 1930. Even when families of those registered listeners are
taken into account, the occasional radio audience of nine or ten million was
just half the gure of the total daily circulation of the German press, at around
twenty million copies in the early 1930sand, of course, newspapers tended to
be read by more than one person, making the total newspaper audience much
larger. Signicantly, newspapers were not just bought for the political news they
provided but also for the entertainment they offered. Almost all accounts of mass
culture in Weimar Germany ignore the fact that newspaper reading wasat
least quantitativelythe most popular spare-time activity and an important
cornerstone of mass entertainment in this period. Film has attracted more
scholarly attention, but even in a record year like 1929, when some 350 million
cinema tickets were sold, about twenty times as many newspaper copies were
consumed by readers. If the 1930s were to become the decade of lm and radio
in Germanyand even this is open to doubtthe 1920s were undoubtedly the
decade of the press.
The relative lack of historical interest in the press is striking because the
ascendancy of a mass press had once been high up on the academic research
agenda. In 1910, at the very rst conference of the German Association for
Sociology, Max Weberone of the later fathers of the Weimar constitutiondelivered a paper exlusively devoted to the newspaper business. He raised

Press and Politics in the Weimar Republic

some fundamental questions: what power relations are created by newspapers?


What sort of link is there between newspapers and political parties, the business
world, the numerous pressure groups inuenced by, and trying to inuence,
public opinion? Does the increase in capital constitute an increase in the power
to inuence public opinion at will, or, on the contrary, are capital-intensive
businesses more sensitive to uctuations in the publics mood since they do not
want to put invested capital at risk by offending subscribers? What exactly is the
inuence of the nal product, the newspaper? Academics all over Germany
took up the call: newly founded institutes for Zeitungswissenschaften (newspaper
science) sprang up in Cologne, Berlin, Leipzig, and Heidelberg, churning out
doctoral theses on economic, cultural, and technical aspects of the newspaper
business year after year. After 1918, public debate about the reasons for the
defeat in the press struggle during the First World War provided a further
boost to this new area of academic investigation. In fact, institution building
increasingly dominated the scholarly agenda. Between 1928 and 1930 Otto
Groth published his monumental four-volume work, Die Zeitung, with the
explicit aim of creating a new academic discipline. After 1945 Groth and his
colleagues Karl dEster and Emil Dovifat were successful in (re-)establishing
newspapers and publishing more generally as a area of distinct research called
Publizistikwissenschaft. Although the ofcial English translation of this term
given by German universities these days is media studies, the literal translation
(publishing or journalism science) still reects the origins in newspaper science. But while the founding fathers of Publizistikwissenschaft all had a strong
interest in the historical dimension of their research topic, the majority of their
disciples located their eld primarily in the social sciences rather than in the
humanities. Apart from a few notable exceptions, the history of the German
press and its political inuence has therefore received relatively little attention
from practitioners of media studies.
An early pioneer of press history in Germany was Kurt Koszyk. Koszyk started
his academic career in the 1950s with studies of the socialist press in Wilhelmine
and Weimar Germany, and then went on to produce the rst archive-based
studies of the history of the German newspapers in the nineteenth and twentieth
centuries up to 1945. Taking up some of the issues raised by Max Weber
in 1910, Koszyk was primarily interested in highlighting the proprietary and
organizational structures of the German political press. This topic acquired
increasing signicance in the wake of the 1968 student unrest, when Axel
Springer, the conservative owner of Germanys largest press empire and of the
tabloid Bild, became one of the main targets of left-wing criticism. It is no
coincidence that the 1970s and early 1980s saw the appearance of a number of
studies dealing with Alfred Hugenberg, the right-wing press baron of Weimar
Germany. These works provided a comprehensive analysis of the organizational
and nancial intricacies of Hugenbergs elaborate corporate architecture, and his
role in the DNVP. However, with the exception of Werneckes study, none

Introduction

examined how Hugenberg actually employed the media resources at his disposal
for his political aims. There was no engagement with the actual output of the
Hugenberg press empire, the newspaper content produced, and little analysis
of the more general issue of newspapers inuence. Ironically, at a time when
the consensus among media scientists was that media inuence on consumers
was very weak, these historical studies of Hugenberg, like Koszyks more general
work, simply took the power of the press for granted, and implicitly assumed a
direct link between newspaper proprietor and editorial policy. As an effect, the
role of political editors has been reduced to that of subservient scribes.
In fact, proprietorial inuence over the editorial policy of a paper was a
very circumstantial and often ineffective process. The private papers of Georg
Bernhard, chief editor of Ullsteins political agship, the Vossische Zeitung,
contain ample evidence of the strong disagreement of the Ullstein brothers with
the politics which Bernhard propagated in their paper. Similarly, Theodor
Wolff, chief editor of the Berliner Tageblatt, and Otto Nuschke, chief editor of
the Berliner Volks-Zeitung, over ten years successfully resisted repeated attempts
of their publisher, Lachmann-Mosse, to determine editorial policy, at least until
December 1930. At Hugenbergs Scherl concern, Adolf Stein and the chief
editor of the Berliner Lokal-Anzeiger, Friedrich Hussong, were masters of political
rhetoric and polemics. Like their counterparts at the liberal papers, they were
political actors in their own rights, and it seems that they had considerable
inuence on Hugenbergs politics.
The role of political editors has not gone completely unnoticed, thanks
to Bernd Ssemanns extensive research on Theodor Wolff. The interaction
between liberal editors and politicians has also been highlighted by an excellent
monograph by Modris Eksteins on the contrast between the decline of political
liberalism and the apparent strength of liberal publishing houses. Matthias
Lau has convincingly demonstrated that attempts by some of Weimars federal
states to inuence editors through ofcial press ofces were, by and large,
unsuccessful. Continuing on this path of enquiry, one of the aims of the
present study is to highlight the role of journalists as political actors, and to assess
the impact of their articles as an integral part of the Weimar political system.
Press coverage often had a decisive impact on the political agenda and vocabulary
of decision-makers, and helped to determine their room for manuvre. Yet this
was not a one-way relationship: journalists also reacted to political initiatives,
and what they wrote depended to no small degree on what they read in other
newspapers.
Some historians have recently adopted a regional approach, and their studies
of the local press in Munich, Leipzig, and Bielefeld have made signicant contributions to our understanding of the decentralized German press. The main
focus of this literature, however, has been on structural or editorial developments
which inuenced the production of newspapers. They do not, therefore, provide
a fully satisfactory account of the political impact of the press in the 1920s

Press and Politics in the Weimar Republic

and early 1930s. Still, a regional focus is clearly needed if we are interested in
assessing what political news coverage was available to contemporaries of Weimar
Germany, and what political inuence newspaper consumption might have had.
This book concentrates on Berlin and its surrounding countryside. Berlin was
not just the capital of the German Reich but also the capital of the Republics
largest state, Prussia, and thereby a unique political hotspot, especially after the
expansion of democratic mass franchise. At the same time, as Germanys most
important industrial city its population size was such that it could accommodate
a whole range of political milieux, which were themselves large enough to sustain
different mass papers. Although Berlin featured more newspapers than any other
German city in this period, little has been written on the Berlin press. The only
existing monograph is a popular history which dates back to 1959 and which
contains a wealth of anecdotal material informed by the authors experience as
a journalist in Berlin during the 1920s. More recently, the cultural historian
Peter Fritzsche analysed Berlin newspapers as modernist texts involved in the
construction of the metropolis and the perception of urban modernity around
1900. Politics, however, are noticeably absent from his otherwise very stimulating
analysis.
There are two main reasons why so little has been written on the Berlin
press. First, most of the archival material of the big Berlin publishing houses
perished during the great re caused by one of the last air raids on central
Berlin on 3 February 1945. Primary material relating to the production of
Berlin newspapers is therefore sparse, and the few remains are scattered over a
whole variety of archives in different locations. We therefore lack much valuable
information relating to discussions of editorial policies, publishers commercial
strategies, and journalistic practice. Secondly, and more importantly, the main
corpus of primary materialnewspapers themselvesis an unwieldy subject
for analysis. Many historians have shied away from concentrating on newspaper
coverage because, as Modris Eksteins explained at the time, a study merely of
editorial opinions will always remain, to a large extent, an exercise in prcis and
paraphrase, Indeed, later studies of such-and-such an event or topic in the mirror
of the press have hardly attracted much critical attention or proven intellectually
inspiring. As there is little straightforward empirical evidence for the actual
reception of newspaper content by contemporaries, most historians have avoided
tackling this question altogether. The press and its political inuence in the
Weimar Republic, in other words, is not an easy subject to study.
Yet even if one does not share Spenglers apocalyptic vision of the press
and its readers, it is difcult to deny the importance of the mass media
for contemporaries state of informedness. For most Germans in the 1920s,
newspapers constituted the only available window on politics. On the occasion
of his sixtieth birthday, in 1925, Hugenberg received a letter from an old
university friend, the historian Heinrich Rickert, professor in Heidelberg, who
told him he often encountered Hugenbergs name in the Frankfurter Zeitung.

Introduction

Unfortunately, Rickert admitted, he rarely understood the complexities of party


politics: After all, I cannot participate in public life, and so I remain a spectator.
But although my interest is still quite lively, I am struggling to nd orientation
in the commotions of our time, so that I cannot even identify the intentions
and plans of the various parties. Like Professor Rickert, most Germans did not
actively participate in politics and were spectators. In Berlin, like in any other
German city, most citizens would derive their knowledge on the political process
and particular events through information mediated by the press. According to
Leo Wegener, another of Hugenbergs friends, this dependence on newspapers
also applied to politicians. Of course, newspapers were not the only source
of information for Berliners in the 1920s. Other print media, like weekly or
monthly magazines, posters, and leaets carried information which Berliners
would consume. These were accompanied by a whole range of oral sources:
conversations among neighbours, in pubs at the traditional Stammtisch, on the
tram, subway, and buses, as well as topics discussed at association meetings and
political rallies. For a historian interested in the state of informedness of Berliners
during the Weimar Republic, these communication ows are almost impossible
to reconstruct. However, there are good reasons to believe that newspapers
formed the basis of many of these conversations, since they permeated society
as they had never done before. Many contemporary sources say that newspaperreading was a favourite pastime on buses and subways; working-class neighbours
exchanged their newspapers to save money; every pub offered at least one
newspaper for perusal. Police spy reports of workers conversations during the
Wilhelmine period show the extent to which newspapers informed much of
the talk of ordinary people. Within the communication system of Berlin in
the 1920s, newspapers were still the predominant medium for information on
politics.
While we lack sources about other communication ows, newspapers have
survived in great numbers and form the core of this study. However, source
analysis of newspapers is complicated, not least because of the vast amount of
text which calls for some sort of structured approach. Many communication
scientists since Harold D. Lasswell have championed a quantitative approach
to content analysis, based on the compilation and coding of sample texts to
derive exact and veriable results, and have denied the legitimacy of reading
between the lines. This approach has not gone unchallenged. One of the most
adamant critics of quantication, Siegfried Kracauer, was himself a journalist in
the Weimar Republic. He criticized the hugely complicated procedure which
ignores all expertise and experience of the analyst while overemphasizing frequent
but irrelevant aspects of the analysed text. Admittedly, quantitative content
analysis has made signicant progress since Kracauers criticism, and few would
now dispute the degree of sophistication which goes into the creation of coding
frames and context analysis. Yet this has not necessarily helped to make the
approach more appealing to historians. In the case of the Weimar press the

Press and Politics in the Weimar Republic

proposition of coding a meaningful sample of newspaper textslet alone the


complete volumes from 1918 to 1933 of more than thirty Berlin and regional
dailies on which this book is basedbears little relation to the archival and
research realities at the present stage. This is not to say that a quantitative
element in the analysis would be without value. In fact, the situation would be
very different if all newspaper texts were available in digital format allowing for a
variety of analyses. Being able to state with condence the frequency with which
certain terms appeared in the Berlin press, for example, would help to clarify
the role of newspapers in community sensitization and agenda-setting. Arguably,
most historians would be already satised with a simple search function. There
can be no doubt that if newspapers as a source were accessible in electronic
format, we would witness a surge of historical interest in the role of the media in
different periods.
In fact, despite the lack of digital newspaper databases for this period, the last
few years have seen an increasing engagement of historians with the emergence
of a mass press and the impact this had on German society, especially during
the Wilhelmine period. Rosenbergers study of the role of the press in the
origins of the First World War has demonstrated the limitations of a quantitative
content analysis approach. More convincingly, Jeffrey Verhey has made use of
newspaper texts in his analysis of public opinion and the creation of the myth
of the spirit of 1914. Frank Bsch has written extensively about the nexus
of democratization and the medialization of politics in the Wilhelmine Empire,
analysing political scandals. And the cultural historian Philipp Mller has
analysed the public dramatization of crime in late Wilhelmine Berlin. Above
all, Peter Fritzsches book on the role of the Berlin press in the construction of
the narrated city around 1900 has been an important inspiration for my own
work, because I was fascinated by his analysis and yet disagreed with some of his
main ndings. Fritzsche argues that in an age of urban mass literacy, the city as a
place and the city as text dened each other in mutually constitutive ways: The
crush of people and welter of things in the modern city revised ways of reading
and writing, and these representational acts, in turn, constructed a second-hand
metropolis which gave a narrative to the concrete one and choreographed its
encounters.
Like Fritzsche, the present study emphasizes the importance of mass-media
texts and images for the perception and sense of reality of contemporaries. Rankes
dictum that historians should nd out wie es eigentlich gewesen should not be
understood simply as a call to establish what really or actually happened,
but to reconstruct the specic traits of past events, how it essentially was.
And this ought to include an attempt at nding out about wie es anscheinend
gewesenthe different appearances of events to contemporaries which inuenced
their perceptions and convictions. Media scientists have found that the way
that information is communicated has fundamental effects on reception and
subsequent constructions of meaning and signicance. This is why an analysis

Introduction

of the mass media should be a indispensable element of any historical study.


Yet, unlike Fritzsche, I nd it difcult to blind out the signicance of politics,
especially when dealing with the daily press. Fritzsches focus on the pre-war
period ignores the fact that, quantitatively, the apogee of metropolitan texts was
reached only in the late 1920s when tabloids added an additional one million
newspaper copies to Berlins daily street life. Yet if he had chosen to focus on 1930
rather than 1900 he would have had to conclude that there was not one secondhand metropolis but many, and not one narrative but many conicting ones.
Hugenbergs Nachtausgabe, the Communist Welt am Abend, and Mosses liberal
8-Uhr-Abendblatt did not add up to one big metropolitan collage, but constituted
hostile players in an urban battle of political opinion-shaping. My book aims
to show that the fragmentation of the press into competing and often mutually
hostile communication networks was a key feature of Weimar Germanys political
culture, and that this was crucial in sustaining and intensifying the ideological
politics of this period. My two way argument, pace Fritzsche, is that reading
and writing about politics invited as well as contained individuals movements
through the abstract world of German politics.
In terms of media effects, the present study draws on the theories and
ndings of media studies over the last two decades. One particularly signicant
phenomenon re-emerges throughout the period covered: individuals believed
that other contemporaries were much more strongly inuenced by the media
than they were themselves. This impression was one created by the media itself as
well as by media experts, intellectuals, and politicians, often through generalizing
statements about public opinion or the public. Oswald Spengler was not
the only one who shared this belief. That which is reported to the reader in
black and white as a factual occurrence [geschehene Tatsache], he mostly believes,
was a typical declaration of one newspaper scientist. Weimar contemporaries
loved to refer to Napoleon who had allegedly described the press as one of
Europes great powers. Napoleons alleged utterance was used for the title
of a sensationalist bookGrossmacht Presse. Enthllungen fr Zeitungsglubige;
Forderungen fr Mnner which aimed to expose the true power behind national
and international politics. These days, the author proclaimed, the press was not
just a great power as Napoleon had it, but a world power: Greater than the
inuence of priests and scholars is the inuence of journalists. The assumption
that others were helpless subjects to the persuasive and manipulative powers of
the mass media induced many decision-makers to initiate some action; action
which was therefore motivated primarily through media coverage. This third
person effect emphasizes that it is not necessarily the actual effects of media
coverage that matter, but the question if, and how many, people believe that the
media exercises a powerful inuence. Politicians in particular were prone to
this belief: they were inexperienced in the management of public relations in the
new age of mass democracy and mass media, as well as being convinced of the
omnipotence of the press. The following chapters will offer ample evidence for

10

Press and Politics in the Weimar Republic

politicians close interaction with the press, and their responses and reactions to
press coverage.
I have taken what could be labelled a commonsensical case-study approach
to the selection of texts which mostly come from newspapers that appeared at
least six times a week. For example, for the analysis of the press campaign against
Matthias Erzberger, all selected newspapers were read for the period October
1918 to April 1920, and June to September 1921. One of the themes in the
campaign against Erzberger, the alleged backstabbing of the undefeated German
army in 1918, resurfaces in the analysis of the defamation trial involving Reich
President Ebert in December 1924, for which newspapers were read for the two
weeks of the court proceedings, plus the two weeks immediately before and after
the trial. Following hot on the heels of the Ebert trial, the Barmat scandal of
early 1925 was a more lengthy affair covered from the rst press mentioning
of the Barmat concern in November 1924 to Hindenburgs election as Reich
President in April 1925. The Barmats reappeared in the press at the occasion of
the conclusion of the parliamentary investigating committee in October 1925, at
the beginning of the Barmat trial in January 1927, and at its end in March 1928.
For these instances, newspapers were read for up to fourteen days. Every time a
period was covered, any reference to any one of the analysed past events, issues,
or personalities was also registered, a cumulative process with a steep learning
curve and an exploding number of photocopies on le. For some of the events
covered by this book, contemporary newspaper clipping collections proved a
useful indicator for the topicality of an issue.
However, for information on the distribution of these newspaper texts and
their actual impact on the average readers, we will mostly rely on circumstantial
evidence drawn from a whole range of other written sources. Part of the Scherl
publishing archive has survived in the collection of Hugenbergs papers in
the Bundesarchiv Koblenz; the archive of the Axel-Springer-Verlag in Berlin
accommodates the few remains of the Ullstein archive. Quite a lot of pressrelated material has been found in the private papers of editors and politicians
kept in the Bundesarchiv in Berlin and Koblenz. For further information on
journalists and publishers concerns, the relevant issues of the journals Deutsche
Presse and Zeitungs-Verlag have been consulted. Other sources include published
diaries and governmental les, as well as parliamentary minutes. Chapter 1
beneted particularly from the surviving material on the organization of the
KPD, the Communist party, especially its press and propaganda les in the
Stiftung Archiv der Parteien und Massenorganisationen der DDR (SAPMO), held
in the Bundesarchiv Berlin Lichterfelde; the Prussian Ministry of Justice les and
those of the Berlin General State Prosecution were very useful for Chapter 3;
similarly, the Reich Ministry of the Interior and the Reich Chancellory les
yielded important contextual evidence for Chapter 6.
My analysis of the impact of Berlin papers on politics and political culture in
this period moves on several levels, both chronologically and conceptually. The

Introduction

11

rst chapter describes the structure of the Berlin press, highlights the importance
of politicization and popularization for newspapers, and analyses the relationship
between newspaper circulation and electoral results. This study is the rst to
provide a survey of circulation developments, and attempts to point out the
strengths and limits of a quantitative approach to political culture. At the same
time, the chapter emphasizes the fragmented nature of the Berlin newspaper
market, in which, for example, consumers of the Communist Rote Fahne would be
confronted with a completely different version of news than were readers of the
reactionary Neue Preussische (Kreuz-)Zeitung. These themes are then developed
in the following chapters, which try to reconstructthrough different case
studiesthe actual inuence the press had on voters and on the actions of
political decision-makers at certain points. For much of this period, politicians
themselves mostly read elite political papers. The rst chapter shows that these
elite papers had relatively little impact on the voting population. But as the second
and third chapters demonstrate, political coverage in these broadsheets could
have a decisive impact on the nature of parliamentary conict and repeatedly
determined the terms of politcal debate. Who was a very important person in
post-war Germany? The abdication of William II left the German media without
its most popular political celebrity. This void was lled by the press through the
creation of scapegoats and the construction of new political heroes. The second
chapter studies the right-wing hate-campaign against one prominent member of
the new regime, Matthias Erzberger, and the rise to stardom of a political fringe
gure, Adolf Hitler between 1922 and 1924. What did contemporaries know
about the politicians in the new democracy? How were politicians visualized
and dramatized in the press, and to what extent did this inform contemporaries
political choices? The third chapter focuses on the interdependence of press,
judiciary, and legislature, and sets out to demonstrate the crucial role of small
partisan broadsheets in Weimars political process. It is based on two case studies;
the defamation trial initiated by Reich President Ebert in December 1924; and
the Barmat scandal of spring 1925. The Ebert trial enabled nationalist journalists
to portray the Reich president as a traitor who carried responsibility for the
stab-in-the-back in 1918. The scandal-mongering against Jewish businessmen,
the Barmat brothers, resulted in the collapse of their consortium, the arrest and
death of a Reich minister, and a widespread perception of endemic corruption
in the new democratic system.
On another level, the book sets out to clarify the concept of media landscapes
and communication networks, by looking at the effects of regionality in the
Weimar press, which is studied in Chapter 4. The decentralized, fragmented
nature of the German newspaper market meant that the great majority of
contemporaries derived political information from a local paper. This chapter
analyses provincial press coverage of the presidential election campaign in 1925,
and the referendum calling for the expropriation of the princes in 1926. It shows
that even in self-professed unpolitical newspapers catering to a local audience,

12

Press and Politics in the Weimar Republic

ideological news coverage was the norm. At the same time, it demonstrates that
overt press support for particular candidates or parties did not have a signicant
electoral effect. Only where alternative sources of information, like a competing
newspaper of a different political orientation, did not exist could the press
excert a noticeable electoral impact. Chapter 5 then deals with Berlins mass
press, particularly with the tabloid press which experienced its breakthrough in
Germany in the 1920s. By 1930, mass and tabloid newspapers held a marketshare of over eighty per cent in Berlin. This chapter highlights the change in tone
in political coverage after the summer of 1928, and it analyses the media image
of the two radical parties, the KPD and NSDAP, before the crucial Reichstag
election of September 1930. Particular emphasis is given to the depiction of
violence, the construction of a media reality through press photography, and
the use of cartoons to carry political messages in Berlins mass newspapers.
The chapter presents new evidence to explain the Nazi breakthrough in 1930,
not with the alliance between Hugenberg and Hitler in 1929 but with the
repeated splits within Hugenbergs Nationalist Party, which happened in full
view of the newspaper-reading public. The nal chapter studies the intensive
news coverage of political violence in the last two years of the Weimar Republic,
and examines the failure of government press management. Even at this point,
the Nazi press was unsuccessful in attracting a wider readership. So why did
voters choose to support the Nazis? The chapter argues that the economic crisis
as such was insufcient in mobilizing voters to vote for the NSDAP. Rather,
press presentation of increasing Communist violence and the perceived threat of
civil war, together with the media image of an indecisive government, turned
the Nazis into an attractive choice for voters desperate for decisive action. July
1932 was just the climax of a long period of hostile press coverage with which
Weimar democracy was faced, and which led to a political climate favourable
to all anti-system parties. The end of democracy was not brought about by the
press single-handedly, as Oswald Spengler prophesied in his Decline of the West.
But, ultimately, the dysfunctional relationship between press and politics which
originated in the revolutionary establishment of the Weimar Republic played
a crucial role in undermining the legitimacy of Germanys rst parliamentary
democracy.

1
The Berlin Press, 191832
Hugenberg servant, Mosse slave, Ullstein vermin
From Deutsche Presse, 20, 22 May 1926: Kollegiales

For much of the nineteenth century, German newspapers had been small,
distinctively elitist, political enterprises with a limited public. They started
prospering only when they were discovered as viable business enterprises, a
development triggered by the abolition of a prohibitive government tax on the
press in 1874. Coupled with innovations in printing technology, this resulted
in a rapid and continuous growth in newspaper titles and total circulation until
the 1920s. This growth was primarily driven by a distinctively new concept
of commercial newspaper, the Generalanzeiger, which emerged in the 1880s.
Generalanzeiger were newspapers that had an extensive advertisement section
and where advertising income had replaced sales income as the main source
of funding. By lowering prices, publishers reached a vast literate working-class
audience formerly excluded from newspaper reading. Between 1885 and 1900
newspapers became omnipresent factors of everyday life, with almost every other
citizen buying a newspaper, compared to one in nine in 1850. Newspaper
publishers now had to cater to a mass audience.
At the same time, the increasing dependence on advertisements also limited a
papers geographical distribution: most advertisers ran local businesses and were
predominantly interested in attracting readers from the close vicinity. Hence,
the growth of the German press had a strongly regionalized nature, with even the
smallest town having its own newspaper. Between 1881 and 1932 the number
of newspaper titles in Germany increased from around 2,400 to over 4,700,
more than in Britain and France put together. But there was not one German
newspaper with a truly national circulation, or even with a circulation over a
million copies. In 1913, the average circulation of a German paper was just under
5,700 copies. Still, newspaper circulation in this period reached unprecedented
heights. The First World War further boosted demand for news and generally
increased newspaper circulation. This increase was then reduced by ination, but
nevertheless the 1920s saw considerably higher distribution gures than in the
pre-war period. Circulation gures for the whole German press are notoriously
difcult to construct, as publishers rarely published print-runs, and, if they did,

14

Press and Politics in the Weimar Republic

often inated circulation gures to attract potential advertisers. Contemporary


estimates of at least 25 million for 1932 were probably overly optimistic. Based
on the rst reliable gures published for 1934, it seems reasonable to put the total
print-run of the German press in the late 1920s at around 20 million copies.
The mixture of a mass readership in a relatively clearly dened local context
was characteristic of Berlin. Already before 1914, three publishing houses had
established themselves rmly in the Berlin newspaper market: Mosse, Ullstein,
and Scherl. Their agship papers excelled at combining vast advertisement
sections, low sale prices, and a huge circulation. By 1914 these three companies
had developed into Germanys biggest publishing empires, covering a great range
of printable products. Once it was possible to print photos of great quality, weekly
illustrated magazines had become hugely popular and were an important source
of advertisement income; Scherls Die Woche and Ullsteins Berliner Illustrirte
Zeitung sold all over the country. Their dailies, however, lacked a similar
nation-wide circulation. Although Mosses Berliner Tageblatt, Ullsteins Berliner
Morgenpost, and Scherls Berliner Lokal-Anzeiger had the highest circulation of all
German newspapers, sales centred on Berlin. Dependent on local advertisements
and with a strong emphasis on local news coverage, the newspapers were targeted
at Berliners and held little interest to people outside Berlin. While they dominated
the Berlin newspaper market with a combined total circulation of nearly a million
copies each day, they hardly ever found their way west of the River Elbe.
Despite the powerful position of big publishing rms, Berlins newspaper
market also reected the decentralized geographical fragmentation of the German
press. Apart from the big dailies, Berlin featured about thirty daily district papers.
These were small papers with a distribution limited to one or several of the twenty
districts which formed Greater-Berlin after the communal reform of 1920. In
their emphasis on local district news and local advertisements, district papers
were quite similar to the average small-town Generalanzeiger. A third of them
had a circulation of over 10,000; the biggest, the Spandauer Zeitung printed over
27,000 copies a day; one of the smallest, the Karlshorster Lokal-Anzeiger ran at
2,500.
Berlin was the German press capital not just because it accommodated
Germanys three biggest publishing houses but also because of the existence of a
greater number of political newspapers than in any other city. This, again, was a
consequence of long-term developments in the growth of the press in Germany.
German newspapers had a long tradition of adhering to a political cause. The
revolution of 1848 had resulted in a multitude of newspaper foundations with
a clearly dened political agenda. It was not just a quip that newspapers found
parties: as a platform for a particular political line they soon served as focal
points for political movements. In the second half of the nineteenth century,
they often developed into ofcial party organs. Thus, the Kolnische Zeitung and
the Frankfurter Zeitung stood for the bourgeois Liberals; the Neue Preuische
Kreuz-Zeitung and Die Post were semi-ofcial organs of the Conservatives, as were

The Berlin Press, 191832

15

the Kolnische Volkszeitung and Germania for the Catholic Centre party. Even if
these papers were rarely as closely a part of the ofcial party apparatus as was the
case in the Social Democratic Vorwarts, they were often used for party-political
objectives, sometimes labelled Gesinnungspresse. Half of all papers in 1913
were openly committed to some political conviction. With both the Reichstag
and the Prussian Landtag sitting in Berlin, the city became the focal point of
German politics after 1871, and an increasing number of partisan papers were
published in Berlin.
Elite political papers had traditionally been concerned primarily with high
politics. Based on sales revenue, their high subscription prices prevented a
high circulation. Advertisements, local news, and entertainmentin short,
everything that effectively made newspapers popularwere frowned upon.
Many political commentators prior to the First World War dismissed the
emerging Generalanzeiger press as unpolitical. However, although local papers
and Generalanzeiger often avoided overt political commentary in order not to
deter a signicant part of their readership, they were by no means apolitical:
most tended to be on ofcial-conservative bourgeois lines, supportive of the
monarchy and hostile to Social Democracy. The same was true of the majority
of other papers running under the ofcial banner of being parteilos or not
stating any political stance at all. Before 1918 this applied to fty per cent
of all papers. The Berliner Lokal-Anzeiger was a prime example for this
patrioticnationalstance on politics, which repeatedly indulged in radical
and polemic political campaigning.
Thus, it was not the existence or lack of politics in the papers but the different
motivation behind the existence of the two newspaper types that distinguished
Generalanzeiger from overtly political papers: whereas the former were primarily
conceived as business enterprises aiming at consumer satisfaction and prot
maximization, the latter were perceived as an elementary part of the political
struggle, as political mouthpieces with an idealist attitude to the economics of
the newspaper business. The advertisement section thus became the dividing
line between Generalanzeiger and Gesinnungspresse. But increasingly, especially
after the First World War, this line became blurred, and nowhere more so than in
Berlin. On the one hand, the 1920s experienced the breakthrough of a consumeroriented press, while seeing at the same time an increase in the politicization
of newspapers. These two trends, sometimes competing, sometimes converging,
shaped all newspapers in this period.
C O M M E RC I A L I Z AT I O N A N D C O N S U M E R O R I E N TAT I O N
Since the beginning of the twentieth century, newspapers had realized the need
to provide the readership with updated information. For this and for economic
reasonsprincipally, in order to work their printing presses to capacitymany

16

Press and Politics in the Weimar Republic

newspapers came up with a second daily edition in Berlin, in most cases adding
an evening edition to the morning edition. The whole economic concept lay in
the calculation that an extra edition was possible with little concurrent increase
in overheads: the editorial staff was rarely augmented for the extra edition.
The pressure to produce larger quantities of text with limited human resources
resulted in an increasing reliance on syndicated columns from press agencies and
Korrespondenzen. But it was not just the increase in frequency that expanded
the scope of metropolitan papers. Also, the intensication of competition and the
ever-increasing demand for entertainment meant that newspapers had to appeal
to particular target groups in the reading audience, particularly women. They
did this by introducing weekly or, if they could afford to, daily, supplements like
the Hauswirtschaftliche Plauderei in Ullsteins Berliner Morgenpost, alongside
supplements focusing on youth, house and garden, science and technology,
travel, and daily sections on sports, entertainment such as lm and theatre
reviews, radio programmes, music, and so on.
The war and its aftermath accelerated the introduction of distinctly modern
features into the German media. Tabloids were one example. Traditionally,
sales of newspapers in Germany had exclusively relied on weekly or monthly
subscriptions and home delivery. Tabloids, however, were primarily distributed
through street sales. The rst daily Boulevardzeitung, Ullsteins BZ am Mittag,
had already been successfully launched in 1904. Other Berlin publishers soon
realized the advertisment value of selling a limited number of their subscription
dailies through their own street vendors, but despite the unusually great success of
BZ am Mittag they shied back from publishing a proper Strassenverkaufszeitung
themselves. The main reason for this reluctance was the commercial challenge of
this particular form of retailing. Sales gures could vary wildly, with increases of
more than 200 per cent in events of great sensation, andmore oftendecreases
of more than fty per cent on quiet and rainy days. The conict between street
vendors and publishers about the price for returned copies added further
complexity to the tabloid business. Without a rm subscription basis, a tabloid
paper had to acquire its readership every day anew, and thus relied heavily on
attractive headlines and a certain amount of sensationalism. Not surprisingly,
this sensationalism encountered the supercilious disdain of many bourgeois
contemporaries. Certain newspapers in the big city, criticized one observer,
cultivate sensation as a genre and thereby paint a picture of life that does not
correspond with reality.
The outbreak of war in 1914 changed the situation dramatically. Readers did
not want to have to wait to nd out about the latest developments. Readers
everywhere developed an insatiable demand for the latest news, and publishers
accommodated this demand with a multitude of high-circulation special editions
sold exclusively on the street. At a time of falling advertisement income, sales
income played an increasingly important role. Bold headlines, pictures, boxes,
and bars changed the layout even of traditional subscription newspapers, which

The Berlin Press, 191832

17

now sold well over ten per cent of their circulation on the street. War did not just
result in a politicization of sensations, it also sensationalized politics. Politicians,
who had previously deplored the prot-orientation of allegedly non-political,
sensation-mongering newspapers, slowly began to change their views. Even Social
Democrats recognized the need for a certain amount of sensationalism to sell
politics. As Otto Braun, later to become the rst Social Democratic prime
minister of Prussia, pointed out at the 1917 party conference:
We like talking among ourselves condescendingly of the need for sensation of the great
masses. But let us be honest: every human being has the need for a bit of sensation. The
more eventful the time, the more this need becomes apparent, and the daily press which
completely ignores this human weakness would soon appear without a reading public,
because nobody goes to the newsvendor to buy sleeping pills.

After the war, the number of Berlin tabloids multiplied: in 1919, some editors
of the 8-Uhr-Abendblatt decided to start up another tabloid, to compete with
Ullsteins BZ am Mittag, called Neue Berliner Zeitung which soon became popular
under its trading name Das 12-Uhr-Blatt. The newly founded Communist paper,
Die Rote Fahne, found its tabloid equivalent in Die Welt am Abend, a socialist
evening paper founded in 1922, which was bought up by Willi Munzenberg in
1925 and turned into Berlins most popular Communist newspaper. In 1922,
Hugenberg too established an evening tabloid edition, Die Nachtausgabe, of his
political broadsheet, Tag. These tabloids inundated Berlins streets and resulted
in a cut-throat competition for publication times.
Thus, during the Weimar Republic Berlin featured a wealth of newspapers
unrivalled by any other city. In 1925, there were thirty different daily newspapers
in Berlin, plus another thirty to forty daily district newspapers. Counting all
dailies, including morning and evening editions as well as the district papers,
Berlin in 1925 was already faced with an enormous three million newspaper
copies per day. With a potential readership of three million adults, Berlin at
that time indeed had the most insatiable newspaper readers in the world.
One contemporary commentary helps to illustrate the impression created by this
spectacle of the unprecedented development of the Berlin press:
Each Berlin hour throws millions of newspaper pages onto the streets, into houses, into
the administration, into the directors ofces of banks, into branch ofces, into factory
ofces, into taverns and into the theatre. They ood public transport . . . they drown the
parks and they are being transported by newspaper planes beyond mountains, forests and
seas: politics, economics, trafc, technology, stock market, sport, art ll and shake the
air . . . each hour with loud and novel news, which the press is giving speedy wings.

WELTANSCHAUUNG A N D P O L I T I C I Z AT I O N
The impression here described is that the city was covered by a tightly knit
network of newspapers providing an abundance of information. However, this

18

Press and Politics in the Weimar Republic

suggests a homogeneity of the press and an availability of information which


stood in stark contrast to the reality of Berlins heterogeneous media landscape.
Communication ows in 1920s Berlin were complex and heavily fragmented.
If a Berliner wanted news on a particular subject, the information he received
depended on the kind of communication network in which he moved. In
Berlin during the Weimar Republic the free exchange of information was
severely restricted by an increasing political polarization of society. Readers
of the Communist newspaper Rote Fahne and those of the reactionary Neue
Preussische Kreuz-Zeitung would move in completely different worlds. Here,
as in other overtly political papers, the effects of political polarization on the
papers information policy were fundamental. There was hardly any political
topic where coverage of the two papers would provide the reader with even
similar information: news was reported highly selectively; stories were given a
strong slant and edited to accord with the papers different political outlooks.
Arthur Koestler, foreign editor of Ullsteins tabloid B.Z. am Mittag, recalled
in his memoirs that the main determinant of German journalisms approach to
politics was the political world-view as propagated by the individual paper:
[German journalisms] starting point was the correspondents Weltanschauung, and the
political philosophy of the paper for which he worked. His job was not to report the news
and facts . . . but to use facts as pretexts for venting his opinions and passing oracular
judgments. Facts, a famous German editor said, are not t for the reader when served
raw; they had to be cooked, chewed and presented in the correspondents saliva.

Fed on this kind of diet, Koestler concluded, the German reading publics
approach to reality was distorted by Weltanschauung. According to Koestlers
colleague, Georg Bernhard, the chief editor of Ullsteins prestigious Vossische
Zeitung, there was nothing wrong with this approach to journalism. The primary
purpose of the press was not to provide information but views, he explained in
a speech in 1924: [The newspaper] wishes to bring order into things which the
reader sees before and around himself every day; it wishes to bring the events in
the world to the attention of the reader from a denite point of view. Another
editor even claimed that newspapers were forced to be subjective: The demand
of the masses for guidance . . . from their think-organ [ihr Denkorgan, i.e. their
paper] is so strong that todays newspapers can no longer expect of their readers
to put up with simple news and naked truths.
The Weltanschauungs-basis of journalism in the Weimar Republic had its roots
in the politicized tradition of the German press. The First World War further
intensied the politicization of German society. While the SPD split over the
question of support for the war, resulting in a division of the working class, war
aims and a fear of continuing democraticization led to a rift in the conservative
camp. Mounting domestic political tensions about strategy and war aims were
mirrored in an increasingly polarized press. The Social Democratic Vorwarts bore
the brunt of internal party strife, which ultimately resulted in the imposition of

The Berlin Press, 191832

19

a new team of editors by the party executive committee in November 1916. At


the same time, the Pan-German intention to oust Chancellor Bethmann Hollweg
resulted in a violent and eventually successful campaign by Hugenbergs newly
acquired Berliner Lokal-Anzeiger against the government. But it was not just
the partisan spirit that rose during the war. The war also increased the awareness
of the importance of public opinion, and government intervention in press affairs
increased. The initial political unity at the outbreak of war, the Burgfrieden,
was kept up articially in the press by a state of siege on truth. Most editors
became used to interpretative reporting and the construction of a propagandistic
reality that had little resemblance to events on the ground, a fact satirized in
Karl Krauss epic play Die letzten Tage der Menschheit. In doing so, editors
felt they were contributing to the national struggle. Right-wing observers in
particular came to explain the revolution and thus the outcome of the war with
the superiority of enemy propaganda, among other factors.
The end of the war and the revolution of 1918 left German society deeply
polarized. The majority of political parties which had found a modus vivendi with
monarchical rule were overtaken by events, and had to redene their position in
the changed political constellation of the Weimar Republic. Like the political
parties, most newspapers had had to reconsider their politics, and contemporaries
would recognize general or party-political tendencies in almost every paper. In
fact, newspaper directories listed the political stance of each paper as provided by
the publisher among other information relevant for potential advertisers. Like
all of Hugenbergs papers, the majority of newspapers was unsympathetic to the
concept of a republican democracy, and most overtly political papers started on
a political crusade that was to last for the lifetime of the Weimar Republic.
Revolution and democracy meant that the mobilization of the public became top
priority on any political agenda. It was no coincidence that the Spartakus uprising
in January 1919 started with the occupation of the Berlin press district. Some of
the most widely circulated images of the uprising showed armed revolutionaries
posing behind barricades made of giant rolls of newspaper. Contemporaries
were convinced that the press constituted a crucial factor in the democratic
political process; newspapers were destined to lead the masses. At the root
of this conviction lay a crude, linear perception of newspaper reception. Georg
Bernhard was fully convinced that a German viewed his favourite newspaper not
merely [as] a source of news information, but also [as] an organ of instruction.
The partisan approach to politics culminated on election days, when almost
all newspapers would explicitly encourage their readers to vote for a particular
political grouping.
Not only did editors think that they could directly inuence the masses,
they also felt themselves to be participants in the political struggle of opposing
Weltanschauungen. When in 1927 the Berliner Volks-Zeitung, Mosses left-liberal
paper aimed at a working-class audience, celebrated its seventy-fth birthday, it
declared it had always been a paper devoted to battling the forces of darkness.

20

Press and Politics in the Weimar Republic

Its chief editor was Otto Nuschke, one of the leaders of the German Democratic
Party (DDP) in the Prussian parliament. In fact, a great number of editors of
political papers were members of either the Reichstag or the Prussian Landtag: in
1924, thirteen per cent of the Reichstags deputies were publicists by profession.
The line between editor and politician was never more blurred than during the
Weimar Republic. Theodor Wolff, chief editor of Mosses Berliner Tageblatt and
most prominent voice of German liberalism, was a founding member of the leftliberal DDP; and Georg Bernhard, head of the Vossische Zeitung, was one of the
partys Reichstag deputies. Joseph Goebbelss political career before September
1930 was based primarily on his tabloid, Der Angriff. Like Goebbels, many
socialists had once started in journalism. Most prominent Social Democracts had
been editors of party newspapers for some years before reaching the republics
highest ofces, like Carl Severing, Rudolf Hilferding, Kurt Eisner, Hermann
Muller, Paul Lobe, to name just a few.
This blurring between politics and journalism resulted in a distinctively
aggressive press. Attacks on individual politicians or representatives of the
system were common. If a correction was not enforced and no sympathetic
paper came to the support of the attacked, the offending paper triumphantly
declared the veracity of its allegations. These could then be taken up by
other journalists as established facts. This happened frequently, because articles
written in other newspapers constituted an important source of material. In
fact, editors were avid newspaper readers: a typical editorial ofce would have
subscribed to over a hundred different papers covering the whole range of political
world-views. In Berlin, the biggest single delivery in the daily distribution of
the Social Democratic organ, Vorwarts, went into the Jerusalemerstrasse, the heart
of the newspaper district. Articles from papers of a similar political leaning
would often be reprinted in excerpts; even articles by a political opponent would
sometimes be reprinted, if they provided information which could not be found
anywhere else and if this suited the political objective of the editor. Thus articles
of the Communist Rote Fahne critical of the SPD were often quoted extensively
in DNVP-organs, and vice versa. All political journalists were acutely aware of
this multiplier effect and struggled to confront in their own articles each hostile
statement in the various papers. In a city with a newspaper-density like Berlin this
made for a very intensive preoccupation with the writings of other journalists.
The present-day reader of 1920s newspapers is struck by the obvious inter-paper
warfare and the system of self-reference: media coverage itself was an important
focus of political news reporting. It was usual to attack other papers news policy,
especially the selection of information conveyed. The amount of quotations from
other newspapers and references to particular articles is a distinctive feature of
the German press in this period.
The political self-understanding of editors determined the peculiar quality
of news reporting, particularly in overtly political papers. Some of the most
striking features of Berlin newspapers in this period are the lack of differentiation

The Berlin Press, 191832

21

between news and editorials, the amount of unveried and partisan information,
and the deliberate holding back of particular news and information. Despite the
abundance of newspapers in Berlin, it would therefore be wrong to assume that
there was one general public where each individual was equally well informed
through the mass media. Weltanschauung journalism, political polarization,
and the fragmentation of the newspaper market resulted in a multitude of
differentiated communication ows. In Berlin, readers of the Catholic Centre
partys newspaper, Germania, formed a different communication network from
the readers of the Social Democratic Party organ, Vorwarts, which again carried
different information from the Communist Rote Fahne or Hugenbergs Tag:
there were several distinct reading publics. The fragmentation of the print media
into competing and often mutually hostile communication networks was a crucial
feature of Weimar Germanys political culture.
N EW S PA PE R C I RC U L AT I O N A N D E L E C T I O N S
Due to the fragmentation of the German newspaper market there were quite a lot
of newspapers that could be considered important by political decision-makers.
In 1924, the Auswartige Amt drew up a list of the most important German dailies
and their party-afliations and arrived at a total of sixty-six. More than a third
of these were Berlin papers. The Berlin titles were more or less the same ones that
the State Commissioner for Public Order had drawn up in 1920 when providing
the government with a list of twenty-two Berlin papers and their estimated
circulation gures. In 1922, when the Reich chancellor asked his civil servants
for the circulation gures of the most important Berlin dailies, the list included
fteen titles. These lists show two things: a continuous consensus on which were
important papers; and a widespread ignorance concerning their distribution.
Contemporaries hardly ever knew circulation gures. Apart from Ullstein, which
started publishing quarterly circulation gures in 1926, most publishers kept this
information secret. Even when submitting information relevant for advertisers
in the various newspaper advertising handbooks, circulation gures were the
exception rather than the norm. Only in 1933 were compulsory statistical
reports imposed on publishers; the subsequent drop in circulation gures had
more to do with previous exaggerations than with the decreasing attractiveness
of gleichgeschaltet newspapers. For contemporaries it was thus very difcult to
assess the impact of any given newspaper, and for the most part circulation was
overestimated. The list the Reich chancellor received in 1922 lacked data for ve of
the fteen titlesamong them the Social Democratic Vorwarts, the Communist
Rote Fahne, and the Germania of the Catholic Centre party. This absence of
exact circulation gures, coupled with the remarkable growth of newspaper titles
and circulation over the preceding decades, furthered contemporaries vague and
rather subjective impression of the political power of the press.

22

Press and Politics in the Weimar Republic

One reason for the secrecy about circulation gures was business interests or,
more specically, advertisement prices. Even for political papers, advertising
income had become a signicant and stable source of revenue. While falling
circulation gures led directly to decreasing sales income, advertisement prices
would not have to be lowered if the fact of decreasing circulation could be kept
from advertisers. The Deutsche Allgemeine Zeitung (DAZ ) was a case in point. In
1922 the industrialist Hugo Stinnes merged the newly bought Tagliche Rundschau
with the DAZ, which he had taken over in 1920 to secure industrialist inuence.
At the time of the merger the two papers had had a circulation of 40,000 and
32,000 respectively, according to information of the Reich chancellery. Stinnes
invested in the new DAZ, and for a short while the newspaper prospered.
For 1925, one advertisers press catalogue gave a circulation of 79,000 for the
DAZ just over the combined total of the two papers in 1922. For 1926,
the catalogue gave the information circa 60,000. In fact, this was a rather
optimistic account of the papers print-run: by this time circulation had already
fallen to only a little over 50,000, and was continuing to decrease rapidly. By
1930, the newspaper had continued to decline, was making heavy losses, and
was running at 31,500 copies, according to the private papers of the then chief
editor, Fritz Klein. In various advertisement catalogues, however, the DAZ
claimed it had a circulation of 63,000. Apparently, the publisher had just
added up the two daily editions, a common practice prior to 1933. However,
unlike the circulation gures, the catalogues entries for advertising prices for the
various papers were real. Signicantly, advertising prices for the DAZ increased
considerably between 1925 and 1930, despite the fact that the paper was down
almost 60 per cent from its previous level. It paid to inate circulation gures:
total advertising revenue of the DAZ in 1930 was about RM 1.1 million,
compared to RM 960,000 of Hugenbergs Tag, which ran at over 70,000 copies
per day.
For some publishing houses, like Ullstein or Scherl, we have relatively exact
circulation data, at least for the post-inationary period; for others, we depend
on chance ndings in editors private papers, or on internal party documents as
in the case of the Communist Rote Fahne. For some, advertisement catalogues
are the only source, which, despite all inaccuracies, give at least some indication
as to a papers distribution, since the gures given can be seen as the upper
limit, and will rarely have been exaggerated by more than 30 per cent. When
piecing this puzzle together, the overall structure of the Berlin press presents
an interesting picture. In 1925, there were three distinct types of newspaper:
elite political papers, with a total circulation of about 600,000; Berlins mass
subscription papers, with a run of nearly a million copies; and tabloids, with
a total of around 350,000. Until 1930 total circulation grew by over 30 per
centbut this growth was driven almost exclusively by the explosion of tabloids,
which nearly tripled between 1925 and 1930. In the same period the circulation
of elite political newspapers fell by some 20 per cent. The contrast becomes even

The Berlin Press, 191832

23

stronger when looking at the gures for 1932: as a result of the Great Depression
total circulation had declined to a level just over that of 1928; elite political
papers, however, despite the increasing politicization of society, had fallen by
more than 35 per cent from the gure for 1925.
As Table 1.1 reveals, the Deutsche Allgemeine Zeitung was not the only
political paper to have a relatively low and decreasing circulation between 1925
and 1932. In fact, many of the most prominent political newspapers, like
the Social Democratic Vorwarts or the Communist Rote Fahne, had relatively
small circulation gures: in 1929, Vorwarts ran at around 75,000 copies per
edition; the Rote Fahne even less with under 30,000. Apart from Vorwarts, only
political newspapers from big publishing houses like Mosse, Ullstein, Scherl,
and Munzenberg had a circulation of over 50,000. Most others ran at under
40,000; the reactionary Kreuz-Zeitung, with a circulation of around 6,000 copies,
was practically clandestine. Ullsteins Vossische Zeitung was the only one which
resisted the general downward trend of political newspapers, at least until 1930.
These gures raise some important questions about the electoral impact of
newspapers: why did the circulation of the overtly pro-DDP Vossische Zeitung
increase from 1925 to 1930 by over 30 per cent, whilst the electoral support
for the DDP in Berlin declined from over 250,000 votes in December 1924 to
under 150,000 in September 1930? In 1930, the political newspapers of Ullstein
and Mosse had a combined circulation of almost double the number of DDP
voters. In fact, these two liberal Jewish publishing houses held over 50 per
cent of the Berlin newspaper market, with the total circulation of all their titles
standing at over 1.3 million copies per daybut less than 10 per cent of their
readers supported the parliamentary party they were backing.
Hugenberg was in a similar dilemma. Thanks to his new tabloid, the Nachtausgabe, total circulation of all his papers increased from c.340,000 in 1925 to just
under 500,000 in 1930; but with every extra newspaper copy he sold he seemed
to lose one vote: electoral support for his party, the DNVP, declined from
around 550,000 votes in December 1924 to about 350,000 votes at the Reichstag elections in September 1930. The extra support which the DNVP received
from the Berliner Borsen-Zeitung, the Deutsche Tageszeitung, the Kreuz-Zeitung,
and the Deutsche Zeitung with a combined daily circulation of 85,000 to
100,000also did not translate into votes.
Goebbels, on the other hand, was experiencing a different phenomenon
altogether. The circulation of his tabloid, Der Angriff, founded in 1927, was
almost exclusively limited to the party membership, and the paper had less than
10,000 subscribers in late 1929. At the city council elections in November
1929, however, the NSDAP garnered over 130,000 votes. Less than a year
later, at the Reichstag elections in September 1930, the Nazi vote was close to
400,000, while the circulation of the Angriff did not surpass 50,000 until the
end of the year. In fact, much of the increase in circulation was perhaps a
result of the election, as was the case with the Volkischer Beobachter: according

Elite political papers


Mass papers

Rote Fahne
Vorwarts
Vossische Zeitung
Berliner Borsen-Courier
Germania
Der Deutsche
Deutsche Allgemeine Zeitung
Der Jungdeutsche
Deutsche Tageszeitung
Berliner Borsen-Zeitung
Der Tag
Neue Preussische (Kreuz-)Zeitung
Deutsche Zeitung
Sub-total
Berlin am Morgen
Berliner Morgenpost
Berliner Volks-Zeitung
Berliner Tageblatt
Berliner Lokal-Anzeiger
Sub-total
Welt am Abend
8-Uhr-Abendblatt
Tempo
BZ am Mittag
Neue Berliner Zeitung/12-Uhr-Blatt
Nachtausgabe
Angriff
Sub-total
Total

KPD
SPD
Ullstein
liberal
Z
Z
DVP
nationalist
Agrarian - DVP/DNVP
DVP/DNVP
HugenbergDNVP
DNVP
DNVP
MunzenbergKPD
Ullstein
Mosse
Mosse
HugenbergDNVP

Berlin tabloids

Newspaper title

MunzenbergKPD
Mosse
Ullstein
Ullstein
liberal
HugenbergDNVP
NSDAP

1925

1926

1927

1928

1929

1930

1931

32.5
95
36
40
43
24
79
42
30
34
86.5
6
60
608.5

492
90
170
220.5
972.5
12
90

180
30
37.5

349.5
1,930.5

37
90
58
40
43
28.5
53
42
30
42.5
74.5
6
48
592.5

569
80
163
209
1, 021
54.5
91.5

185.5
30
59.5

421
2,034.5

37
85
66.5
25
43
33.5
47.5
33.5
27.5
42.5
72
6.5
36.5
556

581.5
75
158
212.5
1, 027
104.5
93

186
40
66
4.5
494
2,077

32
82
69
25
43
38
42.5
25
25
42.5
77
6.5
24.5
532

608.5
70
150
219
1, 047
185
95

197
60
127.5
7
671.5
2,251

28
74.5
72
25
43
38
37
28
25
42.5
71
6.5
26
516.5
70
617
73
137
219.5
1, 116.5
229
97.5
118.5
190.5
50
193.5
15
894.5
2,527

25
75
76.5
24
43
38
31.5
25
25
32
69.5
6
26
496.5
75
607.5
77.5
121
213
1, 094
225
100
142
183.5
75
206.5
50
982
2,572.5

23
69.5
69
21.5
41
36
30.5
24
24
29
67.5
5
25.5
465.5
70
553
75
1400
197.5
1, 035.5
180
90
122
167
100
197
70
926
2,427

1932
19
56.5
56
17.5
34.5
30.5
25
20
20
25
57.5
4
25
390.5
65
478
80
130
183.5
936.5
180
80
106
151.5
120
185
98.5
921
2,248

Note: Figures rounded to the nearest 500. Figures given in italics are informed estimates.
Sources: See www.hist.cam.ac.uk/academic staff/further details/fulda-press-and-politics.html
Abbreviations: KPD = German Communist Pary; SPD = German Social Democratic Party; DDP = German Democratic Party; Z = Catholic Centre party; DVP = German
Peoples Party; DNVP = German Nationalist Peoples Party; NSDAP = National Socialist Party

Press and Politics in the Weimar Republic

PublisherPolitics

24

Table 1.1. Circulation gures for the Berlin press, 192532 (000s)

The Berlin Press, 191832

25

1,000,000
900,000
800,000
votes cast

700,000
600,000
500,000
400,000
300,000

KPD
SPD
DDP
Z
DVP
WP
DNVP
NSDAP

200,000
100,000
De
c.
Ju 24
ne
De 25
c.
Ju 25
ne
De 26
c.
Ju 26
ne
De 27
c.
Ju 27
ne
De 28
c.
Ju 28
ne
De 29
c.
Ju 29
ne
De 30
c.
Ju 30
ne
De 31
c.
Ju 31
ne
32

Fig. 1.1. Berlin elections to Reichstag, Prussian parliament, and city council, 192432
Sources: Otto Busch and Wolfgang Haus (eds.), Berlin als Hauptstadt der Weimarer Republik, 19191933 (Berlin,
1987), 323.
Abbreviations: KPD = German Communist Party; SPD = German Social Democratic Party; DDP = German
Democratic Party; Z = Catholic Centre party; DVP = German Peoples Party; WP = Business Mens Party;
DNVP = German Nationalist Peoples Party; NSDAP = National Socialist Party

to Social Democratic information, the Volkischer Beobachter had a street sale


of around 8,000 copies just before 14 September 1930. This shot up to over
70,000 in the rst weeks after the elections and then fell under 10,000 again by
Christmas. Despite the rising electoral support for the Nazis, the Berlin edition
of the Volkischer Beobachter ceased publication in March 1931. Even at the
height of its circulation in 1932, the Angriff sold only 110,000 copies, while well
over 700,000 Berliners voted for the Nazis.
One explanation for the difculty of nding a simple correlation between
newspaper circulation and electoral behaviour lies in the fact that political papers
were increasingly difcult to sell to a mass consumer audience. In 1923, the
nancial director of the Scherl publishing house tried to contain attempts by
supporters of the DNVP to turn the Tag ever more nationalist, and warned
Hugenberg of the grave consequences if the Tag were to be turning into an
outright party newspaper, with which after all we have had nothing but bad
experiences in Germany. Hugenberg actually shared this view. In 1927, he was
speaking from experience when explaining that partisan papers did not sell: In
the long run, there are not going to be major newspapers in Germany which are
owned by an [industrial] company . . . or an association of lobbyists . . . In the
long run, there are not going to be major newspapers representing the interests
of such a group or such an associationfor the simple reason that readers would
be deserting them. For some reason, though, this knowledge did not lead him

26

Press and Politics in the Weimar Republic

to abandon the Tag, which had lost over 15 per cent of its readership within
the previous two years. He clearly had the same conviction of the persuasive
power of the press that motivated industrialist pressure groups in 1927 to buy up
the decit-making Deutsche Allgemeine Zeitung, which was continuously losing
readers.
READERS AND CONTENT
Unlike the DDP and the DNVP, the KPD gained electoral support between
December 1924 and September 1930. Yet, while the Communist vote increased
from 350,000 to 750,000, the party organ, the Rote Fahne, was constantly
losing subscribers, despite a huge proletarian readership in Berlin. Most workers,
however, were subscribing to Ullsteins Berliner Morgenpost, which in 1924
already had over half a million readers, fteen times as many as the Rote Fahne.
This was troubling the Communists, and in 1924 the party propagandists set
out on a reader survey to nd out why the workers were refusing to buy the
party newspaper. The concluding report, What do workers think about Rote
Fahne?, contained frank replies and amounted to a devastating critique of the
Communist press. It consists of over sixty responses, sometimes summarized
but often verbatim, from readers and non-readers, party members and non-party
members, men and women, who were asked about their views on the Rote Fahne
and for reasons why most workers preferred to read the Berliner Morgenpost. Since
this is one of the few documents which give evidence of newspaper reception, it
is worth quoting at greater length.
Many replies complained about the rabble-rousing in the paper. One railway
employee put it politely: Even if much of what this newspaper reports is true,
one can naturally not expect that people should enjoy these Schimpfkanonaden
day after day. Many pointed out that the style was difcult to understand
and not aimed at simple workers. One comrade noted: The Rote Fahne is
not writing for but about the workers; another concluded The writing style
is rubbish. Thus the political message would often be lost, as the frank
reply of another comrade, a woodworker, proved: Whether I am reading and
understanding everything? Nope! Party politics at the most simple level were,
however, equally unappealing, as an employee complained: The thing which the
masses . . . often nd most disgusting is the great number of proclamations held
in a turgid tone. It was, he pointed out, more a paper for party functionaries
than for the masses. It did not help that the distribution of the Rote Fahne
was extremely unreliable: often it arrived too late in the morning to be read
before going to work. Another bone of contention was news coverage: many
news items were outdated by the time of publication, and there were too many
opinions and not enough news: [We] are . . . always only served opinions and
statements; the facts one has to collect from the [Berliner] Morgenpost or the

The Berlin Press, 191832

27

[Berliner] Lokalanzeiger. However valid this Communist news strategy might


be, someone remarked, their press bore little relation to reality.
The complaint which appeared most often was that the party organ was
not entertaining enough. One non-Communist spelt out his expectations:
I . . . want to hear something about the natural sciences, about politics, about
literature, about crime, in short I want to feel the pulse of life . . . not always politics, politics, and again politics. Readers demanded local news and courtroom
news, they wanted illustrated supplements and entertaining serialized novels,
bourgeois sports coverage (particularly of football), and much more advertisements. As one female party member explained it was difcult to compete
with the bourgeois press and its Interesting News from Around the World,
Brummbar [complaints about local issues], Letter Box, Household Chat, Fashion
Templates and such likes. One female Morgenpost reader explained she was
quite satised that there is at least one newspaper which reports as good as
nothing on politics. Although this was not necessarily an accurate account
of the Morgenposts offerings, it reected the widespread consensus that the
entertainment provided by the Ullstein paper was the decisive buying factor.
Women generally did not hold back with their criticism of the Communist
party organ. One Communists wife complained: At least on Sundays I want
to be reading what is happening in the rest of the world, [I] want to read an
entertaining serialized novel on Sunday . . . A lot of wives of your comrades hold
the same opinion like me, and other women even more, naturally. Many a
husband who did not read the Rote Fahne indicated that it was his wife who
decided which newspaper was read. Numerous reports tell of quarrels within
the family about the Communist party organ, with cases of wives cancelling the
subscription to the Rote Fahne and ordering the Berliner Morgenpost instead.
When not subscribing to the Morgenpost themselves, many women shared the
newspaper with a neighbours wife. A common reply of non-Rote Fahne readers
was that I also have a wife and that she would raise hell if I were to cancel the
Motte [Morgenpost] and would subscribe instead to the [Rote] Fahne . . . And
in order . . . to have peace and calm at home I adhere to my wifes wishes in
this regard. One construction worker conrmed this picture of domestic
newspaper struggle: When I am reading the Rote Fahne, my wife keeps nagging
me, or she orders the [Berliner] Volkszeitung for herself. When questioned,
his wife elaborated on her refusal to read the Communist party organ:
The Volkszeitung at least comes twice a day, and then it provides me with more
entertainment. . . . After all, I dont want to be reading about politics all the time, that is
something for men. I want to read something amusing off and on, like a travel report,
what it is like in the Sommerfrische, about winter sports and such things. If one cannot go
there oneself, at least one wants to imagine what is is like.

The Rote Fahne failed to appeal to women just like the KPD failed to appeal to
the female electorate.

28

Press and Politics in the Weimar Republic

The Communist party organ was becoming a victim of the rising consumer
society, and it was not the only paper to suffer this fate. Many complaints
about the Rote Fahne were equally valid for other partisan political newspapers.
Social Democrats, like Communists, were aware that their party papers were
lacking the popular support from which the party beneted at elections. Since
the First World War, the SPD press had been torn between party doctrine
and the recognized need for modernization by opening to a wider audience,
particularly women. Already during the war, SPD papers had experienced a drop
in circulation of about fty per cent, mainly because the families of drafted
soldiers had switched to bourgeois papers. Despite revolution and a change of
political system, socialist newspapers continued to suffer from falling circulation
gures: Social Democratic papers had dropped from 1.8 million before the
war to just 1.1 million in 1925. Like the Communists, Social Democratic
editors struggled with the question why non-political Generalanzeiger kept
outperforming their own newspapers, even in predominantly working-class
areas. One prosaic reason suggested was that these newspapers simply offered
more paper and that readers did not care whether their wrapping paper contained
editorial text or advertisements. This was not entirely facetious: in the absence of
plastic, newsprint was a crucial element in any household and value for money
was not only measured in terms of content.
But content was important, too. The equivalent of the Communist reader
survey in 1924 was the keynote speech by Wilhelm Sollmann, member of
the Reichstag and chief editor of the Rheinische Zeitung, to a conference of
Social Democratic editors in Berlin in January 1926. He, too, turned to the
Berliner Morgenpost to nd out about workers tastes: after all, he reminded
his colleagues, it had a circulation of just under half of that of the total Social
Democratic press. Obviously, Kleine Anzeigen, private advertisements, held
a great appeal to the readership: obituaries, engagement and birth announcements, as well as escaped canaries and the like were more popular than political
editors realized, Sollmann admitted. The weakness of the Social Democratic press, he contended, lay in the excessive coverage of politics at the
expense of local coverage: The overwhelming majority of people get more
excited by local events and interests than by high politics. Regional editors
ought to draw on the political material available from Berlin, and concentrate on the local section of their newspapers. But instead of writing for their
local audiences, regional editors engaged in irrelevant press feuds, Sollmann
claimed:
The political colleague in Constance, in Cologne, in Gorlitz, in Konigsberg, in Flensburg
polemicizes against the Kreuz-Zeitung, against the Deutsche Tages-Zeitung, against the
Berliner Lokal-Anzeiger, and against other papers of which 99 per cent of his readers
have never caught sight, and the editor responsible for local news believes he has to
prove once more in his section the abysmal evilness of the German Nationalists, of the
Volksparteiler and of the Communists by way of erce polemics against their local presses.

The Berlin Press, 191832

29

Let us leave out the political racket from the unpolitical section of our newspaper. We
are polemicizing, we are ranting too much and we are chatting too little.

Newspapers had to cater to a mass audience, especially the female reader, who
mostly decided which paper a family subscribed to. An attractive serialized novel
could raise circulation by several thousand, Sollmann pointed out. However,
the Social Democratic version of entertainment was relatively unattractive; as
Sollmann admitted, the feuilleton in the SPD press was sometimes grotesquely
one-sided and boring. Court-reporting was still decient; the partisan coverage
of political trials, Feme-murders, and secret organizations was tiring in its
repetitiveness. The Social Democratic news agency, the Pressedienst, had
expanded its unpolitical production to include sports, feuilleton, chronologies,
but even here it was still too overtly political. Light entertainment and local
news, with less political newsthis mixture served by the Generalanzeiger suited
the taste of a mass audience, and according to Sollmann the duty of SPD
editors was to accommodate this Massengeschmack while at the same time not
compromising in their party political struggle and education.
Sollmanns suggestions were met with approval, although doubts remained
among his fellow editors that party functionaries would tolerate such an Americanization of the party press. Most papers introduced womens supplements in
the mid-1920s and extended their sports coverage. Illustrations were particularly
important in helping circulation gures to recover from ination lows: photos
and caricatures were introduced in the Vorwarts in 1924; the rst news photo
appeared on 11 August 1927. These journalistic efforts to modernize were
paralleled with developments in the economic management of party papers.
From the mid-1920s onwards, business managers gained an increasingly important role in socialist papers and began to demand overall leadership within the
publishing enterprises. The most signicant reform was the foundation of
the Konzentration AG by the SPD in March 1925 as a central procurement
agency for all party newspapers and a centralized instance of business control.
But while all this modernization led to an increase of about 300,000 readers
up to 1929, party newspapers were constantly losing money. Between 1925
and 1930, the Konzentration paid out credits and subsidies amounting to RM
4.2 million.

N EW S PA PE R F I N A N C E S
In this, Social Democratic papers were sharing the fate of all other political
papers in this period: not one of them was protable. Because of these endemic
nancial difculties, Berlin witnessed the merger and disappearance of many
partisan newspapers after 1918. The reactionary Neue Preuische Kreuz-Zeitung
lost money continuously and was forced to enter an alliance with the agrarian

30

Press and Politics in the Weimar Republic

Deutsche Tageszeitung in 1926. In 1929, when the Kreuz-Zeitung announced


that it was cancelling one of its two daily editions, the paper complained about
the difcult times for a political ghting organ like itself: [The Kreuz-Zeitung]
perceives as an extraordinary threat the fact that in the hunt for ever novel
information which are cajoling the audiences craving for sensations through
blatant luridness, every possibility for the serious reader to form for himself
a consistent image of the events in the world is vanishing. The Deutsche
Tageszeitung was struggling with falling circulation gures, too, and in 1932 the
nationalist veterans organization, the Stahlhelm, agreed to take over the KreuzZeitung and its decits. Other papers folded even before the experience of the
economic slump of 192932: the party organ of the DNVP, the Nationalpost,
went bankrupt in June 1925 and was discontinued. Berlins only volkisch paper,
the Deutsche Tageblatt, ceased publication as a daily in July 1929. Stresemanns
title, the Zeit, founded in 1923, survived only 18 months and was then merged
with the Tagliche Rundschau in June 1925. In fact, the Tagliche Rundschau
was probably the most notable victim of nancial difculties: it was taken over in
1922 by Stinnes and merged with his Deutsche Allgemeine Zeitung. The DVP
then started another Tagliche Rundschau which went bankrupt in June 1928.
In 1930, it was once more revived by the Christlich-Sozialer Volksdienst, a splinter
group of the DNVP, but continued to be such a loss-maker that it was once
more sold in 1932. Even the Nazi Volkischer Beobachter which appeared with
a Berlin edition from March 1930 stopped this publication little more than a
year later because its circulation never rose much above 5,000 copies.
If they were able to survive, such small papers only managed through sustained
subsidies, or minimizing production costs, often by understafng the editorial
ofce. A prestigious paper was expensive to maintain: the Catholic Centre party
organ, Germania, for example, ran up a decit of nearly RM 400,000 in 1930.
The costs of better-equipped papers were much higher still. The editorial ofce
of Mosses Berliner Tageblatt alone cost around RM 3.3 million per year in
1929. Over the next years, its publisher tried to reduce costs radically, but
in 1932 the Mosse concern was on the brink of bankruptcy. The losses
of Ullsteins Vossische Zeitung after 1923 were allegedly running into seven
gures each year; by 1928 the yearly decit was over RM 2 million, and by the
beginning of 1933 it was costing the rm RM 200,000 a month to keep the paper
alive. Newspapers like the Deutsche Allgemeine Zeitung or the only prestigious
non-Berlin paper, the Frankfurter Zeitung, became nancially dependent on
interest groups which wanted to secure industrialist inuence on politics. The
Deutsche Allgemeine Zeitung alone needed subsidies of around RM 4 million
in the period 192931. If not sustained by external subsidies, such costly
newspapers would rely on cross-subsidies from within a big publishing empire.
The publishers of the Vossische Zeitung and the Tag, Ullstein and Hugenberg,
paid for these papers out of the income generated by the Berliner Morgenpost and
the Berliner Lokal-Anzeiger.

The Berlin Press, 191832

31

12,000,000
10,000,000
BLA ads
BLA sales calc.
Tag ads
Tag sales calc.
NA ads
NA sales calc.

8,000,000
6,000,000
4,000,000
2,000,000
1925

1926

1927

1928

1929

1930

1931

1932

Fig. 1.2. Advertising and sales income of Hugenberg papers, 192532 (RM)
Sources: Advertising income from Scherl business reports, BArchK, N1231 Hugenberg, 269, f. 23; 270, ff. 1920;
300, f. 14; 271, f. 13; 273, f. 19; 274, f. 8; 275, f.12. Sales income calculated from circulation gures (same as
Table 1.1).
Abbreviations: BLA = Berliner Lokal-Anzeiger; NA = Nachtausgabe

It is possible to reconstruct the income generated by Hugenbergs three big


newspapers from the surviving annual business reports of the Scherl rm. This
reconstruction (Fig. 1.2) shows the importance of the Berliner Lokal-Anzeiger
within Hugenbergs enterprise: in 1928, for example, the BLA was generating
about RM 20.5 million, more than ve times as much as the Tag. The BLA
advertisements alone were making more money than the Tag in total. But there is
another, even more interesting, trend: the explosive growth of the Nachtausgabe
revenue, from RM 1.3 million in 1925 to RM 7.7 million in 1930. Its share of
the total revenue generated by all three papers grew from ve per cent in 1925
to nearly thirty per cent in 1932. Of course, growing income cannot generally
be equated with growing protability, due to variable costs. For example, an
increase in sales revenue, generated through rising circulation gures, could be
offset by the concurrent increase in production costs, particularly by a rise in
expenditure on paper. But like all dailies with a high circulation, both the
Berliner Lokal-Anzeiger and the Nachtausgabe beneted after October 1925 from
falling paper prices. The annual report for 1928 gives a gross prot of RM
3.2 million for the BLA, constituting more than half of the total gross prot
of the Scherl publishing rm of RM 6 million. A prot-and-loss account for
1931 and 1932 shows that even during the height of recession the Scherl rm
was still making a sizeable gross prot, with RM 3.6 million and RM 2.6 million,
respectively. It also shows that the total of production and retailing costs
for all Scherl publications was lower than the income generated by BLA and
Nachtausgabe alone.

32

Press and Politics in the Weimar Republic

The published business reports of the Ullstein rm contain so little detail


that it is impossible to reconstruct gures for the individual papers. However,
the reports suggest that business developments were generally similar. As one
editor complained, the Ullstein brothers considered the BZ am Mittag more
important than the Vossische Zeitung hardly surprising in view of the nances
as reconstructed for the Scherl concern. There is also some circumstantial
evidence from the Mosse publishing house indicating the importance which
mass tabloids held for publishing business. Unlike Ullstein and Scherl, Mosse
did not publish a tabloid until January 1927, when the publisher LachmannMosse bought the 8-Uhr-Abendblatt from Victor Hahn. The price, about
RM 4 million, was widely considered excessively high. But in fact the 8-UhrAbendblatt carried 50 per cent more advertisement pages in 1927 than did the
Nachtausgabe, sold 80,000 copies for at a subscription price of RM 1 per week,
and will have generated income of over RM 4.5 million in 1927. Compared
to small loss-making political newspapers such as the reactionary Kreuz-Zeitung,
Berlins tabloids were big business in a growing market.
TA B LO I D S
Even more than newspapers of the Generalanzeiger-type, so-called Boulevardzeitungen tabloids, encountered contemptuous disdain among the political class.
They were considered more unpolitical than Generalanzeiger, aimed at titillating
the readership with sensations, pictures of train crashes and other catastrophes,
providing crime reports, sports news, serialized novels, and other entertainment.
Sex was not yet a major issue, though to some contemporary observers the
occasional photo of a new swimming star in her bathing suit, or of lm stars in
light dress proved sufciently upsetting. Hugenberg in particular struggled with
fellow DNVP Protestant puritans who considered his Nachtausgabe an immoral
enterprise aimed at titillating the masses. But Hugenberg was unwilling to
leave this eld to Ullstein and Mosse. The prots of this paper fund the party,
he allegedly replied to such criticism. Hugenberg was also aware that there
was a limit to the reach of his other two papers, Tag and Berliner Lokal-Anzeiger.
Even the latter had a predominantly bourgeois or petit-bourgeois readership.
Already in 1919, the right-wing star columnist Adolf Stein had pointed out
to Hugenberger that [t]hrough our nationalist newspapers we do not reach
the masses who read social democratic or democratic papers. Nachtausgabe,
founded in 1922, was Hugenbergs attempt at wooing a metropolitan, predominantly working-class readership. This was not simply a commercial move, but
one driven by political motives, as Hugenberg defended himself in front of his
nationalist colleagues in April 1930. In all big cities of the world, he explained,
a tabloid relied on a particular layout and compositionit was not meant to be
a traditional Sonntagsblatt: Otherwise these big city folk [Grostadter] simply

The Berlin Press, 191832

33

dont buy it. They buy it because of the sensation which it carriesand they
swallow the politics which is contained in between.
Hugenbergs pragmatic approach to a metropolitan mass audience was
mirrored by that of the Communist Willi Munzenberg, nicknamed the Red
Hugenberg. Munzenbergs position as the KPDs most talented propagandistic manager had been rmly established through his organization of the
Internationale Arbeiter Hilfe (IAH), initiated in 1921 to raise funds to help
combat starvation in Soviet Russia, a consequence of the civil war. The IAH
became a comprehensive propaganda concern with a huge publishing output. As
the owner of Neuer Deutscher Verlag, Munzenberg was independent of dogmatic
party conventions and could tailor his products to appeal to the taste of a
metropolitan readership, as he demonstrated with the Welt am Abend. Founded
in 1922, Welt am Abend was a leftist evening tabloid which had failed to acquire
a larger readership: it had a circulation of 3,000 copies when sold to Munzenberg
in November 1925 for a price of just RM 7,000. Similar to Hugenberg, whose
Nachtausgabe aimed at enlarging the limited audience exposed to nationalist
politics, Munzenberg aimed at reaching many more readers than just Berlins
KPD party members. He professionalized retailing, he hired non-party members
as editors, and successfully avoided being seen as under Moscows thumb.
Already by January 1926 circulation was over 20,000; 80 per cent of the readership were allegedly non-Communists. By 1929, circulation had grown to over
200,000, making Welt am Abend the Communist newspaper with the highest
circulation in Germany.
Not all Communists were equally impressed with this development, and those
responsible for the successful tabloid repeatedly had to convince their colleagues
in the agging party organ, Rote Fahne, that they were not competing for the same
readership. At a Reich conference of Communist editors in Berlin in September
1927, Welt am Abends chief editor, Otto Heller, pointed out that his paper was
not run or branded as a party organ. He emphasized the difference by explaining
how the presentation of the news was tailored to appeal to the petit-bourgeois
attitude of many workers:
Every day we monitor street sales [gures] graphically in a curve. . . . [W]e can then
nd out, which newspapers were of greatest interest. Also whom they interested most,
according to city district and segment of the population. 20 per cent of our headlines,
we openly admit, are absolutely non-serious, but they guarantee our customer pool. 30
per cent are half-serious, 50 per cent are watertight [hieb- und stichfest]. Of course, an
[ofcial] party organ cannot do the same.

Just why such sensationalism had to be untenable for a party organ remained
unclear. No one reading Welt am Abend in the late 1920s and early 1930s
was left in any doubt that this paper was a staunch supporter of Communism,
and its mass reach was considerably greater than that of Rote Fahne. In any
case, the Communists were deluding themselves about the relationship between

34

Press and Politics in the Weimar Republic

Rote Fahne and Welt am Abend. By 1930, the party organ had lost over half
its readership and sold only around 18,000 copiesnot even a tenth of the
circulation of Munzenbergs Welt am Abend. Even KPD party members did
not always choose to buy Rote Fahne if they could have Welt am Abend, as the
party publishing house complained to Berlins Communist district leadership.
By 1928, all tabloids were composed more or less the same way: ten to sixteen
pages in total, about two pages on politics, three with local news, three to four
with serialized novels and articles on lm, theatre, and other cultural events, up to
three pages on sports, two with business and stock market news, the rest carrying
advertisements. Every edition was interspersed with many photos, drawings, and
some caricatures. They all had a strong emphasis on entertainment, as evident
in the space devoted to serialized novels, which would often amount to more
than a page. Welt am Abend would offer Jack the Ripper: Revelations on the life
of the notorious sex murderer, Hugenbergs Nachtausgabe Nelly is dissapointed
by men! Novel of a brunette girl. Sales gures indicate that this was what
Berliners liked to read: both the Nachtausgabe and the Welt am Abend more than
doubled between December 1927 and December 1928, to about 151,000 and
174,000 copies, respectively.
Party newspapers generally were on the decline, one journalist declared in
1928:
The working population of Berlin is reading the lively and well-edited papers whether they
are produced by the publishing houses Mosse, Ullstein, Hugenberg or Munzenberg; they
dont generally bother about the party tendency . . . The working population . . . wants
a quick and precise news service, wants pictures and demands a certain tickle. It
does not want to be lectured, but to be informed, and to be slightly sensationalized [sich leicht ansensationalisieren lassen]. That explains the smashing success of the
Boulevardblatter . . .

However, other commentators doubted the claim that tabloid readers did not
generally distinguish between the various political backgrounds on offer.
According to the editors of Welt am Abend, for example, their readership
overlapped with that of the BZ am Mittag, Vorwarts, Berliner Morgenpost,
and 8-Uhr-Abendblatt. In this group of liberal and left-wing publications,
Hugenbergs right-wing Nachtausgabe did not feature. The Communist reader
survey of 1924 corroborates this assessment: from over sixty mainly workingclass newspaper readers, only two referred to a Hugenberg paper, while all others
preferred liberal Ullstein or Mosse papers. Apparently, Hugenbergs papers
were too openly anti-socialist to be palatable to a working-class readership with
strong socialist dispositions.
For traditional political papers, the increasing loss of market shares to tabloids
meant that they had to adapt to the new style of metropolitan journalism in
order to consolidate their existing readership. Eye-catching headlines, photos,
and caricatures became increasingly common after 1925. Shortly before the

The Berlin Press, 191832

35

Reichstag elections in 1928, the SPD attempted to jump on the tabloidbandwagon and turned the evening edition of its party organ, Vorwarts, into a
tabloid-style paper, called Der Abend. Some critics made fun of the attempted
modernization. Despite the new facade, one Weltbuhne journalist scoffed, on
the inside it is the same old Mief . Others, particularly on the political right,
exaggerated the extent of sensationalization of the Social Democratic paper.
As a sensationalist paper, Abend can easily compete with the worst products
of sensation-journalism, the agrarian Deutsche Tageszeitung proclaimed. The
truth lay somewhere inbetween: Abends lack of sensationalist coverage of nonpolitical crime, accidents, and catastrophes betrayed its origin as party organ; on
the other hand, it clearly represented a considerable sensationalization of politics.
And this sensationalism was not simply a question of style and packaging, but
also had the potential of inuencing the course of political events.
In fact, the rising awareness of consumer demands on the side of newspapermen
did not result in a depoliticization of content. Even tabloids, with their apparently
unpolitical packaging of news, were anything but unpolitical. Like the political
papers, they would serve political news according to a particular Weltanschauung,
and openly support a particular grouping on election days. As the editor of
Hugenbergs Tag pointed out in 1928, tabloids held a particular function
in the political Meinungskampf (struggle of opinions) because when making
political points in decisive questions they would excel with glaring propaganda.
However, the degree of politicization of tabloids would vary greatly. Ullsteins
BZ am Mittag retained a relatively neutral stance with its focus on sports for
most of the 1920s, and became more radically pro-democratic only with the
appointment of Franz Hollering as chief editor in 1929, whom the Ullsteins had
poached from Munzenbergs successful Arbeiter-Illustrierte-Zeitung. Ullsteins
other tabloid, Tempo, was similarly conceived primarily as a business enterprise.
It was Ullsteins reply to Mosses acquisition of the 8-Uhr-Abendblatt, and their
decision to enter into competition with the other two late-afternoon tabloids,
Munzenbergs Welt am Abend and Hugenbergs Nachtausgabe. Tempo was the
most radical proponent of American-style tabloid journalism, with an emphasis
on the latest news, up to three revised editions in one afternoon, and an
abundance of sensations and catastrophes outdoing everything Berlin had read
so far. During the rst months of its existence, Tempo lacked almost any
political coverage, and soon became the epitome of the Americanization of the
press, decried as asphalt ower and Jewish urry.
Goebbelss Angriff, in contrast, existed exlusively for political purposes. Founded in July 1927 in response to a ban of the NSDAP in Berlin, the paper was not
aimed at appealing to what Goebbels described as the educated public: Angriff
was meant to be read by the masses, and the masses usually only read that
which they understand. After the electoral breakthrough in September 1930,
the Angriff became a daily on 1 November 1930. On this occasion, Goebbels
explained the papers programme: We penetrated . . . the wall of icy boycott

36

Press and Politics in the Weimar Republic

erected around us. We shouted and ran riot, we fought with foil and heavy
sabre, we shot with recrackers and poisoned arrows, and so we slowly made our
way up . . . One had to hear us. Sensationalism was a crucial ingredient in
this strategy. Berlin needs its sensations like a sh needs water. The city thrives
on it, and all political propaganda which fails to recognize this will miss its
aim, Goebbels described his political style. But Angriff struggled to reach the
standard set by the tabloids of the big publishing houses. There was no choice
but to market the inability of Angriff to compete in terms of news provision as a
distinct strength of the paper. As a novel type of ghting newspaper, Goebbels
explained in 1932, Angriff was not in the business of providing information but
political motivation.
There were many similarities between Angriff and the rest of the Berlin press.
From early on, Angriff had to offer at least to some extent content which Berlin
newspaper readers had come to expect from their papers, like theatre, lm, radio
and book reviews, a womens and a youths supplement, and the like. Its layout,
in particular, owed everything to the tabloid press. In its early years, Angriff
could not afford photo reproductions, and the bulk of its images was provided
by a caricaturist from Hugenbergs tabloid, Nachtausgabe, Hans Schweitzer. For
almost ve years, Hans Schweitzer provided both tabloids with caricatures.
Under his Nazi nom-de-plume Mjolnir, Schweitzer was to become the National
Socialists most important caricaturist, illustrator, and visual propagandist, hailed
after 1933 as the Third Reichs graphic artist. Schweitzers Angriff ideal types
of tall, blond, male Aryans, aggressive and determined, with jutting jaw lines and
muscular bodies, were more openly propagandistic and his caricatures generally
more anti-Semitic than most of the drawings he produced for Nachtausgabe; still,
the fact that Schweitzer published anti-republican caricatures on a daily basis
for Hugenbergs tabloid demonstrates the degree of politicization of the tabloid
press in this period. Less than a decade after the demise of the Weimar Republic,
this fact was still widely appreciated. All tabloids prior to 1933, a German
doctoral thesis from 1941 emphasized, were more or less party political-oriented
newspapers. Goebbels certainly felt that Berlins tabloids with their mass
circulation were a major political challenge. Attacks on the Jewish press became
a trademark of Angriff, and in a regular column devoted to Berlins press (Around
the rotary machine) mass papers and tabloids became his main targets. This
was not just because these were the papers Angriff readers were most likely to
encounter, but also because tabloids such as Welt am Abend, 12-Uhr-Blatt, and
especially Mosses 8-Uhr-Abendblatt were at the forefront in writing against the
National Socialists.
In fact, Angriff engaged excessively in the inter-paper warfare which was so
typical of the established political papers. Its style was cruder, more aggressive,
and distinctly anti-Semitic, but other than that not dissimilar in nature to other
openly anti-democratic papers in Berlin. Like the more serious papers, Angriff
would offer many quotations from classic German literature to embellish its

The Berlin Press, 191832

37

articles. What distinguished Angriff from othermore traditionalpapers


of the extreme right was Goebbelss skill in combining human-interest stories
with sensationalist politics. This was also obvious in his campaign against
Berlins deputy police president, Bernhard Weiss. Continuing in the tradition
of Hugenbergs press campaigns against Erzberger and Stresemann, Goebbels
brought tabloid methods to politics by chosing a local representative of the
democratic system as a target, in line with the Angriff s strong emphasis on
Berlin affairs.
The fact that there was an abundance of partisan tabloid papers in Berlin
also shaped the content of those tabloids, which had originally been intended
as exlusively commercial enterprises. Ullsteins Tempo is a good case in point.
In contrast to other Ullstein publications, Tempo was not an instant success.
Introduced in 1928 at 100,000 copies daily, it had grown a mere 14,000 by
September 1929. Within two more months, however, circulation had surpassed
140,000. There is no direct evidence which would explain this increase, but there
is good reason to believe it was Tempos role in the course of the so-called Sklarek
scandal in October-November 1929, an affair involving several high-ranking local
government ofcials, including Berlins mayor Gustav Boss. Tempo established
itself as one of the most vociferous prosecutors, and attracted a lot of attention
by its sensationalist exposure of local corruption. Very different from its previous
policy of almost abstaining from political coverage, and contrary to Ullsteins long
tradition of supporting the democratic cause, the Tempo now joined Hugenbergs
Nachtausgabe and Munzenbergs Welt am Abend in attacking Berlins political
leadership. Although the emphasis lay on sensationalist revelations and was not
driven by an anti-democratic Weltanschauung, effectively the Tempo contributed
to the growing number of voices denigrating the democratic system.
Whether this was a conscious business decision is difcult to establish. But it is
a fact that from 1925 anti-democratic tabloids were beneting from better growth
rates than were those supporting the parliamentary system. Unlike the political
papers, where Ullsteins Vossische Zeitung was outperforming Hugenbergs Tag,
democratic tabloids like Ullsteins BZ am Mittag, Mosses 8-Uhr-Abendblatt, or
the 12-Uhr-Blatt were struggling to keep up the circulation they had reached in
the early 1920s, and never came close to the growth displayed by Hugenbergs
Nachtausgabe or Munzenbergs Welt am Abend after 1925. We know from the
Communist readers survey of 1924 that a paper was not just bought for its
political conviction, shared by the reader, but for the entertainment it provided.
Also, a lot of circulation growth was clearly driven by non-political factors: part of
the Nachtausgabes increase in circulation was the result of well-advertised prize
draws in 1928 and 1929, the latter with a mass-participation of some 316,000
Berliners. Circulation subsequently more than doubled between May 1928
and December 1929. But at the same time neither the 8-Uhr-Abendblatt nor
the BZ am Mittag managed to grow decisively, despite being staffed with highquality journalists and beneting from the resources of the Mosse and Ullstein

38

Press and Politics in the Weimar Republic

publishing houses. They, too, organized their own prize draws and provided
a similar amount of illustrations, caricatures, and entertainment, without the
success of their anti-system opponents.
P R E S S S U P P O RT A N D E L E C TO R A L B E H AV I O U R
This phenomenon is signicant because tabloids depended much more on street
sales, rather than on subscriptions like all other German papers. As distinct from
a monthly subscription to a Generalanzeiger, the potential reader had to make a
daily decision about which of the tabloids on offer he would buy. Because of this
form of retailing, Berlins tabloids were more sensitive to popular sentiments than
were other papers. It is, therefore, interesting that from 1925 to 192930 those
tabloids championing anti-system politics fared best. Thus, we are back to the
question of the interrelation between newspapers and electoral behaviour. Any
analysis of this phenomenon will encounter a problem well known in the area of
media studies, that of media reception: did these papers fare better because they
met the preferences of one part of the Berlin public with a strong anti-democratic
disposition? Or did these papers sell well and thereby inuence readers with the
propagation of anti-system opinions? Of course, the two explanations are not
mutually exclusive. But in Berlin the rise of anti-system tabloids coincides with
a change in political climate: there is a strong correlation between the rise in
circulation of Berlin tabloids opposing parliamentary democracy and the degree
of electoral hostility to the Weimar Republic, as expressed by votes for the
KPD, NSDAP, and DNVP between 1925 and 1930. Admittedly, hostility to
democracy increased elsewhere, too, in places which had never seen tabloids. But
as a detailed electoral analysis of Berlin has shown, the radicalization of Berlin
voters was constantly above the Reich average, and, with one exception, always
surpassed that of other major cities in Germany.
Most accounts of the Berlin press have so far struggled to establish a connection
between newspapers and electoral behaviour. This is a result largely of the
dichotomy between the apparent strength of Ullsteins and Mosses newspapers
until 1932, and the diminishing electoral support for the democratic values
they represented. One historian engaging with circulation trends of Berlin
newspapers has claimed there is no clear interrelation between the political
preferences of the readership on the one hand, and circulation developments of
the various politically clearly dened papers on the other. Of course, it would
be oversimplifying the complex nature of the Berlin newspaper market, on the
one hand, and the interaction between paper and reader, on the other, if one
were to seek an unambiguous correlation between number of newspaper copies
and votes cast at an election. But it would be wrong to conclude from these
complexities that press support had no effect on electoral behaviour. One of the
reasons why traditional studies have failed to nd any apparent link between

The Berlin Press, 191832

39

press support and electoral behaviour is the ignorance conventional studies have
displayed towards mass papers. Almost all historians have so far adapted the
dismissive view of mass and tabloid papers held by many contemporaries, and
therefore ignored the enormous popularity of these papers in the second half of
the Weimar Republic. Analyses of newspapers of the 1920s have almost always
skimmed over the question of circulation, and concentrated on a sample of
representative papers, mostly elite political papers, with a total circulation of
less than the Berliner Morgenpost. These could not really have much of a mass
impactfor that, one must look at the mass papers.
When one includes the mass papers in an analysis of the voting behaviour
of Berliners between 1924 and 1930, there are numerous indications of the
crucial role of the mass print media in Berlins political culture. One case in
point is the performance of the KPD in Berlin. In the Reichstag elections of
May 1928, the Communists received 10.6 per cent of all votes cast in the Reich,
an increase of 1.6 per cent in real gures, or a growth of nearly 18 per cent
over its result in December 1924. Winkler names the greater mobilization of
core voters as one reason for the success of the KPD. This factor, however,
does not sufce to explain the phenomenal success of the KPD in Berlin. Here
the Communists increased their share of the votes by over 50 per cent, almost
triple the average growth in the Reich. This radicalization was not simply driven
by the economic or social composition of the electorate: in Braunschweig, the
constituency with the highest share of workers, the KPD even lost votes in
1928. There is good reason to believe that the performance of the KPD in
Berlin was boosted by the successful Welt am Abend, which helped to mobilize
voters: driven by this tabloid, the market share of the Communist press in
Berlin had more than quadrupled, from 2.3 per cent in 1925 to 9.6 per cent
in 1928.
The success of the Munzenberg papers in Berlin helps to explain the lack of
success of the Social Democratic Vorwarts, as well as the relative lack of electoral
success of the SPD in Berlin. Admittedly, the results of the SPD in Berlin were
better than the SPD average in the Reich, but that was mainly due to the social
composition of the Berlin electorate with its high share of working-class voters. In
February 1928, prior to the Reichstag elections in May, the SPD tried to improve
its popular appeal by launching its own tabloid, which they did by transforming
the evening edition of Vorwarts into the tabloid-style Abend. However, the Abend
did not become a real tabloid separate from the party organ, but remained the
evening edition of Vorwarts, just with more illustrations, which readers received
as part of their Vorwarts-subscription. The market share of the Social Democratic
press decreased between 1925 and 1928 from about 5 per cent to 3.7 per cent,
and this relative lack of success is mirrored by the Social Democratic electoral
performance. While on Reich average the SPD increased its share of votes from
26 per cent to 29.8 per cent, a relative increase of 14.6 per cent, the Berlin SPD
grew by only 8.6 per cent.

40

Press and Politics in the Weimar Republic

For the DNVP, too, press support proved important in garnering electoral
votes in Berlin. Although not every Hugenberg paper that was sold translated
into a vote cast for the DNVP, the strength of the Scherl press concern in
Berlin helped to slow down the general decline of the deutschnational party.
Throughout this period, the DNVP in Berlin outperformed the average Reich
results. At the Reichstag elections in May 1928, for example, the DNVP was
punished by the electorate, like all other government parties, for its participation
in government. In Berlin, however, the DNVP lost only 26 per cent of the
share it had gained in December 1924, as opposed to 31 per cent on average
in the Reich. Two years later, the difference was much more remarkable: in the
Reich the DNVP literally collapsed, from 14.2 per cent in 1928 to 7 per cent
at the September 1930 Reichstag elections, a loss of over 50 per cent. In Berlin,
however, Hugenbergs party managed to retain 73 per cent of its 1928 result.
It is in between these two Reichstag elections that the Nachtausgabe doubled
in circulation, from 100,000 copies in May 1928 to 210,000 in April 1930,
rallying to the DNVPs support. Without Hugenbergs papers, the DNVP
would probably have fared much worse in Berlin. But this was probably little
consolation to Hugenberg: already by May 1928, more Hugenberg papers were
bought each day than votes cast for the DNVP at the Reichstag election. In
September 1930, total circulation of the three Hugenberg papers stood at around
485,000, while only 352,000 Berliners voted for the DNVP: either Hugenbergs
political message was wasted on some of his readers or they interpreted it more
freely than the press magnate had intended.
Still, there is some strong evidence that Hugenbergs papers had a decisive
electoral impact. Prior to the electoral defeat in May 1928, Hugenberg had not
been able not position his papers against a political system in which his own
party formed part of the government. After becoming chairman of the DNVP
in autumn 1928, he steered the party back on to a course of fundamental
opposition to democracy, a message his papers relentlessly proclaimed over the
next years. Some gures indicate that the electorate took up the message, but
at election times chose from a variety of anti-system parties. This is where the
Nazis come in. The NSDAP achieved its rst signicant breakthrough at the
city council elections in 1929 in those city districts with a population composed
predominantly of the lower middle-classes and better-off workers; in 1930 its
growth rates were greatest in workers districts. These were the most important
target groups for tabloids, too, not least of Goebbelss Angriff. There is good
reason to believe that the combined onslaught of anti-democratic newspapers
convinced Berliners to vote for either of the two nationalist anti-democratic
parties.
In 1928, the combined total of Hugenbergs three titles, plus the two explicitly
DNVP papers, the Kreuz-Zeitung and the Deutsche Zeitung, plus Goebbelss
Angriff, stood at around 480,000 copies daily, while the NSDAP and the
DNVP received a total of 478,000 votes in Berlin at the Reichstag election

The Berlin Press, 191832

41

in May. At the time of the city council election in November 1929, when
NSDAP and DNVP garnered almost 537,000 votes, the combined total of
the same papers had reached 540,000. With Stresemanns death in October
1929 an increasing number of bourgeoisnationalist papers joined the chorus
of anti-democratic voices, like the Deutsche Allgemeine Zeitung, the Deutsche
Tageszeitung, and the Berliner Borsen-Zeitung, which led to a total circulation of
over 660,000 rightist anti-system copies in 1930, and 748,000 votes for DNVP
and NSDAP at the Reichstag election in September 1930. Not least due to
Hugenbergs Nachtausgabe, Goebbelss Angriff did not become the commercial
success Amann had jealously expected in November 1929. But there is some
evidence that supports contemporaries conviction that the NSDAP was reaping
the fruits of Hugenbergs labours at election times.
But how does one explain the apparent might of the liberal Mosse and Ullstein
houses and the abject decline in political fortunes of the DDP which they
supported? Partly it was a consequence of the rather vague political message
of Ullsteins mass papers. Although generally well disposed towards the leftliberal DDP, Ullsteins most popular newspaper, the Berliner Morgenpost, was
not very explicit in its support. According to one Ullstein editor, the paper
was slightly coloured pink (the colour associated with the DDP), but in most
respects the political guideline was simply: consumers viewpoint. Ullsteins
strength was the provision of relatively balanced news, light reading, and lots
of entertainment. Apart from Vossische Zeitung, Berliner Tageblatt, and Berliner
Volks-Zeitung, for most of this period Ullsteins and Mosses mass papers avoided
overtly partisan policies and championed a left-of-centre tendency to appeal
to a mass readership from various political backgrounds. Many of the leading
Berliner Morgenpost editors were, in fact, members of the SPD but without the
propagandistic zeal of their counterparts at Vorwarts. This policy of moderation
was commercially successful but politically fateful: as the Communists readers
survey shows, workers would read Ullsteins Berliner Morgenpost or Mosses
Berliner Volkszeitung and then still vote for the KPD, or the SPD, as did many
workers wives, for whom the KPD held less appeal. The overlap between
democratic, socialist, and Communist readers and voters becomes apparent when
adding up Ullsteins, Mosses, and the Communist papers for 1928 and 1930,
and comparing them to votes cast for the DDP/Staatspartei, the SPD, and
the KPD: 1.65 million copies in 1928 and 1.9 million in 1930 contained the
electoral potential of 1.6 million voters in 1928 and 1930.
Even if this is just a very rough approximation of reader movements and
electoral behaviour, the gures suggest that the effects of some vague, prodemocratic writing were less distinct than the consonance caused by a barrage
of overtly negative political coverage denigrating parliamentary democracy. This
conclusion relies so far on numeric evidence, but it concurs with numerous
ndings in the area of media studies which have emphasized the greater impact
of negative news on media consumers. The fact that we have a correlating

42

Press and Politics in the Weimar Republic

development of anti-democratic mass papers and increasing hostility to the


parliamentary system shows there is some signicant interaction between mass
media and political sentiment in the population, a point already hypothetically
made by those historians engaging in Weimar election analyses. Of course,
one cannot simply go from correlation to causation. But the evidence, once
one considers the full ecology of the Berlin press, is suggestive of a far stronger
connection between mass papers political message and electoral behaviour than
has hitherto been realized.
C O N C LU S I O N
Accelerating modernization and increasing politicization were the two dening
characteristics of the German pressand specically the Berlin pressduring
the existence of the Weimar Republic. The 1920s information society in Berlin
was characterized, on the one hand, by an unprecedented wealth of newspaper
formats and content, and, on the other, by the existence of different, sometimes
overlapping (reading) publics, partly formed by milieu and political afliation,
partly by which newspapers the consumer decided to buy. The fact that the
rise of mass and tabloid papers did not result in a depolicization of content was
caused by the Weltanschauungs-basis of German journalism. Editors of SPD,
KPD, or NSDAP newspapers were primarily political agitators. Their bourgeois
counterparts conceived of themselves as political actors, too. Often, they were
also submitted to not very subtle pressures from their publishers: in 1927, a
survey of employment contracts of editors throughout Germany showed that
about half of these contracts stipulated the political line which they were meant
to be toeing. In particular the high-prole political papers in Berlin were
seen as instruments in the political struggle rather than serving as media for
information. Because of the strongly politicized nature of German newspapers
and the subsequent fragmentation of news networks, contemporaries often had
to read more than one paper if they were interested in a broader view of daily
issues.
At the same time, the trend towards a mass public put fundamental strains
on the traditional concept of political newspapers. Only those papers which
were part of big publishing houses with sufcient resources and an elaborate
retail system stood a chance of surviving. Many political papers lacked this
support and were becoming the victims of the rise of the consumer society:
smaller papers, like the ultra-conservative Kreuz-Zeitung, or even the main Social
Democratic paper, Vorwarts, lacked resources, especially personnel. Thus, the
mixture of limited human resources and the partisan spirit ring the majority of
political journalists in this period resulted in a distinctly aggressive press, where
editors often relied on syndicated texts or other journalists writings which they
then spiced up with headlines, introductions, and comments. However, in an

The Berlin Press, 191832

43

increasingly competitive environment, dry, moralizing politics just did not sell.
Most political papers were caught in a vicious circle: with a low circulation they
could not attract enough advertisers and thus could not introduce lower cover
prices, with which they could have increased circulation to make advertisements
more attractive. Moreover, because political papers mostly ignored local news and
were, therefore, lacking in appeal to the local community, small local businesses
refrained from placing advertisements in them. The lack of a sound nancial
basis meant that political papers were mostly unable to compete with the big
papers. They could not afford modern printing technology and thus could not
exploit some of the most important copy-selling features of the 1920spictures
and photographson any signicant scale. Most importantly, their focus on
politics prevented them from embracing the provision of entertainment as a
crucial element in newspaper publishing. Already limited in their reach, political
newspapers mostly declined in circulation and were becoming signicant nancial
liabilities to their proprietors.
The alternative to old-fashioned political papers in Berlin were mass tabloids.
Their growth in the second half of the 1920s was the most signicant innovation
within the German press in this period. The sensationalist presentation and the
packaging of news with entertainment were exceedingly popular. The emphasis
moved away from politics, but tabloids were not unpolitical. On the contrary,
they sold politics in a distinctly modern style: in smaller, more concise, portions,
illustrated, and populist. The modern format did not preclude radically partisan
political coverage, as Hugenbergs Nachtausgabe, Munzenbergs Welt am Abend,
and Goebbelss Angriff all demonstrated. But most political decision-makers
were slow to discover the public impact of these papers, and therefore tended
to focus their attention on the elite political press. This attitude was most
markedly reected in the utilitarian approach to these more traditional papers:
throughout this period, parties, pressure groups, and governments all considered
control over at least some newspapers as important for pursuing their interests.
Ironically, the only papers such groups could afford to acquire were the lossmaking, old-fashioned, and increasingly unpopular elite political papers, which
they themselves read.
The fate of the Deutsche Allgemeine Zeitung was a manifestation of this belief
in the political power of the classical press: Stinnes purchased it in 1920 to
secure industrialist inuence; after his death it was secretly bought up by the
Prussian government in 1925; less than a year later it was taken over by the
Reich government on Stresemanns initiative, before being sold again when
the affair came to light. None of the owners achieved any noticeable advantage
in approaching political aims through the support of the DAZ ; in the case of
Stinnes it quite often worked as an impediment. The DAZ is thus not only a
prime example for the utilitarian approach of contemporaries to the press, but
also for the mismatch between the contemporary perception of the power of
the press and the limited direct inuence newspapers actually wielded. In the

44

Press and Politics in the Weimar Republic

case of the reactionary Kreuz-Zeitung, the perceived importance of the paper as


expressed in the continuous reactions to itespecially by Vorwarts stood in
stark contrast to both its actual circulation gures and the little headway made in
this period by the politics it championed. In a similar vein, political opponents
of the Communists tended to overestimate the Rote Fahne as an inuence on
Communist workers.
The question of the political signicance of Berlins newspapers has many
facets. Most contemporaries underestimated the political impact that mass
papers had, while overestimating traditional political papers. The Welt am
Abend boosted KPD support, and the DNVP was one of the parties beneting
from the anti-parliamentary stance of the Nachtausgabe and the Berliner LokalAnzeiger. The absence of a Social Democratic mass tabloid proved an important
electoral disadvantage to the SPD in Berlin: Social Democrats generally failed
to augment their appeal to younger voters. The correlating development of
anti-democratic mass papers and increasing hostility to the parliamentary system
contradicts those historians who claim there was no clear interrelation between
circulation developments and political preferences of the readership. But, then,
the electoral impact of newspapers is only one facet of the political inuence
of the press in this period. As will become clear in the following chapters, a
newspaper did not need to have a large circulation to have a political impact: the
agenda-setting role of newspapers like the Kreuz-Zeitung could have signicant
repercussions for the political climate in the Weimar Republic. Media coverage
of individual politicians, and the publicity that came with itwhether negative
or positivedecisively inuenced individuals room for political manuvre.

2
Media Personalities, 191824
The German believes what his paper tells him. Men to whom much space
is devoted are to him great men.
Georg Bernhard, The German Press, in Der Verlag Ullstein zum
Welt-Reklame-Kongress 1929 (Berlin, 1929), 59.

On 9 November 1918, Reich Chancellor Prince Max von Baden decided to


force events and, without consulting Wilhelm II, announced that the Kaiser
had abdicated. Fifteen minutes later, newsboys of the Ullstein publishing house
roamed the streets of Berlin, selling copies of BZ am Mittag announcing the
sensational news. It was a scoop in which the publishers were to take pride
for decades to come. But not only did the abdication of Wilhelm II strip the
German media of their most popular political celebrity, it also changed decisively
the nature of the relationship between press and politics in Germany. The
demise of constitutional monarchy meant that there was no longer a universally
acknowledged authority, a grand narrative of legitimate power, within which
journalists could position their articles. Of course, the oppositional press in the
Wilhelmine era had played an increasingly important role in critizing various
aspects of the political system, at the level of Reich government as well as in
the locality. But even in the most extreme cases, and despite the occasional
abundance of vituperative polemics, politicians and journalists hardly ever
questioned the overall legitimacy of constitutional monarchy. As is well known,
even the Social Democrat Friedrich Ebert, who later became the rst president of
the Weimar Republic, tried until the early days of November 1918 to safeguard
the monarchy as an element of political order and authority. Despite all the
continuities between the Wilhelmine period and the Weimar Republic which
historians have rightly emphasized in the past, in one respect the revolution
of 1918 signied a crucial break: there existed no longer a consensus on what
constituted legitimate power.
The resulting struggle for interpretive predominance was to plague the young
democracy throughout its existence. It was a struggle in which the German press
played a key role. Journalists promoted a wide range of particularist readings of
parliamentary democracy through the articles which they produced and through
the selection of news which they relayed to their readers. And what these readers

46

Press and Politics in the Weimar Republic

encountered was often not likely to endear democracy to them. But Weimar
democracy did not just have a bad press, reecting the partisan nature of German
politics. Right from the beginning of the Weimar Republic, partisan press
coverage itself inuenced the course of political events and determined the nature
of German politics. This was nowhere more obvious than in the case of certain
political personalities. As newspapers constituted the only source of information
about politics for the vast majority of Germans at this time, the press was able
to create public images of politicians that were primarily a product of any given
papers Weltanschauung, their politial agenda. This in turn constrainedor
enlargedthe range of political options open to decision-makers. The following
chapter tells the story of the revolutionary establishment of the new democracy
through the media, by investigating the right-wing hate-campaign against one
prominent member of the new regime, Matthias Erzberger, and the rise to
stardom of a political fringe gure, Adolf Hitler.
T H E PE R S O N I F I C AT I O N O F D E F E AT
In early November 1918, the imperial cabinet under Prince Max von Baden
appointed the Catholic Centre politician Matthias Erzberger to travel to France
to negotiate an armistice deal with the Allies. It was clear that this was going to
be a thankless task. While revolution was breaking out in Germany, Erzberger
tried in vain to secure any signicant improvements in Entente conditions. On
11 November, after three days of frustrating talks with the French commanderin-chief, Marshal Foch, Erzberger signed the armistice. After more than four
years of bitter ghting, the guns nally fell silent on the Western Front. One
might imagine that this would have been a big media event. Instead, in the
tradition of nineteenth-century-style secret diplomacy and military censorship,
the signing took place in a railway carriage in the middle of the isolated forest
of Compi`egne, some eighty kilometres north of Paris. In Germany, the signing
of the armistice received relatively little attention in the general excitement of
the emperors abdication, the declaration of the republic, and the turmoil of
political revolution. Press reports on the signing were short and factual, rarely
mentioned Erzberger, and mostly focused on the harsh armistice terms imposed
by the Entente powers. Even in right-wing newspapers there was no indication
that Erzberger would soon be pilloried as the man responsible for Germanys
misery.
In December 1918, during the negotiations about the rst prolongation of the
armistice, journalists emphasized their indignation about the very severe armistice
terms, but did not blame Erzberger personally. It was only in mid-January
1919, after Erzberger had negotiated the second prolongation of the armistice
resulting in even harsher terms, that the nature of newspaper coverage changed
completely, particularly in the right-wing press. Headlines now proclaimed the

Media Personalities, 191824

47

rape of Germany. Allied demands were labelled unjust, humiliating, and


degrading, and Erzberger was heavily criticized for accepting them. According
to many nationalist journalists, a more forceful negotiator could have achieved
much more. Why not say no! ran one headline, summing up the criticism.
Within days, Erzberger was widely perceived to have betrayed vital German
interests. In a rally conducted by patriotic associations in Berlin in late January
1919, one speakers attack on Entente demands for extradition of German war
heroes met with stormy cries of Down with Erzberger!
This sudden concentration of right-wing criticism on Erzberger had several
reasons. Prior to mid-January 1919, the hate gures of the national right were the
Communist leaders, Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg. Their revolutionary
radicalism terried the German bourgeoisie. On the pages of the conservative
press, and in the eyes of many nationalists, the Spartacus uprising in Berlin
in early January 1919 seemed to prove the very real threat of a Russian-style
revolution ending in total anarchy. The press singled out Liebknecht and
Luxemburg as the chief agitators in this process. In fact, the uprising had been
the result of grass-roots activism surprising an unprepared KPD leadership, which
struggled in vain throughout the crisis to regain control of developments. But
through the personalization in the press, the perceived threat emanating from
the KPD was concentrated in the gures of the two Communist leaders. Hence,
when the Social Democratic government called in right-wing army troops to
quell the uprising, nationalist ofcers did not hesitate to arrest and then shoot
Luxemburg and Liebknecht. The sensational news of their murder caught
the attention of all newspaper readers. According to one editor, the streets of
Berlin saw scenes of joyful excitement. The public preoccupation with this news
was such that no one seemed to care about the aggravation of the armistice
conditions.
With the deaths of Liebknecht and Luxemburg, the way was now clear for
nationalist editors to focus on an old opponent. During the war, Erzberger
had been the driving force behind the Reichstags peace resolution of July
1917, and as such he had been vilied by the annexionists, who accused him
of breaking the German will to victory. At the head of the assailants then
stood the chief editor of the nationalist Tagliche Rundschau, Friedrich Hussong,
who published a pamphlet in September 1917 in which he embellished an
acount of Erzbergers transformation from former annexationist to father of the
peace resolution, with accusations that he was a British and Vatican agent, a
draft dodger, and a war proteer. All this became suddenly relevant again
because of the general elections to the National Assembly, held on 19 January
1919. The Social Democrats gained 35 per cent of the vote, which meant
that they needed to enter a coalition government with two bourgeois parties,
the Liberal Democrats and the Catholic Centre party. This combination of
forces was identical to that which had seen through the peace resolution in July
1917. The architect of the peace resolution, Erzberger, was now a key gure

48

Press and Politics in the Weimar Republic

within the new governing coalition, and described as the bond between Centre
and Social Democrats. According to the Centre party organ, Germania, the
proliferation of right-wing attacks on Erzberger in 1919 had one objective:
to discredit the Centre party and thus to lure conservative Catholics into the
nationalist fold.
But there was more to the right-wing attacks on Erzberger than just party
political strategy. At the heart of the campaign was the issue of responsibility
for the German defeat, and the legitimation of the post-revolutionary political
system. In November 1918, even die-hard monarchists had little choice but
to accept the new situation. Within weeks, however, the nationalist Right
came to identify the revolution as the decisive factor in weakening Germanys
position towards its enemies. Military collapse, they argued, would not have
occurred without domestic forces undermining German ghting morale. Rightwing newspapers played a crucial role in the construction of this argument.
They provided a rst draft of history, an attractive narrative of military heroism,
supported by an eclectic range of detailed evidence. The image of an undefeated
military front stabbed in the back by civilian forcesallegedly the statement
of a British generalwas a journalistic invention rst published in Germany in
mid-December 1918 by the nationalist Deutsche Tageszeitung. One year later,
this right-wing press narrative served as blueprint for Hindenburgs infamous
statement about the alleged backstab to the National Assemblys investigation
committee researching the causes of the German defeat.
By early February 1919, press criticism of Erzbergers armistice negotiations
concentrated on the fact that he had agreed to specic Entente conditionslike
the handing over of the German merchant eetwithout consulting relevant
experts. Even left-wing democratic observers became increasingly sceptical about
Erzbergers suitability as Germanys chief negotiator. Flagships of the liberal
press, like the Frankfurter Zeitung and Ullsteins Vossische Zeitung, declared him
unt for the task. In the debate on the armistice conditions in the National
Assembly in Weimar in mid-February, the spokesman of the German Nationalist
Party referred explicitly to these press attacks to strengthen his own case against
Erzberger. Erzberger responded by launching a counter-attack: German steel
industrialists had allegedly refused to provide expert advice as long as Erzberger
was banning the industrialist Hugo Stinnes from the German delegation. Many
left-wing and liberal commentators were shocked by this industrialist attempt
at blackmailing the government, and described Erzbergers speech as a decisive
blow to the nationalist Right. Over the following days, however, it turned out
that Erzberger had misrepresented the situation. Readers of Social Democratic
or liberal newspapers learned about this only if they perused the small print
of the daily protocols of the National Assembly meetings. In right-wing
newspapers, on the other hand, articles accusing Erzberger of lying to the
Assembly abounded. Reactionary newspapers delighted in reprinting an open
letter to Erzberger by a conservative Catholic priest, who stated that the better

Media Personalities, 191824

49

part of the German people would welcome the day when you vanish from the
political stage.
By spring 1919, this kind of press attack had turned Erzberger into Germanys
most controversial politician. Outward appearance played a role, too. Many
people confess an unconquerable aversion to the physical gure of [Erzberger],
although they cannot give reasons for their aversion, one journalist noted in
early March 1919. As a small, chubby man with a very full, round face,
always good-humoured and smiling, Erzberger was the least likely representative
of a nation suffering the consequences of food shortages due to the Allied
blockade. Erzberger always looks like someone who has just had a good meal
and is now giving [the waiter] a tip, Harry Graf Kessler noted in his diaries.
Although photos were still limited to the weekly illustrated supplements which
only occasionally showed politicians, Erzbergers features were well known to
Germans by a multitude of caricatures in satirical magazines and supplements.
Erzbergers round, smiling face made him an easy target.
Like all German politics, right-wing antagonism against Erzberger was further
radicalized by the actual peace treaty hammered out at Versailles. The severity
of the peace terms received in May 1919 shocked politicians and journalists in
equal measures. In Weimar, Germanys prime minister, the Social Democrat
Scheidemann expressed an almost unanimous sentiment when declaring the
terms unacceptable. Erzberger, however, did not inch from his pragmatic
line, insisting that outright refusal was a recipe for disaster. Within the Reich
cabinet and in his own party, Erzberger was the driving force arguing for a
constructive approach towards the Allies. None of his activities found their
way into the German press in any detail. However, the fact that Erzberger
was somehow working against foreign minister Brockdorff-Rantzau, an ardent
opponent of the Allied proposal, soon became public knowledge, not least
through news on French press reports describing Erzberger as the German
politician most willing to sign the peace treaty. Even liberal commentators
accused him of breaking up the unied ranks against the peace stipulations.
Every time over these last weeks after having explained to an Entente envoy
that the German government could and would not sign unbearable terms,
he would . . . mention the name Erzberger at the end of the conversation, as
counterevidence, noted Theodor Wolff, the chief editor of the liberal Berliner
Tageblatt. For all these gentlemen Erzberger was the dagger in the robe, the
trump card which one cannot beat.
After the resignation of the Scheidemann government on 19 June 1919,
Erzberg took the initiative to form a majority coalition willing to sign the
peace treaty. Within the new cabinet headed by the Social Democrat Gustav
Bauer, Erzberger remained nance minister and vice-chancellor, and was widely
perceived as the dominant personality: Cabinet Erzberger, called Bauer, ran
one typical headline. On 22 June, the National Assembly voted in favour of
conditional acceptance. Press commentators from Left to Right blamed Erzberger.

50

Press and Politics in the Weimar Republic

The nationalist Deutsche Tageszeitung demanded that Erzberger should sign it


and that the peace be called Erzberger peace. Bitterness about Erzbergers role
extended far beyond right-wing circles. One Social Democratic secretary of state
told Harry Graf Kessler that if [Erzberger] cannot be removed by other means, he
himself would go to him and beat him to death with a club; no jury court would
sentence him for such a deed. Kessler himself feared that Erzberger would
share Liebknechts fate, adding in his diary the telling sentence: But not like
Liebknecht undeservedly, but self-inicted by his baneful activity. Kesslers
fears nearly materialized the following day when a group of angry soldiers incited
by press agitation very nearly killed Erzberger.
T H E P R E S S C A M PA I G N AG A I N S T E R Z B E RG E R
Over the following weeks, newspaper attacks on Erzberger presented him as the
personication of defeat, revolution, armistice, Versailles, and democracy. The
person primarily responsible for this press campaign was Karl Helfferich, state
secretary in the Treasury during the early years of the war, then interior minister
and vice-chancellor until November 1917. His antagonism towards Erzberger
reached back to 19056, when the two had clashed during a campaign against
colonial mismanagement directed by Erzberger. After the ratication of the
Versailles peace treaty, Helfferich decided to attack his old opponent personally.
As Helfferich was not a member of the National Assembly, the obvious forum
for his assaults was the press. He published his articles in Germanys most
elitist newspaper, the staunchly conservative and monarchical Neue Preussische
(Kreuz-)Zeitung. Helfferichs choice of newspaper makes clear that he did not aim
to reach a mass audience: the Kreuz-Zeitung, as it was called, had a low circulation
of less than ten thousand copies and was predominantly read by the aristocracy,
senior civil servants, East Elbian landowners, and conservative politicians. This
readership did not need convincing that Erzberger was a stain on Germanys
national honour. But by publishing in one of the capitals high-prole political
papers, Helfferich was able to reach two constituencies of professional newspaper
readers which he wanted to provide with argumentative ammunition: journalists
and politicians. He knew his attacks would thus be carried into other newspapers
and into parliament.
In his rst article Helfferich explained what he was setting out to do: to
reconstruct the events which led to the moral collapse during the war which
destroyed our power of resistance, brought us the disarmament which was
wrongly called armistice, which ultimately led to the misery and disgrace
of the peace of Versailles. According to Helfferich, the German disaster
originated with the July resolution of 1917. Just when German unrestricted
submarine warfare was beginning to yield results and the Entente was getting
ready to enter negotiations, Erzbergers peace initiative conveyed the impression

Media Personalities, 191824

51

of German weakness, strengthened Allied ghting morale, and undermined the


German home front. On top of all this, Erzbergers initiative had allegedly
been triggered by the demoralized Austrian foreign minister, Count Czernin.
Herr Erzberger stooped to manage the affairs of Vienna politics against his own
government, was Helfferichs damning conclusion. Erzberger immediately
responded with an article in the Deutsche Allgemeine Zeitung, in which he accused
Helfferich of falsifying history. According to his version, the July resolution had
been the nal opportunity to avert catastrophe. It had been organized in full
consultation with the then Reich government, and had not been initiated by
Vienna. Helfferich, in turn, replied in the Kreuz-Zeitung, ending his article by
claiming that his intention was to prevent the fatherland from perishing from
the cancer Erzberger. This was a slogan eagerly picked up by other right-wing
newspapers, which now started reprinting Helfferichs attacks. It was also the
beginning of a press war between Helfferich and Erzberger. Over the next days
and weeks, the two sides published numerous articles accusing the other of lying,
misrepresenting facts, or obfuscating personal responsibility.
Helfferich also attacked Erzberger in his speech at the rst party convention
of the DNVP, the German Nationalist Party in Berlin, in mid-July 1919, calling
him the personication of the evil spirit of the German people. His audience
responded enthusiastically; there were even voices calling for Erzbergers hanging.
The depth of the anti-Erzberger feeling at the convention was not lost on other
senior DNVP politicians. The speaker after Helfferich pronounced it a disgrace
to all political parties that Erzberger had so far not been hunted down and
reaped long and noisy applause for this remark. Count Westarp brought down
the house by labelling Erzberger a Volksverderber. Press reports noted several
minutes of boisterous applause and stormy cries: Dog! Traitor! Scoundrel!
Encouraged by this response, Westarp called to eliminate Erzberger from the
government. Journalists turned his call Away with this person! into the more
catchy slogan Away with Erzberger!
Erzberger was convinced that the press attacks on him in mid-July 1919
were at least partly motivated by opposition to his tax reforms which he was
presenting to the National Assembly, especially the steep, one-off tax on wealth,
the so-called Reichsnotopfer. In his eyes, Helfferichs recent accusation that he had
enriched himself and was guilty of corruption was simply the attempt to discredit
the minister responsible for the implementation of these tax proposals. But
he was aware that his personal credibility was at stake. At the end of July, he
suffered a major set-back when the right-wing Hamburger Nachrichten published
an account by the former German ambassador to Vienna, Wedel, of Erzbergers
trip to Vienna in 1917 which seemed to conrm Helfferichs accusation of
treason. Journalists who had been following the HelfferichErzberger press feud
over the preceding weeks saw Wedels article as a decisive blow to Erzberger,
and either reprinted the entire piece or quoted lengthy passages under headlines
like Wedels accusation against Erzberger or Erzbergerthe Reich vermin.

52

Press and Politics in the Weimar Republic

The next day, these press reports were discussed in the cabinet. They were
also taken up in the National Assembly when the German Nationalist Count
Graefe launched a furious attack on the revolution and on Erzberger, whom he
accused of having acted as if paid by the enemy. Graefes speech relied heavily
on a whole variety of newspaper reports which he quoted as evidence for the
points he was making. The speech left a great impression; even some left-wing
observers considered it a rhetorical success. But Erzberger managed to win
the debate, not least by his sensational revelation that the Right had prevented
an earlier peace by sabotaging a previously undisclosed British peace initiative in
late summer 1917. The German collapse was not the result of the revolution,
Erzberger proclaimed, but the outcome of the incompetence in foreign and
domestic policy of the Conservatives and the Supreme Army Command.
The clash between Graefe and Erzberger in the National Assembly was
given front-page treatment throughout the German press. It was not just the
personalization of the conict which attracted media attention. The issues under
debate were the reasons for Germanys defeat and the role of the revolution
at the end of the war. But depending on the political orientation of their
newspapers, readers in Berlin and in the rest of Germany were given completely
different interpretations. The liberal press which had previously been highly
sceptical of Erzberger now realized that right-wing attacks on his person were
inextricably linked to a wholesale condemnation of the new republic. They now
reported on the parliamentary debate with headlines announcing Erzbergers
indictment speech or Erzbergers victory over the German Nationalists. Leftwing newspapers, too, interpreted Erzbergers speech as an effective assault on the
nationalist camp, and considered his revelations a comprehensive indictment of
the old elites. This was not the view of the right-wing press. Herr Erzberger and
the government press declare unanimously that the revolution was the daughter
of defeat, not its mother, a right-wing commentary summarized the ideological
differences. In the Kreuz-Zeitung, Helfferich scoffed at Erzbergers revelation
and claimed that his opponent had made up the British peace initiative in order
to divert attention from the disastrous effect of his 1917 July peace resolution.
In reality, the British peace initiative was nothing but the British reply to the
failed papal peace initiative of August 1917. Over the following days, press
coverage of the debate triggered reactions from those involved in German foreign
policy in 1917 which again contradicted Erzbergers account and conrmed
Helfferichs position. Articles about Erzbergers duplicity and lying abounded in
the right-wing press, and the Tagliche Rundschau demanded that Erzberger be
put on trial before a state court.
The people most aware of this clash of interpretations were journalists
themselves. The right-wing press which consists of many papers in Berlin with
few readers seeks by all means to obfuscate the devastating effect of Erzbergers
revelations, commented the Social Democratic Vorwarts. It clings to rehashing
quotes from Graefes speech and thereby tries by lying to turn the assault

Media Personalities, 191824

53

on Pan Germans into a confrontation with Erzberger, the government or the


revolution. The nationalist Deutsche Tageszeitung presented the opposite case
by criticizing what it called a left-wing deception of the people: Vorwarts
and the majority of the left-wing press are publishing victory articles about the
[recent] debate. The defeat of the Pan Germans is said to be a devastating
one . . . The people will believe this, of course, because their newspapers say
so, their account of parliamentary discussions is fragmentary and misleading,
and in any case, only a very small part of the readership of the left-wing press is
reading through and following the entire debates, or even tries to get to know the
statements of oppositional parliamentarians by reading their complete accounts
in other newspapers. Politicians, too, were aware of the limited readership
and the biased nature of parliamentary reports reprinted in the daily press. This
was one of the reasons why the Social Democrats pushed a motion through the
National Assembly to have Erzbergers speech publicized by the government in
the form of millions of posters throughout Germany. Right-wing politicians
demanded that Graefes speech should be added in order to allow citizens to
make up their own minds. When this failed, the DNVP placed advertisements
in the provincial press proclaiming that the statements in Erzbergers speech had
been proven wrong. In Berlin, the nationalist Tagliche Rundschau advertised
reprints of Graefes speech to counter the government initiative.
Helfferich, too, continued to publish articles against Erzberger. He picked up
the idea of the Tagliche Rundschau of putting Erzberger on trial, by declaring that
he considered him guilty of high treason. He announced that through his personal
attacks he was hoping to trigger a court case by which Erzberger would be forced
to give evidence under oath. Encouraged by the press resonance, Helfferich
repeated his intention of bringing Erzberger to trial in various articles in early
August 1919, and he challenged the government to take legal actions against his
claim that Erzberger was a typical example of the new political-parliamentary
corruption. This challenge was widely reported throughout the German press.
Helfferich increased the pressure by having his entire article series collected in
a brochure entitled Fort mit Erzberger!, Away with Erzberger! It was published
by Hugenbergs Scherl publishing house, in a series which provided a right-wing
view of the end of the war, the home front, and the revolution. Helfferich sent
the brochure to Reich President Ebert, accompanied by an open letter published
by many newspapers in which he explained that he thereby wanted to force legal
action against himself. The cabinet now decided to react and opened criminal
procedures. News of this decision was greeted in the Kreuz-Zeitung with the
headline Finally.
It is impossible to establish just how closely the average German newspaper
reader followed events around the Erzberger controversy. There can be no doubt,
however, that anyone taking the slightest interest in politics at this time was
aware of the conict. Many caricatures visualized Erzberger as the villain in
the story. In early August 1919, Kladderadatsch showed the nance minister

54

Press and Politics in the Weimar Republic

Fig. 2.1. The right-wing satirical magazine Kladderadatsch was at the forefront of the
press campaign against Erzberger. In 31, 3 August 1919 it presented him as the person
who had encaged the German eagle, with the caption Mr. Erzberg`ere labelling him as
the representative of Anglo-French interests.

Media Personalities, 191824

55

smiling and rubbing his hands, standing next to a cage with the Reich eagle in
chains, under the heading Mr. Erzberg`ere. Many nationalist journalists now
followed Helfferichs example and published anti-Erzberger brochures, reworking
material from their own newspaper clipping collections. Liberal and left-wing
newspapers spoke of a witch hunt against Erzberger initiated by right-wing
parties and newspapers. Reports of political rallies in right-wing newspapers
provide an idea of the extent to which Erzberger had become an easy target for
oppositional orators throughout Germany. When Helfferich gave a speech at a
DNVP rally in Paderborn later that month, attendance was such that hundreds
of people were unable to nd seats. In Upper Bavaria, the Tagliche Rundschau
enthusiastically reported to its readers, a mock peoples court had sentenced
Erzberger to death for high treason and burned his efgy at a giant stake.
E R Z B E RG E R O N T R I A L
Wherever an anti-Erzberger report appeared anywhere in the far-ung reaches
of the German press, nationalist journalists could be relied upon to reprint it
in their own papers. By summer 1919, this right-wing focus on Erzberger
had succeeded in constructing a scapegoat responsible for all major national ills.
Erzberger was the negative symbol of integration for an imagined community
of nationalist newspaper readers convinced that defeat in war had not been
inevitable. Long before Hindenburg made his appearance in the parliamentary
investigation committee in November 1919, the right-wing press had worked
out a detailed and not implausible history of the stab in the back. Hindenburgs
statement mainly helped to coin and popularize a catchy right-wing slogan to
sell this storyline to a mass audience. It also heightened expectations regarding
Erzbergers libel action against Helfferich. After the furious debate caused by
Hindenburgs pronouncement, it was widely expected that the court case would
nally establish the validity of the stab-in-the back argument by investigating
the moral credibility of Erzberger. Indeed, when the court convened in January
1920, the popular view was that it was not Helfferich but Erzberger who was
on trial, a view which right-wing newspapers tried to encourage through their
choice of headlines. Helfferichs strategy further reinforced this view: in the rst
session he declared he would deliver proof of the truth for the accusations that he
made in his brochure Fort mit Erzberger! which allowed him to take an active and
aggressive role throughout the trial. His rst speech at the trial was published as
a pamphlet by the DNVP and distributed to the press in advance. Throughout
the trial Helfferich briefed nationalist journalists prior to the individual sessions,
to make sure his main points would receive maximum press attention.
Court reporting on the ErzbergerHelfferich trial dominated press coverage
of domestic politics from mid-January to mid-March 1920, until the pronouncement of the judgement. To some extent, this media preoccupation was

56

Press and Politics in the Weimar Republic

the result of a long press tradition which had taken shape over the course of
the nineteenth century. At a time of limited parliamentary representation, law
courts had emerged as one of the main constituents of the public sphere. Also,
the drama, conict, and human-interest potential inherent in crime and legal
retribution had turned police news and court reporting into one of the major
selling points of the emerging mass press. Although it is impossible in the
case of the ErzbergerHelfferich trial to ascertain how many readers perused the
many columns of trial proceedings, general interest seems to have been great.
Court sessions were public, and both auditorium and gallery were regularly very
crowded, as the Kreuz-Zeitung noted. There was no doubt that the sessions
had a signicant entertainment value. Already in the rst few days, Helfferich
presented numerous witnesses who testied on Erzbergers rapid conversion in
1917 from enthusiastic annexationist as a member of the Thyssen supervisory
board, to ardent opponent of the annexationist Pan Germans once he had left
Thyssens service. More compromising still, Helfferich presented evidence that in
July 1917, when Erzberger had initiated the anti-annexationist peace resolution,
he was at the same time organizingstill an employee of Thyssena press
campaign calling for the annexation of the Belgian iron ore basin of LongwyBriey. At rst glance, Helfferichs argument that some of Erzbergers activities
were directly linked to his own nancial interests appeared plausible, especially
to those who were eager to have their prejudice conrmed that Erzberger was,
indeed, corrupt.
At the end of the fourth day of hearings, one of the spectators went up
to Erzbergers car and shot him twice. Erzberger was lucky to survive: one
bullet was deected by his golden watch chain, the other only wounded
his right shoulder. The assassin, Oltwig von Hirschfeld, was a 20-year-old
demobilized ofcer candidate, a subscriber of Hugenbergs right-wing Berliner
Lokal-Anzeiger, and an avid newspaper-reader. In a rst reaction, the Reich
government declared that the bloody deed would have been impossible without
the senseless and irresponsible baiting which has been carried out against the
Reich Finance Minister over the last months and especially these last days.
Catholic, left-wing, and liberal newspapers were equally quick to accuse the
right-wing press of having incited to murder. They had no trouble quoting
from a multitude of articles from Deutsche Zeitung, Berliner Lokal-Anzeiger,
Tagliche Rundschau, Deutsche Tageszeitung, and Post incidentally all Berlinbased papersto provide evidence for the Erzberger baiting that had prepared
the ground for the assassination attempt. Unsurprisingly, most nationalist
journalists rejected the charge and pointed out that the Right had a great interest
in keeping Erzberger alive so that he would have to live through the entire
trial. The Kreuz-Zeitung was the only major paper to admit that without
the right-wing press campaign against Erzberger the crime would probably
not have happened. Commentaries in the provincial press were often more
straightforward. Among many who hate this man with a passion, news of the

Media Personalities, 191824

57

assassination attempt on Erzberger will have triggered if not a happy, than at least
a hopeful interest: is he dead?, wrote the Arnswalder Anzeiger, a nationalist district
paper in Pommerania. And an expression of . . . undisguised disappointment will
have appeared on many faces upon the report that apparently the injury is only
slight and there is no fear for the life of the Minister. This was an accurate
observation. In his diaries, the linguist Victor Klemperer noted an encounter with
a young female student who was enthusiastic about the attempt on Erzbergers
life. She only regretted the fact that he had survived.
The trial of Hirschfeld highlighted the extent to which right-wing press
publications had motivated the young assassin. Erzberger had been working
against the welfare of the people, Hirschfeld declared, he had participated in
stabbing the German Front in the back, and he was corrupt. When asked by
the judge about his sources for these claims Hirschfeld referred to newspapers
and Helfferichs brochure, Fort mit Erzberger! He was not the only one whose
negative image of Erzberger had been shaped by the press. His mother testied
that the family had received numerous letters praising her son for his deed.
Hirschfeld eventually received a light sentence, eighteen months in prison,
because the jury believed his claim that he had only wanted to injure Erzberger
to force him to lay down his political ofces.
The outcome of the Hirschfeld trial in late February 1920 was overshadowed
by a new anti-Erzberger initiative. An editor of the right-wing Deutsche Zeitung
had somehow obtained copies of Erzbergers tax le, which he tried to publish
as a brochure. When the police intervened and conscated the manuscript
prior to publication, he passed on the material to the right-wing Hamburger
Nachrichten. That paper was then able to publish extracts from Erzbergers
private tax declaration which it contrasted with information about his income
which had come to light during the Helfferich trial. At rst glance, there seemed
little doubt that the Reich nance minister had been evading income tax for
several years. Many other right-wing newspapers, both in Berlin and in the
provinces, had been provided with advance information so that they were able to
quote extensively from the Hamburg article in their Sunday editions. It was
a thoroughly planned press attack meant to bolster Helfferichs position in the
ongoing libel trial. It caused a major sensation: Erzberger, who had preached the
strictest tax morals ever since he had become nance minister, was apparently
exposed as a fraud and a hypocrite. Two days later, Erzberger took the only
possible action left to him: he asked Reich President Ebert for leave from his
ofce as nance minister, and at the same time demanded a comprehensive
investigation of his personal tax affairs.
In early March 1920, the Helfferich trial ended with a resounding defeat for
Erzberger. Although Helfferich was found guilty in some minor cases of formal
slander and sentenced to a ne of RM 300, the judge declared Helfferichs attempt
to provide evidence to support his accusations as largely successful. Erzberger was
found responsible in a number of cases of improper acts, the incorrect fusion of

58

Press and Politics in the Weimar Republic

political activities with personal nancial interests, and of lying under oath. The
judge summarized his view of Erzberger in a widely quoted statement: [Erzberger]
is a man of undoubted talent, exemplary industriousness, admirable memory,
great energy and extraordinary activism, but on the other hand of deplorable lack
of judgement and an almost surprising incorrectness in all things. The next
day Erzberger resigned from government. Not surprisingly, right-wing journalists
were jubilant. Hugenbergs Berliner Lokal-Anzeiger celebrated the liberation from
Erzberger; the Tagliche Rundschau declared on its front page that Erzberger had
been sentenced to political death, but also expressed its concern that Erzberger
may yet come back: One cannot beat to death an Erzberger in one go.
These were to prove prophetic words. In fact, Erzberger immediately set out
to rehabilitate himself. He instigated proceedings against himself to counter the
judges statement that he had lied in court. In summer 1921, the investigation
was terminated with the result that the available evidence did not sufce for a
trial for perjury. Similarly, a thorough examination of Erzbergers income tax
declarations concluded in August 1921 that, apart from minor mistakes owing to
the complicated tax system during the war, there was no evidence for systematic
tax evasion.
These ndings were to be of little benet to Erzberger. His reputation
was thoroughly ruined by the press coverage of the Helfferich trial. Even the
sympathetic Social Democratic Vorwarts noted on the day of the judgement that
the trial has been followed by millions of people, and they have formed their own
opinion on the issues that have been brought up. . . . Public opinion concerning
Erzberger after this trial is unfavourable, this much has to be openly admitted.
The right-wing star columnist Adolf Stein exploited the prevalent anti-Erzberger
sentiment by publishing the entire set of his tendentious trial reports for the
Tagliche Rundschau as a book. Among nationalists, Erzberger was now rmly
established as Germanys bete noire. One Heinrich Schulz, member of a Free
Corps unit during the right-wing Kapp putsch, described the mood of contempt
in a statement made many years later. During my membership to the Navy
Brigade Ehrhardt . . . whenever I talked to a comrade we often railed against
Erzberger. In our circles he was the best-hated person. Schulz also recalled
the proliferation of anti-Erzberger information available, through the massive
press coverage of the libel trial in the right-wing press and through numerous
pamphlets distributed at volkisch rallies in late 1920. [A]fter everything that I
had heard about Erzberger, Schulz concluded, I considered him a very dodgy
personality, yes even a rst-class enemy of the people. Schulzs view was
eventually to have lethal consequences for Erzberger.
However, public condemnation of Erzberger was far from unanimous. Catholic
newspapers, like the Centre party organ, Germania, staunchly defended Erzberger
against right-wing attacks, a fact repeatedly noted and criticized by journalists
on the political Right. The audacity of the press campaign against Erzberger
reminded Catholic journalists of Bismarcks anti-Catholic campaign during the

Media Personalities, 191824

59

Fig. 2.2. The fact that the Catholic Centre party organ, Germania, kept defending
Erzberger even after his resounding defeat at the Helfferich libel trial attracted a great deal
of right-wing polemics. In this caricature in Kladderadatsch from 7 March 1920, entitled
A good soul, a Catholic nun clad in newsaper issues of Germania comforts the crying
Erzberger after the beating he has received. The caption reads: This child, no angel is as
pure . . . .

60

Press and Politics in the Weimar Republic

1870s and 1880s, and they instinctively closed ranks. Grass-root support in
his home region, Swabia, was equally strong. In May 1920 he received an
overwhelming endorsement by delegates at the Wurttembergian Centre party
convention to lead the regional party into the imminent Reichstag elections.
They had no reason to regret this decision. At the elections in June 1920, the
Centre party in Wurttemberg managed to improve on its 1919 performance,
against the Reich trend, to achieve its best result during the years of the
Weimar Republic. By contrast, in Berlin, the centre of the anti-Erzberger
press campaign, every third voter who had backed the Centre party in 1919 now
switched to another party. Of course, this was not simply the result of the
right-wing smear campaign, but part of a wider rejection of liberal and republican
parties by the German middle classes in the wake of the Versailles Treaty and
Ruhr uprising. But for a considerable number of voters the nationalist depiction
of Erzberger, the scapegoat, was plausible enough to opt for one of the right-wing
parties.
C L I M AT E O F H AT E
In summer 1921, when investigations declared Erzberger innocent of tax evasion
and perjury, Erzberger prepared his comeback onto the political stage. Rightwing newspapers responded immediately with new anti-Erzberger headlines.
Today, no name triggers reactions as quickly and as violently like the name
Erzberger, observed the ofcial Deutsche Allgemeine Zeitung. On both sides, the
name Erzberger has become a ghting slogan. Indeed, by mid-August, the
struggle against Erzberger once more dominated the pages of the nationalist press.
So the ght against Erzberger continues, the Deutsche Tageszeitung declared in a
front-page commentary. [I]t is a duty of the German people, now more than ever.
Because Erzbergers aims . . . are the undoing of Germany. They are: the surrender
of Reich and Prussia to the Social Democrats and the Independent [Socialists], i.e.
the eternalization of our disorganization, our weakness and disgrace . . . Killing
of any national self-determination, total submission to France . . . [H]e is the
enemy of the new ascent and renaissance of the entire German people.
It was this kind of press attack which was to cost Erzberger his life. One
of his murderers, Heinrich Tillessen, referred to an anti-Erzberger article in
the National Socialist Volkischer Beobachter when describing Erzberger as a
disgusting traitor of the fatherland in March 1921. Like Tillessen, the exFree Corps member, Schulz also considered Erzberger the most dangereous
enemy of the German people, a view which he based on his reading of the rightwing daily press. Both Tillessen and Schulz were members of a right-wing
terrorist group, the so-called Organisation Consul. Beat Erzberger to death,
was the summary of another member of that group of the general sentiment
within extremist circles. The order to eliminate Erzberger which Tillessen and

Media Personalities, 191824

61

Schulz received in early August 1921 was later described by them as the vital
spark which allowed them to release their pent-up anger and aggression against
Erzberger. On 26 August 1921, they sought out Erzberger in a small village
in the Black Forest where he was spending his holiday with his family and shot
him dead.
The perpetrators managed to escape abroad, and the background to the
murder was only solved after the Second World War. Among republicans at the
time, however, there was no doubt as to the cause of the murder. The Centre
party organ, Germania, described Erzberger as a victim of the right-wing press
campaign: Over these last years, whatever misfortune and sorry events there were
for the German people, the papers of the [political] Right, [like] the Kreuzzeitung,
the Deutsche Zeitung, the Deutsche Tageszeitung and whatever the names of these
scandal sheets of DNVP propaganda may be, masterfully managed to associate
all this with the name Erzberger. The Social Democratic Vorwarts, too,
accused the two right-wing parties DVP and DNVP and their press as morally
responsible. Against no man in Germany has there been a more indecent and
sordid campaign than against the murdered Erzberger, the SPD organ wrote.
The evil trustee [of German defeat] became the scapegoat: rather than despising
Ludendorff and his clique, the misled German bourgeoisie clamoured that
Erzberger was the traitor. The liberal Vossische Zeitung focused its criticism
on Helfferich and other right-wing journalists: Whoever browses through the
newspaper volumes of the last years is shocked by the extent with which energy
and unscrupulousness were spent to ruin one individual person . . . Never before
did anything similar happen in [the history of] the German Reich. And
in Mosses Berliner Volks-Zeitung, Carl von Ossietzky described Erzberger as
a martyr testifying to the dreadful inuence of the press, a warning to every
German journalist not to abuse the power which they have in their hands.
Right-wing journalists in Berlin rejected all these accusations, distanced
themselves from political murder, and criticized what they considered the partypolitical exploitation of the crime. Only the volkisch Deutsches Tageblatt voiced
sympathy for the deed under the headline Mitigating circumstances: This man
was a real traitor, one of those responsible for the stab in the back of 1918 and
ever since . . . The states legal system failed in his respect. It is no excuse, but
from a historical perspective it is just natural that the judge Lynch appeared on
the stage. In the provinces, right-wing journalists were equally outspoken.
Many editors voiced their relief that Erzberger was now unable to cause further
harm. The Oletzkoer Zeitung in East Prussia, for example, stated that Erzberger
had met the fate which most nationalist-minded Germans wished for him,
and that he had received the punishment which he deserved as a traitor of
the fatherland. The anti-Semitic Volksstimme in Nuremberg was even more
damning. To devote a word of regret to the end of this unprincipled adventurer
would constitute the basest hypocrisy . . . To be dragged on a cow hide to the
place of execution, there to be branded with a red-hot iron and hanged from the

62

Press and Politics in the Weimar Republic

highest gallows: that would have been the death which Erzberger deserved.
These views were shared among many nationalists. Reading an extra-edition
announcing Erzbergers death, put up on a wall on Unter den Linden in
Berlin, the Social Democratic Reichstag President Paul Lobe overheard the
following comments: Thats it, he wont cause further damage anymore. To
which a woman replied: Thats what ought to happen to all revolutionaries.
Liberal and democratic newspapers reported of numerous similar expressions of
bourgeois approval.
Of course, these sentiments were far from universal. Erzbergers murder also
triggered vast articulations of republican solidarity. Throughout Germany, Social
Democrats and Communists staged huge and sometimes violent demonstrations
against what they saw as the rst step towards a reactionary coup detat.
Polemics against right-wing parties in the socialist press reached fever pitch
and were described by the nationalist Tagliche Rundschau as a prelude to
civil war. Partly in response to these demonstrations and press polemics,
but mainly as a reaction to the Erzberger murder, President Friedrich Ebert
declared a state of emergency, and issued a decree against the boundless instigation and the brutalization of the public mores. Yet government efforts
to combat anti-republican propaganda soon ran out of steam. The state of
emergency was lifted in December 1921. It was only after the assassination
of the foreign minister, Walther Rathenau, in summer 1922 that a Law for
the Protection of the Republic was nally passed. With this law, republicans
hoped to be able to reign in the destructive power of the press. Not only
did this prove to be largely unsuccessful, it also established a dangerous precedent of press censorship which was to have bitter consequences in the early
1930s.
The stipulations of the Law for the Protection of the Republic regarding
press publications make clear that the government was primarily worried about
articles which might result in physical attacks on individual members of the
cabinet. This reected politicians sense of vulnerability in the face of a partisan
and violently polemical press. Their solution was ultimately a return to an old
instrument of state control, namely censorship. But outright press incitement to
murder or to topple the current government by means of violence continued to
be the exception rather than the rule. Partisan journalists had numerous ways
in which politics and politicians could be framed and presented which allowed
readers to draw their own, more radical, conclusions. The Law for the Protection
of the Republic was unable to control the real political inuence of the press,
namely its agenda-setting role and the biased provision (or keeping back) of
news. As a tool of press politics, the Law for the Protection of the Republic
was ultimately inadequate because it underestimated the complexity of press
dynamics. The press campaigns against Erzberger and later Rathenau convinced
democrats that the primary task was to restrain individual journalists and editors.
But excessive and violent polemics was not the main problem. Even if the

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Law for the Protection of the Republic had been in place from 1919 onwards,
Erzberger would still have been turned into a negative symbol of integration for
the nationalist Right. It was the collective partisan focus on certain aspects of
his political activities, in a multitude of local and regional newspapers, which
gave Erzberger the prominenceand the reputationwhich was to cost him
his life.
Erzberger knew that anything he initiated as Reich nance minister would
be presented by a signicant part of the German press as the work of the
individual allegedly responsible for the German defeat, the humiliating terms of
the armistice, and the acceptance of the Treaty of Versailles. Erzbergers decision
to sue Helfferich for libel was an action of last resort, a desperate attempt to
safeguard the bare minimum of political legitimacy needed for public ofce. He
probably thought that a ruling in his favour would forestall the worst excesses of
press polemics regarding his personality. Instead, the trial proceedings allowed his
opponent Helfferich to exploit the mechanisms inherent in the media machine.
The trials production of news, the confrontational nature of the proceedings,
the apparent attempt at revealing closely guarded and controversial secrets, the
in-built tension between accusations, denials, and the promise of resolution in
form of the ultimate judgementin other words, the spectacle inherent in
the judicial processguaranteed that Erzberger stayed at the centre of public
scrutiny for a signicant amount of time. For Erzberger, the combination
of right-wing press attacks and a conservative judiciary unsympathetic to the
new political regime resulted in a public relations asco. Erzbergers political
career was destroyed, and when he managed to extricate himself from the legal
implications of the trials outcome, and was about to re-enter Reich politics, he
fell victim to the political climate created by press narratives which portrayed
him as Germanys greatest evil.
R I S I N G F RO M O B S C U R I T Y
Yet Erzbergers fate should not be taken as evidence that the political signicance
of the press was based primarily on its potential to destroy political careers.
Media prominence gained through a political trial did not necessarily have to
be of a negative nature. The sudden concentration of press interest on one
particular political player could equally well result in the creation of a new
national appeal. Adolf Hitler is a good case in point. The press played a
crucial role in transforming him into a right-wing celebrity. But not only did
press coverage transform him into a leading national gure, it also changed his
self-perception and ambitions. When and how did this extremist rise out of
obscurity, and what was the public image constructed by the press? Ironically,
Erzberger played an important part in Hitlers very early career. Hitler joined the
extremist Deutsche Arbeiter Partei (German Workers Party), the precursor of the

64

Press and Politics in the Weimar Republic

NSDAP, in September 1919. He quickly established himself as the partys


most effective orator, not least by passionate speeches against the Versailles
Peace Treaty in which Erzberger, the Jew served as the main culprit.
Throughout 1920 and 1921, Erzberger featured in numerous of Hitlers speeches
as scoundrel, national criminal, and traitor, always to the delight of the
assembled crowd. From surviving notes for his speeches, as well as police
and newspaper reports, it is clear that Hitlers attacks on Erzberger were more
or less directly modelled on the right-wing press campaign. After Erzbergers
murder, Hitler caused a small scandal in Munich by staging a big anti-Erzberger
rally in the Hofbrauhaus beer hall. Posters advertising the event claimed that
Hitler would talk about Erzberger with appropriate reverence; in fact, as
the Volkischer Beobachter noted with satisfaction, Hitler spoke in a drastic
manner about Erzbergers career, his parliamentary activities, his business
sense, his dishonourable behaviour in Compi`egne, [and] his treason of the
German people . . . . The event attracted a large crowd, including many
tourists.
At this point in time, Hitler was able to draw and entertain audiences of
several thousand people in Munich. But outside Bavaria he was still completely
unknown. This lack of media presence decisively shaped Hitlers political strategy.
In summer 1922, he rejected a parliamentary strategy because he realized that
the National Socialists stood not the slightest prospect of success at the Reichstag
elections anywhere outside Munich. Even if some National Socialists were
able to make it into parliament, the lack of press coverage would render them
ineffective. There was no justication for parliamentary opposition in its own
right, Hitler claimed: The effectiveness of critique is only given the moment
when this critique is presented in the forum of the public sphere. In our case
that is entirely impossible. It was childish to expect the enemy press which
constitutes public opinion these days to cover National Socialist parliamentary
activity: After all we have experienced how in a city like Munich the entire press
from left to right keeps a deadly silence about our enormous mass rallies which
are unrivalled by any other party.
Hitlers complaint about being ignored by journalists was not entirely justied. At least in Munich, the Social Democratic Munchner Post regularly
commented on, and attacked, the National Socialist movement. But outside Munich most Germans at this time were blissfully unaware of Hitlers
existence. In Berlin, the two bestselling newspapers, the liberal Berliner Morgenpost and the right-wing Berliner Lokal-Anzeiger, contained no news of
Hitlers National Socialists throughout most of 1922. Even the Nazi propaganda highlight of 1922, the German Day in Coburg where hundreds of
SA men clashed with socialist opponents in mid-October, found no mention in Berlins mass papers. News of the negotiations about reparations
payments, the partition of Upper Silesia, the resignations of the French government under Briand in January, and of the British prime minister, Lloyd

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65

George, in October, all this was of considerably greater interest to the average
German newspaper reader than the activities of an extremist Bavarian splinter
party.
P U TS C H S TO R I E S
In fact, it was through foreign political developments that the National Socialists rst moved into the limelight. At the end of October 1922, Mussolini
ordered 40,000 of his paramilitary followers, the so-called Blackshirts, to
march on Rome. Faced with this fascist uprising, the Italian king appointed Mussolini prime minister. These events constituted front-page news and
received extraordinary coverage in the German press. After their own experience of a failed right-wing coup in 1920, German editors took a keen
interest in these Italian developments. For days, newspapers reported of
the progress of the uprising, Mussolinis arrival in Rome, his meeting with
the king, the composition of his government, and the victory parade in
early November. The existence of a successful anti-socialist mass movement had an intrinsic news value particularly for nationalist journalists.
Fascismwhat is it? opened a typical article giving background information on the novel movement in the Berliner Lokal-Anzeiger. Dissatisfaction
with the perceived inefciency of parliamentary democracy in Germany was
evident in the way in which the right-wing press treated the emergence of
a strong leader in Italy. The Berliner Lokal-Anzeiger devoted a front-page
leader to Mussolinis rst government speech, under the headline Dictator and
parliament. There was not the slightest doubt that the correspondent sympathized with Mussolini and that he considered parliamentarism an outdated political
system.
Hitler and his movement beneted enormously from the media interest in
these Italian events. Certain parallels between fascists and National Socialists
were immediately obvious even to the most cursory observer. National Socialists
themselves began to recommend a fascist-style march on Berlin, and compared
Hitler with Mussolini. In Munich, an increasing number of people were now
curious to experience Hitler in action. National Socialist rallies in November
and December 1922 were overowing with participants; parallel rallies had to be
staged to accommodate the crowds. This sudden popular appeal resulted in a
great deal of media interest, which in turn further increased Hitlers popularity.
There are a lot of people who believe him to be the German Mussolini,
noted the Berliner Lokal-Anzeiger in its rst front-page commentary on Hitler.
Even those who have never heard him [speak] get to know so much about
him that he has become the subject of conversations in all classes. The rst
article about Hitler in the Ullstein tabloid BZ am Mittag made fun of his rabid
anti-Semitism, but also carried the suggestive headline HitlerMussolini.

66

Press and Politics in the Weimar Republic

Politicians now started to take Hitler serious, too. On 15 November 1922, the
Prussian interior minister banned the NSDAP in Prussia. The following week,
Social Democrats initiated a discussion in the Bavarian state parliament about
the increasing National Socialist violence, a fact now deemed newsworthy even
by Berlins mass papers.
Mussolinis coup detat put Hitler on the map of German politics. But
right from the beginning, his public image was very controversial. Journalistic
presentation of Hitler was decisively shaped by the partisan approach to politics
which prevailed in the German press. One liberal correspondent in Munich
peppered his rst account of the National Socialists and Hitler with terms which
left no doubt as to his personal views: these Fascistolini were a bunch of thieves
characterized by cowardly violence and a pronounced dislike of any kind of
thinking; Hitler a cockalorum with the popularity of a provincial actor whose
gimmicks delight the female theatre subscribers every time anew. That same
week, the right-wing Kreuz-Zeitung devoted its rst front-page article to the
National Socialist movement and praised Hitlers extraordinary eloquence and
the intoxicating drive of his personality, the fanatical love for his fatherland,
his glowing idealism, his rock-solid belief in his ideas, his ruthless spirit of the
offensive against everything halfhearted and tepid, in short the peculiar mixture
of apostolic and soldierly nature.
The degree of politicization of a newspaper did not only determine the
quality of coverage, but also the quantity. The bestselling Berliner Morgenpost, for
example, with its emphasis on local news and entertainment, paid little attention
to Hitler. In January 1923 the high drama of the French occupation of the Ruhr
area dominated its political section. A Nazi mass rally in Munich at which Hitler
railed against the present government and the so-called November criminals in
front of a crowd of over 10,000 was left unreported. In contrast, other Berlin
papers like the liberal Berliner Tageblatt called the meeting a public scandal, and
the ofcial Deutsche Allgemeine Zeitung drew its readers attention to it with the
headline Hitlers song of hate. In mid-January Hitlers increasing radicalism
caused rumours in Munich that the National Socialists were preparing a putsch.
The Social Democratic Vorwarts, sensitized by the local SPD paper Munchener
Post, devoted several articles to these rumours; as did several other left-liberal
newspapers. Readers of Ullsteins Berliner Morgenpost, on the other hand, were
left uninformed. Only in late January, when the Bavarian government declared
a state of emergency two days before the rst National Socialist Reich party
rally did the threat of a Nazi coup in Munich make front-page news in this
mass paper, too. Hugenbergs nationalist Berliner Lokal-Anzeiger also chose to
ignore the putsch rumours, though primarily out of right-wing sympathy. When
the National Socialists were unexpectedly given permission to hold their rallies
despite the state of emergency, the Berliner Lokal-Anzeiger concentrated its sparse
coverage on the fact that the Nazi events took place without any incidents.
Newspapers more critical towards the National Socialists devoted considerably

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67

more space to what they considered a scandalous turn of events, not least in view
of the fact that Social Democratic demonstrations remained forbidden under the
state of emergency.
This pattern of coverage remained constant throughout most of 1923. Those
newspapers which had covered the putsch rumours in mid-January also reported
of Nazi provocations in mid-July and the subsequent debate about a pending
civil war; those who had refrained from doing so in January also ignored the
news in July. Socialist and Communist newspapers devoted most coverage to
the National Socialists, always with a negative slant. In the eyes of right-wing
observers, this only added to Hitlers appeal. By now, Adolf Hitler is surrounded
by legends, and people who come to Munich from outside are burning to see
this famous or notorious man, depending on the position of their favourite
newspaper, declared one right-wing publication in summer 1923. According
to the anti-Semitic Deutsches Tageblatt, Hitler was loved fanatically by hundreds
of thousands, and passionately hated by millions. This was undoubtedly an
exaggeration aimed at glorifying Hitler. In fact, most Germans, especially those
reading provincial newspapers, knew very little about Hitler and probably cared
even less. From February 1923, a number of articles appeared throughout the
provincial press carrying headlines like Who is Adolf Hitler?, but it is rather
unlikely that these stirred up any great emotions. Seen in relation to the
political context of Ruhr occupation and hyper-ination, the occasional article
on the National Socialists can hardly have left a deep impression. Only within
Communist propaganda did the Nazis establish a permanent presence because
from winter 192223 the KPD leadership began to concentrate on what it called
the fascist threat.
At the end of September 1923 Hitler made front-page news briey, again based
on rumours of a pending National Socialist putsch. The Bavarian government
responded by declaring a state of emergency and by appointing the monarchist
Gustav von Kahr as general state commissar, turning him into the Bavarian
dictator, as the Berliner Morgenpost announced in its headlines. Press attention
quickly turned away from Hitler when tensions rose between Munich and Berlin
because Kahr refused to submit to the national state of emergency declared
by the Reich government. Throughout October, relations between Bavaria and
the Reich became increasingly hostile and seemed on the brink of an armed
confrontation at the end of the month. Kahr and the commander of the Bavarian
military, Lossow, actively prepared a Mussolini-style march on Berlin. In
early November, Berlin newspapers were full of reports of right-wing paramilitary
troops gathering at the BavarianThuringian border ready to strike under the
direction of the former Free Corps commander Ehrhardt.
Despite the general awareness that a right-wing coup was in the ofng,
Hitlers decision to force Kahrs hand by launching a putsch on 8 November
still came as a surprise to most observers. Over the preceding weeks, Hitler had
completely receded into the background of Bavarian politics. With his action in

68

Press and Politics in the Weimar Republic

the Burgerbrau beer hall in Munich, Hitler forced himself onto the front page
of every German newspaper on 9 November 1923. Later that day, special
and evening editions in Berlin reported the sensational news that Kahr and
Lossow, who rst appeared to be part of the coup, had switched sides and were
now opposing Hitler and Ludendorff. The following day, readers learned that
both Hitler and Ludendorff had been arrested and the putsch put down by
the military. In their rst reactions, commentators from left to right dismissed
the coup as a laughable event; Hugenbergs Berliner Lokal-Anzeiger spoke of a
spook, the Berliner Tageblatt called it a buffonery, and the Berliner Volk-Zeitung
described it as a carnival. The background to the coup, however, remained
murky, especially the extent of collusion between Kahr and Hitler prior to the
putsch. Readers in Berlin did not have a chance of nding out more because
on 10 November the printers union went on strike, leaving the city without
newspapers for one week. By the time this newsless period was over, other events
competed for attention, like the currency reform, the crisis and eventual downfall
of the Stresemann government, and international developments regarding the
reparation issue.
C R E AT I O N O F A M E D I A PE R S O N A L I T Y
Although Hitler became known throughout Germany through his failed putsch
in early November 1923, it was the extensive press coverage of his trial in February
and March 1924 that turned him into a household name. Already weeks before
it started, expectations among journalists were very high. They quoted the state
prosecution that this was going to be the greatest political trial of the post-war
period. Numerous articles reported on trial preparations, security concerns,
and the latest news on Kahr, whose role during the putsch was increasingly
criticized especially by his former supporters, and who stepped down as general
state commissar a week before the beginning of the trial. Media interest in the
trial far exceeded the limited seating capacity in the courtroom, and thereby
became a news item itself. Press coverage of the opening day of the trial on
26 February 1924 signicantly exceeded that of the putsch on 9 November 1923.
For the next ve weeks, news of the Hitler trial became the daily bread of almost
all newspaper readers in Berlin. Mass papers as different in political orientation
as Hugenbergs right-wing Berliner Lokal-Anzeiger and Ullsteins liberal Berliner
Morgenpost regularly devoted front pages to the proceedings. As far as it is possible
to tell, newspaper readers took a keen interest.
Historians have often accused the presiding judge of allowing Hitler to
turn the courtroom into a stage for his own propaganda. Both Hitlers
testimony on the rst day of the trial and his closing speech at the trials
end lasted for several hours, and were stuffed with derogatory comments
concerning the November revolution, the Reich government, and parliamentary

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69

democracy more generally. These speeches had a powerful impact on many


of those present in the courtroom. Right-wing journalists enthused about
Hitlers oratory skills; the editor-in-chief of Hugenbergs Berliner Lokal-Anzeiger
witnessed some unconcealed tears and some bashful blowing of noses after
Hitler had ended. In fact, some of Hugenbergs journalists present later
joined the National Socialist Party, especially the young artist Hans Schweitzer,
who produced the Nachtausgabes illustrations to the trial, and who became the
Nazis most important caricaturist. But it would be wrong to attribute too
much importance to Hitlers rhetorical performance in court. The overwhelming
majority of Germans learned about the trial from their reading of newspapers, and
therefore encountered Hitlers statements in a much abridged and signicantly
less impressive form. Even a nationalist newspaper like the agrarian Deutsche
Tageszeitung which was fundamentally sympathetic to Hitler condensed his
four-hour testimony into just two columns. At the end of the trial, the
Deutsche Tageszeitung did not even publish excerpts of Hitlers closing speech,
although it commented favourably on it. The real star of the trial was the
hero Ludendorff (Deutsche Tageszeitung), the best loved and best hated man as
the Berliner Lokal-Anzeiger put it. Ludendorffs statements at the beginning
and at the end of the trial received far more coverage than did Hitlers in
most right-wing newspapers. When the trial ended in early April 1924,
news of Ludendorffs acquittal always preceded comments on Hitlers lenient
sentence.
Just like in 1922 when Hitler had beneted from media interest in Mussolini, he now beneted from Ludendorff s star status. In an attempt to keep
Ludendorff out of the line of re, right-wing newspapers insisted on the label
Hitler trial in their newspaper coverage. Even if readers did not actually read
the trial reports, Hitlers name stared them in the face in numerous headlines
throughout the ve weeks of the trial. Left-wing and liberal editors mostly
prefered the term HitlerLudendorff trial, not least in order to compromise
their old wartime opponent. The unintentional consequence was that Hitler
appeared on the same footing as one of the greatest heroes of the nationalist right. Reports of Ludendorffs devotion to Hitler and his undisguised
admiration of the young mans abilities contributed further to hightening
Hitlers standing within nationalist circles. Already during the trial critical
observers commented on the extent to which Hitler was gaining in attraction. The Social Democratic Vorwarts even published a psychological analysis
of Hitlers appeal to the extremist Right under the ironic title The German
Messiah.
The verdict of 1 April 1924 was spectacularly lenient. Ludendorff was acquitted
and Hitler was sentenced to a mere ve years imprisonment for high treason.
In fact, the lay judges had only been prepared to accept a guilty verdict on
condition that Hitler received the lightest possible sentence, with the prospect
of early release after six months. Already by the end of the year, Hitler was

70

Press and Politics in the Weimar Republic

out of prison. For Hitler the sentence was better even than an acquittal
would have been. He was handed a martyrs crown which he did not have to
wear for very long, but which further enhanced his reputation among rightwing groups. All the accused in the trial had shared a common, great idealist
objective: to save Germany from her great misfortune, the conservative KreuzZeitung commented on the judgement. Other right-wing papers were equally
approving. Meanwhile, liberal and left-wing editors vented their frustration
with the sentence. Judicial bankruptcy, Leniency for high traitors, Germanys
judicial scandal ran the headlines in their papers. All newspapers reported on
the jubilant reception of the verdict by National Socialist supporters in Munich.
Ludendorff was given an enthusiastic welcome outside the court building, and
Hitler repeatedly had to show himself at a window to respond to the euphoric
masses.
The trial in early 1924 was the decisive boost to Hitlers political career.
Many historians have remarked on the fact that up to spring 1924 Hitler
still considered himself merely to be the drummer of the National Socialist
movement, preparing the stage for a great national dictator to take charge at
a later pointsomeone like Ludendorff. It was only after his trial, during
his imprisonment in Landsberg, that Hitler began to conceive of himself as
Germanys future leader, the political messiah who would turn around the
countrys fate eventually, a vision which he formulated over the summer of 1924
when writing his political autobiography, Mein Kampf. This transformation of
Hitlers self-conception was not just the result of his experiences in the courtroom
and his enthusiastic reception by crowds in the streets of Munich. Nor was it
simply the pragmatic lesson drawn from the failed putsch that he needed the
greatest possible freedom from external dependencies to achieve his political
aims. It was the fact that the trial had turned into a national media event
which dramatically changed Hitlers perception of himself and of his political
future. Reading his own name in all of the major German papers at the time
undoubtedly gave him a new sense of importance and self-respect: as a political
actor, he was now playing on the national stage. Some journalists at the time
were aware of the psychological impact that media coverage could have. If one
talks about a cockalorum he will appear even greater to other people, and as a
giant to himself, one Munich correspondent justied his silence on the Nazi
movement in late 1922. In early 1924, Hitler was no longer a news item
that journalists could chose to ignore. And Hitler could hardly fail to notice
the impact that the extensive press coverage had on his national image. During
the trial and after, he received an avalanche of letters and telegrams from all
over Germany expressing support and encouragement. The fan mail which
teemed into Landsberg was visible proof of his new status as right-wing media
celebrity.
The media presence of National Socialists generally, and Hitlers name
particularly, also changed the options available to the extremist movement. Two

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71

years previously, in summer 1922, Hitler had still ruled out a parliamentary
strategy because he thought that the National Socialists would stand no chance
at elections in view of the deadly silence with which they were treated in the
press. Now the Nazis beneted from the amount of press coverage devoted
to them through the Munich trial. Five days after the verdict, elections to
the Bavarian state parliament saw landslide gains for the extremist Right. The
so-called Volkischer Block, the electoral alliance of members of the various racist
movements, not least from the banned NSDAP, received a spectacular 17 per
cent of the vote, overtaking the German Nationalists and giving them as many
parliamentary seats as the SPD. In a secret report from mid-April 1924, the
Reichskommissar for the supervision of internal order explained the election
result as a direct outcome of the Hitler trial. Some weeks later, at the Reichstag
elections in early May, the National Socialist electoral alliance received nearly
two million votes, or over 6 per cent, more than the liberal DDP. In certain
regions, like in Middle Franconia, on the Baltic coast around Rostock, or in the
border region of Posen-West Prussia, the Nazis even received more than 40 per
cent of the popular vote.
Compared to the situation in the early 1920s, this was a spectacular achievement. Although Hitler himself was still sceptical about pursuing a parliamentary
strategy, he was not reluctant to take credit for the electoral upswing. The
media attention that was lavished on his trial, the fact that his name was now
universally known throughout Germany suggested to him that his personality
was at the heart of the recent successes. It was an impression reinforced by the
never-ending ow of visitors who were keen to meet up with the new star of the
extreme Right in his Landsberg prison. In fact, popular demand to meet the now
famous man eye-to-eye was such that Hitler had to issue repeated press statements
asking his fans to abstain from visits unless they had received conrmation from
him that he would be able to see them. Press reports also told him that a
volkisch celebration of his birthday in the Burgerbrau beer hall drew such crowds
that the police had to intervene to prevent a mass panic. Of course, not all
media reports were sympathetic to Hitler. He was well aware of the scathing
comments in the left-wing and liberal press. Indeed, in his preface to Mein
Kampf, Hitler explained that writing his autobiography was an opportunity to
destroy the foul legends about my person dished up in the Jewish press. Mein
Kampf was thus both an attempt at setting the record straight and to reconceive
his own life in a more heroic light, as appropriate for someone who had been
in the limelight of the national media. The initial suggestion to write the book
probably came from Max Amann, the publisher of the party newspaper Volkischer
Beobachter, who persuaded Hitler to cash in on the publicity stirred up by the
trial. In Hitlers eyes, the media attention which he had won in early 1924
totally transformed the chances of the Nazi movement under his own leadership.
Im no longer an unknown, and that provides us with the best basis for a new
start, he declared full of conviction after his release in December 1924.

72

Press and Politics in the Weimar Republic

C O N C LU S I O N
Press campaigns against politicians were not an exclusive characteristic of Weimar
Germany, and Erzbergers libel trial was not a unique event in Germanys political
culture. Even Bismarck had suffered from right-wing newspaper attacks in the
mid-1870s. Famously, a judge in a libel case initiated by Bismarck acknowledged
extensively in his reasoning the severity of the public insults against the chancellor,
but justied the imposition of a minimal ne with the explanation that Bismarck
was truly an evil minister. What was new in the case of Erzberger was
the rapid proliferation of derogatory discourse throughout society, shaped and
amplied by a partisan mass press. This particular discourse, however, was not
the dominant one in Germany: it was strongly disputed by voices from within
the Communist, socialist, liberal, and not least Catholic Centre milieux. The
resulting polyphony of press discourses contributed decisively to the polarization
of German politics. Depending on whether Wurttembergian lawyers are readers
of Stuttgarts Deutsche Volksblatt or Stuttgarts Suddeutsche Zeitung, they are either
friends or deadly enemies of Erzberger, one commentator noted in his book on
the political inuence of the press, written in 1920. What is interesting in this
remark is not only the term deadly enemies (Todfeinde in German) one year
prior to Erzbergers murder, but even more so the causal relationship implied in
this sentence. According to this contemporary observer, it was the newspaper that
ultimately determined the political views of its readers. There was no realization
of the fact that readers were not just passive, hollow forms that could be lled
at journalists will with any ideology. In fact, a readers decision to subscribe to
either the Catholic Centre newspaper Deutsche Volksblatt or the DNVP-oriented
Suddeutsche Zeitung to revert to the example given abovedepended among
other things on that readers pre-existing political sympathies.
Only very few writers at the time questioned the concept of a powerful
top-down press inuence. The publication of Ferdinand Tonniess Kritik der
offentlichen Meinung in 1922 started a debate of the question whether there
was such a thing as a (single) public opinion, and, if so, whether newspapers
were creating or simply reecting it. But this debate was very much limited
to scholarly circles. Most journalists and politicians, although very conscious of
the polarized and fragmented nature of the German public sphere, continued
to subscribe to the idea that newspapers exerted great political inuence on the
masses. While they considered themselves media savvy, aware of manipulative
intentions and misrepresentations, and therefore relatively immune to press
inuence, in their view the average newspaper reader was a helpless victim and
passive consumer of such press manipulations. Ironically, it was exactly this elite
belief in the omnipotence of the press (the third person effect, as media scientists
have labelled it) which enabled newspapers to inuence German politicians.

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73

Erzberger sued Helfferich because he thought that Helfferichs press attacks and
his brochure Away with Erzberger! actually mattered, because they inuenced
the general reader to adapt an anti-Erzberger stance. In fact, those readers
who adopted Helfferichs specic accusations prior to the libel trial needed little
convincing, and they constituted only a small fraction of Germanys newspaperreading public. Although one can only speculate, it is very likely that Erzbergers
electoral support would not have been gravely affected if he had chosen to ignore
the attacks. It was only the much greater publicity generated by the trial, and
the facts created by it and amplied by the press, that seriously undermined
Erzbergers trustworthinessthough, as mentioned above, not necessarily in the
eyes of his core supporters.
Although the press was not as directly inuential and potent a political weapon
as contemporaries thought, this is not to say it was inconsequential. On the
contrary, press coverage and press campaigning were crucial in personalizing
political conict, and certainly contributed to intensifying political feelings.
While right-wing newspapers could not determine what their readers should
think, through the amount of coverage devoted to Erzberger they could easily
inuence what they should think about, and thereby identify Erzberger as
a plausible target for nationalist recriminations. But it was not just through
agenda-setting that the right-wing press campaign affected the popular perception
of politics. Individuals within right-wing milieux, like his assassins Oltwig von
Hirschfeld and Heinrich Schulz, could easily draw inspiration from the aggression
of press polemics and translate it into justication for direct, violent action. Even
if these were extreme cases, the fact that many nationalist Germans were prepared
to voice publicly the depth of their anti-Erzberger sentiments, calling him a
criminial, using biological metaphors of disease when describing his role within
the German polity, or indeed wishing him dead, seems to suggest that it was not
just quantity of coverage which mattered but also quality. Erzberger, in other
words, was framed by opinion leaders within the right-wing press in a way that
allowed other individualsother editors, parliamentarians, local dignitaries, pub
regulars, political activists (like Hitler)to use these press narratives both as
afrmation of their own views and as a toolkit for the construction their own
political pronouncements.
The working of these media effects, of agenda-setting and framing, are also
apparent in Hitlers rise to prominence. Mussolinis coup detat provided Hitler
with a frame of reference which made him into national news material, as well as
shaping his followers expectations. Although Hitlers own putsch attempt was a
miserable failure, and initially dismissed by newspapers of all political persuasions
as a pitiful event, the subsequent trial signicantly boosted his national standing.
Whether called Hitler trial or HitlerLudendorff trial, the label used helped
to construct a political personality with a much higher prole than his previous
regional incarnation had enjoyed. The presentation of Hitler and his followers in
the nationalist press as youthful, idealistic, upright nationalists who had tragically

74

Press and Politics in the Weimar Republic

been betrayed by their wavering conservative co-conspirators allowed Hitler to


take on a new gravitas in the eyes of right-wing Germans, and resulted in an
outpouring of adulation during and after the trial. But this right-wing media
image not only framed the perception of Hitler among a signicant number of
frustrated nationalists, it also decisively inuenced Hitlers own self-conception.
To understand why, it is worth noting Hitlers views on the power of the press as
expressed in his book, Mein Kampf, in 1924. Historians conventionally emphasize
Hitlers insistence on the fact that, in propaganda, the spoken word was more
powerful than the written word. But in fact, still savouring his sudden rise
to stardom, and repeating cultural commonplaces of the time, he left no doubt
in Mein Kampf that the press was extremely powerful. Its importance really is
immense, he claimed, it cannot be overestimated, for the press really continues
education in adulthood. Readers fell into three groups, he argued: those who
believed everything they read; those who ceased to believe anything; and those
with a critical mind to examine what they read and pass their own judgement.
The rst group was by far the largest, Hitler proclaimed, and consisted of the
great mass of the people and the simplest-minded part of the nation. Like
many other politicians at the time, Hitler greatly overestimated the power of
press inuence, and was therefore able to imagine a reading public as bowled over
by the amount and quality of press coverage as he was himself. It is no surprise
that he now ceased to conceive of himself merely as the movements drummer
and instead described himself self-condently as the leader, or Fuhrer, in Mein
Kampf.
Hitler was indeed no longer an unknown at the end of 1924. The prominence
gained earlier that year helped him to consolidate his hold over the volkisch
movement in the following years. Of course, his celebrity status did not
automatically translate into electoral support: at the Reichstag elections in 1928,
the Nazis were unable to mobilize large numbers of dissatised voters. In Berlin,
less than 40,000 people cast their vote for the NSDAP. But Hitlers fame was
undiminished, as was evident during his rst trip to the Reich capital after the
Prussian government had lifted its speaking ban. Hitlers rst public appearance
in Berlin, on 16 November 1928, drew an enormous crowd. Police were still
turning people away once 16,000 punters had lled the Sportpalast to capacity.
And those coming to witness the famous mans oratory were also willing to be
enthused. Again and again [the speech is] interrupted by thundering applause,
Goebbels noted in his diary afterwards. At the end, a hurricane. Everyone rises.
Deutschland u ber alles. The Nazis were still a long way from enjoying the
kind of mass support from which they beneted in the early 1930s. But at a
time of quickly changing Reich governments and a confusing array of special
interest splinter parties, sporting a recognizable gureheada nationalist brand
nameas leader of the party was eventually to prove an invaluable political asset.

3
Competing Stories, 19245
The character of political life everywhere is determined largely by the
character of the press . . .
Bernhard Guttmann, Berlin correspondent of Frankfurter Zeitung, Die
Presse im demokratischen Staate, in Deutsche Presse, 223 (1927).

Driven by the political will and skill of two of Weimars most able politicians,
Friedrich Ebert and Gustav Stresemann, and based on the American willingness
to provide nancial support under the terms of the Dawes reparation plan,
1924 saw the gradual consolidation of the Weimar Republic. Yet the intensity
of political struggle did not abate: on the contrary, 40 per cent of all deputies
voted into the Reichstag in May 1924 were members of anti-republican parties.
And everyone involved in German politics knew that the following year would
see the rst democratic election of the Reich president, an event of decisive
importance for the future course of German politics. On the extreme Left
and Right, efforts now concentrated on discrediting the major political force
safeguarding the democratic achievements of the revolutionary period, the Social
Democratic party, and its most likely candidate for Germanys highest public
ofce, the present incumbent, Friedrich Ebert. By May 1925, Ebert was dead and
the former General Field Marshal Paul von Hindenburg installed as Germanys
new president. Although his election contributed signicantly to the short-term
stabilization of Germanys democracy, Hindenburg was to turn out to be one
of the grave-diggers of the Weimar Republic. As in the area of economics,
where it was not so much ination but the conditions of stabilization that really
damaged the republic, the stabilization of Weimar democracy brought about by
Hindenburgs election came at a huge political cost.
How could this happen? How could a convinced monarchist, responsible for
directing the German war effort that resulted in defeat and the deaths of nearly
two million German soldiers, be a credible and even popular candidate for the
presidency? In order to understand the choice of those who elected Hindenburg
in April 1925, it is crucial to delve into the hot-house of German politics in the
months preceding the presidential elections. These months were dominated by
two major media events: the libel trial of Friedrich Ebert in Magdeburg; and a
corruption scandal involving several high-ranking politicians connected to the

76

Press and Politics in the Weimar Republic

Barmat business. At issue was the role of Social Democracy in the military defeat
of 1918, and the trustworthiness of representatives of the new democratic system.
Partisan coverage of these events inspired political spitefulness both inside and
outside parliament. More importantly, the unsavoury spectacle which unfolded
on the pages of the daily press helped to discredit parliamentary democracy. Parliamentary committees proved not to be organs of the objective investigation of
truth, but instruments of party-political bickering; trust in the judicial authorities was seriously undermined; numerous commentators repeatedly criticized the
unreliability of the media. For many a German newspaper-reader, casting a vote
for the saviour who allegedly stood above democratic partisan politics seemed
an attractive option in spring 1925.
P R E S S P O L I T I C S A N D S C A N D A L - M O N G E R IN G
Three weeks before the elections to the Reichstag and the Prussian Landtag on
7 December 1924, a local corruption scandal made headlines in the Berlin press.
The head of the political police in Berlin, Bartels, had just been arrested for
corruption. He had been paid by a Russian businessman, Holzmann, to collect
incriminating material against another Berlin-based Russian businessman, Iwan
Kutisker. Holzmann had then blackmailed Kutisker and threatened him with
deportation, on the strength of his inuence with Bartels. Kutisker led a suit
against Holzmann and Bartels; however, no sooner were they in prison than
Kutisker, too, was arrested for fraud. He had managed to accumulate loans
for more than RM 14 million from Prussias state-owned central bank, the
Preuische Staatsbank (Seehandlung), by bribing bank ofcials. Eighteen months
later, Kutisker was to be sentenced to four years in prison for credit fraud. In late
November 1924, however, journalists were somewhat confused as to the identity
of the villain in the piece. All that seemed clear was that there was suddenly a
daily menu of corruption cases.
Electoral strategies determined the press coverage of these stories. Communists
used the corruption case in the Berlin police to denigrate conditions in SPDruled Prussia, even though the ofcial in question, Bartels, was known to be a
national-conservative. Bartelss offence had nothing to do with Kutiskers credit
fraud, but the presentation of the news in the Communist Rote Fahne consciously
blurred the distinction between the various offences in order to accuse the SPD
of bad governance. At the other end of the political spectrum, nationalist
papers chose to focus on the foreigners involved. The Pan-German Deutsche
Zeitung, for example, pointed out that it was typical that both Holzmann and
Kutisker were Jewish. They stood for the perceived inux of foreigners into the
German economy, a typical side-effect of the turmoil of revolution, ination,
and deation. Hence, when the Deutsche Zeitung singled out Kutisker, it really
aimed at the post-revolutionary political system. Once set on its anti-Semitic

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77

course, the Deutsche Zeitung dug for more dirt, and came up with the Barmat
business. The Russian Barmat brothers had also received Staatsbank loans, the
paper declared. It presented a series of grossly distorted half-truths that was to
become typical of the Barmat coverage. The business, the paper stated, was run
by seven Jewish brothersin fact there were four, two of whom ran itand the
eldest, Julius Barmat, had bragged about his close friendship with Berlins Social
Democratic police president Richter. The Deutsche Zeitung considered this link
sufciently incriminating to justify clamouring for the intervention of the state
prosecutor.
The Communists immediately recognized the potential for attacking the Social
Democrats through the Barmats, and took up the lead provided by the PanGerman paper. The Rote Fahne researched the relationship between the Barmats
and the Staatsbank, and produced a front-page story alleging the corruption
of the Weimar coalition parties, by pointing out the involvement of Social
Democrats and Centre party politicians in the Barmats business. One Reichstag
deputy of the Centre party sat on their supervisory board, as did the leader
of the Social Democratic faction in the Prussian Landtag, Ernst Heilmann.
Even a former Reich chancellor, Gustav Bauer of the SPD, was at that time
a member of the supervisory board of one of Barmats enterprises. Over the
next days, the Communist party paper claimed that the affair SeehandlungKutisker-Bartels-Barmat was growing into the Panama Scandal of the German
Republic. The violent polemic against the SPD did not fail to impress at least
the right-wing press, which quoted extensively from the Rote Fahne articles. The
Social Democratic Vorwarts dismissed the whole issue as Communist election
swindle, not even mentioning the name Barmat. The Rote Fahne, in turn,
took the silence of Vorwarts and other democratic newspapers in Berlin as proof
that there was something to conceal. The Communists were ghting to win the
struggle for the workers votes, and the question of inuence over public opinion
loomed large in editors minds. The Rote Fahne was convinced that the policy of
slander was paying off.
Five days before the elections, editors of the Social Democratic Vorwarts were
nally worried enough about the potential impact of this news story that they
tackled the Barmat issue head on, denying the main charges. Ernst Heilmann
wrote a lengthy declaration stating that he was a close friend of Julius Barmat,
that he had accepted membership on various boards within the business out of
friendship without deriving material advantages from them, and that he had no
knowledge of any loans whatsoever. Vorwarts also commented on the formation
of a hostile network of newspapers against the SPD, highlighting in particular the
co-operation of Hugenbergs right-wing Tag and the Communist Rote Fahne.
The Rote Fahne relayed this communication to its readers as a full confession on
the part of Social Democracy. No honest worker, according to the Communist
paper, could vote for corrupted Barmat-socialists. Denigration of the SPD
went hand in hand with anti-republican rhetoric: Does the never-ending

78

Press and Politics in the Weimar Republic

corruption era within this Republic not stink to high heaven? Do we need
ever new scandals and trials to open the eyes of Social Democratic workers,
too? . . . Can he [the worker] cast his vote for these men, who are striking
deals with these dirty upstarts who stick at nothing? The right-wing agrarian
Deutsche Tageszeitung quoted extensively from the Rote Fahne, but differed in its
conclusion from the original: only if the nationalist Right won at the upcoming
election, would socialist corruption come to an end. Two days before election
day, the nationalists regained the initiative in the press campaign from the
Communists. The Bergisch-Markische Zeitung, a small regional paper in the west
of Germany, published by the DNVP Reichstag deputy Walter Bacmeister,
alleged that during the revolution of 191819, the Barmats had been granted
a monopoly on fat imports by Eberts personal assistant, by agreeing to pay
a certain percentage of their proceeds into the SPD party coffers. Since the
Bergisch-Markische Zeitung was part of the Hugenberg group, these allegations
quickly passed through right-wing information channels and papers churned out
another spate of polemical articles. Again Vorwarts rejected the story in a small
notice as a Nationalist-Communist election lie. But this did not keep the
story from spreading through the editorial ofces.
The heavily anti-republican rhetoric of Communist and nationalist newspapers
stood in stark contrast to the actual facts: at this point, all that the Social
Democrats had been accused of was the fact that some of their functionaries
were sitting on the supervisory boards of various Barmat enterprises. The Barmat
business had received some large loans from the Prussian Staatsbank, and the
Social Democrats were suspected to have derived nancial benets from their
connections to the Barmats. Only some of it was true, most of it was grossly
exaggerated, and none of it amounted to an illegal action, but it served well
as a target for polemic. Every allegation that the Communist press raised
against the Social Democrats and the democratic system more generally, the
nationalist press amplied, and vice versa. On election day, 7 December 1924,
Vorwarts commented on these press attacks and stated that the election campaign
had been dominated by political slander: All of Germany is reeking of lies!
Never before has Germany experienced something as nasty and sordid like the
methods of our jointly operating opponents from left and right in this [election]
struggle.
The SPD, however, emerged the victor from the elections. The KPD lost
nearly a million votes, while the SPD increased its share by nearly two million.
At the other end of the political spectrum, the Nazis and other volkisch parties
lost more than a million votes, while the DNVP gained half a million. Still,
as always in the 1920s, there was no clear-cut winner. In the Prussian Landtag
election on the same day, the SPD lost twenty-two of its 136 seats, while the
KPD gained thirteen, and the DNVP even as many as thirty-three to reach a
total of 109. But the Barmat story did not seem to have had much of an impact
on voting behaviour. In Berlin, which had provided the major part of the Barmat

Competing Stories, 19245

79

news readership, the SPD gains were most impressive: an increase of over 50 per
cent from its May results made it the strongest party in the city, overtaking the
DNVP which had only increased its share by 10 per cent.
One reason for the ineffectiveness of the anti-SPD Barmat propaganda was
its limited public impact. In early December, the Berlin public at large was
not aware of the alleged Barmat scandal. The public prole of the Barmat
brothers in 1924 was so low that all those papers that gave them coverage felt
the need to introduce them to their readers rst. But the number of papers
that took to providing their readership with information about the Barmats
remained very limited. While the Rote Fahne considered the Barmats proof of the
corruption of Social Democracy by bourgeois society, most editors seemed not to
be convinced that the Barmats could be convicted of any wrongdoing. In fact,
the highly polemical anti-SPD nature of the Barmat story limited its news value
for the majority of Berlin newspapers. Only those papers involved in partisan
campaigning used the information availableand those were papers with very
low circulation. For the great majority of the Berlin and Prussian newspaper
readership, however, the Barmats did not become an issue. Neither mass papers
like Ullsteins Berliner Morgenpost and Hugenbergs Berliner Lokal-Anzeiger, nor
any of the high-circulation tabloids had given coverage to the emerging Barmat
story. Regional and local papers in the rest of Prussia never mentioned the
name Barmat. In Berlin, depending on which newspaper the Berliners read, they
would know a great deal about the Barmatsor nothing at all. Considering the
very small circulation gures of the partisan papers, the majority of the public
will have belonged to the latter category in December 1924.
Politicians, however, were avid newspaper readers, and consumed particularly
those partisan political papers that gave coverage to the Barmats. In fact, these
papers were an important source of substantiation for political attacks, and
many parties and political pressure groups had their own newspaper-clipping
collections to supply functionaries with an archive of politically relevant material.
The agrarian Reichslandbund, for example, kept les exclusively devoted to
clippings about SPD and nance, drawn exclusively from partisan papers.
Politicians thus operated in different information networks from the majority of
the public: to some of them, the amount of coverage devoted to the Barmats
in the partisan papers seemed to indicate that this issue loomed large in the
publics mind. Just before the elections, the DNVP submitted a parliamentary
question in the Prussian Landtag, demanding to know the role that the banks
management and ofcials had played in Barmat affair which had caused such
immense excitement. The liberal Berliner Tageblatt and the Vossische Zeitung,
which had not given any coverage to the Barmat issue, commented on the
apparent exaggeration of the phrasing immense excitement. However, it was
less a question of distortion than of misconception. Unlike politicians, the great
majority of the reading public had simply remained unaffected by the revelations
because they had not been exposed to them.

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Press and Politics in the Weimar Republic

Also among the limited readership of elite political papers were civil servants,
whose decision-making was inuenced by the negative coverage to which the
Barmat business had suddenly been exposed. This was crucial for the further
development of the rm, because the Barmats were particularly dependent on
the goodwill of the Preussische Staatsbank. After the stabilization of the currency
in 1924, the Barmats repeatedly needed big loans to keep solvent. By early
September 1924, they owed the Staatsbank over eight million RM. After some
management anxiety over these large sums, the bank scrutinized the economic
viability of these loans, and prolonged them until mid-December 1924, with
a promise to extend the deadline a further three months. However, by early
December the Barmats had failed to pay back some hundred thousand Mark in
interest and short-term credit, and needed another ve million. But this time
the ofcials of the Staatsbank refused to grant a further loan, and, worse still,
withdrew its promise to prolong the existing loans, which threatened the survival
of the business. On Julius Barmats request, the Social Democrat Ernst Heilmann
contacted the Prussian minister of nance, von Richter, of the right-wing DVP.
Von Richter explained that the bankers considered the loans economically
justied and secured with sufcient collateral: But they reject categorically an
increase in credits not least in consideration of the public attacks . . ..
Up to this point in early December 1924, Staatsbank ofcials had considered
the Barmat group, with some forty companies and about 13,000 employees, a
respectable business partner. What proved lethal to the Barmats was the untimely
coincidence of increasing nancial needs in a time of economic downturn, and a
poisonous volley of press attacks accusing them of improper business dealings. It
is ironic that those civil servants who should have known the Barmat nances best
were impressed by what was clearly grossly distorted press coverage: the actual
debt was less than a third of the sum which partisan papers claimed the Barmats
had received. The question of whether the Barmats would have managed to save
their business if the loans had been prolonged is open to speculation: even bigger
rms, like that of the recently deceased Hugo Stinnes, came crashing down as
a consequence of stabilization in 1925. In the case of the Barmats, hostile
press attacks unquestionably led to the denial of the promised extension of the
much-needed loans, forcing the rm into liquidation within a few months.
T H E M AG D E BU RG T R I A L
It became clear after the elections that the Barmat story had been primarily driven
by electoral strategies: as suddenly as it had appeared in the newspapers, it vanished
again after 7 December. Other stories dominated the news in December 1924.
Papers were claiming electoral victory or disguising defeat, and devoted their
pages to the incipient cabinet crisis and ensuing coalition negotiations. Political
commentators were also preoccupied with the news that France and Britain

Competing Stories, 19245

81

were unwilling to respect the evacuation schedule according to which Cologne


would have returned to German administration in January 1925. On a less
political note, the beginning of the trial of the mass-murderer Fritz Haarmann in
Hanover provided the readership with extensive coverage of this blood-dripping
sensation . But despite its juicy detail and stirring revelations, the Haarmann
trial was only second-rate news. The press, and particularly opponents of Social
Democracy, turned their attention to Magdeburg, where on 9 December 1924
a trial began against Erwin Rothard, editor of the Mitteldeutsche Presse, a small
volkisch paper in the Prussian province of Saxony, who had accused Friedrich
Ebert of high treason. The Reich president had taken him to court for libel, but
the proceedings turned into a judicial assessment of the veracity of the stabin-the-back legend. With a government crisis as a backdrop and presidential
elections looming on the political horizon, the Magdeburg trial provided ample
propagandistic potential. From 1919, Ebert had been a prime target for
journalistic slander. One photo became particularly notorious. Taken in summer
1919, it showed Ebert and the then Reichswehr minister Noske standing in the
Baltic Sea, in bathing trunks. The photographer sold it to Ullsteins Berliner
Illustrirte Zeitung, the only German weekly magazine with a circulation of well
over one million copies. There it was published on the front cover on 24 August
1919three days after the swearing-in of Ebert as Reich president in Weimar.
The liberal-democratic Ullstein publishing house had probably not intended to
ridicule Ebert. It had simply used the occasion of the new Reich constitution
to present the new president tongue-in-cheek as a normal citizen, presenting an
entertaining photo that combined two popular magazine themes: the holiday and
summer features, which traditionally dominated issues in July and August; and
the presentation of the private life of a famous personality. The photo, however,
turned into a sensation: the public was shocked at this display of nudity, which
stood in stark contrast to the pomp and circumstance of the late Wilhelmine era.
The photo soon became part of the anti-republican iconography: the agrarian
Deutsche Tageszeitung turned it into a postcard with the title Past and Present,
framing Ebert and Noske with photos of William II and Hindenburg in their
dress uniforms. Over the next years, opponents of the new Republic continued
to use, and refer to, the bathing photo to denigrate Ebert and democracy. At rst,
Ebert took it in good humour: when, on his second presidential visit to Munich
in June 1922, a student greeted him waving a red bathing suit, he laughed
and waved back. After the assassination of Walter Rathenau, Ebert changed his
policy towards defamation and insults, using libel proceedings as a weapon to
defend the Republics standing. During his ve years in ofce, he started a total
of around 200 criminal prosecutions.
During his visit to Munich in June 1922, Ebert had also been greeted by
the volkisch editor, Dr Emil Gansser, local politician and Hitler supporter, who
yelled Landesverrater, traitor to the fatherland, at him. During the subsequent
trial in Munich in February 1924, Gansser claimed that Ebert had committed

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Press and Politics in the Weimar Republic

high treason by his participation in the munition workers strike in Berlin in


January 1918. The pre-trial proceedings claried the matter: all the witnesses
stated that the Social Democrats had been taken by surprise by the outbreak of
the strike, and that the only reason for their participation in the strike committee
had been the intention of terminating the strike as quickly as possible. Still, the
trial went ahead, and when the Munich court subpoenaed Ebert, it became clear
that the trial was to be exploited politically. Eberts lawyer advised the Reich
president to withdraw his suit to prevent further insults in court. Ofcially,
Eberts lawyer claimed that the hearing of evidence had proven Gansser wrong
and that they thereby let the matter rest. But Gansser did not relent. In an open
letter published by many Bavarian newspapers he repeated his claims, denied
that Ebert had cleared himself, and demanded that someone shouldering the
charge of high treason should resign as Reich president. The volkisch Right
was delighted and took up the call. In February and March 1924 alone Ebert
instigated ve court actions on the basis of the libel of treason. Gansser took ight
and only returned when protected by the immunity of the National Socialist
Reichstag mandate that he won in the general elections in May 1924.
One of the right-wing newspapers which reprinted Ganssers open letter
was the small Saxon Mitteldeutsche Presse, edited by Erwin Rothard. Rothard
published the letter on 23 February 1924 under the heading A bitter pill for
Fritze Ebert, adding the following paragraph: Will Ebert swallow this pill, or
will he . . . appear in court in Munich after all? Go on, Herr Ebert, and prove
that you are not a traitor. You need not be afraid of the red bathing trunks
which will greet you upon your arrival in Munich. Ebert led a suit; the trial
against Rothard eventually started on 9 December 1924. Rothard, 28 years old
at this point, was a provincial lightweight with a criminal record. The rst
two interrogations after his article had appeared showed he was anything but
a fearless ghter for the nationalist cause. Rather surprisingly, he stated that
Ganssers attack was probably unfounded, he himself certainly did not have any
proof: he was sorry if his article conveyed the impression of embracing Ganssers
thesis. Rothard was subdued, repentant, and intimidated. But when his lawyers
served their documents it became obvious that in the meantime he had been
encouraged to take up Ganssers cause. He now insisted that he would prove that
Ebert had committed treason. The support that he received from the DNVP was
probably the crucial factor in this change of heart.
Hugenbergs Nachtausgabe devoted its entire front page to the opening of the
trial, full of polemic anticipation, promising that for the rst time the history
of 1918 was to be written under oath. The stab-in-the-back legend had
played a major role in the nationalist campaign leading up to the Reichstag
elections of 7 December. Thus, the Magdeburg trial offered an ideal opportunity
for nationalists to substantiate their interpretation of 1918 and to smear the
Reich president well in advance of the presidential elections due in spring
1925. Social Democratic and liberal journalists were acutely aware of the trials

Competing Stories, 19245

83

political thrust: the intention, they claimed, was to falsify history through the
proceedings and amass propaganda material against Ebert. The presentation
of the news certainly indicated that the trial was being used for propagandistic
ends. Newspapers tried to sell their particular political interpretation of events,
with headlines a focal point of political polemic. In its very rst article,
the Social Democratic Vorwarts made a point of specifying Eberts role as
plaintiff in the headline. This did not keep right-wing newspapers from
calling the proceedings Ebert trial, insinuating that the person on trial was
Ebert.
Headlines played a particularly important role in the political interpretation of
the trial, since most of the partisan newspapers, Left and Right, subscribed to the
same news-agency reports on the proceedings. These minutes were reprinted
after being edited to provide the required political thrust: particular parts of
witness statements were printed in bold as eye-catchers, some parts were left
out, and the whole text was interspersed with smaller striking headlines. One
witness statement particularly damaging to Ebert may serve as an example of the
competing accounts of the trial proceedings. The question of how to deal with the
draft notices that all strikers received was of particular importance. On the rst
day of the trial, a witness of Eberts speech to the strike rally in Treptower Park
on 31 January 1918, a worker named Syrig, claimed he had seen Ebert receive a
note from a member of the audience, presumably with a question concerning the
draft, whereupon Ebert told workers to ignore such orders. For the right-wing
Deutsche Zeitung, it was most important to highlight this statement:
Someone gave him a note. Upon this, Herr Ebert said: Strike only serves to shorten
the war. He who receives his induction orders ought not present himself. Chair[man]:
Are you not erring in this statement?Witness: Impossible, I have heard it entirely
clearly.

Readers of the extremist Deutsche Zeitung could thus conclude that here was
an independent worker testifying against Ebert. The papers evening edition
reinforced this impression with a smaller headline, placed somewhat arbitrarily
in the report on the proceedings: Call to Refuse Military Service.
The Social Democratic Vorwarts, although using the same news agency,
presented a totally different picture. It introduced this part of the proceedings
under the small headline A strange witness. Syrigs statement was reprinted in
normal typeset. Bold letters were, however, applied to the cross-questioning of
Syrig by Eberts lawyers, Heine, the part left out by the Deutsche Zeitung:
R.-A. [Rechts-Anwalt] Heine: Rothardt has employed someone who has received
considerable funds to organize witnesses against Herr Ebert. R.-A. Martin: One cannot
after all refuse the defendant to search for witnesses. . . . R.-A. Bindewald: I can here
provide the intelligence that the witness has been ordered by his past regimental
commander . . . to contact the German Nationalist State Parliamentarian Koch, who
was looking for witnesses of the events in Treptower Park.

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Press and Politics in the Weimar Republic

Here, readers learned that the DNVP parliamentarian Pfarrer Koch had used
party rallies to ask for potential witnesses against Ebert to come forward.
Although Syrig denied having received money, doubts about him remained.
Vorwarts highlighted the nationalist involvement in the trial and declared Syrigs
statement proof of the ongoing slander of the Reich President.
Berlins liberal-democratic press, which had at rst refrained from using
polemical headlines, now sided with Vorwarts. This change in tone was
immediately noticed by right-wing papers, which broadened their attack to
include all the democratic papers. Kreuz-Zeitung quoted the polemical headlines
of the Berliner Volkszeitung, Vossische Zeitung, and Vorwarts to prove the existence
of a leftist press alliance that was allegedly siding against Rothardt in a scandalous
way in an attempt to inuence the proceedings. Polemic was the newspapers
weapon in a struggle for opinion-leadership, and both sides closely observed
each other. With no new proceedings to report on 11 December, right-wing
newspapers published articles solely dealing with the opposing presss coverage
of the trial, pointing at all apparent inconsistencies and quoting extensively
from what they called an attempt to inuence public opinion. Vorwarts,
in turn, closely observed right-wing coverage, quoting Hugenbergs Berliner
Lokal-Anzeiger and Tag and denigrating their special correspondents coverage.
Among the rank of nationalist stink bomb hurlers Vorwarts singled out the
Deutsche Zeitung as particularly repulsive because it claimed that Ebert had once
served a prison sentence: Abuse, slander and baiting are having real orgies, it
concluded. Deutsche Zeitung retorted in similar style, labelling Vorwarts the
Jewish libel paper.
This preoccupation with the writing of other elite political papers, resulting
in polemical self-reference, was a characteristic feature of the partisan press in
Weimar Germany, adding considerably to the climate of political antagonism.
The media war fought over Magdeburg also affected the court proceedings. The
lawyers were very aware of the news value of their position. The day following
Vorwarts attack on Deutsche Zeitung, Eberts lawyer Landsberg picked up the
complaints and remonstrated against the way some right-wing papers reported
on the trial in an attempt to poison the court. Rothardts lawyers, in turn, complained about the Vossische Zeitungs accusation that the defence had fabricated
witnesses. The presiding judge stated that the court too considered such news
reporting and the distortion in leading articles completely unacceptable. But
the criticism of the press in court only helped to provoke journalistic tempers
and led to increasing antagonism in the coverage. Kreuz-Zeitung and Deutsche
Zeitung, for example, devoted considerable space over the following two days
to attacking Vorwarts and Ullsteins Vossische Zeitung, explaining that they were
only trying to refute the lies and falsications emanating from the left-wing
press. This, in turn, inspired Rothards lawyer to complain about the local SPD
newspaper, the Magdeburger Volksstimme. His complaint was couched in almost
exactly the same terms as the nationalist Kreuz-Zeitungs attack on Ullsteins

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Vossische Zeitung. In response, the presiding judge requested the lawyers to keep
discussions of the press out of the proceedings. This served only as an incentive
to editors to reinforce their attacks.
The hearing in the second week concentrated on Eberts speech to the Berlin
workers during the strike in Treptow, and his intentions in joining the strike
committee. All the witnesses heard on Tuesday 16 December stated that Ebert
had entered the strike with the rm intention of stopping it as soon as possible.
Regarding his Treptow speech, witnesses agreed it was impossible for Ebert to
have encouraged draft-dodging since that would have meant overturning a rmly
established SPD policy of supporting the draft, a political sensation that would
have caused Eberts immediate arrest, as a former ofcer of Berlins political
police conrmed. His speech, the witnesses stated, had been without re, his
calling for calm and restraint had been met with cries like strike breaker and
traitor of workers. However, one witness by the name of Lehnhoff stated that
Ebert had indeed made an ambiguous appeal. Not least because his speech had
met with so very little approval, Ebert had allegedly proclaimed towards the
end: Just hold on. Your working brothers . . . are standing by you. Lehnhoff
was unsure if this had been meant as a call to continue striking or as a call for
moderation.
This was what the right-wing press had been waiting for: Sensational turn
in Ebert trial the Nachtausgabe titled on its front page. This, it proclaimed,
was proof of Eberts true face, and the incident was skilfully dramatized: No
boot is creaking and no clearing of throats is audible. Everyone knows: this
is the decisive hours. Everyone feels: now the fog is lifting. The genius of
truth is right in the middle of the room. . . . The truth breaks the lie about
the patriotism of all Scheidemanner. The fact that Lehnhoff had explicitly
contradicted Syrigs account concerning Eberts stance on induction orders was
ignored by Hugenbergs special correspondent. More importantly, Nachtausgabe
readers were kept ignorant of the discrediting of Syrig, the main witness against
Ebert so far. A colleague who was supposed to back up Syrigs statement now
stated he would not dream of helping Syrig to commit perjury. Syrig had told
him that he was being looked after. Vorwarts took this as evidence of the alleged
fabrication of witness statements by the nationalists and focused its headlines on
this fact. Readers of Berlin newspapers were thus presented with two opposing
versions of the Magdeburg trial: while the Nachtausgabe triumphantly declared
the hearing a victory for truth and a proof of treason, Vorwarts described it
as a black day for Rothardts defence which had been revealed as a German
Nationalist witness factory. If they reported on Syrigs collapse at all, the
right-wing press smoothed over it to a greater or lesser extent. For Vorwarts,
this was yet again proof of the nationalist distortion of reality.
The following day, on the last day of the hearing, one more witness appeared
unannounced. A worker named Gobert claimed that it was he who had asked
Ebert about draft orders at the rally, upon which Ebert had clearly proclaimed

86

Press and Politics in the Weimar Republic

that the orders were to be ignored. He stuck to this testimony despite intense
cross-questioning. Apart from Syrig, he was thus the only witness to claim Ebert
had encouraged workers to refuse the drafting, contradicting the statements of
at least a dozen other witnesses. Coincidentally, he was also the last witness to be
heard. Thus, for the right-wing press the hearing ended on a high note. Since
there was no court session the following day in order to give lawyers time to
prepare their speeches, Vorwarts set out to destroy Goberts credibility: it revealed
that Gobert had eight previous convictions for fraud, and highlighted his political
background as a former member of the counter-revolutionary Erhardt Freikorps
in Berlin. These revelations were quickly taken up by Berlins liberal press.
The right-wing press, on the other hand, bridged the days without courtroom
news with commentaries on the SPDs wartime policy and munitions shortages
during the war. If they commented on the Gobert revelations at all, they did so
by accusing the Linkspresse of attempting to inuence a pending judgement.
The judgement on 23 December 1924 was a sensation. Whilst condemning
the editor to three months in jail, the judge stated in his verdict that Rothardts
accusation that Ebert was a traitor (a Landesverrater) waslegally speakingcorrect. Rothardts form of address, Fritze, the term bitter pill, the
mentioning of the bathing trunks, and, most importantly, the sentence Go on,
prove that you are not a traitor were clearly meant as an insult under 185, the
judge acknowledged. But the term traitor could not be considered libel under
186. The judge decided that Eberts participation in the strike committee, and
particularly the exhortation Just hold on! in Eberts Treptow speech constituted
treason. The judgement was highly ambiguous: Rothardts usage of the term
traitor was considered a serious insult, since, although legally justied, he had
not held any proof of his claim at the time of writing the article.
All Berlin newspapers ran the judgement as front-page news. Vorwarts considered it shocking: the judge had acknowledged that Eberts motivation for
joining the strike was his intention of terminating it as quickly as possible,
and yet he claimed that Ebert had committed treason. Liberal papers joined
Vorwarts in expressing their surprise at the judges argument. They attacked the
nationalist press for its hounding of the president, and claimed that Eberts case
had been thoroughly vindicated through the trial. This was wishful thinking.
Nationalist newspapers considered the judgement a triumph for truth and
an important step towards establishing the veracity of the stab-in-the-back.
Headlines announced Landesverrat in extra-bold letters over the front page.
Since nationalist commentators had ceased to expect this outcome, they were
jubilant, none more so than the Deutsche Zeitung. Ebert, the right-wing paper
concluded, has been nished politically for all times: the German people now
had to decide if it wanted to tolerate the rule of the ammunition strikers any
longer.
Editors tried violently to promote their interpretation of the judgement, so
that the press polemics that had accompanied and inuenced the trial continued

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for some days after 23 December 1924. Because of the deeply divided landscape
of the political media in Berlin, newspapers tried to establish some kind of
public opinion mirroring their own views by collecting other newspapers
published opinion, creating articles called Judgement on the judgement or The
echo of the Magdeburg judgement. Berliner Tageblatt, for example, quoted
Berliner Volks-Zeitung, Vossische Zeitung, Berliner Borsen-Courier, and Germania,
concluding that there was no doubt anywhere that the Magdeburg judgement
with its reasoning constitutes a misjudgement . . . of the worst order. This again
induced Kreuz-Zeitung, buoyed by the judgement, to attack the Linkspresse once
more for lies and falsications, and for obfuscating the true situation. Deutsche
Zeitung did likewise and published a vitriolic attack on Vorwarts that was only
restrained, as it ironically admitted, by its sincere respect of the State Supreme
Court and the Law for the Protection of the Republic. In fact, without that
law the polemics would have been even more poisonous. Right-wing journalists
openly deplored the fact that the patriotic press had had to be very careful and
restrained in its support of Rothardt since Ebert was protected by the law.
Many politicians considered the judgement and press polemics harmful to
Germanys political culture. In the Reich cabinet meeting on 23 December1924
the DVP vice-chancellor Jarres called the judgements reasoning horrendous,
and asked his colleagues for a joint statement in support of Ebert. Foreign
minister Stresemann, who had come under heavy attack from Hugenbergs
papers at the beginning of 1924, pointed out that all that had happened to Ebert
now could happen to any of them tomorrow. A statement was drawn up in
which the cabinet assured Ebert that it was unanimous in its conviction that his
activities had always been aimed at serving the good of the German fatherland.
The following day cabinet ministers jointly visited Ebert to deliver the statement.
This public show of condence by the bourgeois cabinet was seen by many as
a validation of the criticism aimed at the judgement. The right-wing press
mocked the visit. Deutsche Zeitung considered it a touching move tting for
Christmas day, labelling it a visit of condolence on its front page. On this
note, the Pan-German paper ended its Magdeburg coverage. Over the course
of the trial it had devoted a total of sixteen out of twenty-six front pages to
the story.
Throughout the trial the presentation of the news was determined by the
competition between right-wing and left-liberal interpretations of the events of
1918. It would be wrong to assume that the editing of trial proceedings led to
a complete distortion of what happened in Magdeburg. But the impression all
newspapers conveyed was that the opposite press lied, distorted, and falsied
throughout the trial. The reader, editors claimed, was thus led to construct
his own version of the story: Something always tends to stickand ones
own reader does not get to learn the truth, but instead . . . is continuously
being lied to. However, although the proceedings were regularly presented
in a way that supported the newspapers political stance on 1918, it was the

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Press and Politics in the Weimar Republic

extent to which journalists criticized each others reporting that aggravated the
increasing antagonism, which again determined the presentation of the news.
Any attack by the correspondent Fdes of the Kreuz-Zeitung on the Vossische
Zeitung automatically drew a reply in kind. A few individuals like Fdes
could thus function as ampliers of polemics within Berlins political discourse,
provoking a response that was out of all proportion to the low circulation gures
of the Kreuz-Zeitung.
Probably the most important amplier was Adolf Stein, who provided the
Hugenberg papers with commentaries under his nom de plume A or Job
Zimmermann. Stein considered himself a politician and . . . an old expert in
the area of inuencing public opinion; as such he had come into contact with
Hugenberg in 1919 when he had asked him for money to fund pamphlets against
Social Democracy. Hugenberg had soon realized Steins talent and poached
him from Hugo Stinness Tagliche Rundschau to write for his newly founded
Tag. Stein knew his worth to Hugenberg, repeatedly asking for pay rises, until
he was paid four times the standard wage of a senior editor and twice as much
as Friedrich Hussong, chief editor of Hugenbergs Berliner Lokal-Anzeiger.
In the Magdeburg courtroom, Stein demonstratively positioned himself right
behind Rothardt, next to Gansser. His commentaries always made the front
page, and were always combined with a heartfelt hatred of Social Democracy and
the new political system. This trial is one big lesson for the German people,
he wrote at one point, an educational lm against Social Democracy. . . . The
pending judgement here isat least seen politicallyno longer relevant. Much
more important . . . is [the fact] that nally the party of revolution parasites is
reduced to its true nature. His commentaries were one continuous onslaught
on the legitimacy of the Republic, and his polemics reached a big audience
since his articles were published in all three Berlin papers of Hugenbergs Scherl
publishing house, with a total circulation of nearly 350,000 in 1925.
Compared with Adolf Stein, the hapless Rothardt was only a minor amplier
of polemical discourse. But his original article that had started the trial was a
symptom of the low-level hostility that parliamentary democracy was continuously exposed to through the media: Rothardt had just picked up the rampant
anti-republican rhetoric of his time. Liberal observers blamed the DNVP and its
press for this poisoning of political culture, and pointed at the similarities to the
hate-campaigns of the past which had resulted in the murders of Erzberger and
Rathenau. At the same time, Rothardt, through his trial, was a conduit for
even more nationalist attacks on the Republic. Ernst Feder, deputy chief-editor
of the Berliner Tageblatt, highlighted in his comment on the judgement the dangerous synthesis of partisan politics, a manipulated legal system, and nationalist
press coverage. The Centre party organ in Berlin, Germania, also pointed at
the obvious partisan interest of the DNVP in this crusade against Ebert: the
next elections would be fought on a nationalist ticket against the traitor,
against the back-stabbing brothers, against the November criminals . It

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took only two weeks of such coverage to establish Magdeburg as a leitmotiv


of right-wing anti-republican rhetoric. A week after the Magdeburg judgement,
another synthesis of deutschnational press campaign and anti-republican judiciary
spawned a further leitmotiv: after Ebert had left the stage, the Barmats were
suddenly moved back into the spotlight.
S TAG I N G B A R M AT: T H E J U D I C I A RY A S C ATA LY S T
The contested transgressions of the Barmat scandal seem quite harmless, at least to
the present-day observer. Several politicians were members of various supervisory
boards, and had exercised their inuence to help the enterprises in their business.
Hugenberg, in comparison, sat on the boards of forty-seven companies without
this being considered scandalous. There was, however, some truth in the rightwing claim that Barmat had proted from political patronage. The success of
Julius Barmats business had, to some extent, depended on his ability to make
political connections work in his favour. At the beginning of his business carreer
in the Netherlands, he had joined the Dutch Social Democrats in 1908, and
when after the war Dutch and German Social Democrats began to co-operate
closely, he moved to exploit these links, offering the Social Democratic Second
International temporary ofce space in his Amsterdam house. For the owner of
an exportimport business, this must have seemed a natural means of extending
his international contacts. He was introduced to some of the leading German
Social Democrats, and these connections proved useful in acquiring business
with state-run enterprises which dealt with foodstuffs. Ernst Heilmann, leader
of the SPD in the Prussian parliament, and Gustav Bauer, a former Reich
chancellor, came to support his activities on a regular basis. Heilmann became
a close friend of Barmat and joined the supervisory boards of six of Barmats
enterprises. As such, he had written several letters of recommendation on behalf
of Barmat, but was always careful not to accept any emoluments or other
nancial advantages. This distinguished him from another prominent Social
Democrat, Wilhelm Richter, the president of the Berlin police, who received
numerous presents and repeatedly dined out at Barmats expense. Barmat
also became acquainted with Otto Wels, chairman of the SPD, and Friedrich
Ebert in 1919, and repeatedly bragged about his inuential connections. In
the distorted accounts of the right-wing press, he kept a photo of Ebert in his
ofce, onto which he himself had allegedly copied a dedication by Ebert and his
signature.
None of this was illegal. But when recounted by right-wing papers prior to
the elections in December 1924, it certainly seemed so. And this press coverage
proved consequential. It intimidated bank ofcials, so that they denied the
Barmats the promised prolongation of their credit, thus forcing the business
into illiquidity. It also impressed the judiciary, which formed a large part of the

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Press and Politics in the Weimar Republic

readership of right-wing newspapers. It was a young state prosecutor from the


unit working on the Kutisker case, Kussmann, who turned the press allegations
against Barmat into what subsequently became the Barmat scandal. Kussmann
saw his own anti-socialist views conrmed by press rumours concerning Barmat
in late 1924. In December 1924, red up by the Magdeburg trial and the
onslaught of the right-wing press on Social Democracy, Kussmann decided to
embark on a political crusade of his own, in close co-operation with the right-wing
press, in particular with Hugenbergs mass circulation Berliner Lokal-Anzeiger,
that became the main platform for the Barmat story, provided with a generous
ow of leaks by Kussmann. The fact that the Lokal-Anzeiger was clearly
better informed than the ofcial Prussian news agency, the Amtliche Preuische
Pressedienst, did not escape the attention of contemporaries. It led to repeated
accusations that the state prosecution ofce was leaking information to certain
papers that it was withholding from the ofcial state news service.
In fact, Kussmanns efforts in media management far exceeded the traditional
practice of leaking condential information, as became evident in summer 1925.
By this point, the Prussian Ministry of Justice had already taken Kussmann off
the Barmat case. In late July, Kussmanns house was searched and material
was found which proved that he had enjoyed close contacts with a nationalist
news agency, led by a close friend, Ernst Knoll. Knolls ofce had been partly
nanced by a DNVP Reichstag deputy, and was co-operating closely with a
DNVP ofce set up in order to exploit the Barmat affair. Kussmann admitted
that he had conceived of the Barmat affair as an act of political cleansing
directed against parties which propagated socialism whilst secretly enriching
themselves. Among the correspondence found in Knolls DNVP-afliated
news agency were letters to editors of all those right-wing media that played a
prominent role in fanning the Barmat scandal, among them Hugenbergs news
agency, the Telegraphen-Union. The letters showed the careful orchestration
of the nationalist media hype. For example, when material was made available
to the Berliner Borsen-Zeitung, Knoll followed it up with several letters of
guidance to various other editors, like to those of the Deutsche Zeitung: I have
enclosed the copy of an article by the Bergisch-Markische Zeitung, which in turn
makes references to [an article in] Berliner Borsen-Zeitung of Saturday afternoon
No. 204. On its part, Berliner Borsen-Zeitung will react to [the article in]
Bergisch-Markische Zeitung tomorrow morning, and it would be very desirable
for achieving the said goal if you, too, would take up the issue and comment
on it appropriately in the following issue. In one of his private letters, Knoll
highlighted the extent to which his orchestration was just assisting a news practice
that was already operating very smoothly.
In the early hours of 31 December 1924, Kussmann launched a grand police
action against the Barmats, staged in such a way as to guarantee maximum
media attention. The villa of Julius Barmat on the Schwanenwerder peninsula
was surrounded, and a police boat cruised offshore to prevent any attempt to

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escape. Simultaneously about 100 police ofcers all over Berlin arrested the other
three brothers and raided the various ofces of the Barmat group. As intended,
this highly theatrical coup made front-page news in almost all the papers in
Berlin. Reports spoke of 300 or even 400 police ofcers and a otilla of police
boats involved in the operation. Barmat became the topic talk of the day at
every regulars table, noted Adolf Stein with satisfaction in his column in the
Berliner Lokal-Anzeiger. This highly successful media launch of the Barmat
story immediately attracted the criticism of the Social Democratic Vorwarts
which accused the state prosecution of staging the arrests in the form of a
sensational lm. Liberal papers also remarked on the co-operation of State
Prosecution Ofce and media in creating highly marketable news. Rather
unusually, the state prosecution ofce refrained from giving an ofcial account
of the accusations against the Barmats. The Berliner Lokal-Anzeiger, on the
other hand, was able to tell its readers that the arrest was because party-political
connections had been used to secure loans from state-owned nancial institutes,
as well as enabling the Barmats to make very protable deals with Reich ofces
and Reich companies. These were the exact claims that had been voiced against
the SPD in the rst round of the Barmat affair in the pre-election period. The
partisan press that had then engaged in the anti-SPD campaign simply recycled
its articles and accusations. Many editors of papers that had not reported on
the story earlier in 1924 now took up the theme. The scale of the operation
initiated by the state prosecution ofce now gave credibility to these press claims.
SCANDAL AS A POLITICAL WEAPON
Although sensational in nature, the dramatic arrests of the Barmats would
not have resulted in one of the Weimar Republics biggest media scandals
had it not coincided with the up-coming election campaign for the Reich
presidency in spring 1925. Despite the damage to his reputation caused by
the Magdeburg trial, Friedrich Ebert still constituted a formidable challenge to
all those who were dissatised with the outcome of the revolution of 1918. The
opportunity of smearing Social Democracy generally, and Ebert in particular,
loomed large on journalists minds. Again, as during the Magdeburg trial,
the labelling in headlines became a focal point of political point-scoring. The
agrarian Deutsche Tageszeitung announced the arrest of several more Staatsbank
ofcials under the headline Giant expansion of Barmat scandalSeveral Eastern
Jews arrested. In contrast, the Social Democratic Vorwarts declared it a
continuation of the Staatsbank-Skandal, highlighting the responsibility of the
Staatsbank management. Ullsteins liberal Vossische Zeitung used the less
polemical term Barmat-Affare, while Berlins other renowned liberal daily,
Mosses Berliner Tageblatt called it Die Affare Kutisker-Barmat. The struggle
over the political interpretation of the events manifested in these various labels

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Press and Politics in the Weimar Republic

was itself newsworthy: What is the name of the case? was the headline used by
Georg Bernhard, the chief editor of the Vossische Zeitung, for his rst front-page
commentary on the affair. He called it The Seehandlung case, putting it into
the general context of business funding during the ination period, and drawing
parallels with the Stinnes business, which, in turn, led to violent polemics in the
right-wing press.
With the arrest of the Barmat brothers, the affair had ceased to inhabit
exclusively the pages of the party-political press. Editors all over Berlin knewor
had heard rumoursof the allegations made in the run-up to the December
elections. They were, therefore, aware of the politically explosive potential of
this affair, and their need to take a position in the wider spectrum of possible
viewpoints. Ullsteins liberal Berliner Morgenpost, for example, which in early
December 1924 had ignored all corruption charges against the SPD and the
Barmats, reported of the arrests of Staatsbank ofcials on 30 December 1924
under the headline Korruption!; but in view of the right-wing rhetoric it
continued the headline with the otherwise inexplicable How it was in the
pastThe Monarchy covered up, the Republic overhauls, with numerous
examples of cases of corruption in the Wilhelmine Kaiserreich in the article
itself. On the other end of the political spectrum, the amount of coverage
given to the Barmat story in Hugenbergs newspapers was an interpretation in
itself of the perceived gravity of the affair. Within the limited space of Scherls
tabloid paper, the Nachtausgabe, the Barmat story loomed large, in contrast with
the minor coverage given to the events by its competitor, Ullsteins BZ am
Mittag.
The identity of the villain of the piece and the question of political responsibility
became hotly contested issues. The right-wing press immediately dened the
affair a political scandal and fulminated against the perceived attempts of other
papers to pass on the blame from the main protagonists with the poetical foreign
rst and familiy names to the currently quite innocuous-appearing ofcials of
the Prussian Seehandlung. Vorwarts was indeed selling the affair as an oldPrussian nance scandal, explicitly countering the agitorial and anti-republican
character of right-wing coverage. For the German Nationalists, it is fact that
the Seehandlungs scandal could only happen under the new regime and as a
consequence of the republican constitution, Vorwarts declared. The diffusion
of such false rumours through the right-wing press serves partly agitatorial ends
against Social Democracy, partly it means to distract attention from the core of
the scandal, the Staatsbank. Within this context of general scandal-mongering
by antagonistic newspapers, and conicting accounts of what was at issue,
editors recognized the need to place events within a story that would make
a convincing political case. The right-wing Nationalpost believed this to be a
service to the readership: Increasingly, the Barmat scandal reveals itself to be a
scandal of Social Democracy. Already now it has reached such dimensions and
is constantly expanding further, that the startled newspaper reader is completely

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at a loss faced with the impact of the daily revelation avalanche. So what is
the issue in essence? In a few words the following: . . . Then followed the
accusation that leading Social Democrats had used their inuence to secure
state funds for the Barmats while beneting nancially from these transactions,
both individually and as a party. The Social Democratic Vorwarts considered
this article scandalous, but could not for the moment present an alternative
version of events for lack of information. Whilst the attacks had mostly been
led by the Communist Rote Fahne before the December elections, the Social
Democrats now perceived themselves as victims of a distinctly right-wing
attack.
It soon transpired, however, that the arrests of the Barmat brothers had been
premature, and based on no factual evidence. In the little time the state
prosecution had spent on the Barmat les prior to the arrests, it was impossible
to identify irregularities that would have justied these unprecedented steps.
In fact, it took the state prosecution ofce until December 1925 to dene
its charges against the Barmats. When in March 1928 Julius Barmat was
eventually sentenced to eleven months in prison, it was not for fraud but
for bribery: Julius and Henry Barmat had met the head of the Reich postal
ministry, Anton Hoe, in June 1924, who then received some RM 120,000
over the course of the next few months from them. In September 1924 the
Barmats then applied for a loan from the Reich postal ministry, and Hoe
agreed to grant them RM 14.5 million. Giving the lie to the accusations
voiced in the right-wing press, Hoe and another parliamentarian bribed by the
Barmats were not Social Democrats but members of the Catholic Centre party.
Overeager to ght Social Democracy, Kussmann had been looking for the wrong
culprits.
Rumours about substantial loans to the Barmats by the Reich postal ministry
emerged shortly after the Barmats arrests. Hoe felt compelled to issue a
statement through Wolffs news agency: in order to avoid job losses in the
Barmat business, he had granted them RM 14.5 million in October 1924, on the
normal terms and conditions. However, the Hugenberg papers claimed he had
given the Barmats RM 45 million, paid out on explicit command of the minister,
bypassing normal departmental procedure for reasons of secrecy. They also
reported that Hoe had authorized several loans which went towards enterprises
in which a couple of his party colleagues were sitting on the supervisory board.
On 9 January 1925, the Lokal-Anzeiger announced that the state prosecution
was extending its investigation to include Hoe. Although Hoe denied the
accusations, he tendered his resignation in view of the pending legal investigation.
Even after his resignation, Hoe kept denying the exaggerated accusations voiced
against him, but his resignation gave these claims a credibility that the right-wing
media skilfully exploited. The exact circumstances of Hoes misdemeanours
only became known much later, over the course of the trial of the Barmats
in 1927.

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Press and Politics in the Weimar Republic

The fact that Hoe was a member of the Catholic Centre party did not
deect the thrust of the right-wing attacks in early 1925: the lead commentary
of Hugenbergs tabloid, the Nachtausgabe, following Hoes resignation carried
the headline Social Democracy in Barmat-Quagmire. The Centre party was
spared the wholesale condemnation by the right-wing press from which Social
Democrats suffered, primarily because of the complex negotiations under way to
form a coalition which followed the resignation of Marx and his cabinet after
the December Reichstag elections. Although theoretically a Grand Coalition
of SPD, Centre party, DDP, and DVP would have been possible, the DVP
categorically rejected such an option and demanded the formation of a bourgeois
Rechtsblock, which included both the Centre party and the DNVP. Negotiations
took more than a month before Hans Luther could nally announce his cabinet
on 15 January 1925. It was an openly bourgeois coalition of the Right. The SPD
almost relished its relegation to the role of main opposition party, promising the
new government a ruthless ght. Within the framework of this newly dened
politics of confrontation, the SPD constituted a prime target in the Barmat affair.
In Prussia, the situation was different. Here the DVP had left the coalition with
SPD, DDP, and Zentrum after the December elections. This left Otto Braun
with a minority government. The subsequent government crisis lasted until April
1925. This crisis not only provided good headlines; right-wing journalists
also hoped to bring down the governmentperhaps even the whole democratic
system. The involvement of SPD and Centre politicians in the Barmat affair
enabled their political opponents to apply the term Barmat-Block to the Prussian
coalition.
The different roles of the Catholic Centre party at the Reich and Prussian
levels also explained the difference in tone and style of the investigation of
the affair in the Reichstag and Prussian Landtag parliamentary committees.
The former was of practically no signicance, whilst in the latter the political
conict was carried to extremes. When in January 1925 the Prussian Landtag
reconvened for the rst time after its Christmas break, the DNVP tabled the
motion for an investigating committee to look into the affair. Over the following
months, it was press accusations that set the agenda for the investigating
committee which needed a total of fty-two sessions to distinguish between
fact and ction. Its nal report was issued only on 12 October 1925, and
its apparently arbitrary preoccupation with inconsequential facts cannot easily
be understood without a knowledge of the gross media hype that surrounded
the affair. Although the ofcial subject of the investigation was supposed to
be the question of the Staatsbank loans to the Barmats, it hardly featured in
the committees deliberations. On innumerable occasions, parliamentarians
tabled motions to hear further evidence on the basis of press allegations. So
blatant did this become that during the tenth session of the committee, the
agenda-setting role of the press was brought into question: Tomorrow some

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journalist publishes any odd story. Immediately, someone in the committee


will thereupon table a motion, criticized one SPD member, and a DDP
member pointed out that if the committee continued to react to all press
allegations they would have to extend the hearings until 1950. For the
DNVP deputy chairman of the committee, however, there was no longer
any distinction between published and public opinion; he considered it his
duty to investigate rumours, certain assertions, which appear in the press in
public. He was no examining magistrate, nor a detective, he complained:
From where am I meant to get leads? What has been claimed in the press, in
the public at large, has to be investigated, in order to cleanse the atmosphere
completely.
Ironically, therefore, the press became the prime force in the alleged attempt
to cleanse the political atmosphere which journalists had almost single-handedly
poisoned themselves. The willingness of politicians to let the press dominate
the agenda was remarkable, particularly considering the many complaints individual members made about their treatment at its hands. After one of these
complaints, the committees chairman called on the press to refrain from mudslinging, but added: I am not saying that it ought to be objective, because it
would then become boring. According to the minutes, this remark met with
great amusement on the side of other committee members. The situation was
no different in the Reichstag, where the rst debate on the affair also showed
politicians to be under the inuence of the rst phase of newspaper coverage.
The Communist Stoecker demanded an immediate discussion of the stinking
corruption scandals which he said engrossed all the press and the public. Like
Deerberg, Stoecker and probably most other politicians, derived their concept of

Offentlichkeit
from the press.
The activities of the Prussian investigation committee reached a rst climax at
the end of January 1925, when it invited Gustav Bauer to give evidence. Bauer,
SPD member of the Reichstag and, between May 1921 and November 1922,
Reich chancellor as well as minister of nance, had helped Barmat to win food
import contracts from various Reich ofces. He had also entered into business
relations with Barmat upon leaving ofce, though only once, when helping with
one scrap-metal deal for which he received a commission. Their relationship
came to an end in late 1923, when Bauer and Barmat fell out over the amount
of money that Bauer was to receive for that deal. Bauers ventures into the
business world did not receive the wholehearted support of his party, because
the opinion prevailed that what might be a matter of course for bourgeois
members of parliament was not suitable for a Social Democrat, as Vorwarts later
explained. Some of this unease about his relations with Barmat was evident
in Bauers own behaviour. In early December 1924, when press reports rst
mentioned that he was a board member of one of the Barmat enterprises, he kept
silent; in early January 1925, after the arrest of the Barmats, he issued a denial.

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Press and Politics in the Weimar Republic

Consequently, he did not cut a convincing gure when being cross-examined


by the Prussian investigation committee. It transpired that he had exercised his
inuence on behalf of Barmat much more frequently than his earlier denials had
suggested. Even more damaging for Bauer was his concession that, contrary to
his earlier denials (which right-wing papers had been forced to publish under the
threat of the press law), he had indeed been sitting on the supervisory board of
one of Barmats enterprises. However, repeatedly pressed on this issue, he denied
having received any nancial renumeration from Barmat. Only a few days
later, in early February 1925, however, the Lokal-Anzeiger published an article in
which it reprinted a letter from Barmats company to Bauer during the time of
their dispute in late 1923, which listed the various occasions on which Bauer had
allegedly received money from Barmat. The SPD promptly asked Bauer to
resign his Reichstag seat. Bauers resignation, like Hoes, was widely portrayed
as proof of most of the previous allegations.
T H E P RO L I F E R AT I O N O F S C A N D A L
Day after day a mud current of suspicions and accusations and invectives is
emanating from the right-wing press against men who hold public ofce, complained the chief editor of Mosses Berliner Volks-Zeitung, the DDP politician
Otto Nuschke in January 1925. Whilst Nuschkes paper was itself highly critical of Barmat and his connections to Social Democratic politicians, it deplored
the way the affair played into the hands of the DNVP. Nuschke therefore
attempted to neutralize the political capital made out of the Barmat-Ausschu ,
as the investigating committee of the Prussian parliament was widely called.
On 29 January 1925the same day that saw Bauer give testimony to the
investigation committeeNuschke tabled a motion to broaden the investigation to include events at the Prussian Landespfandbriefanstalt where the director
had just resigned: rather than providing funds for house building right-wing
ofcials had apparently lost millions in real-estate speculations. Signicantly,
Nuschke explicitly based his motion on information he taken from the press.
Nuschke obviously hoped this would damage the DNVP. The Social Democrats
considered it more protable to demand a separate investigating committee,
in which the events surrounding the Landespfandbriefanstalt would be given
undivided attention. Ullsteins BZ am Mittag deemed all this sufciently sensational to devote a front page to it, declaring it The new scandal in the
Landespfandbriefamt.
By chance, the Reichstag provided the Social Democrats with a much more
spectacular topic on the same day that the right-wing press concentrated on
Bauers testimony. In the Reichstag budgetary committee the newly appointed
DNVP nance minister von Schlieben had been forced to reveal that the
government was paying out over RM 700 million to the Ruhr industry in

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compensation for losses suffered in 1923. The Ruhr industrialists had complained
that they were carrying the main nancial burden of the declaration of a
general strike after the occupation of the Ruhr by the French in January
1923. The decision to reimburse them for the losses incurred was based on an
informal pledge of the then Reich chancellor Stresemann, and had been nally
taken by the outgoing Marx government in December 1924. As the Social
Democrats now pointed out, there had been no law authorizing the government
to take such action, nor had the government made the decision public. It
had merely published an announcement in the Reichsanzeiger which stated an
unlimited duty of recompensation. The fact that the money had not even been
accounted for in the Reich budget constituted a clear violation of parliamentary
budgetary obligations. Vorwarts turned it into a front page story, declaring:
Is this not a much greater scandal than anything which has been revealed in
connection to Kutisker, Barmat and Michael? In the one case nonfeasances or
misdoings of subordinate ofcials, here decisions of the highest authorities, if
not even of the entire Reich government . . .. The Ullstein press followed
suit, devoting the front page of the Berliner Morgenpost to this issue. The
right-wing press, on the other hand, barely touched upon the disclosure. The
government that had taken the decision originally, Hugenbergs Tag pointed
out, had enjoyed the support of the SPD, too. The issue of the Ruhr money,
the Scherl papers declared, was Vorwarts failed attempt to create a scandal; the
Landespfandbriefanstalt affair equally a failure of the democratic press. In the
case of the Landespfandbriefanstalt none of the ofcials involved had beneted
from their decisions in any way. According to the Tag, the whole affair was
without public interest.
Just what was of interest to the public was difcult to determine in the
days following Bauers testimony to the Prussian investigation committee in
late January 1925, the disclosure of the Ruhr compensation and the loans of
the Landespfandbriefanstalt. News coverage was neither balanced nor complete.
Indeed, the news policy of the various papers became once again subject to
erce criticism from other papers. Whilst in the investigation committee on
the Barmat affair the most terrible source of corruption is being revealed
blow by blow, the united marxist democratic press manages to keep secret all
those conclusions through coarsest hypocrisy, commented the volkisch Deutsche
Tageblatt. Instead they construct a nance scandal of the right-wing bloc
by means of mendacity, distortion and with scarce material. Even a paper
like the Berliner Borsen-Zeitung, which focused on economic and nancial
issues, ignored the Ruhr payments and the Landespfandbriefanstalt. Instead, it
published a series of extended front-page stories with inside information on the
Barmats corruption machine. Vorwarts accused BBZ of sensationalism, but
itself published a letter which showed that Hoe had intervened on Barmats
behalf with his fellow ministers. The Ruhr payments, in comparison, held
little excitement: the present Reich government was only executing directives

98

Press and Politics in the Weimar Republic

that a former government had formulated, and it had promised an ofcial


memorandum which would account for the decision.
The Barmat affair was excellent news material not only because of the constant
stream of revelations that it provided but also because its consequences were so
spectacular. On Friday 6 February, Bauer resigned his parliamentary seat because
of the Barmat letter published by the Lokal-Anzeiger. Three days later, Hoe,
further to his resignation as minister, also resigned his parliamentary seat; the day
after that he was arrested. On 13 February, the Prussian interior minister Severing
sent police president Richter on leave; the following week the Amtliche Preuische
Pressedienst announced that the Prussian Staatsministerium had decided to send
Richter into interim retirement. Only Ernst Heilmann, leader of the Social
Democratic faction in the Prussian Landtag, survived the affair, despite his
well-known friendship to Barmat. His statement to the investigating committee
in early February 1925 revealed no compromising information, and gave the
right-wing press only little further ammunition: Barmat had only contributed
a total of around RM 50,000 to the Social Democratic cause over the last six
years, a gure which fell considerably short of the sums that had been alleged in
the press. Heilmann also reported that he had intervened with the Prussian
nance minister on 8 December 1924 to support Barmats request for further
funds. Although many commentators did consider this intervention questionable,
Heilmann could not be accused of any improper acts.
Encouraged by the list of prominent casualties, German Nationalists now
switched their attention to the ultimate prize, Friedrich Ebert. In early February
1925, the DNVP tabled a motion in the Prussian investigating committee
demanding to hear evidence on Eberts knowledge of his ofces dealings with
Barmat. The session on 23 February of the investigating committee established
that Barmat had indeed received letters of recommendation with the letterhead
of the presidential ofce from one of the ofces employees. Eight months later,
in the nal sitting of the Barmat-Ausschu, Ebert was acquitted of any sort of
wrongdoing. On 23 February, however, the EbertBarmat connection made
provocative front-page headlines, while the non-existence of alleged monopoly
contracts and prot participation was considered less interesting. Vorwarts and
the Catholic Germania were united in their distaste of such articial generation
of scandal by the Rechtspresse: For weeks this motion has been published by
the German Nationalist press, and the virtuous German Nationalist readers were
naturally convinced because of the respectability of their party that where there
is so much smoke there is also re.
T H E C O N S E QU E N C E S O F S C A N D A L
Although Ebert would easily have survived the attacks aimed at him politically
in 1924 and 1925, he did not survive them physically. According to Eberts

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99

friend, Gustav Noske, the president was hounded to death through shameful
baiting that an abysmally despiteful press had long been engaging in until
the nal days. Ebert refused to undergo medical treatment to stand up
to the political attacks. Because he was exposed to new accusation in the
Barmat investigation committee every day, he remainedtortured by painin
ofce, Noske recalled later. On Monday, 23 February, I was again . . . with
him, this time for the last time. . . . While he was bending over with pain,
he talked with deep bitterness how he was suffering from the baiting that
had been organized against him for years. On 26 February, his doctors
diagnosed acute appendicitis and peritonitis, and Ebert underwent an emergency
operation. He died on 28 February 1925. With Ebert dead, Hoe arrested,
Bauer out of ofce, and Richter sent into retirement, the Barmat affair had
spent itself. Although Heilmann remained subject to repeated attacks due
to his relationship with Barmat, scandal-mongering newspapers found no proof
of personal gains. By mid-March, most of the people initially arrested at
the same time as the Barmats had had to be released by the state prosecution
ofce, which had altered its charges against the Barmats three times in as many
months.
The death of Friedrich Ebert, followed by his state burial and then by
the nomination by each party of its candidate for the presidential elections,
completely dominated the news in early March 1925. The sessions of the Prussian
Barmat committee lumbered on until October, but they received considerably
less coverage than before Eberts death, and by mid-March several newspapers
had declared the Barmat scandal dead. The name Barmat, however, did
continue to haunt the political discourse of the following months; the affair
was repeatedly brought up in party political propaganda. Ebert had only just
been buried when the DNVP produced leaets highlighting his responsibility
for letting the Barmats into Germany. In the Reichstag, the Communist
Remmele interrupted the eulogies to the deceased Reich president by declaring
that the six years of his presidency had consisted of six years of corruption . . . six
years of Barmatism, six years of robbery of public money by notorious proteers
and frauds . . .. Already in early February, the Communists had published
a brochure, Barmat und seine Partei, which summarized the allegations of
corruption that the Rote Fahne had printed. The DNVP followed suit in early
March, with The KustikerBarmat scandalAccording to the publications of
the press up to now. The press, in this case, was the Pan-German Deutsche
Zeitung, from which all excerpts had been takena fact kept hidden from the
reader.
The right-wing parties eventually nominated the former Reich interior minister
and mayor of Duisburg, Karl Jarres, as their candidate. Otto Braun, for the SPD,
and Wilhelm Marx, former Reich chancellor of the Catholic Centre, stood
little chance of gaining more votes than Jarres. The right-wing contingent
behind Jarres, the Reichsblock, used the Barmat affair extensively in its election

100

Press and Politics in the Weimar Republic

campaign. When Vorwarts polemicized against this scandal campaign it was


attacked by Hugenbergs Tag, which proclaimed that the Social Democrats
had good reason to be afraid of the upcoming Barmat elections. The
Barmats were also a popular topic at election rallies. In his description of a
rally in the Berlin Sportpalast, Carl von Ossietzky emphasized the importance
of the Barmat affair as a common rhetorical denomination that united the
Reichsblock in its opposition to Social Democracy: Four speakers perform, four
speakers from different political groupings, but they all operate consistently
with the BarmatKutisker-scandal. One gentleman from the Vaterlandische
Vereine has the gall to ask why the Social Democrats have not nominated
Herr Barmat instead of Herr Braun, and minutes of jubilations reward this
effrontery.
None of the candidates received the necessary absolute majority in the rst
round of the presidential election, necessitating a second round in which a
relative majority would sufce for victory. Since both Braun and Marx were
candidates for the presidential ofce and potential candidates for the post of
Prussian minister-president, the two parties struck a deal: Braun withdrew from
the presidental election and was elected in Prussia with the support of the Catholic
Centre on 3 April; in return, the SPD supported Marx, who also received the
support of the liberals, for the presidency. Against Marx as the candidate of the
so-called Volksblock Jarres was likely to lose, so the Reichsblock exchanged him for
Paul von Hindenburg. The nomination of the old eld marshal sent shock-waves
through the German political system. The vote for the president looked likely
to turn into a vote on the Republic. The SPD executive saw the republic in
danger, and pointed in particular at the efforts of its political opponents to
mobilize non-voters: every libel is played out anew, all lies newly lied . . ..
Indeed, the Reichsblock heightened its anti-republican rhetoric and encouraged
the German electorate to vote for Schwarz-Wei-Rot, the colours of the old
Kaiserreich, and against the republican Schwarz-Rot-Gold. The union of Social
Democrats and Catholic Centre lent itself to the label Barmatblock. The rightwing agrarian Reichs-Landbund drew on the anti-Social Democratic les in its
extensive newspaper-clippings collection to produce leaets on Barmat that were
distributed throughout the countryside. A spate of right-wing pamphlets in late
March and in April aimed to highlight the corruption inherent in the republican
system in general, and in Social Democracy in particular: Barmat and his
Friends by Hugenbergs star columnist Adolf Stein; From Rathenau to Barmat, by
the anti-Semitic writer Otto Armin; and, most controversially, The Barmat
Quagmire, by Dr Kaufhold. Kaufhold was a member of the Prussian Barmat
committee. The pamphlet contained numerous inaccuracies and polemically
distorted the ndings of the committee. It became a hotly contested issue within
the investigating committee on 4 April, when the committee voted to distance
itself publicly from the publication. Newspaper coverage of this session mostly
ignored the vote, whilst often using the title of the publication for headlines.

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The decision to call Julius Barmat as a witness before the investigating committee
a few days before the elections was also inuenced by election strategies. The fact
that nothing incriminating was revealed by questioning Barmat was withheld
from the public.
Six days before the decisive second round of the election, former Reich
Post minister Hoe died in custody from an overdose of medication. His
death intensied the existing antagonism in the press. The Catholic Centre
party, unnerved by the constant barrage of propaganda against its presidential candidate, Marx, reacted strongly. On its front page, Germania raged
against the political opponents: For months they, the organs of the right-wing
bloc, have fumed and fulminated against Barmat and Barmat comrades. They
hoped to hit a political system, and they only hit a poor ill human. Germania harshly criticized the state prosecution ofce, which had kept Hoe in
custody despite his deteriorating condition. The reasons for Hoes sudden
arrest came under scrutiny, and again it transpired that the the press had
provoked his premature arrest and the subsequent strict detention: the state
prosecution had acted on the basis of an article anonymously published by
a DNVP member of the Prussian parliament in the Deutsche Zeitung, which
hadwronglyaccused Hoe of secretly destroying ofcial les after his
resignation. Vorwarts declared his death cold-blooded Justizmord , pointing
at the state prosecutions decision to have Hoe pumped full with narcotics to
keep him available for questioning. The right-wing press claimed it had been
suicide, interpreting it as an admission of guilt on Hoes part. The autopsy
seemed to indicate that death had not been self-inicted; but there was room for
doubt.
The investigation committee set up to clarify this issue did not deliver
a conclusive verdict. In July 1925, after twenty-six sessions, the committee
announced that the state prosecution ofce had lacked proper judgement and
tact in the Hoe case, and self-determined suicide could not be proven. For
Social Democrats, however, it was clear that the Barmat press campaign was
to blame. There would be no Hoe case if there had not existed a German
Nationalist and Communist campaign against this man, explained the Social
Democrat Ernst Kuttner during the nal session of the Hoe investigation
committee. The German Nationalists created a mood of pogrom within the
population; . . . the concurrent terror affected civil servants. The indirect cause of
death of Hoe is: baiting and slander. In the plenary discussion of the ndings
in October, many members of the coalition parties joined Kuttner in blaming
Hoes death on the malicious press campaign of their political opponents:
they had created a Barmat psychosis, to which unfortunately also judges, state
prosecutors, civil servants and doctors fell prey.
The presidential election of 26 April 1925 demonstrated that the Barmat
press campaign had inuenced more than just a few judges, civil servants, and
professionals. The damage done to the credibility of SPD and Centre party

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Press and Politics in the Weimar Republic

was such that Hindenburg was elected president, with a small majority of just
900,000 votes over Marx. One of the main reasons for Hindenburgs narrow
victory was the Reichsblocks success in mobilizing former non-voters. Six years
after the foundation of the Republic, the promise offered by a former Prussian
general and convinced monarchist to restore social harmony and guarantee
non-partisanship in the presidents ofce struck a chord with the German
electorate. Hindenburgs election could have meant the ultimate demise
of the Barmat affair, yet the revelation of Kussmanns press connections in
summer 1925 revived media interest shortly. The belated discovery that Barmats
spectacular arrest and the judicial proceedings against him had been based on
political motives and designed to produce a media scandal in the run-up to the
presidential elections did not result in a dramatic reversal of published opinion.
On the contrary, the media response to these revelations was indicative of the
partisan coverage that had accompanied the Barmat affair from the beginning.
Vorwarts, Germania, and the liberal papers considered the events scandalous;
the right-wing press described the raid on Kussmanns appartment as a result
of political pressure on the state prosecution; the Communists labelled it
both judicial corruption and Barmat relief campaign. Where the Barmats
were concerned, the Communist paper pointed out, it was not the origins
of the incriminating material but their authenticity that mattered. Many
papers, however, just noted the initial house-search, and gave coverage to
Kussmanns denial. Headlines like Echo of the Barmat scandal reafrmed
the political interpretation of earlier coverage. Kussmanns testimony to the
Barmat committee in September was often completely ignored. He was later put
on trial for the malfeasance of leaking ofcial material in pending proceedings.
Ironically, however, before the court could reach a verdict, his case was dropped
under the general amnesty that Hindenburg declared on political offenders late
in 1925.
On 14 October 1925, the Vorwarts reported the conclusions of the Barmat
committee in a small note headlined End of the scandal. The committee
had established that the loans given to the Barmats by the Staatsbank had
not resulted in a direct or indirect nancial advantage to any of the politicians involved, even if some of themin particular Bauer and Richtercould
be reproached for careless behaviour and insufcient caution in their private
relations with the family. Ebert, the committee explicitly stated, had maintained a spotless reputation. Vorwarts editor Kuttner, who was a member of
the committee, blamed the apparent discrepancy between accusations and ndings on the press: If the ndings of the committee diverge so completely
from that which a sensation-craving baiting press has led the population to
believe for months, this is not caused by the attempt to hush up or cover
up something, but by the unscrupulousness of this muckraking. However,
interest in the affair had by this stage completely evaporated. Moreover, the
unspectacular ndings of the committee were no match for the big news-story

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of mid-October, Stresemanns negotiations in Locarno, widely depicted as a


sequel to the Versailles negotiations. While Stresemann performed his balancing act in the limelight of public attention, the Barmats faded out of
view. What remained of them was the memory of a huge, unsavoury spectacle which had tarnished the reputation of Germanys new parliamentary
democracy.
C O N C LU S I O N
During the Magdeburg trial, the Social Democratic Vorwarts hoped that revelations about the DNVP manipulation of witnesses and the press would help to
improve the political culture in Weimar Germany: Their manuvres will repel
all those still numerous members in all parties in the country who slowly want
to lift our people out of the atmosphere of poisoned struggle to more dignied
forms of political competition. The opposite was the case: this atmosphere
of vicious polemics, accusations, and counter-accusations rife through the media
inspired state prosecutor Kussmann to set out on further political crusadesin
co-operation with right-wing newspapers. The individual action of this one
judicial ofcial triggered off what would otherwise not have become a political
scandal. In the long term, the combination of a predominantly anti-republican
judiciary enabling and protecting anti-republican press polemics proved lethal
to the legitimacy of Weimar democracy.
Certainly, the Barmat scandal in 1925 had none of the legitimizing effects
that some theorists attribute to political scandal. The whole affair allowed
commentators to embark on anti-Semitic, anti-socialist, and anti-democratic
polemics which intensied existing political antagonism. The impression was
created that the reputation of parliamentarism had seriously suffered. Volkisch
commentators gloated that the so-called Republic could hardly lose any more
of its reputation. Democratic observers, too, were worried about the effects
of the hostile press campaign. One Austrian correspondent in Berlin considered
it more dangerous than previous military coups: There is no denying the fact
that of all reactionary initiatives against the Republic the scandal campaign is
the most dangerous. This was an accurate observation. Friedrich Ebert was
destroyed: rst by Magdeburg, after which he made up his mind not to stand
again; then by the Barmat committee, which he accorded higher priority than
his healtha lethal calculation, as it turned out. It was a political atmosphere in
which former Reichs minister Hoe died in prison, pumped up with narcotics
to allow further interrogation by the state prosecution. Gustav Bauer died, too,
if only politically. He struggled long to re-establish his reputation; it took him
until May 1926 to be readmitted to his party.
Newspapers relayed stories like Magdeburg and Barmat to a wider audience in the country that had neither alternative sources of knowledge nor

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Press and Politics in the Weimar Republic

immediate access to information about Reich politics: to the great majority


of German citizens, politics in the Republic were exactly as the newspapers
depicted them. Of course, it is difcult to determine the exact impact of the
polemics which accompanied the Magdeburg trial and the Barmat scandal.
There are numerous levels of audiences. A few indications suggest that the
man on the street constituted a very receptive audience: immediately after the
Magdeburg trial, Stein published his collected commentaries as a pamphlet,
Eberts Trial, which sold 100,000 copies within a few weeks. He repeated this
feat with another conglomerate of his articles, Barmat and his Friends, shortly
before the second round of the presidential elections. Recently published
recollections of Weimar Germany also indicate the extent to which the presentation of the Magdeburg trial in the media shaped especially young peoples
perception of Ebert, 1918, and the Republic. Members of the Prussian
investigating committee complained about the formidable load of daily correspondence concerning the Barmat affair they received from members of the
public.
On another level, politicians and their preoccupation with political news
provided another audience. Here, circumstancial evidence for the effects of
newspaper coverage can be found in the terminology of parliamentary discourse.
Quagmire, furuncle, and stench, on the one hand, dirt, rubbish, and
dung, on the other, were terms which consistently pervaded commentaries, to
the extent that their ubiquity was considered poisonous to political culture. Let us
do away with all this disgusting corruption-muckraking, one left-liberal journalist
appealed in March 1925. It only serves to poison the atmosphere . . .. The
terminology of the Barmat scandal spread by the media affected the political
atmosphere signicantly in 1925. Politicians who were exposed to this press
coverage over several weeks and months reacted to the strong language that
they encountered in the papers, either by picking it up or by dismissing it
in equally strong terms, which again gave the press something to report on.
This interaction of politicians and journalists led to an increasingly vicious
circle of opprobrious discourse, which inuenced the way parliament worked.
It was not really surprising that there was genuine dissatisfaction with the way
the investigating committee functioned. [Here] the different party directions
collide with unrestrained passion and drastic terminology, noted one journalist
in March 1925. The partisan spirit inherent in all polemics triumphed over
objective fact-nding, and the parliamentary system seemed unable to clarify the
contested issues.
More generally, newspapers were crucial in constructing and maintaining
competing perceptions of reality. The Barmat scandal was thus conrmation of
nationalists long-held views of the present, which compared unfavourably with
the allegedly more glorious past. The non-republicans, as Tag labelled itself,
claimed they wanted to depict present conditions to show the German population
the nature of the system of which it needed to rid itself. Political corruption, the

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right-wing media claimed, was an exclusive feature of democracy, and a hitherto


unknown phenomenon in German and Prussian history. Thus, the narrative
combination of the Magdeburg trial and the Barmat scandal served as a means
to win over the reading public to a world-view in which Barmat stood for the
corruption economy which has prevailed in the post-November-revolutionary
epoch in Germany . . . when Social Democracy took up political leadership in the
German Reich. Their liberal and left-wing colleagues could not win: if they
ignored the charges, their opponents declared them to be true; if they pointed out
that corruption had already existed in the Kaiserreich, their opponents gleefully
interpreted that as an admission that in the present affair one was indeed dealing
with corruption. Similarly, any rejection of the exaggerated charges levelled
at the Barmats was interpreted as a sign of complicity, and therefore proof
of the charges. Hostility to the new political system found a suitable target
in what some contemptuously labelled a black-red-yellow scandal. Hence,
the strategy of Democrats and Social Democrats to come up with competing
scandals also backred. In view of the opprobrious discourse accompanying all
the scandalizing, observers could not help feeling that an era of scandals was
indeed being ushered in.
The media exploitation of the Magdeburg trial and the Barmat scandal did
not pay off for one particular party: all the anti-Barmat/SPD propaganda that
the Reichsblock could muster did not sufce to get the DVP party politician
Jarres elected in the rst round of the presidential elections. However, the
moment the right-wing parties could present, in Hindenburg, a candidate who
could be credibly presented to be standing above (democratic) partisan politics,
the majority of the electorate responded. Magdeburg and Barmat provided the
right kind of political backdrop in front of which Hindenburg could be cast
as the Retter, Germanys saviour, as right-wing propaganda hailed him.
The key to his success lay in the mobilization of former non-voters, and their
dissatisfaction with the present system. At the same time, his victory was a very
close-run thing. It is questionable whether Hindenburg would have scraped
into ofce without four months of media barrage aimed at discrediting the
Republic.
The Magdeburg trial and the Barmat scandal did great damage to Weimars
political culture: by the creation of scapegoats, enemies, and pariahs, political divisions in Germany were deepened, antagonism strengthened, and the
legitimacy of the political system undermined. The terminology of 19245
was of long-lasting inuence. Magdeburg and Barmat provided commentators and politicians with an imagery that could be reused for years to come,
since it had been invested with a certain amount of legitimacy. Novembermord, Parteibonze, and System were not, as has sometimes been suggested,
National Socialist inventions to denigrate the republic. They were part
of the right-wing vocabulary, which had gained credibility at the occasion
of political trials and scandals, and which had been spread by the media

106

Press and Politics in the Weimar Republic

for years. In this respect, the election of Hindenburg was, in fact, a mixed
blessing: on the one hand, it showed how an anti-republican majority could
be mobilized; on the other, it did at least provide a period of respite for
the Weimar Republic, a cease-re in the medias onslaught on the Republics
legitimacy.

4
The Unpolitical Press: Provincial
Newspapers around Berlin, 19258
What we know about society, yes, about the world in which we live, we
know from the mass media.
Niklas Luhmann, Die Realitat der Massenmedien (Opladen, 1996), 9.

On the night of Sunday 26 April 1925, many citizens of the small Brandenburg
town of Oranienburg who wanted to nd out about the outcome of the Reich
presidency election gathered in front of their local newspaper publishing house,
where updates of the election counts were projected on the walls. Despite
the incessant rain, many stayed until long after midnight, when the incoming
results from rural constituencies tipped the balance of the close race in favour
of Hindenburg. Editors of the Niederbarnimer Kreisblatt worked through the
night to publish a special edition on Monday morning carrying the sensational
news that the veteran eld marshal had been elected as new Reich president. On
Tuesday, the paper was mostly devoted to the outcome of the election, reactions
to it from abroad, and, among the extensive local news, reports of events on
election day as well as the individual results for the various district towns and
villages. Editors were sure that their local readership would study this edition
carefully, and they did not miss the opportunity of advertising for their own
paper: the Niederbarnimer Kreisblatt, a big advertisement pointed out, was the
local paper of record. Due to its many supplements it featured more reading
material than any other local paper; it also claimed to report quickly and reliably
about all noteworthy events within the closer and wider fatherland and abroad.
This advertisement, like the whole Tuesday edition, makes clear why Berlin
papers stood no real chance of nding a wider reading audience outside the
metropolis, even in a town like Oranienburg, less than 35 km from central
Berlin. Apart from entertainment value, readers subscribed to a paper primarily
for the local news, eager to nd out about what happened in their immediate
surrounding area: information on the Landrats action on an outbreak of
swine fever was much more relevant than news of a tram accident in BerlinWedding. No Berlin newspaper provided information on the election results in
Oranienburg, Bernau, and Liebenwalde, not to mention tiny villages like Werder

108

Press and Politics in the Weimar Republic

bei Rehfelde or Vogelsdorf. An advertisement of the Oranienburger Bank would


have been completely wasted in a Berlin paper. To increase further the appeal
to a local readership, the Niederbarnimer Kreisblatt carried the sub-title Bernauer
Zeitung, as well as calling itself Tageblatt fur Altlandsberg, Neuenhagen und
Hoppegarten. In Oranienburg itself, it even appeared under a completely different
name, Oranienburger General-Anzeiger; in the small town of Liebenwalde, it was
called Zeitung fur Liebenwalde. In Oranienburg, there was just the one paper;
in Bernau, the Niederbarnimer Kreisblatt was competing with the Bernauer
General-Anzeiger, which, however, appeared only three times a week.
If a citizen of Bernau moved about 20 km to the south-west, to Berlin-Pankow,
he or she could choose from nearly seventy daily Berlin papers. The density of the
Berlin newspaper market stood in stark contrast to the world of the provincial
press. Like Bernau and Oranienburg, a typical small town in Weimar Germany
would have one or two local newspapers at most. Unlike Berlin, where readers
would often receive two or even three daily editions, provincial readers were satised if they could enjoy a newspaper every day of the week: a third of Germanys
newspapers appeared three times a week or less in 1925. Circulation was also
much lower than in Berlin: several studies during the 1920s established that 67
per cent of all papers had a circulation of fewer than 5,000 copies; around 84 per
cent ran at under 10,000. Tabloid papers and street sales were unknown; retailing
centred on weekly or monthly subscriptions. In rural areas, the state of informedness also depended on the season. The long working hours in agriculture meant
that newspaper reading was a luxury often reserved to the winter months. Once the
harvest began, subscriptions to some local papers slumped by up to 50 per cent.
Many of the provincial newspapers had been established in the last decades of
the nineteenth century by local jobbing printers who wanted to reduce the long
hours of inactivity of their printing machinery. These enterprises were usually
undercapitalized and economically unstable. Often they did not even have an
editorial board: they were run as one-man businesses and involved a lot of cutting
and pasting. Quite a number of them used so-called Materncommercially
available ready-made typesetsto which only a local section including the
advertisements needed to be added. In many cases the only difference between one
paper and another was the different title, as was the case with the Niederbarnimer
Kreisblatt and the Oranienburger General-Anzeiger. Many critics condemned
these purely commercial publications, calling them parasites that lived off
reprinting other papers articles. But while newspapers from the capital were
often the source of inspiration for the relatively short political sections of the
local press, the true strength of local papers lay in the provision of local news and
advertisements. This demand for local news resulted in a regionally fragmented,
decentralized German press, in which Berlin papers held little appeal to people
outside Berlin, with the possible exception of local editors.
In terms of available information, contemporaries of the Weimar Republic
were experiencing totally different situations, depending on whether they lived

Provincial Newspapers around Berlin, 19258

109

in an urban context with its multiple, competing, channels of communication


or in a provincial town or village with limited access to information beyond
the immediate local sphere. The extent to which this different media experience
resulted in a different outlook on politics has never been analysed. Of course,
it is impossible for any study to look at the total of some 3,300 daily papers in
Germany, not least because only few of them have been collected for future use.
But fortunately a great number of local papers have survived in the Staatsbibliothek
in Berlin, mostly from the Brandenburg province. This allows us to take a sample
of local newspapers from a relatively clearly dened region, and to look at their
particular character and the coverage of current affairs in provincial Germany.
The Prussian province of Brandenburg was typical in many respects. In
1932, there was a total of 256 newspapers appearing in 169 different towns in
Brandenburg. They tended to have a slightly lower circulation than the average
across the Reich: 75 per cent running at under 5,000 copies; 90 per cent at under
10,000. The percentage of dailies, around 70 per cent of all newspapers, was
only a fraction higher than the Reich average. Almost every fourth paper was a
sub-edition, having the same content as the main edition but appearing under a
different name. Only just over 7 per cent of all Brandenburg newspapers were
left wing in political orientation, a fraction less than the Reich average. The
nine newspapers analysed for this chapter appeared in six towns: Brandenburg,
Wittenberge, Prenzlau, Angermunde, Bernau, and Konigswusterhausen. Local
papers were the main source of information for the inhabitants of these provincial
towns, as radio was still limited mainly to the provision of light entertainment,
especially musicnews was rarely broadcast.

T H E U N P O L I T I C A L FUHRER:
R A L LY I N G
F O R H I N D E N BU RG
For most of this period, the majority of regional newspapers would normally try
to avoid overtly partisan positions, in order to appeal to as large and politically
heterogeneous a readership as possible. Because of this policy provincial papers,
like the Generalanzeiger press more generally, were often perceived as unpolitical
by urban observers who were used to a more openly partisan press. This was
a crass oversimplication. The extent to which local editors understood their
newspapers to have a political function was most obvious at election times. The
election campaign leading up to the Reich presidency elections in April 1925
was a case in point.
Hindenburgs candidature after the rst round of elections proved essential in
mobilizing editorial support in the provinces. Even newspapers which, during
the rst round of elections, had tried hard to maintain a relatively neutral
stance, like the Niederbarnimer Kreisblatt or the Konigswusterhausener Zeitung,
now succumbed to the popularity of the old eld marshal. His rst electoral

110

Press and Politics in the Weimar Republic

address to the German population, published on Easter Sunday, promptly made


it on to the front pages. Hindenburgs message was quintessentially nationalist:
patriotically minded Germans from all German Gauen and tribes had asked
him to stand, now he appealed to all Germans to help in the resurrection of
our fatherland. Marketed under the headline Hindenburgs Easter Message,
the wording was semi-religious and aimed at portraying him as standing above
the low culture of party politics. The declaration of his opponent, the Easter
Greeting of Centre politician and former Reich chancellor Wilhelm Marx, in
contrast, was mostly ignored. This set the tone for the coming weeks. Normally
without illustrations on their front pages, almost all non-socialist papers printed
portraits of Hindenburg on their cover at least once before the elections.
Marx featured rarely and, apart from the Social Democratic newspapers, only
few provincial papers even mentioned the activities of the so-called Volksblock
supporting Marxs candidature. The Konigswusterhausener Zeitung would on
most days have a front-page column entitled Vom Wahlkampf covering both
camps, but it would always begin with, and have more to say about, the
Hindenburg campaign. The week before the elections, the Konigswusterhausener
Zeitung began publishing daily appeals in favour of Hindenburg on page three.
This campaign found a climax on election day, when a third of the front page
was taken up by a lengthy pro-Hindenburg proclamation: Who is against class
struggle, proteering, atheism, sloppiness! Then vote for Hindenburg! This was
quite drastic language for an allegedly parteilos paper. Editors were obviously
willing to alienate a signicant part of the Konigswusterhausen electorate: at the
rst round, the candidates of the three parties which now supported Marxthe
SPD, the DDP, and the Centre partyhad received 1,036 votes in the town,
slightly more than Hindenburgs predecessor, Jarres.
The Konigswusterhausener Zeitung was not untypical of bourgeois editors
approach to electioneering. In Prenzlau, both daily newspapers, the Prenzlauer
Zeitung and the Uckermarkischer Kurier, backed Hindenburg in a similar way.
Marx was given short shrift. During the last week before election day, the
Uckermarkischer Kurier changed its layout and inserted a large box on its front
page, immediately underneath its title, advertising Wahlt Hindenburg! The
Prenzlauer Zeitung did likewise for several days before 26 April. In this paper,
it was obviously editorial policy to ignore Marxs candidature. While the Uckermarkischer Kurier did publish an announcement of a Volksblock rally, albeit
on page 4, and once even included a provocative pro-Marx advertisement on
the front page, the Prenzlauer Zeitung denied republicans the opportunity to
advertise in the paper. As the editor explained in one leading article, whoever voted for Marx was supporting the eternalization of a rotten and corrupt
system. The composition of the Prignitzer in Wittenberge displayed the
same mixture of exclusive coverage of the Hindenburg campaign, polemical
attacks on the republican candidate, and front-page appeals for, and portrayals
of, Hindenburg. Even more explicitly partisan were the two self-proclaimed

Provincial Newspapers around Berlin, 19258


111
Fig. 4.1. Local newspapers campaigning for Hindenburg in April 1925. On the day before the elections, the allegedly parteilos (non-partisan)
Prignitzer (left) explicitly called on its readership to back the old eld marshal. It was no less partisan than an openly national newspaper
like the Brandenburger Anzeiger (right).

112

Press and Politics in the Weimar Republic

nationalist newspapers in Angermunde and Brandenburg. Here, editors were


also the main organizers of the Reichsblock, the union of right-wing parties
supporting Hindenburg. The Angermunder Zeitung published at least ve special
editions called Der neue Reichsprasident providing Reichsblock election propaganda, and distributed several pamphlets, which readers apparently received with
their daily paper. In Brandenburg, the two main Reichsblock rallies were not
only prominently advertised in the Brandenburger Anzeiger, but the meetings
themselves were chaired by the papers chief editor, who was chairman of the
Reichsblock committee in Brandenburg.
More distinctively than other provincial papers, the Angermunder Zeitung
and the Brandenburger Anzeiger also constructed the image of a large national
political consensus. Day after day in April, these two papers would devote
considerable space to the news that such-and-such an organization or personality
had thrown their support behind Hindenburg. On paper, there was an
increasing dynamic of national rallying behind Hindenburg, a picture of large
groupings of German society bowing to the authority of the old hero. To a
certain extent, this was nothing but literary construction: The entire German
small trade for Hindenburg was the headline announcing that the Deutsche
Handwerkerbund had decided to back Hindenburgbut failed to mention that
this was a small association with only a few local groups in Pomerania, East
Prussia, and Mitteldeutschland. The Social Democratic Brandenburger Zeitung
severely criticized this misrepresentation of the public, accusing the right-wing
press of lying to its nationalist readership and deluding themselves. As
the election result showed, far from being united behind Hindenburg, German
society was, in fact, deeply divided into two camps of almost the same size. This,
however, was not reected on the pages of most provincial newspapers.
The upbeat presentation of the Hindenburg campaign stood in sharp contrast
to the mood of its organizers in Berlin. Gustav Stresemann, foreign minister and
chairman of the DVP, had serious qualms about Hindenburgs candidature.
He feared that hostile reactions to Hindenburg abroad would have signicant
repercussions for his foreign policy. Indeed, immediately after Hindenburgs
nomination, newspapers of the Mosse and Ullstein publishing houses reported
an overwhelmingly critical reception of the news in French, English, and
American newspapers. Citing foreign press reports verbatim, they warned
that the election of Hindenburg would greatly damage Germanys nances,
as American loans under the Dawes Agreement would be thrown into doubt.
These press reports, and incoming diplomatic reports which seemed to conrm
these anxieties, had a great impact on Stresemann and Reich chancellor Luther,
both of whom considered asking Hindenburg to resign in favour of an all-party
candidate. Such a candidate, however, was not found, and the idea was dropped.
The DVPs support for Hindenburg was subsequently characterized by strong
scepticism, as was the case in parts of the Bavarian Peoples Party, the BVP. The
mood was such that Hindenburg himself seems to have considered retiring from

Provincial Newspapers around Berlin, 19258

113

the race. Less than a week before the election, Stresemann noted in his diary the
Berlin mood as fully pessimistic in view of Hindenburgs chances, describing
the campaign as chaotic and without drive.
This was not only Stresemanns view. At a meeting of the DNVPs party
executive in the week of the elections, strong criticism was voiced against the
DVP and BVP. The Reichsblock was denounced as an awful conglomeration
and its propaganda management deplored. This dissent within the Reichsblock
was made public through Mosses Berliner Tageblatt, which had somehow
acquired the minutes of the meeting. Democratic and socialist newspapers
widely reprinted the minutes to highlight the inghting within the Reichsblock,
which stood in such marked contradiction to the efforts to present Hindenburg
as standing above party politics. But news of this Reichsblock crisis hardly
ever made it through to the provincial readership in the Brandenburg region.
Bourgeois newspapers only mentioned itby giving the DNVPs ofcial version
of the meetingin response to the reports of their local Social Democratic
competitors.
This was symptomatic of the way political conict from the capital ltered
down to a provincial readership: while little information was provided, it was often
steeped in hostile partisan rhetoric. The reception of Hindenburgs nomination
abroad was a case in point. None of the sampled bourgeois provincial papers
admitted that there was a certain justication for the concern of Germanys
neighbours about the possible election to the presidency of a self-declared
monarchist and militarist. Instead, they ercely attacked Socialist and Democratic
papers for suggesting that such concerns should have any bearing on the
electoral decision. The Ullstein papers in particular drew heavy re for their
overtly critical stance. They were accused of fabricating, and indeed provoking,
this foreign opinion through their negative Hindenburg coverage. It was
suggested that it was not Hindenburg, but rather the BZ am Mittag and the
Vossische Zeitung, that ruined Germanys reputation abroad. Ullsteins, Mosses,
and Social Democratic newspapers were bundled together as the press of the
so-called Volksblock that could only be read with disgust. Anti-Marxism and
anti-Semitism were blended in attacks on Vorwarts, Vossische Zeitung, and other
Galicians (sometimes referred to as the German Press in inverted commas),
representatives of the Internationalistenpresse and its pathetic submission to
foreign powers. Explicit parallels were drawn to enemy propaganda during the
world war, where such poisoning of the people had allegedly resulted in the
stab-in-the-back.
Apart from some local editors, provincial readers were not normally exposed
to the Berlin papers to which the polemics referred. So why were they so
heavily attacked? To some extent, editors used them to rail against a political
argument occasionally taken up by those few provincial papers that were critical
of Hindenburg. Also, provincial papers often followed the line of argument
pursued by anti-Marxist papers in Berlin, for whom their Democratic and

114

Press and Politics in the Weimar Republic

Social Democratic counterparts seemed a real challenge. But most importantly,


newspapers with a large readership such as the BZ am Mittag were perceived as
political actors in their own rights, and were therefore valid targets in their own
right, as the prime representatives of a metropolitan and democratic political
system. While Marx himself was careful to avoid an open confrontation with
Hindenburg, newspapers backing him were less subtle in their electioneering
and were therefore attacked as the real campaign managers. For the political
culture of the Weimar Republic, this media war had serious repercussions: even
when politicians themselves were trying to steer a moderate line, intent on
avoiding the degeneration of political competition into ideological mud-slinging,
the press took an active role in escalating any conict. Thus, even during the socalled golden years, parliamentary democracy was denied the veneer of political
respectability.
What were the effects of newspaper support for the election result? Again,
as in Chapter 1, the answer is not clear cut. In the second round of the
elections, Hindenburg received 25 per cent more votes than the Reichsblocks
candidate, Jarres, had achieved in the rst round, and he was particularly
successful in provincial Germany. In Angermunde and Prenzlau, where the only
available newspapers were overtly pro-Hindenburg, he achieved over 60 per
cent and 70 per cent, respectively. However, it was not the degree of overt
backing that seemed to be decisive, but rather the media consonance in any
given town. In Brandenburg, the openly nationalist Brandenburger Anzeiger
gave Hindenburg the greatest possible support, but simultaneously the Social
Democratic Brandenburger Zeitung called on its readers to vote for Marx. Over
50 per cent of the voters decided to back Marx. In Wittenberge, the campaigning
of the Prignitzer was countered by the Social Democratic Volks-Zeitung. Because
of the division of the readership in Wittenberge and Brandenburg along political
lines, it is very likely that the Prignitzer and the Brandenburger Anzeiger were
preaching to the converted. In both Brandenburg and Wittenberge, Hindenburg
increased the Reichsblock vote, but considerably less than on average across the
Reich. This can be contrasted with Hindenburgs performance in those towns
where media backing was less partisan, but in essence unchallenged. This did
not automatically result in a majority of citizens voting for him, as the case of
Bernau shows. But in Bernau, as in Oranienburg, Hindenburgs vote increased
by two to three times as much as in Brandenburg. They were catered for by the
Oranienburger General-Anzeiger and the Niederbarnimer Kreisblatt, which both
assiduously backed Hindenburg. Locals in Bernau and Oranienburg had not
been exposed to any explicitly anti-Hindenburg paper.
The same was true of Konigswusterhausen. At the rst round, the candidates
of the Volksblock had achieved a narrow lead over the Reichsblock. Hindenburg
improved by 30 per cent over the rst Reichsblock result, achieving a total of
1,321 votes. Votes for Marx also increased, but only by 20 per cent, falling
behind Hindenburg with only 1,236. The mobilization of voters by Marxs

Provincial Newspapers around Berlin, 19258

115

Table 4.1. Elections to the Reich presidency, 1925 (various towns around Berlin)
Volksblock
(Votes & %)

Reichsblock
(Votes & %)

Thalmann
(Votes & %)

Brandenburg
1st round
2nd round

18,610 (54.5%)
17,901 (50.5%)

13,613 (39.8%)
15,074 (42.5%)

1,947 (5.7%)
2484 (7.0%)

34,170
35,459

Wittenberge
1st round
2nd round

5,198 (42.3%)
5,869 (43.3%)

5,732 (46.7%)
6,644 (49.1%)

1357 (11%)
1031 (7.6%)

12,287
13,544

Prenzlau
1st round
2nd round

4,220 (37.3%)
4,069 (34.3%)

6,662 (58.9%)
7,385 (62.3%)

424 (3.8%)
400 (3.4%)

11,306
11,854

Angermunde
1st round
2nd round

1,312 (30.8%)
1,319 (28.5%)

2,885 (67.8%)
3,245 (70.1%)

58 (1.4%)
66 (1.4%)

4,255
4,630

Bernau
1st round
2nd round

2,332 (47.9%)
2,770 (49.7%)

1,696 (34.9%)
2,128 (38.2%)

838 (17.2%)
670 (12%)

4,866
5,568

Oranienburg
1st round
2nd round

2,310 (37.6%)
2,264 (32.3%)

3,029 (49.2%)
3,963 (56.5%)

812 (13.2%)
785 (11.2%)

6,151
7,012

Konigswusterhausen
1st round
2nd round

1,036 (45.2%)
1,237 (44.5%)

1,006 (43.9%)
1,321 (47.5%)

249 (10.9%)
221 (8%)

2,291
2,779

Total

Notes: First round results give the combined total of votes cast for Braun (SPD), Marx (Centre), and Hellpach
(DDP). In the second round, these parties supported the Centre politician Marx as the Volksblock candidate.
First round results give votes cast for Jarres, joint candidate of the DVP and DNVP; second round results
give votes cast for Hindenburg, the new Reichsblock candidate.

Sources: Compiled from Brandenburger Anzeiger, 98, 28 April 1925; Volks-Zeitung, 97, 27 April 1925; Der
Prignitzer, 75, 30 March 1925; Prenzlauer Zeitung, 98, 28 April 1925, Angermunder Zeitung, 97, 27 April 1925;
Niederbarnimer Kreisblatt, 76, 31 March 1925 and 98, 28 April 1925; Konigswusterhausener Zeitung, 98, 28 April
1925.

Volksblock had suffered from two strategic disadvantages: rstly, in the absence
of a local party organization in both the Centre party and the DDP, the task of
holding rallies had fallen exclusively on the Social Democrats, which probably
alienated some of the bourgeois electorate. Secondly, the towns largest daily
newspaper, the Konigswusterhausener Zeitung, with its circulation of over 5,000,
had given little coverage to the republican candidate, and had clearly championed
Hindenburg. This, in the absence of a newspaper backing Marx, had helped to
mobilize bourgeois voters.
Of course, the election result cannot be explained exclusively in terms of
media support. As has often been pointed out, the Communists decision to

116

Press and Politics in the Weimar Republic

support their own candidate, Thalmann, in the second round prevented a greater
working-class vote for Marx. Rural and protestant Germany responded to the
name Hindenburg even in places where newspapers did not exist. Cases like
the little village of Felchow in the Angermunde district, where 252 votes for
Hindenburg contrasted with 5 for Marx and Thalmann, showed that voting
was inuenced at least as much by social and communal pressures. Also, there
were clear limits to the extent of newspapers electoral impact: 45 per cent of
the voters in Konigswusterhausen did, after all, decide to back Marx. But the
effect of pro-Hindenburg newspaper support is clearly discernible, especially in
places where alternative sources of information were lacking: here growth of the
Hindenburg vote, and the overall result, were well above average. At the same
time, media support paid off to a much lesser extent than many contemporaries
assumed. The media boost to Hindenburg can hardly have exceeded 5 per cent
even in the areas most favourable to the nationalist cause. Yet this support
provided Hindenburg with the crucial margin to scrape into ofce.
But, clearly, one should not look exclusively at election days to measure
the political impact of newspapers. As the previous chapter showed, the press
exercised a day-to-day inuence on individual decision-makers in Berlin. The
same was true at a local level. Local editors often reacted to the Berlin coverage
of the campaign by following the lead of some papers and countering the
statements of others. Most importantly, grass-root activities were co-ordinated
through, and amplied by, newspapers. However, newspapers did not only
publish announcements of election rallies and follow up with space devoted
to their coverage, they also provided much of the content of local political
campaigning. As in the case of the Barmat scandal, where parliamentarians in
Berlin had relied on particular newspapers for the supply of information that
could be used in the political struggle, local activists relied on their dailies for
help in conducting rallies.
The agenda of local political meetings was largely set by the arguments
provided in the daily press. This is vividly illustrated by the activities of the
Reichsblock in the town of Brandenburg. Their second major election rally on
23 April 1925 was opened by the chief editor of the Brandenburger Anzeiger,
who acted as chairman of the Brandenburg Reichsblock. The rst speaker, a
teacher, started by dwelling on the difference between the Parteimann Marx
and Hindenburg, who was above party politics. Warming to his theme, he
castigated the deal between the Centre party and Social Democrats that had
resulted in the SPDs support for Marx in exchange for Catholic support for
Braun as prime minister in Prussia as symptomatic of party politics. Next, he
addressed Social Democratic newspapers claim that through Hindenburg the
republic was in danger. Finally, he rounded off his speech by quoting articles
of democratic and social democratic newspapers from before and during the
war, which were largely positive about Hindenburg. This material was itself
taken from recent press coverage, which had used quotations to demonstrate the

Provincial Newspapers around Berlin, 19258

117

opportunism of those papers now backing Marx. The second speaker elaborated
on Germanys need for a Fuhrer, a theme which ran like a leitmotiv through
the Hindenburg press coverage. To prepare themselves for their speeches, the
speakers had obviously studied their newspapers with great care. The same was
true of the Hindenburg rallies in Oranienburg, Angermunde, and Wittenberge:
here, too, the speakers went through the topics which had dominated the election
coverage in the local press.

P O L I T I C S O F T H E U N P O L I T I C A L P R E S S
In early May 1925, a German press statistic was published, which gave the
number of German dailies as 3,168, of which only 150 were Social Democratic,
with over 50 per cent declaring themselves parteilos (literally: non-partisan) or not
giving any political tendency. This percentage remained stable up until 1933.
The fact that the majority of German local papers described their political stance
as parteilos stood in stark contrast to the strong pro-Hindenburg bias in the local
press as described above. Still reeling from the shock of Hindenburgs election,
republican commentators decried this label and pointed, like Carl von Ossietzky,
to the impact of these so-called parteilos papers: This means, translated into
experience, that these papers are reactionary, monarchist, militarist, that they are
nothing but scantily camouaged German Nationalist party organs . . . 51% of all
German newspapers are therefore sailing under a false ag, are supplyingunder
the label of neutralityparty arsenals, are popularising . . . slogans and ideology
of the party which has bought them. According to Ossietzky, many of these
newspapers were more or less being bought by the DNVP to propagate nationalist
politics. Five years later, a fellow journalist, Richard Lewinsohn from Ullsteins
Vossische Zeitung, took a slightly more differentiated view:
Politically they [i.e. provincial newspapers] are steering a bourgeois mainstream line.
Prior to the war, they were national-liberal, now they are volksparteilich, but depending
on business cycle and local circumstances they adapt to the general mood: sometimes
they venture to the right wing of the Democrats, more often they take the course to the
Right and promote, always under the disguise of non-partisanship, German Nationalist
politics.

While generally displaying a moderately right-wing tendency, the provincial press


broadly followed local political sentiment to some extent. This was certainly true
in the districts of Prenzlau and Angermunde. Here, the DNVP, DVP, and
right-wing splinter groups had received over 60 per cent of the vote at the
Reichstag elections in December 1924. The local papers decision in April 1925
to back Hindenburg was thus anything but surprising, as it was in line with the
political majority in these districts.

118

Press and Politics in the Weimar Republic

The enthusiasm of the grass-root support for Hindenburgs candidature that


was reported in the local news of provincial dailies goes some way to explaining
the press support that Hindenburg enjoyed. Even when discounting the positive
gloss that was undoubtedly put on the reporting of events, the picture that
emerges is one of unprecedented mobilization of bourgeois provincial Germany.
Rallies were attended by record numbers and resulted in overcrowded halls, public
parades were set in train by local associations, and numerous incidents of private
campaigning were reported. In view of this popular support, editors were risking
the alienation of substantial sections of their readership if they decided not to back
Hindenburg. Alternatively, one might argue that the predictable surge of support
for Hindenburg allowed local editors to be more openly partisan than usual. After
all, newspapers did not simply reect local sentiment: many of the articles written
in Hindenburgs favour preceded the full-scale mobilization of grass-root support
in particular localities. It was a two-way relationship: while to some extent reecting the general political disposition of their readership, provincial newspapers
were simultaneously a crucial factor in activating and reinforcing a political trend.
Clearly, Ossietzky and Lewinsohn were right to question the self-description
of non-partisan (parteilos) papers, but they were wrong to equate their political
bias with Hugenbergs German Nationalist party, the DNVP. In fact, it should
rather be seen as an implicit rejection of party-based parliamentary politics tout
court. As the Hindenburg election showed, many papers were promoting a new
kind of protestant, nationalist, and anti-socialist Sammlungspolitik, an explicitly
non-party political alliance that was based on the concept of heroic leadership.
Although there was a great proximity to DNVP politics, there was a clear
rejection of the kind of party politics of which the DNVP formed part. This was
also expressed in the 1925 press statistic mentioned above: only 104 out of 3,168
dailies gave their stance as deutschnational, while almost four times as many chose
a more general, non-party self-description: 108 preferred the label bourgeois,
thirty-three right-wing, and 242 either nationalist or patriotic. The English
translation of deutschnational as nationalist blurs the difference many editors
felt existed between adhering to a DNVP platform and subscribing to a truly
nationalist political world-view. True nationalism did not come with a particular
party membership, and on election days, papers would often call on their readers
to vote nationalist or German. If specifying this recommendation, the DVP
and the DNVP would almost always both be given as possible options. Even
Hugenberg himself was aware of the need to downplay the link to the DNVP
for some of his press products. His right-wing news agency, the TelegraphenUnion (TU ), that serviced some 1,600 local newspapers in Germany, was more
inuential than any of Hugenbergs other attempts at spreading the nationalist
gospel. But despite clear political instructions for journalist joining the TU, they
were not expected to toe the DNVP line, but contracted to pursue a line of
political and economic re-building of Germany without party-political or other
afliation on a national basis.

Provincial Newspapers around Berlin, 19258

119

As regional anaysis of electoral statistics has shown, the Hindenburg vote in


1925 is one of the best predictors of the Nazi vote in September 1930 and July
1932. This suggests that the radical nationalist coalition that ultimately backed
the Nazis had assembled beforehand, and was not solely a product of economic
hard times in the early 1930s. In this period of profound realignment of middleclass party loyalties, local newspapers constituted a crucial inuence, because they
combined a continuity of political sentiment with the rejection of party-political
allegiances. The fragmented landscape of Weimar party politics meant that
local newspapers normally tried to avoid being too closely associated with one
particular parliamentary group, in order not to alienate signicant sections
of their bourgeois readership. They overcame the domestic fragmentation by
focusing on foreign news, in particular that which arose out of questions related
to the Versailles Treaty. Throughout the 1920s, local papers attributed much
more of their limited space to questions of foreign policy than did metropolitan
newspapers. In their coverage of domestic news, most local newspapers continued
to display a moderate hostility to Social Democracy, and a dismissive view of
Parteiengezank reminiscent of the pre-war period. But within the context of
Weimar politics, this parteilos politics pursued by local papers acquired a new
partisan dimension. It was a populism based on the two greatest common
denominators of the bourgeois readership: nationalism and anti-socialism.
Many urban commentators perceived a very distinct provincial political culture
shaped primarily by the local media. Lewinsohn considered the parteilos regional
papers of enormous importance for Germanys political life, as they dominated
the major provincial towns in Germany, wielding an inuence much more
extensive than that of the so-called political press in Berlin. The editors of the
Social Democratic Volkszeitung in Wittenberge repeatedly called on its readers
to send on the paper, once read, to relatives, friends, and acquaintances into
the provinces . . . where the right-wing monarchist press is still predominant.
Although wrong in equating the anti-SPD tendency of most regional newspapers
with being monarchist, Social Democrats were right to address the structural
disadvantage they faced all over Germany: SPD papers had a total circulation
of only 1.1 million copies in 1924 and 1.3 million in 1929, out of an
estimated total daily printing nationwide of 20 million copies. Even allowing
for the large circulation of a handful of liberal General-Anzeiger and tabloid
papers concentrated mainly in Berlin, it is clear that the political right enjoyed
a huge advantage in its domination of channels of communication. Many
contemporaries commented on the fact that the new Republic was faced with a
mass media overwhelmingly hostile to its democratic achievements, particularly
in provincial Germany. In the left-wing weekly Die Weltbuhne, Tucholsky
painted a stark picture of what an urban democrat could expect if he dared to
venture beyond the limits of his metropolitan existence: he would nd neither
court, nor administrative ofcials, nor press to support him. Local newspapers,
Tucholsky claimed, were kept toeing a reactionary line through boycotts, ring

120

Press and Politics in the Weimar Republic

of editors, and withdrawals of advertisements. The unpolitical atmosphere of a


rural German town thus darkened the light which shone in Berlin.
E X P RO P R I AT I N G T H E P R I N C E S
Tucholskys article Berlin and the Provinces is interesting for two reasons. On
the one hand, it is a portrayal of the sense of insecurity and scepticism with
which metropolitan democrats viewed the various institutions of civil society
in provincial Germany. At the same time, it is evidence for the way in which
stereotypes proliferated through the mass print media, helping to reinforce preexisting notions of antagonism between the metropolis and the provinces. The
same applies to Social Democratic election analysis after Hindenburgs election,
when the Volks-Zeitung in Wittenberge explained the result with the appeal
of a grand military name on the mass of the unpolitical. However, whilst
these stereotypes did little justice to the political complexities on the ground,
many historians have taken them at face value. Picking up the Social Democratic
propaganda that depicted Hindenburg as a representative of the monarchy,
various historians have explained his election with the German demand for
an Ersatzkaiser, seeing 1925 as monarchisms last hurrah in Germany. But
explaining the 1925 presidential election by a mass of unpolitical monarchistsat-heart being swayed by an outburst of pro-Hindenburg media coverage squares
uneasily with events in 1926, more particularly the relative success of the
campaign for the expropriation of the former German princes.
The political controversy about the wealth of the former German princes
was the dominant domestic political issue in 1926. The revolution of 191819
had not resulted in an expropriation of the former princes, and the question
of how to disentangle private from state property had been dodged by the
National Assemblyit was not a Reich, but a state matter. After 1919, extensive
negotiations and judicial proceedings on a state level had mostly failed to
produce a comprehensive solution to the problem. But by 1925, more and more
courts appeared to side with the deposed princes. The Prussian ministry of
nance drafted a compromise in October 1925 that was intended to settle the
dispute with the house of Hohenzollern. But as soon as the compromise became
public, parliamentary opposition arose, not least because it envisaged ceding
three quarters of the disputed land to the Hohenzollerns. The Communists
were quick to recognize the potential of widespread dissatisfaction with this state
of affairs, particularly at a time of rising unemployment. In early December
1925, the Communist Rote Fahne published an open letter addressed, among
others, to the executive committees of the SPD and the General German Trade
Union Congress (ADGB), suggesting a concerted effort to organize a referendum
calling for the expropriation, without compensation, of all former German
princes.

Provincial Newspapers around Berlin, 19258

121

This proposal was in line with the new United Front strategy that the KPD
had adopted over the autumn of 1925 when oustingwith considerable support
from Moscowthe ultra-Left group around Ruth Fischer and Maslow. The
aim now was to mobilize the masses with the slogan expropriation, in the hope
of regaining many of the voters that the KPD had lost at the December 1924
Reichstag elections. Equally, it presented a unique opportunity to drive a wedge
between the leadership and the membership of the Social Democrats as well as
the trade unions. Social Democrats were very aware of Communist intentions,
and were at rst opposed to entering an alliance with them. By late January
1926, however, they had drafted a provisional law jointly with the Communists
and trade unions along the lines suggested by the KPD.
This change of mind had been brought about by two factors: the formation
of a new right-of-centre government, and the perceived mass support for
expropriation. After securing the acceptance of the Locarno Treaties by the
Reichstag in late November 1925, the Luther government had fallen apart, and
for the next six weeks coalition negotiations took place. Until mid-January 1926,
the Social Democrats kept open the option of participating in a Grand Coalition
with the DVP. During this time, the expropriation issue was muted in order not
to alienate potential bourgeois coalition partners. Only after 12 January 1926,
when the members of the SPD in the Reichstag voted against the formation of a
Grand Coalition, and after the formation of a bourgeois minority government,
did the Social Democrats resume their role as opposition party. More importantly,
however, the leading Social Democrats in Berlin had been exposed by this stage to
a barrage of newspaper reports indicating that a great majority of party members
sympathized with the Communist proposal. If the SPD leadership refused to
support a referendum, the press coverage suggested, the dissatisfaction of workers
would benet only the KPD. These reports were published exclusively by the Rote
Fahne. The Social Democratic Vorwarts failed to report on any of the grass-roots
support within the SPD for a referendum. Most of the cases of spontaneous
socialist co-operation reported by the Rote Fahne concerned small towns and
sub-sections of the Social Democratic organization. In fact, the Rote Fahne built
up a literary image of unanimous workers support for the expropriation of
princes in a similar way to right-wing newspapers reporting on unanimous,
national support for Hindenburgs candidacy. But SPD politicians took these
reports seriously and, on 19 January 1926, the party committee (Parteiausschuss)
ordered that preparations for a referendum be made.
The alliance of Social Democrats and Communists was a very uneasy one.
The sole aim for the Communistsas evidenced from an internal directive of
the KPD Berlin-Brandenburg district executivewas to use the referendum to
alienate the masses of Social Democratic voters and party members from the
SPD leadership and to attract them to the Communist cause. Right from the
beginning of their co-operation, Social Democrats and trade unionists kept a
sometimes acrimonious distance from the KPD. Thus, although the SPD and

122

Press and Politics in the Weimar Republic

KPD both supported the referendum, the Communists failed to create United
Front Committees, and the two parties conducted entirely separate campaigns.
In their campaigning, the Communists openly admitted that they saw the
expropriation of the former princes as the rst stage of an all-out attack on
private property. The Social Democrats, in contrast, promoted the referendum
primarily as a way of further securing the democratic basis of the Republic.
Those parties and social groupings opposed to the referendum hardly ever
acknowledged these diverging intentions of the two workers parties. Where
the KPD had failed, the bourgeois press unhesitatingly projected the image of
a united Left: the provincial press depicted the referendum as carried by the
Marxists, the Bolshevists, the Reds, or simply the Communists. Editors
constructed the threat of a concerted socialist attack on private property, for
which the expropriation of the former princes was just the beginning. The
editor of the Angermunder Zeitung felt it necessary to reassure his readers that
nationalist circles were ready to suppress a second revolution which would
mean Germanys death. The image of a revolution in the making was used
regularly by nationalists in their opposition to the referendum. In Berlin big
posters proclaimed Victory of the referendum results in revolution! These
scare tactics sometimes replaced, and at other times supplemented, a policy of
withholding all information on the expropriation issue.
The petition for a referendum, which took place from 4 to 17 March
1926, was almost entirely ignored by most bourgeois provincial newspapers.
Again, as in the case of Hindenburgs election in 1925, the news selection
of these papers amounted to a clear endorsement of one particular policy.
To some extent, they were even more partisan than during the 1925 election
campaign: then they had covered at least supercially some of the movements
and statements of Hindenburgs opponent, Marx, whereas now they censored
almost all pro-referendum activities. The comparison to the presidential race of
1925 is interesting, because the opponents of the expropriation referendum were
almost identical to those groupings supporting Hindenburg in 1925. But while
bourgeois Sammlungspolitik and press support had seen Hindenburg into ofce,
it now proved much less effective. In many Brandenburg towns the petition
received greater support than had Hindenburg the year before; the petition
results showed that popular support for expropriation considerably surpassed the
combined vote of KPD and SPD at the Reichstag elections of December 1924.
Unlike the case of Hindenburgs candidature, when provincial editors had
accurately captured grass-roots enthusiasm by throwing their support behind the
eld marshal, they now refused to acknowledge the popularity of the suggested
expropriation of the former princes. Editors did not simply reect popular
sentiment; they did not switch allegiances, nor did they start writing critical
assessments of the expropriation issue. Their position, like their editorial policy,
remained unchanged; they kept trying to inuence their reading public. News
selection continued to be biased against the referendum, which was scheduled for

Provincial Newspapers around Berlin, 19258

123

20 June 1926. And what information the non-socialist provincial newspapers did
provide on the expropriation issue tended to originate from anti-expropriation
sources. The coverage of Reichstag debates was slanted in the usual way. In a
display of apparent neutrality, the allegedly parteilos Konigswusterhausener Zeitung
summarized and partly quoted the speeches of one parliamentarian of each major
party. But the contribution of the leader of the DNVP, Graf Westarp, received
the most generous coverage, thus ensuring that the provincial readers were able
to appreciate fully his polemic against the lies and terrorism that were used in
an attempt at a dry revolution and his expression of disgust for the wretched
lowness of the revolution proteers. The paper even found place to reprint
some anti-Semitic heckling from the back-benches. The Angermunder Zeitung
did not even attempt to provide a summary of the discussion, and instead
reprinted exclusively the entire speech by Westarp. Whether in Wittenberge,
Brandenburg, or elsewhere, it was impossible to nd either a verbatim report or
an impartial summary of the Reichstag deliberations in either bourgeois or Social
Democratic newspapers.
Throughout the run-up to the referendum, newspapers like the Niederbarnimer
Kreisblatt kept information on the expropriation debate as rare as possible. This
was not because editors thought the referendum was unimportanton the
contrary. While the headline announcing the defeat of the referendumThe
People Against the Expropriation of the Princeswould run over the whole
front page of the Niederbarnimer Kreisblatt on the Tuesday after the vote, on
the previous Sunday, 20, June, the paper chose simply to ignore the fact that a
referendum was taking place. Pro-referendum news items almost never broke
through this policy of editorial denial. The referendums opponents, on the other
hand, enjoyed another important advantage within this context of partisan news
selection: the bourgeois Reich government led rst by Luther, and thenafter
Luthers resignationby Marx, was opposed to the referendum, and made
various statements to this effect. The fact that a Centre-Right government
opposed expropriation without compensation was not really surprising, but
many local newspapers still managed to turn this item into front-page news.
Even more signicant than the governments position on the referendum
was Hindenburgs intervention less than a month prior to the vote. The
DNVP parliamentarian Loebell had written to Hindenburg asking him for a
public statement opposing the referendum. In his answer Hindenburg declined,
pointing to the neutrality demanded by his ofce, but went on to describe his
private views, which were very explicit in their condemnation of the referendum.
In early June Loebell published this letter with Hindenburgs consent. This was
a political sensation that always made it on to the front page. The SPD papers
did their best to downplay it and condemned the fact that Hindenburg had
violated the neutrality of his ofce. The issue was, of course, the subject of heated
discussion in the Reichstagbut this merely provided further opportunity for
the local press to reiterate Hindenburgs anti-referendum stance. The symbolic

124

Press and Politics in the Weimar Republic

Table 4.2. Expropriation referendum 1926 (various towns around Berlin)

Brandenburg
Wittenberge
Prenzlau
Angermunde
Bernau
Oranienburg
Konigs Wusterhausen

KPD & SPD


Reichstag election
December 1924

Volksbegehren
417 March 1926

Volksentscheid
20 June 1926
(change over 1924 in %)

18,061
6,241
3,880
1,113
2,512
2,609
1,124

20,502
8,325
(2,800)
603
4,280
4,040
1,571

22,400 (+24%)
8,864 (+42%)
3,961 (+2.1%)
1,161 (+4.3%)
4,666 (+85.7%)
4,398 (+68.6%)
2,105 (+87.3%)

Notes: No gure could be established. Estimate based on referendum result.


Sources: Compiled from Volks-Zeitung, 141, 21 June 1926; Der Prignitzer, 75, 30 March 1926; Uckermarkischer
Kurier, 143, 22 June 1926; Angermunder Zeitung, 142, 21 June 1926; Niederbarnimer Kreisblatt, 76, 31 March
1926 and 98, 28 April 1926; Konigs Wusterhausener Zeitung, 143, 22 June 1926; Markischer Stadt- und Landbote,
67, 20 March 1926; Zeitung fur Liebenwalde, 66, 19 March 1926; Oranienburger General-Anzeiger, 66, 19 March
1926.

power of government and president helped to give anti-referendum messages a


media presence which supporters of expropriation lacked.
Like in Berlin, Weltanschauung journalism had an immediate impact on
the political information available to the average citizen. But what were the
consequences? Some newspapers started their own anti-referendum campaigns,
like the nationalist Angermunder Zeitung, which, apart from endless news on
anti-referendum activities, featured several polemical leading articles. There
is a certain temptation to conclude from the relatively low turnout of proreferendum voters in Angermundeonly 4 per cent more than had voted for
the KPD and SPD in December 1924that the mass of anti-referendum items
in the Angermunder Zeitung did perhaps tip the balance. But the same cannot
be said of Brandenburg and Wittenberge, where the Brandenburger Anzeiger
and the Prignitzer had campaigned just as intensely against the referendum
as had the Angermunder Zeitung. The referendum found 24 per cent more
voters in Brandenburg than had voted for the KPD and SPD in December
1924; in Wittenberge the gure was even 42 per cent. In fact, even though
the referendum fell 5.5 million votes short of the necessary support of twenty
million voters throughout Germany, it proved much more popular than anyone
had initially expected. In the Brandenburg region, the results were particularly
striking in those towns in which Hindenburgs candidature had elicited the
greatest growth in votes in 1925: in Oranienburg the referendums vote outdid
the KPD/SPD result of 1924 by 67 per cent, in Bernau by 86 per cent, and
in Konigswusterhausen by 87 per cent. Here, as in many other towns, the
expropriation of the princes proved considerably more popular than Hindenburg
in 1925. In the light of these gures, Hindenburgs election a year earlier can

Provincial Newspapers around Berlin, 19258

125

clearly not be seen as the result of an overwhelming surge of monarchical


nostalgia. Rather than a return to the past, Hindenburgs election pointed to the
anti-parliamentary radicalization of a large section of the electorate.
Try as they might, provincial editors could not counter the inherent appeal
of the expropriation proposal to a wide spectrum of voters. Nor could they
counter the effects of economic hardship and political disillusionment in the nal
phase of Weimars post-inationary stabilization. Many conservative middle-class
voters had supported the DNVP in 1924 and Hindenburg in 1925, attracted
by unrealistic promises concerning the Aufwertung (revaluation) of their credits
and savings lost during ination. The subsequent law passed by the Luther
government in 1925 proved to be a big disappointment for these voters. As many
editors acknowledged, this created enormous resentment towards the DNVP.
In the run-up to the expropriation referendum, the question was often posed why
the princes should get a better deal than did the thousands of savers and creditors
expropriated by ination. The results in the electoral districts of Potsdam I and
II showed that a substantial number of traditional right-wing voters supported
the referendum, too, often belonging to the so-called revaluation victims.
Perhaps not surprisingly there was little detailed discussion of the referendums
result in local papers. While giving the overall gures, most editors refrained
from engaging with the question of non-socialist support for expropriation.
Instead, many editors deplored the referendum result as a black day for
Germany, and saw it as a reminder for a united front against the threat of
bolshevism. One editor warned: Those bourgeois, who yesterday provided
the Communist-Socialist thieving riff-raff with the service of fellow-travellers,
will recognize only too soon that they have put themselves at their mercy. But
then it is too late, and the red ood will race over Germany, and bury the last
remains of law and order. The sources of evil were the cities, as another
editor emphasized, where violent clashes were on the daily agenda and part of
the terror of the red parties. The Angermunder Zeitung went on to paint
a gloomy picture of German society: The cool reason of the Germans has
been driven out by the lowest instincts, and the glorious past of our Reich is
dragged through dirt with pure joy. The mud of Socialism and Communism is
threatening to bury us. What is one to say when reading that in Halle a bestial
horde of Communists has opened machine-gun and carbine re on their own
Volksgenossen, and that women like hyenas are laying into political opponents
and cutting them to shreds with kitchen knifes? Are these still humans?
In Halle, a clash between anti-referendum demonstratorsmembers of the
right-wing paramilitary organization Stahlhelmand Communist referendum
supporters had escalated when a Stahlhelm convoy of cars passed through a
Communist stronghold and encountered a hail of cobblestones. Different from
the impression created by the Angermunder Zeitung, it remained unclear which of
the two sides had rst resorted to using guns. The kitchen-knife wielding women
were apparently the gment of some anti-socialist imagination. Readers of the

126

Press and Politics in the Weimar Republic

Angermunder Zeitung, however, were left with a clear impression of the nature of
ideological conict. The terminology was the same as that of the Nazis, and the
sentiment expressed was one that would later allow Hitler to pursue his political
terror against the Left with considerable popular support.
C O N C LU S I O N
On 29 January 1927, Centre politician Wilhelm Marx was re-elected Reich
chancellor, heading a coalition government comprising the German Nationalists,
the Catholic Centre party, the right-wing DVP, and the Bavarian Peoples party
(BVP). This new conservative governmentthe most right wing so farwas
to survive for just over a year. But because many of the bourgeois-conservative
provincial newspapers were largely supportive of the policies pursued by this
government, 1927 was to appear relatively peaceful and uneventful to the
provincial reading public. The violent antagonism of the immediate post-war
period seemed to be waning. Partisan news reporting continued, but the antisocialism of the provincial press was not as immediately obvious to the everyday
reader as it had been during the Hindenburg campaign or the expropriation
referendum. After all, how were readers to know what information was held
back? In May 1927, they would read extensively about a rally held by the
right-wing veterans organization, the Stahlhelm, in Berlin, which drew some
100,000 participants. In contrast, the Festival of the Hundred Thousand,
the huge rally of the republican organization the Reichsbanner, held in Leipzig
to celebrate 11 August, the Day of the Constitution, received very little, if any,
coverage. Only some overtly right-wing editors would openly admit that they
disliked celebrations of the Constitution as socialist victory celebrations.
In 1925, the mass mobilization of bourgeois Germans campaigning for
Hindenburg had still carried distincly anti-republican overtones. Now, with a
right-wing Reich government in charge and Hindenburg as Reich president,
anti-republicanism was beginning to appear somewhat dated even to many on
the political Right. With Hindenburg as symbolical gurehead, the nature of
the German Reich could be redened. It was no coincidence that for many
provincial editors, the political highlight of 1927 was Hindenburgs eightieth
birthday, in October 1927. The minutely staged festivities in Berlin were
covered by provincial newspapers in a level of detail which was entirely absent
from their normal political analysis. The day after Hindenburgs birthday, the
Konigswusterhausener Zeitung presented a poem to Our Hindenburg, the Fuhrer
of all Germans in the centre of the front page of an issue almost entirely
devoted to the ofcial celebrations. Of course, there were dissenting voices.
The Social Democratic Volks-Zeitung in Wittenberge, for example, provided an
extensive, but strongly satirical, report of events in Berlin, and mocked the local
Stahlhelm celebrations. The whole event, the paper reminded its readers, was

Provincial Newspapers around Berlin, 19258

127

used as a propaganda day for the DNVP. This impression was created by
the dominance of the old imperial coloursblack, white, and redthroughout
the festivities. But many bourgeois editors were not thinking about the German
Nationalist party when deciding to devote unprecedented amounts of coverage
to Hindenburgs birthday celebrations. Their enthusiasm for the occasion was
fuelled primarily by the combination of entertainment value and overt, transparty, nationalism which they were able to offer to an appreciative readership. It
was no coincidence that the publishers of the right-wing Angermunder Zeitung
decided at the end of 1927 to change the self-description of the papers political
tendency from nationalist to parteilos. Apparently, to be nationalist was
considered self-evident. The true political mission, now, was to promote politics
which were above party-politics.
There were obvious limits to this policy of right-wing appropriation of the
Weimar Republic. The day-to-day running of politics was still based on partypolitics, and at the Reichstag elections in May 1928, citizens had to chose from
an unprecedented number of different interest parties. The election campaign did
not witness the same degree of heated campaigning as in 1924 and 1925, when
the elections still seemed to determine the fate of the democratic Republic.
But other than that, the lines were drawn as in previous elections. As usual,
overtly partisan local papers indulged in attacks on the press of their political
opponents, mostly referring to Berlin papers that their subscribers never read.
Again, bourgeois papers only published advertisements for the DVP, DNVP,
and the Volkisch-nationale Block, rarely for the DDP, never for the SPD. Local
editors still thought they could inuence the political choices of their readership.
The Angermunder Zeitung, for example, focused primarily on DNVP activities
in its local news section, and for a week before the elections every issue carried a
huge DNVP advertisement at the bottom of the front page. At election time,
editors were forced to take position, and their parteilos emphasis was expressed
primarily in their constant appeals to their bourgeois readers to participate in the
elections, and not to waste a vote on a splinter party when voting for one of the
bourgois parties.
Readers obviously did not heed their newspapers advice: the 1928 Reichstag
elections saw the lowest turnout since 1898, and a record number of votes
cast for special interest and splinter parties. The DNVP, in particular, was
penalized for its participation in government, and the role it played in passing the
highly controversial Aufwertungs-laws. Despite the support it received in the
various local papers, the DNVP lost dramatically, in Wittenberge haemorrhaging
more than 50 per cent of its previous votes. The weather probably played a more
important role in determining the outcome than did the press: rain had persuaded
many supporters of the bourgeois parties to stay at home, while at the same
time the SPD was extremely successful in mobilizing its supporters. In fact,
the SPD seems to have been the only party to benet partly from its provincial

128

Table 4.3. Elections to the Reichstag, 192432 (various towns around Berlin)
KPD
2,934 (8.8%)
2,556 (6.7%)
5,021 (12.2%)
4,409 (10.7%)

SPD
15,127 (45.5%)
19,956 (52.2%)
17,247 (41.8%)
17,239 (41.9%)

DDP
2,277 (6.9%)
2,017 (2.3%)
1,352 (3.3%)
305 (0.7%)

Zentrum
745 (2.2%)
732 (1.9%)
853 (2.1%)
831 (2.0%)

WP
1,738 (5.2%)
1,699 (4.4%)
1,829 (4.4%)
131 (0.3%)

DVP
3,429 (10.3%)
3,013 (7.9%)
1,269 (3.1%)
199 (0.5%)

DNVP
6,961 (21%)
6,221 (16.3%)
5,131 (12.4%)
1,834 (4.5%)

NSDAP
577 (1.5%)
7,667 (18.6%)
16,060 (39.0%)

Total
33,211
37,748
41,286
41,139

Wittenberge
RT December 1924
RT May 1928
RT September 1930
RT July 1932

KPD
1,911 (14%)
1,892 (12.5%)
2,391 (14.6%)
2,416 (15.2%)

SPD
4,430 (31.6%)
6,833 (45.3%)
5,845 (35.6%)
4,927 (31.0%)

DDP
874 (6.4%)
702 (4.7%)
652 (4.0%)
157 (1.0%)

Zentrum
372 (2.7%)
261 (1.7%)
312 (1.9%)
358 (2.3%)

WP
254 (1.9%)
1,141 (7.6%)
482 (2.9%)
0 (0%)

DVP
1,062 (7.8%)
1,108 (7.3%)
419 (2.6%)
0 (0%)

DNVP
4,476 (32.7%)
2,274 (15.1%)
1,500 (9.1%)
1,375 (8.6%)

NSDAP
404 (3%)
313 (2.1%)
4,195 (25.6%)
6,565 (41.3%)

Total
13,683
15,096
16,410
15,910

Prenzlau
RT December 1924
RT May 1928
RT September 1930
RT July 1932

KPD
711 (6.3%)
1,937 (14.7%)
1,800 (14.6%)
2,333 (18.8%)

SPD
3,169 (28.2%)
2,736 (20.8%)
2,781 (22.5%)
2,343 (18.9%)

DDP
559 (5%)
540 (4.1%)
330 (2.7%)
72 (0.6%)

Zentrum
188 (1.7%)
192 (1.5%)
269 (2.2%)
254 (2.0%)

WP
471 (4.2%)
382 (2.9%)
366 (3.0%)
19 (0.2%)

DVP
1,002 (8.9%)
1,324 (10.1%)
688 (5.6%)
125 (1.0%)

DNVP
3,184 (28.4%)
4,194 (31.9%)
2,262 (18.3%)
1,356 (10.9%)

NSDAP
835 (7.4%)
944 (7.2%)
3,371 (27.3%)
5,864 (47.3%)

Total
11,219
13,149
12,345
12,405

Angermunde
RT December 1924
RT May 1928
RT September 1930
RT July 1932

KPD
138 (3.2%)
307 (7.3%)
562 (11.7%)
461 (9.1%)

SPD
975 (22.4%)
1,190 (28.3%)
1,084 (22.7%)
887 (17.6%)

DDP
222 (5.1%)
360 (8.6%)
188 (3.9%)
46 (0.9%)

Zentrum
130 (3%)
63 (1.5%)
62 (1.3%)
77 (1.5%)

WP
44 (1.0%)
138 (3.3%)
138 (2.9%)
9 (0.2%)

DVP
516 (11.9%)
544 (12.9%)
310 (6.5%)
75 (1.5%)

DNVP
1,697 (39.1%)
1,137 (27.0%)
749 (15.7%)
497 (9.8%)

NSDAP
602 (13.8%)
274 (6.5%)
1,502 (31.4%)
2,975 (58.9%)

Total
4,354
4,209
4,785
5,050

Bernau
RT December 1924
RT May 1928
RT September 1930
RT July 1932

KPD
886 (16.7%)
1,474 (24.6%)
2,117 (29.7%)
2,534 (30.8%)

SPD
1,626 (30.7%)
2,060 (34.4%)
1,943 (27.2%)
2,182 (26.5%)

DDP
502 (9.5%)
304 (5.1%)
251 (3.5%)
92 (1.1%)

Zentrum
173 (3.3%)
165 (2.8%)
179 (2.5%)
229 (2.8%)

WP
352 (6.6%)
505 (8.4%)
546 (7.7%)
51 (0.6%)

DVP
359 (6.8%)
301 (5.0%)
180 (2.5%)
43 (0.5%)

DNVP
1,095 (20.7%)
886 (14.8%)
674 (9.4%)
463 (5.6%)

NSDAP
51 (1.0%)
114 (1.9%)
1,055 (14.8%)
2,482 (30.2%)

Total
5,294
5,992
7,135
8,226

Oranienburg
RT December 1924
RT May 1928
RT September 1930
RT July 1932

KPD
1,174 (16.2%)
1,552 (20.8%)
2,272 (24.3%)
2,304 (21.8%)

SPD
1,435 (19.8%)
1,712 (23.0%)
1,783 (19.1%)
2,250 (21.2%)

DDP
590 (8.1%)
467 (6.3%)
350 (3.7%)
102 (1.0%)

Zentrum
303 (4.2%)
267 (3.6%)
328 (3.5%)
394 (3.7%)

WP
866 (11.9%)
747 (10.0%)
794 (8.5%)
70 (0.7%)

DVP
705 (9.7%)
928 (12.5%)
622 (6.7%)
124 (1.2%)

DNVP
1,469 (20.3%)
1,205 (16.2%)
810 (8.7%)
729 (6.9%)

NSDAP
205 (2.8%)
234 (3.1%)
1,955 (20.9%)
4,436 (41.9%)

Total
7,247
7,445
9,334
10,590

Press and Politics in the Weimar Republic

Brandenburg
RT December 1924
RT May 1928
RT September 1930
RT July 1932

KPD
364 (14.3%)
559 (17.9%)
836 (21.5%)
796 (17.0%)

SPD
760 (29.9%)
1,034 (33.1%)
981 (25.3%)
1,258 (26.8%)

DDP
177 (7%)
237 (7.6%)
176 (4.5%)
95 (2.0%)

Zentrum
70 (2.7%)
73 (2.3%)
80 (2.1%)
178 (3.8%)

WP
223 (8.8%)
347 (11.1%)
523 (13.5%)
35 (0.7%)

DVP
304 (11.9%)
298 (9.6%)
141 (3.6%)
63 (1.3%)

DNVP
569 (22.3%)
443 (14.2%)
494 (12.7%)
400 (8.5%)

NSDAP
44 (1.7%)
26 (0.8%)
497 (12.8%)
1,803 (38.5%)

Total
2,546
3,120
3,885
4,689

Sources: See www.hist.cam.ac.uk/academic staff/further details/fulda-press-and-politics.html


Abbreviations: KPD = German Communist Pary; SPD = German Social Democratic Party; DDP = German Democratic Party; WP = Business Party; DVP = German Peoples
Party; DNVP = German Nationalist Peoples Party; NSDAP = National Socialist Party.

Provincial Newspapers around Berlin, 19258

Konigswusterhausen
RT December 1924
RT May 1928
RT September 1930
RT July 1932

129

130

Press and Politics in the Weimar Republic

press. While on average across the Reich the KPD managed to increase its votes
signicantly, the SPD was able to prevent Communist growth in those towns
(of the sample analysed in this chapter) where a Social Democratic newspaper
existed: in Brandenburg and Wittenberge the number of votes cast for the KPD
actually decreased.
Apart from the gains by the Social Democrats, the most vivid sign of the
apparent stabilization of the Weimar Republic was the continuing decline of the
Nazi vote in May 1928. Compared to their performance four years earlier, in
May 1924, when they had won nearly two million votes in Germany, they were
now down to just over 800,000, or 2.6 per cent. Yet it was not a good day
for parliamentary democracy in Germany. The bourgeois pro-democratic centre
parties, the Catholic Centre party and the DDP, lost signicantly; special interest
and splinter parties beneted from the losses of DNVP and DVP; and the antidemocratic Communists managed to increase their seats in the Reichstag by 20
per cent, to a total of fty-four. As already indicated by Hindenburgs election
and the referendum on the expropriation of the former princes, the German
electorate was increasingly dissatised with the choices offered by post-1918 party
politics. The potential for an anti-democratic coalition based on mass support
was all too obvious.
Reading their provincial newspapers, there was little that Germans in this
period would nd to bolster their trust in parliamentary democracy. The
political nature of the patchwork provision of news by provinical newspapers
meant that what information was provided had to be interpreted by being
put into a context of existing prejudices and stereotypes. Even allegedly nonpartisanparteilos papers contributed to this political culture of antagonistic
ideologies. They would often be read by self-professed unpolitical Germans
who found in their papers enough evidence of political malaise to condemn
the present system. A nationalist newspaper like the Brandenburger Anzeiger
repeatedly expressed this discontent with parliamentary democracy, polemicizing
against the sins of parliamentary dictatorship. As long as the Reich was led
by a Centre-Right bourgeois government, criticism remained relatively muted,
and attacks were primarily aimed at the opposition parties. However, when SPD
and government happened to be one and the same thing, as was the case after
the Reichstag elections of May 1928, it was predictable that the German press
would become increasingly critical of parliamentary democracy.

5
Conquering Headlines: Violence, Sensations,
and the Rise of the Nazis, 192830
We are living in a time when the struggle between old and new Weltanschauungen is being fought out with never-suspected passions. But to
intensify this struggle through false or exaggerated sensationalist news would
mean throwing further fuel onto the torch of passion which is already now
fully ablaze.
Zeitungs-Kunde, 7, 15 April 1919: Wahrheit oder
Sensationsberichterstattung!

The period between May 1928 and September 1930 saw the single most
spectacular electoral breakthrough in German history: within just over two years,
the National Socialists were transformed from an extremist fringe movement
into the second largest party in the Reichstag. Much recent research has
emphasized the importance of the Nazi exploitation of rural discontent for an
explanation of this sudden growth. However, this can only partly explain the
phenomenon. How would peasant support help us understand the explosive
growth of the NSDAP in a metropolitan setting like Berlin, where Hitlers
party increased its votes tenfold, more than the Reich average? This is no trivial
issue because it goes straight to the heart of the question why the Weimar
Republic failed. Hitlers appointment as Reich chancellor in January 1933 was
not inevitable, but it was based on genuine, widespread mass support for the
NSDAP. Almost half of this mass support was already rallied by September 1930,
well before the worst effects of the Great Depression were felt.
Historians studying the social composition of Hitlers voters have concluded
that by 1930 the Nazi party had established itself as a Volkspartei des Protests, a
catch-all party of social protest. According to Jurgen Falter, one crucial factor
for understanding the complex electoral movements which brought this about
is local newspaper climate. Falters idea that the press played an important
role in the Nazi breakthrough is not exactly new. In fact, it is one of the staples
of Weimar historiography that the right-wing press magnate Alfred Hugenberg
helped Hitler to achieve national stature through an alliance in 1929 against the
latest reparations plan, the Young Plan. As a recent study shows, the Nazis gained

132

Press and Politics in the Weimar Republic

both publicity and a degree of respectability on the mainstream Right. But if the
headlines of the Hugenberg press had the power to turn Hitler into a convincing
electoral proposition, why did their magic fail to work for Hugenberg himself?
As Chapter 1 demonstrates, the heterogeneous nature of Berlins press landscape makes it difcult to identify a newspaper climate along party-political
lines. But in terms of newspaper format, there was an unmistakable trend: voters
were more likely than ever before to derive their information from a sensationalist
tabloid press. Contemporaries were well aware of the political signicance of
the increasing sensationalism within a partisan press. In September 1929, one
of the leading media researchers of his time, Emil Dovifat, observed that the
Strassenverkaufspresse had rubbed off on the great political press and forced it
to adapt to a more sensationalist and gripping approach. What were the
consequences of these media dynamics? This chapter sets out to analyse the
impact of this particular mixture of sensationalist and partisan reporting on
political culture generally, and on the fate of the NSDAP in particular. After
all, the rise of the NSDAP in Berlin took place in a context of intense political
and commercial media competition, in which Hugenbergs press was just one
of many players. Howand whendid the Nazis manage to catch readers
attention? How did the Berlin media report, and in turn feed, the rise of the
Nazis? And what damage did the medias partisan sensationalism inict on the
Weimar Republics political fabric?
T H E C R I S I S O F T H E PA R L I A M E N TA RY S Y S T E M
In the 1928 Reichstag elections, the Nazis received a mere 1.6 per cent of the vote
in Berlin. Nearly 60 per cent of the Berlin electorate supported either the SPD
or the KPD. For Joseph Goebbels, a journalist-politician if there ever was one,
the future course of action seemed clear. To avoid extinction, it was imperative
for the Nazis to attain all possible publicity, to secure a place in the publics
awareness and to make people talk about the party. Goebbelss weekly newspaper,
the Angriff, founded in July 1927, was intended to serve this purpose. Modelled
on the increasingly popular tabloid style, Angriff tried to fuse various elements
from successful mass newspapers and elite political papers: sensationalism, an
unrelenting partisanship, emphasis upon violent clashes with the enemy, an
almost complete disregard for hard news, and a concentration upon polemic.
One of the most important selling points was illustrations, particularly caricatures.
However, a newspaper alone did not guarantee public awareness, especially when
circulation stood at under 10,000 copies. The opposition was overwhelming,
since the two liberal publishing houses, Ullstein and Mosse, dominated over half
of the Berlin newspaper market. Millions of their newspaper copies, Goebbels
complained, spew . . . Jewish poison throughout the capital on a daily basis.
Goebbels had not always been this dismissive of these Jewish publishing houses.

Violence, Sensations, and the Rise of the Nazis, 192830

133

As an aspiring young journalist, he had himself applied for an editorship at


Mosses Berliner Tageblatt in early 1924. Three years later, his ambition for
the Angriff was to equal the Jewish press in sarcasm and cynical wit. The
rst edition, however, was a disappointment. It was printed crap, according to
Goebbels. The circulation of the Angriff amounted to just one per cent of the
total circulation of Berlins six other tabloids. As an extremist fringe party, the
Nazis stood little chance of receiving substantial press coverage.
However, Goebbels was not alone in his anti-democratic struggle. The newspapers of Hugenberg, recently elected chairman of the DNVP, and Munzenberg,
the KPDs Red Hugenberg, continued the now long-running ght against the
SPD-led government in Prussia and the more recent SPD government of the
Reich. Their tabloids, the Nachtausgabe and the Welt am Abend, respectively,
had more than tripled in circulation since the early 1920s. The coverage in
November 1928 of the tenth anniversary of the November revolution indicated
their stance of contemptuous disdain on the Weimar Republic. Involuntarily,
the newly formed Grand Coalition, including the SPD, DDP, the Centre,
and the DVP, helped in this endeavour. After long and arduous negotiations,
the rst session of the new Reichstag saw the representative of the right-wing
DVP declare that the Muller government was not really a coalition government,
and the spokesman for the Catholic Centre party described the coalition as a
temporary emergency solution. A month later, the SPD had had to break its
most prominent election promise. After having campaigned against the building
of the warship Armoured Cruiser A , a symbol of militarist continuity, the
SPD leadership now gave in to the demands of its coalition partners and agreed
to its construction. The SPDs Reichstag members rebelled. In November 1928,
SPD parliamentarians tabled a motion to stop the construction, and forced the
Reich chancellor and his Social Democratic ministers to support this in spite of
the earlier cabinet decision. The Reichstag now witnessed an absurd spectacle.
The main government party and the SPD ministers voted against a government
project, but were defeated by their coalition partners and the opposition.
The public standing of the SPD was severely damaged. Newspapers of the far
Left and Right had a eld day. Even whole-hearted democrats were appalled.
Joseph Wirth, Centre politician and former Reich chancellor, declared that it
made obvious the crisis of the parliamentary system. Only three months later,
parliamentary democracy suffered another blow. After various attempts to turn
Mullers coalition of personalities into a formal grand coalition, the Centre
party left the government, which thereby lost its majority. The DVP demanded
entry into the Prussian government as a condition for a grand coalition in the
Reich. It took two months of arduous negotiations to form another working
coalition between the SPD, Centre party, and DVP. Stresemann was under no
illusions as to the state of parliamentary democracy. We are experiencing a crisis
of parliamentarianism, which goes beyond being a mere crisis of condence, he
declared to the DVP party executive in February 1929. In Mosses left-liberal

134

Press and Politics in the Weimar Republic

Berliner Volks-Zeitung, Otto Nuschke from the DDP agreed: parliamentarianism


was being increasingly damaged in the eyes of the population. Voters were
watching politics with a feeling of repulsion, the newspaper observed. The
Centre politician Lammers resigned his Reichstag seat in disgust. Joseph Wirth
expressed his despair with the situation in an article that received widespread
press coverage in February 1929: It really cannot go on like this . . . otherwise
the ten-year development of democracy is going to end exactly like liberalism
in Italy. A Reichstag debate on 1 March 1929 highlighted this widespread
dissatisfaction with the parliamentary system.
THE RISE OF POLITICAL VIOLENCE
Whilst the political elite fretted over the future of German parliamentarianism,
the movements of the extreme Left and Right began to shift the emphasis
of their struggle onto the streets. This policy change resulted in an upsurge
of political hooliganism, which itself became a media event. The immediate
beneciaries were the Nazis. In late September 1928, the Prussian interior
minister, Grzesinski, had lifted the ban on public speeches by Hitler in Prussia,
explaining that the Nazis were no longer of any political relevance. This was a
fateful misperception. Although receiving only some 40,000 votes in Berlin at the
Reichstag elections in May, when Hitler made his rst public appearance in Berlin
on 16 November 1928, he drew an enormous crowd. An audience of 16,000
lled the Sportpalast to capacity. This in itself, however, was not particularly
newsworthy. Hugenbergs newspapers ignored the occasion completely, as did
almost all other papers. Only Munzenbergs Communist Welt am Abend covered
the speech, but concluded that Hitler was just a laughing stock.
But after the rally there were clashes between Nazis and some left-wing
opponents. The following morning, the dead body of a Nazi party member,
Kutemeyer, was retrieved from the Landwehrkanal. How exactly he had ended
up there remained a mystery. For Hugenbergs tabloid, the Nachtausgabe, the
story became front-page news exactly because of this mixture of crime, mystery,
and violence. Suicide or murder? ran one headline. Apparently, Kutemeyer had
been drunk, and on his way home got severely beaten up. He then continued
home, but fell into the Landwehrkanal. Some witnesses claimed they had seen
him being thrown into the river; others had seen how he jumped himself. In
his Angriff, Goebbels tried to turn Kutemeyer into a party martyr, depicting him
as a victim of the red blood mob. However, Goebbels did not succeed, not
least since the police found no evidence of foul play, as the Communist Welt am
Abend pointed out gleefully: The facts speak . . . a different language, and do
not grant the Nazis their martyr. Almost a year later, when Kutemeyers death
became the subject of a trial, the Communists were proved right. The court ruled
out any possibility of murder.

Violence, Sensations, and the Rise of the Nazis, 192830

135

Following a funeral service for Kutemeyer, Nazis clashed with members of


the KPD ghting organization, the Rotfrontkampferbund, and a Communist
was shot. Since the Nazis had obviously been the aggressors this time, the
Nachtausgabe in the spirit of right-wing solidarityrefrained from covering
the event at all. The Communist Welt am Abend, in contrast, devoted half its
front page to it. Such coverage of political violence was to become standard over
the next years. Partisan editors chose to cover only those incidents which would
allow them to put their political opponents in the worst possible light. Thus,
prior to September 1930, most readers of Berlins mass newspapers encountered
the Nazis primarily as opponents (and, in Hugenbergs papers, victims) of
Communist aggression. Whilst remaining unable to attract any media attention
for their rallies and parliamentary activities, the Nazis found their earliest press
coverage thanks to the publics obsession with crime and violence.
The same was true for the KPD. May Day 1929 saw clashes with the police,
with numerous deaths. The conict had started in December 1928, when
Berlins SPD police president, Zorgiebel, had declared a ban on all open-air
demonstrations in the city following several deaths in political clashes. As a
result of this ban, the front-lines of the street battle were shifted considerably.
The KPD considered it a serious attack by their Social Democratic opponents
on Communist political activities. Over the following months, they repeatedly
ignored the ban and provoked clashes with the police. Eventually, the KPD
leadership decided to risk an all-out confrontation with Social Democratic
authorities on 1 May, the traditional date for demonstrations by the workers
movement. Through the Rote Fahne, the KPD called upon workers to join
the May demonstrations despite the ban. Within a few days, the antagonism
between Social Democratic and Communist newspapers reached fever pitch.
The more the Communist press pressurized Zorgiebel to lift the ban, the more
the SPD organ Vorwarts provided material that seemed to justify his stance. It
reported that in a meeting of the Communist May Committee one speaker had
declared 1 May to be a dress rehearsal for civil war. This was a distortion, as
the existing police report of that meeting makes apparent. The speaker had, in
fact, predicted that the Communists would succeed if hundreds of thousands of
the proletariat marched in Berlin, the focus of the ght. The interpretation of
the word ght, Kampf , as civil war, Burgerkrieg, was one that came easily in
an atmosphere of heightened tensions and mutual recriminations.
Both sides now accused each other of wanting to spill blood. In fact, newspapers took it for granted that there would be casualties, and positioned themselves
accordingly. Munzenbergs Welt am Abend denied that the Communists wanted
bloodshed, and stated that it would be impossible to shift responsibility for
bloody incidents on 1 May onto the KPD. The Social Democratic Vorwarts
disagreed. On 29 April, its front-page headline ran: 200 deaths on 1st May?
Criminal plans by the Communists. It reported on a meeting of the KPD
Berlin district executive, where, it alleged, the hope was expressed that there

136

Press and Politics in the Weimar Republic

would be clashes resulting in some 200 dead, which Communist agitation


could then exploit. Rote Fahne claimed that the meeting had never taken place
and accused the SPD of an outright lie; Welt am Abend castigated Vorwarts
for creating a mood of pogrom; some 1,000 young workers demonstrated in
front of the Vorwarts building. Even if there was little veracity in the claim,
it succeeded in alerting the mass press to a sensation in the making. Up
to this point, the polemics had been largely limited to the KPD and SPD
press. Now the looming violence attracted the rest of Berlins press. Ullsteins
Berliner Morgenpost condemned the heinous Communist scheme; Ullsteins
Tempo dramatized the pending clash between the Communists and the police.
Hugenbergs Nachtausgabe devoted considerable space to the police preparations
to defend the streets and published a caricature accusing the Communist press
of driving Berlin workers to their deaths. Foreign newspapers reported on a
psychosis of fear in Berlin and predicted great bloodshed. Tension was very
high. Already on 29 April, there were clashes between demonstrating workers
and the police; on the evening of 30 April two policemen were injured when
trying to disperse a large crowd of demonstrators.
M AY D AY 1 9 2 9 : C R E AT I O N O F S C A PE G OATS
The tragedy that followed on the rst three days of May 1929 was largely a
consequence of the medias anticipation of a confrontation in which both sides,
Communist workers and police, believed they were victims. The violent polemics
of the Communists, and the scandal-mongering of the rest of the Berlin press,
prepared the scene for a heavy-handed and disproportionate police response.
Thirty-two civilians, among them seven women, were shot by the police. In
not a single case could the police prove that the victims had been participating
in demonstrations. Only one victim was a member of a KPD organization.
However, the clashes over the rst three days of May 1929 remained disputed
in detail, and were largelyand wronglyblamed on the Communists. In
fact, although the police repeatedly met with resistance when trying to disperse
demonstrators, resistance had largely been provoked by the indiscriminate and
exaggerated use of batons, and was mostly limited to beatings and stone-throwing.
This triggered warning shots by the police that often hit innocent bystanders.
But the perception of events in early May was primarily shaped through a press
coverage based on ofcial police reports, which provided a one-sided and grossly
distorted picture.
One example might help to illuminate the fateful escalation brought about
by exaggerated police violence. Alexanderplatz, Berlins central square next to
the main police station, had been prominent in those press reports which had
discussed the Communist plans to achieve some 200 dead. At lunchtime on
1 May 1929, several thousand Communist demonstrators had gathered there.

Violence, Sensations, and the Rise of the Nazis, 192830

137

The police used water-pumps and batons against the crowds. The water-pumps
were a highly successful innovation, dispersing the crowd without excessive use
of force: the 8-Uhr-Abendblatt called proceedings at Alexanderplatz a bit more
jovial. Some demonstrators then moved on to Bulowplatz, not far away,
home to the Karl-Liebknecht-Haus, the KPD headquarters. This was KPD
home territory, and it affected everyones behaviour fundamentally. The police
were apparently greeted with stones, and, as a consequence, adopted raiding
techniques: speeding in by car, jumping off, immediately starting a baton charge
against anyone in their proximity, and ring repeated warning shots. The
number of pedestrians in this densely populated area meant that many of these
shots, which were given without prior warning, hit innocent targets: one man,
who had taken refuge inside a shop was shot dead; a sixteen-year-old girl who
had passed by with her parents was shot in the thigh.
In Berlins working-class neighbourhoods the situation escalated even more.
Wedding, the district with the largest KPD electorate, was treated by the police
as enemy territory. In the course of afternoon raids by the police, two spectators
were shot accidentally. In the early evening workers erected a provisional
barricade to prevent police cars from entering the Kosliner Strasse. If this had
been intended as a measure of self-defence, it backred badly. Armed police
were sent out to clear the street from both ends, andmistaking their own
warning shots as hostile reshot wildly at windows and houses. Within some
ninety minutes eight people were shot dead, and at least twenty-ve seriously
wounded. The police similarly overreacted in Neukolln, another working-class
district, where two more lives were lost.
A total of eighteen people were killed on 1 May 1929. The shootings
mainly affected the three neighbourhoods around Bulowplatz in Mitte, around
Kosliner Strasse in Wedding, and around Hermannstrasse in Neukolln. In the
rest of the city, people went about their daily business without witnessing any
of the violence. The newspapers of 2 May were the rst many Berliners
knew about it. Almost all papers blamed the Communists. Ihr Blut komme
u ber Moskau . . . ! ran a headline in Mosses 8-Uhr-Abendblatt. In Wedding,
the paper reported, the police had encountered heavy re from an enormous
barricade at Kosliner Strasse and from roof tops; similarly heavy ghting had
taken place in Neukolln. According to this tabloid, the streetght had all
the characteristics of an uprising. Other newspapers gave equally colourful
and distorted accounts of events. Ullsteins Tempo described the situation as
worse than during the Spartacus uprising in January 1919. It provided a
highly dramatic and completely imaginary description of the storming of the
barricade in Kosliner Strasse. Hugenbergs Nachtausgabe, too, had a eld-day.
It did everything to hammer home its message of the murderous Communist
threat. The Kosliner Strasse, it explained, was known as a stronghold of the
Communist and of the most objectionable Wedding mob. Allegedly 100
armed Communists had taken position behind a huge barricade some two metres

138

Press and Politics in the Weimar Republic

high; ragged characters with hand guns cowered in the windows and on roofs
and opened a murderous re on the police. The ght was said to have taken
over an hour and some 2,000 shots, and when the police combed the houses
for combatants, they allegedly found weapons and ammunition lying around
everywhere. Several policemen, it reported, had been wounded by shots.
None of this was true. In fact, the police struggled to explain the lack of
rearms conscated during the riots. In Kosliner Strasse, they arrested only one
young man on a roof, carrying an old dysfunctional gun, which a later police
report and a court expert dismissed as primarily dangerous to the user. No
ammunition was found. As to the police casualties, a Wedding police ofcer
stated in an internal report that no policeman had been injured during these
ghts. In fact, during the entire May riots, the police did not suffer a single
injury by rearms. One reason that these sensationalist press reports seemed to
carry a lot of credibility was the provision of an abundance of news photos.
Photos of the police using water-pumps against demonstrators on Alexanderplatz
were published in almost all newspapers, and made it onto the front page of
Hugenbergs Nachtausgabe. Here, the contrast between the depicted non-violent
approach of the police and the headline Consequences of the bloody 1st May
left little doubt as to who was to blame for spilled blood. Another photo
showed the police during one of their raids near Bulowplatz, jumping off their
lorry, starting to chase after people, and setting the crowd running. The captions
in the various papers provided the interpretation of events. For Mosses Berliner
Volks-Zeitung the running crowd were clearly eeing demonstrators; the 8-UhrAbendblatt used the photo to illustrate the bitter battle . . . between the police
and Communist demonstrators; Ullsteins BZ am Mittag placed the photo in
the centre of an article headlined The street ghts during the night. It did
not suit the newspapers purpose to question the composition and identity of the
depicted crowd. Only the much-described barricades were missing. Hugenbergs
Nachtausgabe provided one photo to illustrate an article headlined The bloody
1st May in Berlin . . . Armed Communists behind barricades, but this showed
a rather unimpressive, improvised, and unmanned road-block. Editors were
fortunate that the the night of 2 May saw renewed clashes in Wedding and
Neukolln, during which barricades were built. In Wedding these consisted of
cobble-stones, and were so easily dismantled that hardly any traces were left the
following morning. In Neukolln, however, young men toppled a large advertising
pillar and constructed a barricade with iron bars, cobble-stones, and some other
debris, cutting off a whole street. This provided an excellent photo opportunity,
and was widely covered in the newspapers of 3 May. It was shown from every
possible angle, providing the impression of a multitude of barricades. With
this came headlines announcing that the police president had declared a state
of emergency for Wedding and Neukolln. The police sealed off the trouble
spots around Kosliner- and Hermannstrasse, erecting signs saying Halt! Es wird
geschossen! These, too, became favourites for the press photographers.

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139
Fig. 5.1. A photo-collage from Mosses 8-Uhr-Abendblatt, 101, 2 May 1929. The caption ran: Heavy ghting took place on Neukollns
Hermannplatz and in Wedding between the police and Communist demonstrators. These photos visualize the uproar which took place in
the workers districts of Great Berlin yesterday. Only on Alexanderplatz events were somewhat more gemutlich, because there the police dealt
with any ticklish situation by means of the re hydrant. The very graphic headline made up for the lack of visible Communist violence.

140
Press and Politics in the Weimar Republic
Fig. 5.2. This photo from Mosses 8-Uhr-Abendblatt, 102, 3 May 1929, was one of many photos depicting the only one barricade of the
May riots which had semblance to a properly constructed barricade. In different papers it was depicted from different angles, thus providing
the impression of a multitude of barricades. A caption in Ullsteins BZ am Mittag, 119, 3 May 1929, ran: Barricades in the area around
Hermannplatz. Readers were thus led to believe there existed many various barricades, lending further credibilitiy to exaggerated articles
based on distorted police reports.

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The non-Communist press almost unanimously backed the police measures,


blaming the Communists for the bloodshed. This started to change from 4 May
1929, when, especially among liberal newspapers, there were increasingly sceptical
voices following the death of eleven more people on 3 May in police cleansing
operations. On 4 May at the same time as reporting the success of the police
in quelling the disorder, the newspapers started to reect on the death-toll.
Mosses 8-Uhr-Abendblatt, for example, proclaimed Insurgence repressed! on
its front page, declared Full success of the emergency measures in Neukolln and
Wedding on page two, but towards the back of the paper printed an article
posing a pertinent question: Were all shots legitimate . . . ? The accompanying
drawing showed a dead woman lying on her balcony, with a toddler looking
onto the scene from inside the room. The caption ran: Who shot? In dubio pro
Schupo.
Among liberal editors the mood was shifting. Perhaps this was also due to
news of journalists falling victim to police violence. In Neukolln, two reporters of
the Nachtausgabe and the Tempo had been severely beaten up by the police after
showing their press cards. An editor of the Vossische Zeitung had been shot in the
leg despite clearly identifying himself. A journalist from New Zealand had been
shot dead by the police when approaching a police road-block. Increasingly,
police behaviour came under press scrutiny. Ullsteins Tempo reected on the
polices sleep deprivation and nervousness. On its front page Mosses left-liberal
Berliner Volks-Zeitung deplored the deaths of innocents during the streetghts,
and demanded an end to the bloodshed in its leading article. It also criticized
the right-wing press for calling for even greater harshness. Indeed, once the
sensational news ceased to pour in, newspapers reverted to defending their
political territory.
Within a few days, the 8-Uhr-Abendblatt turned into one of the main critics
of police behaviour. The news that the autopsy of seventeen dead had conrmed
they had been killed by police bullets was accorded front-page status. By this
stage, however, such news was competing with other sensations. Already on
2 May, the Communist Rote Fahne had been banned for three weeks; now the
KPDs militant branch, the Rotfront, was banned in all of Germany. Equally
interesting was the news that one of the leading members of the Kapp Putsch
had allegedly received stipends from the Reich interior ministry. Hugenbergs
Nachtausgabe even devoted most of its front page to an armed robbery. If
editors wanted to shed further light on the events of 13 May, their articles now
competed with a wide array of more recent, and possibly more sensational, news.
Communist media strategy added to the general confusion. Munzenbergs
Communist Berlin am Morgen stated that there had been no battles, no roof-top
riemen, and no weaponsonly victims. Nevertheless, the KPD executive
decided to propagate the image of heroic resistance, rather than that of victimhood. In an attempt to turn the obvious failure of rallying mass demonstrations
into a success, the Communists claimed in their ofcial analysis of the May

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Press and Politics in the Weimar Republic

Fig. 5.3. Caricature from Vorwarts, 218, 12 May 1929. Social Democrats repeatedly
pointed at the discrepancy between the coverage by the Communist press of the riots
in early May 1929, and the ofcial interpretation of events by the KPD executive. The
caricature highlights the tensions between the Communist emphasis on victimhood, on
the one hand, and or heroic resistance, on the other. It is entitled Communist coverage
of 1 May, the captions underneath the three panels read: Report for Berlin and vicinity:
blindly the police res into the void onto imaginary opponents, For the provinces:
behind improvised cover we offered heroic resistance, For Moscow: great victory for the
Communists!Police defeated comprehensively!

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riots that the proletariat had conquered the street on 1 May, and defended it
against state power on the following two days by building and ghting from
barricades. This political reshaping of events did not go undisputed. An editor
of the Rote Fahne left the KPD, condemning the party line, which, he felt, had led
to senseless deaths. Two editors of Munzenbergs Welt am Abend quit their
positions in protest over interferences by KPD functionaries. For the SPD,
the conicting Communist accounts of the rst days of May made it possible
to question the validity of criticism of police behaviour and Social Democratic
governance.
Clarication of events did not become easier with the passing of time. Two
investigation committees examined the claim of police violence. However, apart
from small publications like the left-liberal journal, Weltbuhne, and Communist
newspapers, these endeavours received little press coverage: the May riots had by
this stage become so highly politicized that most liberal newspapers tried to avoid
being seen to be supporting the Communist cause. By July 1929, the danger
of the May clashes vanishing from public awareness had become very acute. In
order to keep the event in the headlines, the KPD accused the police president
of Arbeitermord , hoping to provoke libel trials which would provide renewed
publicity. But by this stage, most peoples impressions of events had already
been formed in the few days of intense media coverage in the early days of May,
largely reinforcing existing political cleavages.
Most importantly, a new myth of a pending Communist putsch had been
created. Immediately after the May clashes, news that the KPD wanted to exploit
the burials of the victims for large-scale action made it onto several front pages.
Over the following year, rumours of a Communist uprising became a staple
of the right-wing press. In late July 1929, Hugenbergs Berliner Lokal-Anzeiger
anticipated major riots on the occasion of anti-war day demonstrations. In
late December 1929, increasing Communist aggression triggered speculations
about an impending coup. In early February 1930, many newspapers reported on an attempted Communist coup that the police had prevented. In
early March 1930, Communist preparations for demonstrations on World
Unemployed Day again served for more front-page anxieties. The memory
of 1 May 1929, coupled with the increasing number of incidents of political
hooliganism involving Communists, enabled the bourgeois press to inate and
sensationalize the threat of a KPD putsch.
H U G E N B E RG , YO U N G , A N D T H E N A Z I S
A much more real threat to the future of the Weimar Republic than a Communist putsch was presented by the endeavours of the extreme Right. In early
June 1929, the Young Plan, a renegotiation of German reparation payments,
had been signed. Although it granted an early withdrawal of Allied troops from

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Press and Politics in the Weimar Republic

the Rhineland, and improved on the Dawes Plan in terms of total reparations, it
was an ambiguous success for the Germans, stipulating payments for fty-nine
years. For this reason, the nationalist Right, and particularly Alfred Hugenberg,
leader of the DNVP, considered the Young Plan unacceptable. As Hugenberg
was opposed to the whole system of parliamentary decision-making, he decided
to bypass parliament through a referendum. To this end, he founded the Reichsausschuss fur das deutsche Volksbegehren in July 1929, which was to lead the
campaign against the Young Plan. As had been the case with other efforts of
bourgeois Sammlung, such as the Reichsblock backing Hindenburgs candidature
in 1925, or the group organizing the opposition against the referendum for
the expropriation of former princes in 1926, the Reichsausschuss was a loose
coalition of right-wing parties and associations uniting for a single purpose.
It included the usual suspects: the DNVP, the right-wing veterans organization, the Stahlhelm, the agrarians (Reichslandbund and Christlich-Nationale
Bauernpartei), right-wing workers organizations, the Pan-Germans, some other
nationalist associations, and the Nazis. The only substantial difference from
earlier right-wing single-purpose coalitions was the absence of the DVP, unlikely
to join a campaign against the foreign policy of its own chairman, Gustav
Stresemann.
Many historians have assigned great signicance to Hitlers involvement in
the anti-Young Plan coalition in their explanation of the National Socialists
sudden rise to prominence in 192930. Yet the Nazis did not join the coalition
out of a position of weakness, nor did they gain extraordinary amounts of
press coverage through it. Even prior to the anti-Young Plan campaign in
1929, the Nazis had been able to double their share of votes at state elections
in Saxony and Mecklenburg-Schwerin, and they joined the Reichsausschuss
only reluctantly. Part of the Nazis appeal was the rejection of the political
establishment, and the DNVP had, after all, until recently formed part of the
Reich government. To avoid being drawn into a bourgeois-nationalist block,
in which the Nazis would lose their distinctiveness, Hitler ordered all grassroots party members to abstain from Reichsausschuss activities, and, with one
exception, he refused to appear alongside Hugenberg and Seldte, the leader of
the Stahlhelm, at Reichsausschuss rallies. Hitlers aim was to prevent National
Socialism from being perceived as one bourgeois reactionary party among
manyan image which Goebbels fought in his Angriff, and which he blamed
on the JewishMarxist press. Even Hugenbergs Nachtausgabe contributed to
this perception, mentioning Hitler only towards the very end of a report on
the foundation meeting of the Reichsausschuss. It was the impossibility of not
supporting a nationalist campaign with which the Nazis agreed in principle,
rather than a quest for press publicity, that made Hitler join Hugenberg.
Certainly, Hugenbergs papers gave less prominence to Hitlers participation in
the anti-Young Plan campaign than they did to his partys role as anti-Communist
street-ghters.

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Fig. 5.4. This caricature in Angriff, 34, 26 August 1929, illustrates the problem that
joining the campaign for the anti-Young Plan referendum posed for the Nazis. The
caricature, entitled Those beautiful soap-bubbles!, shows a stereotypical Jewish editor
(labelled Jewish-Marxist Press) drawing from a bucket labelled slander (and showing
the David Star) to produce soap-bubbles with some of the recent headlines in the liberal
and SPD press, like Hitlers swerve to the reaction and Hitler, Hugenberg & Co.
Rather than welcoming the press publicity that came with the anti-Young Plan campaign,
Goebbels feared for the Nazis revolutionary appeal.

Hugenbergs Berliner Lokal-Anzeiger covered the rst Reichsausschuss meeting


in great detail, devoting half the article to Hugenbergs speech. Much less extensive
was the coverage of the speech of the agrarian leader, Schiele; Hitler only got a
third of Schieles space. This was how Hugenbergs papers were to present the
campaign until the end of the referendum in late December 1929: as a nationalist
enterprise, spearheaded by the DNVP, lead by its Fuhrer, Alfred Hugenberg.
Membership in the anti-Young Plan coalition did not result in a shower of
positive press coverage for Hitlers party. On the other hand, it did mean that
they could no longer be simply ignored: the Berliner Lokal-Anzeiger printed three
small articles by a special correspondent about the Nazi party rally in Nuremberg
in early August 1929. This was not in itself unusual, as the alleged participation
of some 160,000 party members was certainly a newsworthy event. In earlier
years, similar activities by the Stahlhelm had received much more coverage. Now,
Hugenbergs editors considered the progress of the Zeppelin ight to New York

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Press and Politics in the Weimar Republic

considerably more important. The only favour to the Nazis was the way in
which clashes with left-wing opponents on the fringes of the Nuremberg rally
were reported. Although clearly originating with disorderly SA men, Hugenbergs
news agency, Telegraphen-Union, and his papers wrote of events in a way that
spared them the blame. Again, this was not exactly a new development:
Hugenbergs editors had always sided with the Nazis when reporting on clashes
with the Communists. Already in October 1928, a proud Goebbels had noted
after a violent end to a Sportpalast rally: The press brings columns of reports
about yesterday. . . . The entire Scherl business is on our side.
The argument that Hitler was turned into a major national gure through
the press campaign in support of the referendum against the Young Plan is
awed. It assumes that Hitler received a lot of press coverage, which he did
not. The referendum was clearly presented as Hugenbergs project, especially in
Hugenbergs newspapers. It also assumes that mere quantity in press exposure
invariably leads to political success, which it does not, as Hugenberg was to nd
out for himself. Despite the full support of his three papers, the Tag, the Berliner
Lokal-Anzeiger, and the Nachtausgabe, with a combined circulation of half a
million copies per day, the referendum drew only a disappointing 348,000 votes
in Berlin. Compared with the showing of the DNVP at the Reichstag elections
of 1928, this signied a loss of almost 100,000 votes, and was not even one-fth
of the votes cast in favour of the expropriation of former princes in 1926. Considering the particular concentration of Hugenbergs press empire in Berlin, the
anti-Young Plan referendum was a miserable failure for the leader of the DNVP.
Hugenberg had perhaps relied too much on the effectiveness of his press
campaign. The Nazis, in contrast, relied much less on printed propaganda
and instead mounted an enormous campaign of local rallies: in October 1929
alone they staged 7,000 rallies throughout the Reich. The Young topic proved
enormously successful, and drew many more participants than had previously
been attracted by Nazi events, as Goebbels noted. They also drew more
press coverage. Whereas in the past clashes with Communists in the wake
of Nazi meetings had hogged the attention, now the clashes became a smallprint encore to the description of successful evenings. In effect, Hugenberg had
provided the Nazis with a topic with which they succeeded in attracting many
nationalist voters previously untouched by Nazi propaganda. At the same time,
the increasing radicalization of the DNVP, apparent in the violent press polemics
against parliamentary democracy, added to the perception that Hugenbergs party
was moving closer to the political position of the NSDAP and not vice versa.
SCANDAL-MONGERING
The anti-Young Plan campaign helped the Nazis to reach a wider audience,
but it was not their major propaganda theme in autumn 1929. In the run-up

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to the Prussian local elections of November 1929, Goebbelss Angriff was


dominated by news on the so-called Sklarek scandal. This was the rst scandal
that Goebbels was effectively able to exploit. It became the Weimar Republics
most damaging political scandal, though not simply as a result of Goebbelss
propagandistic skills. It was due to the dynamics of the Berlin press market
that a local municipal corruption affair could be turned into a press story
that resonated throughout the Republic. Cut-throat competition among by
now seven Berlin tabloids and the abundance of other mass and political
newspapers created a media culture of intense political and business rivalry
that fed sensationalism. The signicance of the Sklarek scandal was not just its
contribution to the electoral rise of the Nazi party in Berlin. It also highlighted
politicians increasing frustration with a thoroughly partisan, sensationalist,
tabloid press.
The transgressions that came to light were not themselves particularly spectacular. The three Sklarek brothers, Max, Leo, and Willy, ran a clothing factory in
Berlin, andby bribing city ofcialshad been granted a virtual monopoly in
supplying clothing to municipal institutions and employees. In September 1929,
an audit of Berlins municipal bank, the Stadtbank, revealed that the Sklareks
had defrauded the city treasury out of roughly RM 10 million. At the end of a
long trial in June 1932, eight people were sentenced for taking bribes: two bank
directors, two city councillors, two former mayors, one city ofcial, and one
accountant. The mere technicalities of the fraud were of limited interest to
the press. Instead, colourful detail about the corruption of local politicians and
municipal managers provided the affair with the local dimension as well as the
human-interest element necessary to gain maximum attention from its readers.
To this was added an element of suspense, not only through the piecemeal
revelation of who was involved but also because the scandal hit the headlines less
than two months before local elections were to take place, raising the question of
who would be hurt most by it.
The political slant of the affair was apparent right from the rst headlines
announcing the arrest of the Sklareks. Hugenbergs Berliner Lokal-Anzeiger immediately pointed out that the Sklareks had been sponsors of the pro-republican
and mainly SPD-supported Reichsbanner organization. The Communists,
too, were eager to allocate political responsibility. The rst front-page article on
the affair in Munzenbergs Welt am Abend mentioned twice that the Sklareks
were members of the SPD. Leading Social Democrats convinced themselves
that the affair would lose the SPD the elections. In fact, the Sklareks had
bestowed their favours in a non-partisan fashion, including several Social Democrats, among them two district mayors, two Communist city councillors in
charge of the municipal procurement agency, and had entertained good relations
with a number of deutschnational politicians, among them the publisher of the
anti-Semitic journal Wahrheit, Wilhelm Bruhn, DNVP member of the Prussian
parliament.

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Press and Politics in the Weimar Republic

Political responsibility was anything but clear cut, and thus newspaper polemics
abounded. Whilst the Communists and Hugenbergs papers pointed at the Social
Democrats involved, Vorwarts and liberal papers emphasized that Communist
city councillors played a crucial role in the affair. The Communists were
the most skilful in positioning themselves as incorruptible investigators. The
Communist party organ, Rote Fahne, was at the forefront of bringing a gripping
new approach to the coverage of the affair. Despite its low circulation, it became
the most dynamic political driving force, setting the agenda for almost all other
Berlin newspapers. Starting a series of Sklarek revelations in early October
1929, it offered a mishmash of rumours, unfounded accusations, and kernels
of truth presenting local government as thoroughly corrupt. The tabloid
press also realized the potential of the affair, and started its own campaigns.
Ullsteins Tempo, with a languishing circulation, established itself as one of the
most vociferous prosecutors and attracted a lot of attention. Less interested in
political responsibility, Tempo sold its investigations as a crime story, focusing
on the Sklareks accomplices, condants, and silent sufferers within municipal
authorities. The fact that the state prosecution was in possession of a secret
list of people who had beneted from the Sklareks self-serving magnanimity
fuelled speculation. Allegations abounded, and reached a climax with the
news by the Rote Fahne that Berlins lord mayor, the DDP politician Gustav
Boss, had apparently also been one of the Sklareks beneciaries. Boss, who
was then touring the United States, was informed by his deputy that there was
no newspaper copy without [mention of the] Sklarek case. For once, the
heavily fragmented Berlin press focused on the same issue, providing the affair
with a mass audience that far surpassed the usual Teiloffentlichkeiten. In the
Prussian parliament, a gloating speaker of the Wirtschaftspartei criticized Berlins
municipal-socialist system by quoting from liberal papers, not least tabloids
like Ullsteins Tempo and Mosses 8-Uhr-Abendblatt. The message was clear.
An admission of mismanagement even by the liberal press, concurring with the
position of the right-wing press, was as close to truth as one could get within
the well-known context of Berlins partisan media.
Social Democrats, against whom most of the polemics were directed, took this
new press dynamics as evidence that the entire affair was a media invention, a
press scandal. They blamed the scandal squarely on sensationalists and on
a baiting press, and felt justied pointing an accusing nger at the fusion of
the sensationalism of Berlins tabloids with the electioneering of the right- and
left-wing press. This Social Democratic defence misred badly. Their selfstylization as victims led to a strategy of defensive complaints and apparent denial
of the obvious evidence for municipal mismanagement, reinforcing accusations
that Social Democrats were unwilling to investigate transgressions within their
own ranks. In fact, the Social Democrats were simply slow to adapt to the
new rules of sensationalist mass-media politics brought about by Berlins tabloid
press. The new quality of political life manifested itself in the streets, too. Upon

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his return from America, lord mayor Boss was welcomed by several hundred
riotous demonstrators at Bahnhof Zoo and in front of his home. The mood in the
streets, one liberal broadsheet noted, had been incited by a sensationalist press.
In a novel published in 1931, set in 1929 Berlin, there is a telling section
on political journalism. In response to an older colleagues complaints about
the absence of conscientious analysis in journalism, his younger colleague notes,
What for? Scandal-mongering earns more. Indeed, especially for those
newspapers on the front line of daily revelations, the benets were considerable.
The Communist Rote Fahne claimed it had gained 5,000 new readers, temporarily
halting its constant decline; Ullsteins Tempo increased circulation by over 20 per
cent, and the income from street-sales of Hugenbergs Berliner Lokal-Anzeiger
and Nachtausgabe reached a new record level. It was this obvious demand for
sensationalist revelation that convinced Goebbels to use the Sklarek scandal as
the main theme of his election propaganda in autumn 1929. The Nazis were
particularly well placed to exploit the affair, since they were not represented
in the city council, and were therefore the only party without any connection
to the Sklareks. Angriff devoted nearly all front pages in October 1929 to the
Sklarek scandal. Headlines such as Secret safe in Sklareks villa, or Pheasants,
champagne, caviar, lobster! demonstrated that Goebbels knew how to combine
human-interest stories with sensationalist politics.
The scandal was by far the dominant topic of the election campaign leading
up to the Prussian local elections of 17 November 1929. On election day,
Hugenbergs Berliner Lokal-Anzeiger told Berliners to vote against Sklarekcity. This they did, though not entirely as Hugenberg had wished. Bosss
DDP lost a third of their seats and received a total of fourteen, the SPD declined
from seventy-three to sixty-four. However, Hugenbergs DNVP also lost, almost
as much as the SPD, and ended up with forty seats. There were only two
winners: the KPD, which improved from forty-three to fty-six seats, and the
Nazis, who had not been represented before, and now gained thirteen seats.
In fact, Goebbels had good reason to triumph. While the Communists improved
upon the result of the local elections in October 1925, they had received some
50,000 less votes than at the Reichstag elections of 1928. The Nazis, on the
other hand, trebled their votes compared to 1928. Their total of 132,000 was
small compared to that of the SPD (652,000) and the KPD (566,000). Still, in
Berlin the Nazis were almost as strong as the DDP, and that without signicant
press support. Hugenbergs papers had certainly not been a crucial factor in this
success. Hugenbergs Nachtausgabe had issued front page recommendations only
for the DNVP and the DVP on the day before the elections. Apart from the
fact that Nazi rallieslike those of the Wirtschaftspartei were included in the
Berliner Lokal-Anzeigers election listings, they received very little coverage at all.
With over 750,000 votes in the whole of Prussia, the Nazis received almost as
many votes as they had gained in the entire Reich in 1928, and were clearly an
up-and-coming party.

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T H E M A K I N G A N D B R E A K I N G O F PA RT I E S
Compared to the Sklarek scandal, the anti-Young Plan referendum played almost
no role in the election campaign. But it proved crucial in breaking up the DNVP.
At the core of the internal party conict was a piece of radical Nazi rhetoric. In
order to prevent the Young Plan from passing parliament, 3 of the so-called
Freiheitsgesetz, the proposed anti-Young law, stipulated that no new treaties
were to be signed based on the war-guilt clause 231 of the Versailles Treaty.
If such treaties were nevertheless signed, the Nazis suggested that 4 should
stipulate the death sentence for responsible Reich Chancellors, Ministers and
Reich plenipotentiaries for high treason. This radical proposal soon divided
opinions within the Reichsausschuss. One of the potential targets of the punitive
Nazi clause was after all Reich President Hindenburg, the revered honorary
member of the Stahlhelm, and guarantor of East-Elbian agrarian interests. The
agrarian Landbund demanded from Hugenberg that the relevant passage should
be dropped. The Nazis eventually agreed to lowering the sentence to two
years in prison, but otherwise conceded only a slight rephrasing of 4 to exclude
any possible action against Hindenburg. This battle of opinions did not go
unnoticed on the Left; Vorwarts took it as evidence that the Nazis were now
leading the campaign. Goebbels noted with satisfaction that the press was full of
us. He was particularly pleased with a Vorwarts caricature of himself threatening
Hindenburg with 4.
Rather than the Nazis being identied as conservative stooges, as Goebbels had
initially feared, it was the DNVP that was thrown into difculty by the anti-Young
Plan partnership. Hindenburg himself expressed his disapproval of the anti-Young
agitation, particularly of 4, which caused great consternation in Hugenbergs
entourage and in his press. It also encouraged moderate politicians within
the DNVP openly to express their dissatisfaction with Hugenbergs leadership
and his strategy of totally rejecting parliamentary democracy. The tensions
between the DNVPs pro-governmental faction and Hugenbergs hardliners
increased throughout October and November 1929. The conict reached
its climax on 30 November 1929, when Hugenbergs Freiheitsgesetz was put
to a vote in the Reichstag. It was clear from the outset that it would fail,
since the governing coalition of SPD, Centre, and DVP rejected it, but a
Reichstag vote on the proposition was a formal requirement. Parliamentarians
had to vote on each section of the proposed law, and when the vote reached
4, the DNVP split spectacularly: only fty-ve of its members voted in its
favour, seventeen abstained. In the afternoon, three of them issued a press
release announcing that they considered fruitful political work within the DNVP
impossible. Within four days, twelve Reichstag parliamentarians left the DNVP,
among them some of the partys leading names, including Treviranus, Lambach,

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and Schlange-Schoningen. Westarp resigned from his position as leader of the


parliamentary party. Even before the anti-Young referendum had failed to
achieve a substantial vote on 22 December 1929, Hugenberg and his DNVP had
suffered a shattering blow.
Matters were made even worse for Hugenberg by the public display of
party disunity. The press presented the Reichstag ballot as a personal defeat
for Hugenberg. The subsequent crisis occupied not only the front pages in
early December 1929, but was covered in great detail. Hugenbergs desperate
attempts at crisis management dominated the headlines. News of his failure
to achieve reconciliation and of subsequent further resignations from the DNVP
made it onto every front page. As the dissidents did not all leave on the same
day, newspapers kept count of the departures over several days, often providing
their photos on the front page. Deutschnational became synonymous with
split, disintegration, and crisis. Even Hugenbergs papers struggled to put
a positive spin on developments. The Berliner Lokal-Anzeiger only published
short notes, the Nachtausgabe more daringly presented the events as a healthy
clarication of positions within the DNVP. Both papers eventually decided to
ignore further departures and criticism by the dissidents, and instead emphasized
statements of support for Hugenberg from the rump of the party. Other papers
ridiculed this high tide of telegrams of devotion as part of the DNVPs
dissolution ceremony.
Most observers agreed that the split within the DNVP had fundamental
consequences for German political life. On 7 December 1929, the 8-UhrAbendblatt started its leader with the observation Germany no longer has a big
right-wing party. This was not entirely accurate. On the same day, Goebbels
noted in his diary: The disintegration of the DNVP continues. Relentlessly. The
way we rise, the others fall. The following day, Goebbels was proved right.
At the state elections in Thuringia, many former voters of the DNVP reconsidered
their choices, and overwhelmingly supported the Nazis. With 11.3 per cent,
the NSDAP received almost three times as many votes as the DNVP, which
slumped from 8.2 per cent in 1928 to just 4 per cent now. The NSDAP
had suddenly become Thuringias biggest right-wing party. Hugenbergs Berliner
Lokal-Anzeiger tried to sell the outcome as a Marxist-democratic defeat.
However, the claim that Nazi gains had been taken from Marxist parties was
contradicted in the Nachtausgabe, which admitted that events within the DNVP
had naturally inuenced the outcome. Liberal papers were unanimous in the
conclusion that the increase in votes for the NSDAP had been to the detriment of
Hugenbergs DNVP. The relationship between these two parties was dramatized
and personalized in the headlines. Mosses Berliner Volks-Zeitung proclaimed
Hitlers victory over Hugenberg, in the 8-Uhr-Abendblatt the headline ran
Hitler devours Hugenberg.
More recent quantitative electoral analysis has shown that between 1928
and 1930, almost one-third of the people voting for the DNVP switched to

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the NSDAP. Apart from former non-voters, these former DNVP supporters
constituted the largest group within the Nazi electorate in 1930. For the
leader of the DNVP, the state elections in Thuringia could not have come
at a worse time. For the Nazis, on the other hand, they provided a unique
opportunity. The particular distribution of seats in the Thuringian parliament
meant that bourgeois parties had to choose between either the SPD or the
NSDAP to form a government. In January 1930, the Nazis entered government
in Weimar. Wilhelm Frick, who had been jailed for his involvement in the Hitler
putsch in 1923, became Thuringian minister for interior and education.
For the rst time ever, the Nazis occupied a position of considerable political
inuence. It was Frick who grabbed headlines like no other Nazi prior to the
Reichstag elections in September 1930, securing his party the place in the media
limelight it had previously lacked. By January 1930, the NSDAP had become
a political factor that could no longer be ignored even by a hostile press. Until
the Thuringian elections, the Nazis had stood little chance of promoting their
political agenda to a wider newspaper-reading public. Fricks participation in the
Thuringian state government changed this. In March 1930, he made it onto
the front pages of Berlins press for the rst time, with reports of his conict
with the Social Democratic Reich interior minister, Severing, over right-wing
youth movements. At the same time, newspapers picked up reports published
by Vorwarts accusing Frick of trying to Nazify the Thuringian police force.
Severings decision to freeze Reich payments to Thuringia until these allegations
had been investigated made front-page news in the second half of March.
The conict between Reich government and Thuringian state government
could well have dominated headlines for several more weeks, had the Muller
government in Berlin not broken apart at the end of March 1930. The
new government under Heinrich Bruning lifted the freeze initially, but after
appointments of Nazis to high-prole police positions in Thuringia had to
reimpose restrictions in early June 1930. By this point, Frick had already
become a national gure. In early April 1930, Frick gured as the main speaker
at a large Nazi rally in the Sportpalast in Berlin, speaking on the war with
Thuringia. The venue was once more lled to capacity, as more than 16,000
Berliners tried to get a glimpse of the man who had successfully resisted the
powerful Severing. For the rst time, Goebbels noted in his diary that a
Sportpalast rally had received a good press.
S PI N N I N G M U R D E R S TO R I E S
Frick had become a political factor in Germany. Goebbels cheered the press
coverage of Fricks appearance in the Reichstag as Mordspropaganda. At the
same time, Nazi media presence should not be exaggerated. The increase in
Nazi activities was regularly noted by some commentators, but the coverage they

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153

received was hardly extensive. Reports of street clashes with the Communists
continued to dominate the coverage well into 1930. And this intensied following
the NSDAP party conference in early August 1929, when members of the SA
made deliberate incursions into Communist strongholds in Berlin. Ironically,
it continued to be the Communistsnot the SAwho were perceived as the
aggressors, a perception only reinforced by the Rote Fahne which in late August
1929 had adopted the violent slogan Beat the Fascists wherever you meet
them! The incitement to violence in the KPD party organ and the perceived
upsurge in clashes between Communists and Nazis coincided so neatly that it
conjured up a causal relationship. In his Angriff, Goebbels held the editors of the
Communist Rote Fahne responsible for the increased violence, and constructed
the image of victimized Nazis defending themselves. Though the rest of the
Berlin press remained sceptical, editors of Hugenbergs Berliner Lokal-Anzeiger
went along with the Goebbels line.
On 14 January 1930, Goebbelss version seemed dramatically conrmed when
a group of Communists shot the leader of the Berlin-Friedrichshain SA, Horst
Wessel, in his room. Wessel died ve weeks later from blood poisoning. By
this stage, street clashes with fatalities had become sufciently unspectacular
not to merit front page attention. Cold-blooded murder was different, Berlins
tabloids had a penchant for spectacular crimes. The attempt on Wessel provided
all the ingredients for a successful media story: there was the spectacular crime
(Wessel had been shot the moment his murderers had entered his room), mixed
with an element of mystery (was it political murder or domestic conict?),
coupled with some human interest. Wessel was not the normal working-class
unemployed man often found in the SA, but a student and a successful local
SA leader, who happened to live with an ex-prostitute, who very recently had
had a serious argument with their landlady. Wessel made headlines, and he
caused controversy. For once, the accusations in the Hugenberg newspapers
(presenting the incident as a Communist murder attempt) were right. At the
core of the crime lay a domestic conict, but Wessels murder was undeniably
a political act. The KPD organization took care of the two main perpetrators.
They had to hand back their KPD membership passes, received false passports,
and were hidden in the villa of a Communist functionary. Albrecht Ali Hohler,
the shooter, was then smuggled to Prague by a member of the Communist Rote
Hilfe. The landlady was instructed by the KPD headquarters to claim that a
private quarrel was at the core of the incident.
Initially, the Communist cover-up was not entirely without success. Ullsteins
Berliner Morgenpost thought it was more a case of personal revenge than
of political murder. However, very soon Ali Hohler was identied as a
pimp with a criminal record, his at searched, and incriminating Communist
material found. For Tempo, Nachtausgabe, and Berliner Lokal-Anzeiger, the case
was clear. Communist editors, however, did not give up. They turned the
revelation that Hohler was a pimp to their own advantage. Wessel, they claimed,

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Press and Politics in the Weimar Republic

Fig. 5.5. According to Goebbelss Angriff, clashes between Communist workers and
Nazis were a result of the incitement to murder by the KPD organ, Rote Fahne. German
workers were manipulated by foreign and Jewish editors propagating the slogan Beat
the fascists wherever you meet them! These caricatures all appeared in late 1929 and early
1930, from top left clockwise, in Angriff, 37, 16 September 1929; 19, 6 March 1930; 39,
30 September 1929; 47, 27 October 1929; and again 39, 30 September 1929. Goebbelss
narrative found its climax in the creation of the rst NS martyr, Horst Wessel.

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155

had been a pimp, too, and had snatched away one of Hohlers prostitutes. A
conspiracy of the Berlin police and bourgeois press was turning an underworld
murder, an act of jealousy, into an occasion for Communist bashing. Several
days later, the Welt am Abend substantiated this conspiracy theory. According
to one of its informants, Berlins bourgeois tabloids, particularly Nachtausgabe,
Tempo, and 8-Uhr-Abendblatt, had intervened directly with the police to have
the incident declared as a political crime, for the sake of sensation and antiCommunist propaganda. According to the Welt am Abend, this conrmedas
did the reporting around 1 May 1929that these tabloids were in cahoots with
the police.
Compared to Goebbelss failed attempt at turning Kutemeyerthe victim of
1928into a party martyr, Wessel was a better prospect, particularly because
this time the facts were on Goebbelss side. Early February 1930, Ali Hohler
was arrested and confessed. Information about his ight to Prague led to
several more arrests, and renewed media interest. The revelation of a Communist
secret service arranging fake passports, conspiratorial limousines, and a decadent goodbye feast in the villa of a Communist functionary greatly impressed
contemporaries. For several more days, further arrests of Rote Hilfe functionariessold by Hugenbergs Nachtausgabe as Communist agentskept the affair
in the headlines. Knowledge of facts did not preclude multiple interpretations
of events. Various and often contradictory readings all made sense only within the
context of the individual newspaper. Within Goebbelss Angriff, Wessels murder
was the pinnacle of anti-Nazi violence induced by devious Communist editors.
The anti-communism of Hugenbergs newspapers focused not on the Nazi victim
but on yet another example of criminal Communist violence. The Communists
sold it as just another case of the conspiracy between an anti-Communist police
led by Social Democrats and a sensationalist, capitalist press.
T H E PE RC E P T I O N O F DY N A M I S M
Wessels murder helped Goebbels to create a party martyr, but it did not provide
the Nazis with news value for very long. Hugenbergs papers soon reverted
to their habit of reporting more extensively about clashes after rallies than about
the rallies themselves. Even one of Hitlers rare appearances in Berlin at a
Sportpalast rally in early May 1930 received less attention in Hugenbergs Berliner
Lokal-Anzeiger or his Nachtausgabe than in Munzenbergs Welt am Abend or the
12-Uhr-Blatt, both of which provided polemical accounts of the meeting. The
Nazis had quite literally to ght for press publicity on a daily basis, and despite
Wessels murder could not conceal for long that very often it was the Nazis
who were the aggressors. In early March 1930, for example, a gang of armed
Nazis attacked a Reichsbanner meeting in Rontgental near Bernau, shooting four
people, one of whom died. While the incident itself received little attention, the

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Press and Politics in the Weimar Republic

ensuing trial in July 1930 was covered very widely. Typically, Hugenbergs
papers covered the incident itself in a way that concealed the exact role of the
Nazis.
Another incident in mid-May 1930 exposed Nazi violence even more dramatically. An innocent bypasser, a newspaper agent called Heimburger, had
been mistaken for a Communist, and severely beaten, kicked, and ultimately
knifed by a group of Nazis. As there had been several clashes that same night,
with a total of three casualties, Heimburgers death received little attention
initially. However, when details emerged, Tempo devoted its front page to
the bestial murder of Heimburger. Apparently, he had escaped from his
tormentors andalready mortally woundedsought refuge in a tavern nearby.
His pursuers had threatened the publican with the storming of his tavern, had
then dragged Heimburger out and thrown him to the ground, beating and
kicking him in the face until he lost consciousness. In July 1930, the trial of
Heimburgers murderers received considerable coverage in papers other than
Hugenbergsnot just because of the contrast between the unrestrained violence of the crime and the fact that Heimburger had been an innocent and
politically uninvolved passer-by. The trial began in parallel to that of the
Rontgental murder, as well as a couple of other hearings all dealing with cases
of political hooliganism, some of which had made front page news in early July
1930.
This kind of political violence suddenly became very relevant, as the Reichstag
was dissolved on 18 July, and new elections were scheduled for 14 September
1930. On 19 July, Ullsteins Tempo expressed a general fear in its large-letter
front-page headline: Bloody election campaign feared. Within the next ten
days, a multitude of bloody clashes conrmed the worst expectations. At least
among the editors of Berlins liberal mass papers, the focus of attention was
now slowly turning towards the Nazis, mainly because, by July 1930, the Nazis
had established themselves as the most dynamic right-wing party. At the state
elections in Saxony on 22 June 1930 the NSDAP garnered 14.4 per cent of
the vote, making it the second strongest party after the SPD. This had been
primarily the result of an exceptional propaganda effort, with rallies even in the
tiniest villages. The difference in style to Hugenbergs DNVP was obvious. On
election day, the Berliner Lokal-Anzeiger published a long and learned reection
on a Hugenberg speech in Bischofswerda, in which he had discussed the various
stages of Germanys history. In the same edition, however, Hugenbergs paper
printed a short front-page article on campaigning in Saxony, providing as an
example Hitlers speech in Zirkus Sarrasani in Dresden. Hitler was certainly
the bigger draw. As in Thuringia, DNVP voters switched to the NSDAP, and
providedtogether with former non-votersthe largest group of support.
Even the Communist Welt am Abend did not manage to conceal the extent
of the Nazi victory: despite trying to highlight Communist successes, the
breakthrough of the NSDAP was the more sensational story. The Swastica

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157

Fig. 5.6. The success at the state elections in Saxony in June 1930 provided the Nazis
with very visible positive press coverage. The above caricature from Angriff, 51, 26 June
1930, is a variation on the theme of the Jewish press: very anxious Jewish editors are now
despairing after proving unable to prevent the Nazi success in Saxony, despite buckets
full of lies, defamation, and incitement, as well as bags of money. The caricature also
shows how conscious Goebbelss Angriff was of tabloid coverage: all three papers here
representing the Jewish press are tabloids, the BZ am Mittag, the 12-Uhr-Blatt, and the
Montag Morgen.

Victory in Saxony made it onto the front pages of all mass newspapers, to
Goebbelss great relish.
Hugenbergs papers, faced with the collapse of the DNVP, struggled to
preserve a sceptical stance towards the Nazi success. The DNVP had lost
nearly half of its votes compared to the state elections of 1929, and achieved
only one-third of the votes of the NSDAP. Many commentators pointed at
the desertion of the DNVP by a disappointed electorate. Indeed, prior to
June 1930, Hugenberg had struggled to overcome the April crisis, another
serious party-internal conict. After the breaking-up of the Grand Coalition

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Press and Politics in the Weimar Republic

under Muller, Bruning had managed to convince the moderate DNVP politician
and chairman of the agrarian interest group Landbund, Schiele, to join his
government as minister for agriculture. Brunings intention was to woo the
left wing of the DNVP by offering concessions to the agricultural interests.
In this, he succeeded. Immediately, the conict between pro-governmental and
anti-system forces in the DNVP resurfaced. When Hugenberg ordered his
party to support the vote of no-condence against Bruning tabled by the SPD,
KPD, and NSDAP in early April 1930, he suffered an embarrassing defeat.
Schiele openly contradicted Hugenberg and called on the Landbund members
within the DNVP to support the government. In order to prevent another
party split, Hugenberg had to perform a very public volte-face, for which he was
much ridiculed in the press.
Once more, commentators wrote that the DNVP was in a state of complete disintegration. Throughout April 1930, the tension between the
pro-Bruning DNVP parliamentarians around Westarp and Hugenbergs supporters increased. Press reports repeatedly highlighted the possibility of a
party split. Goebbels noted in his diary that the DNVP was nished: All
grist to our mill. Compared to the rising NSDAP, the DNVP seemed to
be in terminal decline. This impression was reinforced in July 1930, with the
Reichstags vote on Brunings rst emergency decree. As in December 1929, the
parliamentary DNVP was split: while Hugenbergs followers voted against it,
the group around Westarp decided to support it. The Reichstag was dissolved,
Westarp and his supporters left the DNVP and joined forces with those who had
abandoned Hugenberg already in December 1929, founding a new right-wing
party, the Konservative Volkspartei. Once more, the press devoted considerable
attention to these developments. Headlines announcing prominent departures from Hugenbergs DNVP occurred almost on a daily basis: One Adieu
to Hugenberg every day and The Mass Flight from Hugenberg created the
image of a leader increasingly deserted by his following. Caricatures illustrated
Hugenbergs plight. The meltdown of the DNVP was not covered everywhere, as the 8-Uhr-Abendblatt observed in a commentary: Every day we read
in newspapers about the melting down of Hugenbergs party . . . The readers of
his [i.e. Hugenbergs] newspapers, however, get to learn nothing about the ight
from the party leader, because . . . the writers of these newspapers keep quiet
about any embarrassing news. This was an accurate observation. The editors
of Hugenbergs papers tried hard to keep up the image of the DNVPs Fuhrer.
As in December 1929, all there was to warn the alerted reader that something
was amiss in Hugenbergs party was the sudden ood of devotional declarations
and telegrams, often from rather obscure organizations.
Though the collapse of the DNVP was clearly good news for the Nazis, the
problem for Goebbels was to ensure that his party did not get sucked down
with Hugenberg. This remained a worry because the DNVP split led to wild
speculation about possible electoral strategies. Munzenbergs Welt am Abend

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159

ventured in a front-page headline the possibility of an electoral alliance between


Hitler and Hugenberg. Ullsteins Tempo reported that a HugenbergHitler
agreement had been struck, and the next day one of Mosses newspapers spoke
of the Firma HugenbergHitler. Hugenbergs Nachtausgabe immediately
published a denial. But Goebbels was even more anxious not to be linked
to the agging bourgeois nationalists, and denounced the rumours as a Jewish
smear campaign.
C A M PA I G N I N G AG A I N S T T H E N A Z I S
The change in political fortune for the NSDAP was also apparent in the intensity
of press attacks directed against them. Until early 1930, anti-Nazi items had been
a near monopoloy of the Communist press, for whom Hitler was merely the latest
instance of generic fascism. From the summer 1930, several of Berlins liberal
mass papers started to turn their attention to Hitlers party. In July 1930, after
the latest DNVP split, the chief editor of Mosses Berliner Volks-Zeitung, Otto
Nuschke, expressed a widespread view when writing that he expected Hugenberg
and his party to receive fewer votes than Hitler at the next Reichstag elections.
As a consequence, he turned the left-liberal Berliner Volks-Zeitung into one of the
most vociferous press opponents of National Socialism in Berlin. With the 8Uhr-Abendblatt and the Berliner Tageblatt, two other Mosse publications joined
the ght. Predicting fty to sixty Nazis in the next Reichstag, the chief editor of
Mosses Berliner Tageblatt, Theodor Wolff, launched a scathing attack. Other
mass and tabloid papers also devoted critical attention to the Nazis. News of
Nazi violence during the election campaign repeatedly made it onto their front
pages.
But, despite the new liberal interest, Munzenbergs Communist Welt am Abend
continued to be the most aggressive. In mid-August 1930, the Communist
tabloid reacted to a story in the Nazi Angriff in which Goebbels had castigated
the giant income of Communist Bonzen (big wigs), and started to attack the
Berlin Gau leader for his own considerable personal income. With headlines
such as Goebbels Rieseneinkunfte the paper hit a raw nerve and intensied
already existing tensions within the Berlin SA. Stormtroopers in Berlin were
suffering from insufcient nancial support, and repeatedly made demands to
the party leadership for pay increases during periods of heavy campaigning.
Now, tensions erupted in open rebellion. First, SA members refused to guard
rallies, then, despite last-minute appeals by Goebbels, stormed and demolished
the party ofce in Berlin, clashing with members of the SS. They demanded
the immediate resignation of Goebbels and other so-called big wigs. Hitler had
to hurry to Berlin, promise considerable nancial improvements, and personally
assume overall leadership of the SA. Two weeks prior to the Reichstag elections,
this was sensational news for many anti-Nazi papers. 8-Uhr-Abendblatt, Welt am

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Press and Politics in the Weimar Republic

Abend, Tempo and the Berliner Volks-Zeitung all devoted their front pages to the
rebellion against Goebbels and the war in Hitlers party. The clash with
Gregor Strasser and the subsequent departure of the NSDAPs left wing had
occasioned much less coverage in early July 1930. Appalled by the unwelcome
press coverage, Goebbels now simply decided to deny the existence of a mutiny.
In his Angriff, he described the incident as an invention of the Jewish press.
His effort was supported by Hugenbergs papers. Almost by reex, they had rst
contradicted reports of the Linkspresse about alleged divisions on the far right,
then blamed Strassers supporters for the violence, and eventually reported in a
small note on minor SA misunderstandings, resolved under Hitlers leadership.

Fig. 5.7. The mutiny of the Berlin SA two weeks prior to the Reichstag elections of 1930
provided the NSDAP with very unwelcome negative press coverage. Goebbels simply
denied that such a thing had happened, claiming it was an invention by the Jewish press.
This caricature in an Angriff special election edition from the rst week of September
1930 depicts a gloating Jewish editor dancing among the front pages of Rote Fahne and
the tabloids Tempo, Welt am Abend, BZ am Mittag, and 8-Uhr-Abendblatt with headlines
of the SA mutiny. He is just about to be smashed by a Nazi st, symbolizing the hope
that election day would bring revenge.

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161

Led by Mosses 8-Uhr-Abendblatt and Berliner Volks-Zeitung, the last two


weeks before the Reichstag elections saw a ood of anti-Nazi reporting.
The allegation of a provincial SPD newspaper that Frick wrongly claimed to
hold a Ph.D. was picked up and sensationalized until Fricks Alma Mater was
ascertained beyond doubt. News of a government memorandum analysing
the NSDAPs revolutionary potential was sold as the revelation of Nazi putsch
plans. To the usual accounts of Nazi violence and murder were now added
spicy stories of Nazi corruption and sex scandals. These reports were often
factual, sometimes based on rumour, and always intended to harm the electoral
prospects of the NSDAP. Whatever the effect on the readers, Goebbels was very
concerned. In his diary, he noted the rising tide of lies against him and his
party. A leading article in the Angriff complained about the journalistische
Wegelagerei of Mosse, Ullstein, and others, and Goebbels wrote a long piece
refuting various allegations of the Jewish press.
The many Nazi-related articles in the rst half of September 1930 reected
both the increasing dynamism of the NSDAP and the mounting concern
among left-liberal editors that Hitler would emerge victorious from the elections.
Compared to this hostile coverage in the mainstream liberal and left-wing media,
Hugenbergs press played a signicantly smaller role in providing the Nazis with
publicity. There was, in fact, an interesting division of roles between Hugenbergs
main subscription newspaper, the Berliner Lokal-Anzeiger, and his street salesbased tabloid, the Nachtausgabe. The Berliner Lokal-Anzeiger was totally devoted
to supporting the DNVP: coverage of Hugenberg speeches was combined with
front-page boxes containing DNVP election appeals and Hugenberg quotes. The
nal editions before the elections were explicit about which party the reader was
to support. The Nachtausgabe, by contrast, campaigned in a more general way
for the radical Right. Its slogan, the entschiedene Rechte or the determined
Right, did not exclude National Socialism. A very positive article about Hitlers
nal speech at a Sportpalast rally was announced under the headline The great
determined Right is on the march. The Berliner Lokal-Anzeiger, on the other
hand, ignored the rally completely. Apparently, the editorial policy of the two
papers was determined by their sales. Readers of the Berliner Lokal-Anzeiger were
receiving their paper as part of a month-long subscription, and could therefore be
subjected to a barrage of pro-DNVP coverage. In the case of the Nachtausgabe,
readers had a daily choice: by promoting exclusively the increasingly unpopular
DNVP, editors risked losing their audience. The inclusion of National Socialism
was simply a function of consumer demand.
Berlins biggest newspaper, Ullsteins Berliner Morgenpost, likewise told its
readers how to vote. Warning of fake prophets, it declared that because of
Hugenbergs willingness to co-operate with Hitler in the next Reichstag, one
should vote for neither: Hugenberg oder Hitlerdas ist Jacke wie Hose. At the
same time, liberal editors expected signicant Nazi gains. A few days before the
elections, Mosses 8-Uhr-Abendblatt and Ullsteins BZ am Mittag predicted fty

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seats for the NSDAP, more than four times the 1928 result. Whilst refraining
from openly supporting any one specic party, liberal mass papers were very
explicit in their rejection of political radicalism and in their appeals only to vote
for democratic and constitutional parties. However, this did not dissuade a
majority of Berliners: 750,000 voted for the KPD, 350,000 for the DNVP,
and almost 400,000 for the NSDAP. This number of voters surpassed the
combined total circulation of Communist, deutschnational, and Nazi newspapers
in Berlin by almost 50 per cent. At the same time, at least a third of the readers
of the republican press either did not vote, or supported extremists. In spite of all
warnings, the NSDAP became the big winner: the Nazis received 14.6 per cent
of the vote in Berlin; the Reich average stood at 18.3 per cent, which secured
them a total of 107 seats in the new Reichstag.
B R E A K T H RO U G H
Everyone had expected an upsurge in Nazi support. Thuringia and Saxony had
provided the party with double-gure results before. But the transformation of
the NSDAP from a fringe party into the second largest in the new Reichstag
came as a shock. For the media, it was a sensation. Never before had the Nazis
received as much press attention as in the immediate aftermath of the Reichstag
elections in September 1930. Hitler relished the new publicity. The Nazi
movement had now conquered a place in the public sphere, he explained in
his rst speech following the success. Until now, they had struggled against
the Totgeschwiegenwerden and the Nichthorenwollen. Now, they had forced
themselves on to the front pages. Even readers of newspapers, who had so far
been provided with very little news about the Nazis, were now exposed to a ood
of articles dealing with the surprise winners. Berlins mass papers ventured
an array of factors as having contributed to the Nazi success. Most agreed on
the economic crisis, impoverished middle-class voters, youth and former DNVP
voters, but they also mentioned the role of scandals and the hardening of public
attitudes towards the parliamentary system.
Although the election had produced a clear winner, it did not help to solve the
dilemma of the Bruning government, which was still without a parliamentary
majority. Brunings only options seemed to be either a coalition with the SPD or
with the Nazis, both of which commentators considered very unlikely. The press
heightened the perception of political uncertainty, which depressed nancial
markets. Anxiety increased. On the day that Bruning declared he would not
co-operate with the Nazis, Hitler delivered a widely reported speech in Munich,
in which he proclaimed that the struggle to take power in Germany would
continue, whilst at the same time emphasizing that it would remain within the
legal bounds of the constitution. This was widely noticed, and related to the
recent SA mutiny. Within a day, political insecurity and press sensationalism

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led to a massive media scare. News of an instant upsurge in SA membership


after 14 September and of its pending reorganization were linked to rumours
about dissatisfaction among SA leaders with Hitlers legalistic course. Rumours
spoke of a secret order by Hitler. Ullsteins BZ am Mittag tipped the
balance, proclaiming a pending Nazi putsch. Editors took this information from
Munzenbergs Communist Berlin am Morgen, which earlier that morning had
published an extensive article about Nazi preparations for a coup. Based on this
rumour, press reports spread about Nazi training for street-ghts and night-time
exercises, in which the occupation of government buildings was practised. As
usual, right-wing papers contradicted these reports, claiming they were inventions
by the Linkspresse. The next day, the BZ am Mittag published further reports
about alleged Nazi activities and concluded that systematic preparations for a
putsch could not be denied.
Liberals were overcome by a mood of despair. Twilight of the parties.
Ragnarok [i.e. Gotterdammerung] of German parliamentarism started a leader
in Mosses 8-Uhr-Abendblatt. Foreign correspondents reported somewhat
obscurely that only the Kaiser in exile in the Netherlands had prevented the
Nazis from attempting a coup on election day; Germans with something to lose
were starting to leave for Switzerland and the Netherlands. Such press reports
forced the Prussian and the Reich governments to announce in public that putsch
rumours were completely unfounded. In New York, they had harmed the
German Young bond considerably. Government ofcials castigated journalists
and publishers for articially creating a mood of panic. However, although
unfounded, the mood of panic was not merely articially created or the result of
journalistic proteering. A suitcase-packing mood had gripped Berlins editorial
ofces. Journalists themselves were unsure about whether to take the threat
seriously. The political editor of Mosses Berliner Tageblatt, Ernst Feder, was
only reassured after telephoning a couple of government and police ofcials, who
emphatically denied any indication of a Nazi insurrection. Feder then wrote
an article, which was probably intended to calm fellow editors at least as much
as the wider public. Even days later, editors were still shaken. Goebbels was
delighted and ridiculed the Jewish putsch scare in his Angriff.
Journalistic interest in anything concerning the Nazis was at a peak. The
beginning of the trial for Wessels murder on 22 September 1930, just over
a week after the elections, received a vast amount of coverage in the tabloids,
indeed considerably more than at the time of the murder itself. It was
only superseded in the headlines by another Nazi-related trial, namely that of
several army ofcers arrested in Ulm in March 1930. Then, their arrest had
prompted the years rst front pages devoted to Nazi political activities. Liberal
tabloids had reported on putsch propaganda; Hugenbergs Nachtausgabe had
rejected these reports as false rumours about right-wing putsch plans. The
ofcers now stood accused of Preparing to Commit High Treason through
working towards a military putsch with the NSDAP. Some days earlier, during

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Fig. 5.8. Goebbelss Angriff, 77, 25 September 1930, ridiculed what it called a Jewish
putsch scare in an anti-Semitic caricature, depicting editors of the Welt am Abend, Berliner
Tageblatt, BZ am Mittag, and Tempo dirtying their trousers while contemplating the
recent Nazi success at the Reichstag election. Following the Nazi breakthrough, two
Ullstein tabloids had picked up Communist reports about putsch preparations by restless
SA leaders, which had caused insecurity and anxiety in editorial ofces throughout Berlin.

Violence, Sensations, and the Rise of the Nazis, 192830

165

the putsch scare, commentators had emphasized that every attempt at an


overthrow would be met by the full force of the Prussian police and the
Reichswehr. They now declared that the trial in Leipzig would bring a
denitive clarication of the question whether Nazi endeavours were to be seen
as legal or illegal. Trial proceedings were published extensively in all mass
newspapers. Participants repeatedly complained when they thought press
coverage had done their statements injustice.
The Nazis successfully exploited this media limelight. Already at the end of
the rst day, one of the Nazi defence lawyers, Hans Frank, asked the judge to
call Hitler as a witness for the Nazis legal aims. This was by no means an
unusual request. Over the previous years, Nazi and Communist defence lawyers
had made a habit of exploiting the platform which trials provided by asking
for high-prole party members to be called into the witness box for free and
effortless publicity. Only two months earlier, at the occasion of the Rontgental
murder trial, the Nazi defence counsel had asked the judge to invite Hitler and
Frick as expert witnesses. Then, the request had been turned down, but this
time Hitler was summoned. Greeted by huge Nazi crowds demonstrating outside
the court building, Hitler used the witness-box to launch a long propaganda
speech. He refuted allegations that he had handed out secret orders and that
the SA was engaging in military exercises. He emphasized that his movement
would take power by legal means. Another two or three elections would give the
Nazis a majority in the Reichstag, allowing them to reshape the state according
to their wishes. When the judge confronted him with an alleged quote about
the consequences of a Nazi revolution, the drama reached its peak. When our
movement is victorious in its legal struggle, Hitler replied, then there will be a
German State Court, and November 1918 will nd its atonement, and heads will
roll, too. Supporters greeted this statement with cheers and cries of bravo.
The statement was a sensation. In a nutshell, Hitler had managed to fuse his
commitment to a legal course of action, the nationalist loathing of the November
revolution, and the promise of resolution through Nazi radicalism. The fact
that he had sworn on oath to the truth of his testimony added to the perceived importance of the occasion. Throughout Berlin, headlines proclaimed
Everything legally! and Hitler: Only legal aims! Even newspapers hostile
to the Nazi movement contributed to the media spectacle. Mosses 8-UhrAbendblatt brought photos of Hitler, of demonstrators outside the courtroom,
and a caricature of the Hitli oath. Goebbels was overjoyed with the fabulous
press coverage. In essence, the content of Hitlers proclamation in Leipzig was
nothing new. Over the past months, he had repeatedly and emphatically stressed
his insistence on legal means. The threat to wreak vengeance on the so-called
November criminals was a staple of right-wing rabble-rousing and had been at
the heart of the fracas over 4 of the Young Plan referendum. But the violence of
his rhetoric, and the publicity surrounding the putsch scare just days earlier now
guaranteed maximum media attentionand secured the greatest possible public

166

Press and Politics in the Weimar Republic

impact. Hitlers public disavowal of violent means to secure power dispelled


many bourgeois anxieties, and, according to Goebbels, won the Nazis enormous
sympathy.
Not everybody was equally reassured. Two weeks after Hitlers courtroom
oath, the chief editor of Mosses Berliner Tageblatt, Theodor Wolff, learned that
his name came third on a list of public gures whom the Nazis were allegedly
planning to eliminate upon taking power. The threat was taken seriously.
Some editors demanded that they be supplied with revolvers, and the publishing
house was patrolled by several policemen. However, editors did not give in.
Mosses 8-Uhr-Abendblatt continued to publish anti-Nazi news on an almost
daily basis. In turn, the Mosse publishing house received dedicated attention
from Goebbelss Angriff, which even created a special section devoted exclusively
to rebutting enemy journalism. The Mosse editorial policy sprang both from
the political conviction of its editors, and from the fact that Nazi-related news
found an appreciative audience. In December 1930, the Angriff attacked the
8-Uhr-Abendblatt as the pinnacle of the Berliner Jewish press and scoffed:
The fact that for some time now the 8-Uhr-Abendblatt has published hardly a
headline in which the term Nazi does not appear may still be explained by
business interests. Because if not curious Nazis, who else is still buying the
paper? By this stage, the owner of the Mosse publishing house, LachmannMosse, had already initiated his project of attuning his papers to popular
preferences by ring both Otto Nuschke, one of the earliest liberal opponents of
Nazism, and chief editor of the Berliner Volks-Zeitung, who had worked for the
rm for twenty-two years; and Ernst Feder, the political editor of the Berliner
Tageblatt. The Nazis had nally become a political force with which Germans
had to reckon.
C O N C LU S I O N
The Nazi breakthrough in September 1930 was not brought about in Cinderella
fashion by the magic touch of Hugenbergs headlines. How could it have been?
Hugenbergs media empire could not even prevent his own partys decline. The
anti-Young Plan campaign had been a decisive step towards a Nazi breakthrough,
but not through crucial press coverage. Nor did Hugenbergs newspapers turn
Hitler into a national celebrity: Hitler had gained that status already in 1924
through the media coverage of his trial. The anti-Young Plan referendum was
decisive in two respects. Hugenbergs attempt at political radicalism ended in a
resounding defeat, turned considerable parts of the DNVP against their leader,
and resulted in a serious party crisis. At the same time, the campaign provided
grist to the mill of Nazi agitation: the Nazis were considerably better and more
convincing in their radicalism, as was evident in the debate about 4, their many
propaganda rallies, and regular street-clashes with Communists.

Violence, Sensations, and the Rise of the Nazis, 192830

167

The spiral of success which carried the Nazis from Thuringia via Saxony
into the Reichstag was primarily based on the DNVPs very public decline.
It was the contrast between a continuous stream of bad news concerning
Hugenbergs DNVP and the perception of an energetic, radical, and increasingly
successful Nazi party that probably inuenced many former DNVP voters
decision to switch to the Nazis. The impact of Hugenbergs press in this electoral
decision-making process was limited. If anything, its relentless declaration of
the Communist threat and its biased coverage of Communist attacks on Nazis
helped to convince voters that the NSDAP was the more reliable and effective
anti-Communist party. Readers picked and chose from the agenda set by
Hugenbergs papers, and ultimately acted on their own interpretation of the
information provided.
The particular mixture of sensationalist and partisan reporting had a crucial
inuence not only on some Nazi voters but on the political culture in general
during these years. The May days in 1929 were primarily a result of the
unwillingness of a Social Democratic police president to back down in the face
of a Communist press demanding a lifting of the ban on demonstrations. The
violence of the press polemics set the tone for the heavy-handed police approach.
The depiction in the press of police violence as Communist rioting seemed to
conrm the Communist conspiracy theory that the entire bourgeois system
was based on the class- struggle against workers. May 1929 helped the KPD to
give substance to its previously hollow concept of social fascism. Consequently,
increasing radicalism and street-clashes, especially with Nazis from August 1929,
provided Nazis with their rst press coverage. At the same time, the May days
and subsequent Communist acts of violence allowed the bourgeois press to inate
the threat of a pending KPD putsch, and served the right-wing press by giving
examples of back-stabbing Marxist activities. What had previously been merely
political stereotypes, now seemed to have substance.
The Sklarek scandal was another important step in this direction. The press
climate was crucial in turning an incident of communal mismanagement and
minor corruption into the Republics biggest scandal. It allowed commentators
to decry parliamentary democracy as a hotbed of corruption, incapable of
dealing with the increasing number of major political and economic problems.
The press polemics rmly established the term system in public and political
discourse. For the Nazis, it was a godsend. The meanings that could be projected
with the term turned the system into the ultimate propaganda stereotype. It
allowed Nazi agitation to sum up all the alleged negative characteristics of the
Weimar Republic as a whole in one word. Constitution, government, parties,
and democratic politics were bundled together and presented in a term, the
system, which had no previous signicance in German. It also served to avoid
the use of the word Republic in Nazi agitation, which helped to circumvent the
stipulations of the Law for the Protection of the Republic. The system became
the main pillar of Nazi propaganda.

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Press and Politics in the Weimar Republic

By the end of 1929, all the stereotypes that were to dominate political
discourse and polemics in the early 1930s had been formed and seemed to
have been given substance by the press. For a party as focused on agitation and
campaigning as the Nazis, it made all the difference. Nazi propaganda stereotypes
offered everything that makes media messages particularly effective. The Nazis
offered a considerable degree of popular entertainment by the visualization,
personalization, and dramatization of political conict, often fusing politics with
the ingredients of a human-interest story. The nal Hitler rally in Berlins
Sportpalast before the Reichstag elections dealt with the corruption of todays
system. A liberal journalist was particularly impressed by Goebbelss heavy
barrage of slogans, distortions and stupidities: Barmat and Sklarek, stab-in-theback legend and Jews, corruption and economic declinenothing was missing
in this general directory of all cliches used in Germanys political life for years.
But for many voters, these cliches had never sounded so true. Years of hostile
press coverage had undermined the legitimacy of parliamentary democracy in
the eyes of a substantial part of the electorate. The increasing support for the
Nazis led to the crucial electoral breakthrough, and turned the NSDAP into a
major political factor. The publicity that came with the electoral breakthrough
in 1930 was crucial to the further rapid growth of the Nazi movement. From
September 1930, the Nazis had the launchpad they needed for their assault on
the Weimar Republic.

6
War of Words: The Spectre of Civil War,
19312
We no longer need to predict civil war, we are already in the midst of it.
Volksstimme, 263, 10 November 1931, a Social Democratic provincial
newspaper in Prussia, quoted in Dirk Schumann, Politische Gewalt in der
Weimarer Republik 19181933. Kampf um die Strae und Furcht vor dem
Burgerkrieg (Essen, 2001), 337

Two factors dominated German politics during the nal years of the Weimar
Republic, in 1931 and 1932: an unfolding economic crisis of unprecedented
severity; and a rising tide of street-violence. Parliamentary democracy failed to
respond effectivley to either challenge. After the Nazi electoral breakthrough of
September 1930, only negative majorities were possible in the Reichstag. The
Bruning government therefore relied heavily on Reichspresident Hindenburgs
backing and the use of emergency decrees to manage the situation. Between March
1931 and February 1933, the Reichstag only met for a total of twenty-seven
days. As a forum for political debate, the German national parliament ceased
to play any meaningful role. Yet Brunings deationary crisis management
based on presidential emergency decrees might actually have saved parliamentary
democracy in the long run. In June 1932 the reparations issue, which had
been plaguing German domestic politics and the economy ever since 1919,
was resolved at the Conference of Lausanne; in 1932 there were increasing
signs of a natural economic recovery, especially in the consumer industries;
and the American decision to leave the gold standard in early 1933 opened
up the possibility of a controlled devaluation of the German currency, thereby
easing the balance-of-payments constraints which had forced Bruning to adopt
severe deationary measures since 1930. It is very likely that parliamentary
democracy would have been considerably more conservative and authoritarian in
character than at any point during the 1920s, but there can be little doubt that
if Reichstag elections had been held only in autumn 1934rather than in July
1932German history would have taken a very different course.
So why did Hindenburg dismiss Bruning? Historians have thoroughly
researched the behind-the-scenes intrigues which brought about Brunings

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Press and Politics in the Weimar Republic

downfall at the end of May 1932, and yet one crucial factor has received
scant attention: the role of the press in exaggerating existing political violence
and constructing the spectre of an imminent civil war. The truly divisive issue in
spring 1932the Gretchenfrage facing the Bruning cabinetwas not whether
or not to initiate work-creation programmes, but how to position the government
in the face of increasingly vociferous accusations of allowing Germany to descend
into violent chaos. In fact, compared to the losses of human life in the early
years of the Weimar Republic, the level of street-violence between 1930 and
1932 was negligible, nor did it at any point threaten to spiral out of the control
of the state authorities. But a sensationalist and partisan press accorded such
prominence to this Zusammenstoss violence that these clashes were pushed to the
forefront of political debate. Political violence was turnedfor contemporaries
and historians alikeinto an apparently ubiquitous phenomenon of the late
years of the Weimar Republic. In fact, one should treat the term political
with some caution. As a recent study has argued, much of the street-violence
originated in a local culture of neighbourhood radicalism fed by generational
and gender tensions in which party ideologies played only a minor role. It
was partisan press coverage which charged these clashes with political meaning,
and which called for decisive government action. At the same time, politicians
were increasingly wary of the press, which they held responsible for much of
the violent antagonism. As a result, increasingly draconian inroads were made
into press freedom, promoted even by the last remaining pillar of parliamentary
democracy, the SPD.
FAC I N G A N U N RU LY P R E S S
As long as he enjoyed the support of Hindenburg, Bruning was reasonably
condent that he would manage to resolve the crisis, and thereby steer Germany
back into calmer political waters. But throughout this period, Bruning worried
that sensationalist press coverage was undermining public condence in his
economic measures, both within Germany and abroad. What he wanted was
a dispassionate press supporting the government in its struggle to master the
situation. Instead, sensationalist and partisan press coverage whipped up public
excitement and made government even more difcult, as Bruning repeatedly
complained. September 1930 was a case in point. In Brunings eyes, the slump of
German bond prices was not primarily caused by the Nazi electoral breakthrough.
Rather it was the subsequent press coverage, especially of Ullsteins tabloid BZ
am Mittag, which exacerbated Germanys foreign-exchange situation. It was
deplorable, Bruning announced in a cabinet meeting that the Reich government
had no means at its disposal to ban this irresponsible press, which merely
out of a craving for sensation was fuelling a mood of anxiety through alarmist
news about allegedly imminent putsch attempts. In the case of sensationalist,

The Spectre of Civil War, 19312

171

damaging news, like in the case of the BZ am Mittag, only a newspaper ban
would produce relief for a longer time. Other senior politicians shared this
view. In late September 1930, when the cabinet discussed Hitlers testimony at
the trial of the Ulm Reichswehr ofcers, Hans Luther, the Reichsbank president,
voiced his lack of understanding for newspapers which covered Hitlers speech
in such a major way [and] tendentiously without consideration for the effects
at home and abroad. Two weeks later, he complained to Bruning about
the BZ s incorrect coverage of the Reichsbanks deliberations about a possible
change to its interest rates. This article, he claimed, constituted a serious threat
to [public] condence in the unpolitical management of Reichsbank affairs.
And in December 1930, the foreign minister pointed out to his colleagues the
damage done by the discussion of all government measures in full public (in

voller Offentlichkeit)
by the media. In no other country was government activity
reported in a similar way, he claimed. It was necessary to work towards greater
discretion.
Leading Social Democrats were also concerned about press coverage, but they
worried more about the polemical nature of it. In early 1930, Carl Severing
complained that Pressefreiheit (press freedom) had become Pressefrechheit (press
impudence). At the end of that year, now Prussian interior minister, he observed
with anxiety the intensication of political conict, a development which he
blamed particularly on the lack of restraint in the radical press. His draft for a
presidential emergency decree to combat political radicalism was sent to the Reich
government for consideration. Civil servants around Bruning were in the process
of investigating measures for the protection of the Reich against sensationalist
false reports, and were very ready to take up the Social Democratic initiative.
In January 1931, a series of violent clashes in Berlin which received considerable
press coverage added a sense of urgency to these efforts. In one case a mass
indoor rally in Friedrichshain featuring a debate between Joseph Goebbels and
the KPD district leader, Walter Ulbricht, degenerated into a large-scale brawl.
By this stage, such debating encounters had become something of a tradition,
and they usually ended in a more or less bloody melee. In preparation for
this particular event, Goebbelss Angriff published an article calling for a day of
reckoning, as well as printing a poem glorifying violence and Nazi martyrs.
That evening, Goebbels had hardly begun to speak when ghting broke out.
The clash left over a hundered injured and attracted extensive media attention
both in Berlin and the provinces. It was widely claimed that the event signied a
new dimension of political violence. The Social Democratic police president of
Berlin considered Goebbelss Angriff a crucial factor in encouraging this violence
against political opponents. On 4 February 1931, he banned the Nazi tabloid for
claiming after a recent clash between SA members and Communists that such
violent acts were understandable, a comment which the Communist Ulbricht
decried as a call for the murder of workers in a Reichstag debate. That same

172

Press and Politics in the Weimar Republic

day, leading members of both the Prussian and the Reich government met and
agreed that more stringent press regulations were needed.
One of the problems which law-makers faced was the immunity from state
prosecution which members of parliament enjoyed. Many radical papers exploited
this provision by appointing parliamentarians as their managing editors. The
KPD even issued a directive to this effect. By February 1931, the Reichstag
had to consider over 400 applications by the state prosecution to lift the
parliamentary immunity of various of its members, mostly for press offences.
As a consequence, during one of the Weimar Republics longest and most heated
Reichstag sessions, the press law of 1874 was changed to prevent the exploitation
of immunity by members of parliament acting as managing editors. After
ongoing consultations between the Reich government, the Prussian government,
and the interior ministers of other German states, Reich Chancellor Bruning
further curtailed press freedom in his emergency decree against political excesses
of 28 March 1931. Although Brunings demand for enforced corrections was
not yet included, the decree signicantly extended government powers to ban
daily newspapers for up to two months. Even liberals applauded, though with
a heavy heart. One only needs to read the newspapers of the extremist Right and
of the radical Left which accuse each other of the worst acts of violence to realize
that extraordinary circumstances exist which necessitate extraordinary measures,
commented the Ullstein broadsheet Vossische Zeitung. The Social Democratic
party organ Vorwarts explained to its readers that either state authorities managed
to curb the bloody violence between the extremists parties or else these ghts
would one day degenerate into a civil war.
T H E S PE C T R E O F C I V I L WA R
It was not the rst time that Vorwarts had conjured up the spectre of civil war
in an editorial on German domestic politics. From December 1930 onwards,
articles on the paramilitary wing of the NSDAP, the SA, often referred to Hitlers
civil war army. On 7 January, at the occasion of the burial of a Reichsbanner
member murdered by National Socialists, Vorwarts devoted its entire front page
to a chronology of Nazi acts of murder under the banner headline The bloody
path into the Third Reich. This is turn provoked accusations of bias, which
led right-wing journalists, in turn, to point an accusing nger at left-wing acts of
violence that were alledgedly leading to a creeping civil war. Goebbelss Angriff
routinely accused left-wing opponents of acts aimed at triggering a civil war.
And politicians were only too ready to pick up this media discourse. At a typical
National Socialist rally in early February 1931, the speakera Nazi member
of the Reichstagannounced that the republican Reichsbanner was openly
driving towards civil war. The Nazis, he added, were armed and prepared: The
only question is who will strike rst. Claims that a civil war was in the ofng

The Spectre of Civil War, 19312

173

received further plausibility after the Nazis demonstrative departure from the
Reichstag on 10 February 1931. Rumours had it that this exodus was the result
of the pressure from a minority faction within the NSDAP leadership opposed
to Hitlers legalistic course. Hitler himself, when he contradicted these press
reports and tried to rein in the increasingly restless SA, also felt it necessary to
invoke the threat of a civil war.
However, civil war in the early 1930s was nothing but a media invention and
a stick with which to beat ones political opponents. It was a typically loaded and
emotive term which journalists and politicians used to portray the grass-roots
hooliganism on German streets, playing on the fears of contemporaries who had
lived through the early years of the Weimar Republic. The brawls and st-ghts
of 1931, the stabbings, and the occasional use of handguns did not compare to
the massive bloodshed of 1919 and the early 1920s. Yet compilations of long
(and one-sided) chronologies of political clashes on the pages of a partisan press
conveyed the impression that contemporaries were already experiencing the rst
signs of the proliferation of violence so characteristic of a fully edged civil
war. Such lists and detailed reports on violent clashes, whether in Goebbelss
Angriff or Munzenbergs Welt am Abend, helped to contribute to what one
Social Democratic journalist called the psychology of civil war. It was always the
political opponent who was blamed for instigating violent acts, which, in turn,
fostered a spirit of revenge and retaliation. This partisan coverage of political
violence also contributed to the increasing polarization of German politics. State
or Reich authorities trying to address the issue of street-violence were immediately
attacked for supporting either one or other reading of events, and were accused
of siding with the ideological enemy. It was this that eventually cost Bruning
Hindenburgs support, and thereby his chancellorship, in the spring of 1932.
In terms of public perception, most of the responsibility for the continuing
political violence on German streets in spring and summer 1931 fell on the
Communists. The revolt and subsequent purge of the revolutionary faction
within the National Socialist SAthe so-called Stennes crisis in early April
1931received massive media attention and seemed to lend further credibility
to Hitler as a guarantor of legality. The Communists, in contrast, visibly
intensied their armed struggle against fascism and their agitation against the
Reich government. Among the usual clashes with their right-wing opponents,
some attacks stood out for their organized and calculated character. At the end
of May 1931, for example, at the occasion of a huge rally in Breslau by the
nationalist paramilitary veterans organization, Stahlhelm, Communists attacked
participants at train stations throughout Germany. In Breslau itself, a violent
attack resulted in one dead and several severely injured Stahlhelm members. Police
authorities quickly established that these attacks had been ordered from the very
top of the KPD leadership. It was not difcult for Hugenbergs Nachtausgabe
to sell these events as a plague of Communist murder. Only a few days later,
the KPD started to organize hunger marches and organized looting of food shops

174

Press and Politics in the Weimar Republic

throughout the country to protest against Brunings second economic emergency


decree with its drastic cuts in unemployment benets. Rote Fahne and Welt am
Abend were alone in claiming that these incidents were spontaneous actions of
unorganized, desperate unemployed. All the other Berlin papers agreed that
these demonstrations, which often degenerated into riots and clashes with the
police, were part of a Communist plan to destabilize further domestic politics
and to create a revolutionary situation. According to the Berlin political police
the Communist press played a major role in exacerbating tensions. This was
a view shared by the Prussian interior minister, Carl Severing, who instructed
Prussian district presidents to keep a close eye on Communist newspapers in
mid-June.
CRISIS
As policing fell within the responsibility of the German states, the Reich
government under Bruning did not have to get involved at this stage. Rather than
political violence, Brunings main preoccupation in June 1931 was the looming
liquidity crisis of the German banking system, caused by the outow of shortterm foreign deposits. Only for a regular reader of the National Socialist press like
Goring was there a connection between international nance and street-violence.
At a meeting with Bruning, Goring declared that the withdrawal of foreign
exchange was the result of the anxiety caused by the signs of civil war which
reveal themselves everywhere in Germanyyet despite the daily excesses by
Communists no radical measures were adopted, Goring complained. Bruning
was right to refute this claim. Foreign investors were preoccupied with other
news than Goring. The collapse of Austrias Credit-Anstalt and the subsequent
freezing of Austrian balances in May 1931, followed by Brunings aggressive
appeal for reparations concessions in early June, led foreign investors to repatriate
their funds while there was still time. By the end of the month, the Reichsbanks
reserves were depleted and it was forced to ration credit to the banking system.
Occasional reports in the foreign press about political clashes on German streets
probably did not help to instil condence, but they did not fundamentally affect
foreign investors decision-making.
Depending on which newspapers they read, German contemporaries were
more or less able to comprehend the economic crisis which was unfolding in June
and July 1931 because of Germanys dependence on short-term foreign loans.
Experts widely agreed that there was only a handful of German newspapers which
offered a thorough and high-quality coverage of economic affairs, among them the
liberal Berliner Tageblatt. Elite papers in Berlin, like Ullsteins Vossische Zeitung,
Hugenbergs Tag, or the right-wing Deutsche Allgemeine Zeitung, also provided a
decent overview of economic developments. But they were the exception rather
than the norm. Provincial and local newspapers, on which most Germans had

The Spectre of Civil War, 19312

175

to rely for their information, rarely featured a well-developed economic section,


and mostly limited their coverage to an eclectic range of agricultural and business
news. In any case, articles on the economy were apparently hardly ever read by
the average newspaper consumer. This, at least, was one of the ndings of an
empirical survey on media consumption in rural Germany in 1937. There is no
reason to believe that things were any different a few years earlier. The business
section of a newspaper was for most readers a closed book, admitted a study
from 1928. It is telling that tabloid newspapers did not offer much economic
coverage at all. Such articles were obviously not popular enough to make it into
these papers.
However, no one reading a newspaper in early July 1931 could escape the
fact that Germany was in the throes of a serious nancial crisis. Articles on
the desperate efforts by the Reich government to cope with the effects of the
massive withdrawal of foreign deposits were no longer conned to newspapers
business section, they were generally given front-page status, in tabloids just as
in provincial papers. Similar to the period of hyper-ination, when newspapers
had announced the latest dollar rate for marks on their front pages, they now
provided almost daily coverage on the state of Germanys gold and foreign
exchange reserves. Most contemporaries probably missed news of the collapse
of a major Bremen textile company, Nordwolle, which mostly appeared only
in small notes. But when Nordwolles largest creditor and Germanys secondlargest commercial bank, the Danat-Bank, closed its doors on 13 July, the news
was spread on the front pages of all Berlin tabloids, resulting in a run on banks
throughout the city which forced the Reich government to declare a general
two-day bank holiday. Press coverage of the banking crisis sent shock-waves
through German society. Germany faces ruin, ran a typical banner headline in
the provincial Angermunder Zeitung on July 13. Ullsteins Berliner Morgenpost
tried to assure its readers that although Germany was probably suffering through
the worst economic crisis ever, it was a crisis of condence and not to be
confused with the ination crisis of 1923. However, the front-page headline
Critical days for Germany hardly lent itself to inspiring condence. Photos of
queues of people in front of various Berlin banks waiting to get access to their
deposits reinforced the impressions of an exceptional crisis. In Hugenbergs
Berliner Lokal-Anzeiger, Adolf Stein skilfully dramatized events even further:
Things are quiet everywhere, the government proclaims complacently. Indeed! Everyone
is completely demoralised. One cannot manage an outcry any longer. Fear is making
people choke. Many a small pensioner is asking himself if he will still receive his starvation
money next month, many a business man is running around to rustle something up
before the looming end . . . Never has Germany experienced a week such as this third
week of July 1931.

In fact, the Reich government under Bruning was anything but complacent.
Nervousness and anxiety were the predominant mood. Cabinet ministers resented

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Press and Politics in the Weimar Republic

the fact that their frantic efforts at damage control were exposed to the full glare
of media attention. But it was not just indiscretions and leaks that worried the
cabinet. Facing the prospect of a general collapse in condence in the German
currency, the government perceived the press with its unpredictable impact on
the publics mood as part of the problem. Consequently, among the various
emergency decrees issued over these critical days was the press decree of 17 July,
which allowed Reich and state authorities to force newspapers to print announcements, replies, and corrections, and to ban them if they threatened public peace
and order. The implementation rule passed on to the press stated that the
decree was to serve the pacication of the population and for the prevention
of the creation of a mood of catastrophe. It meant to counter concealement
and distortion of true [facts] and the assertion of false facts. Some democratic
journalists reluctantly welcomed the decree, calling it an unfortunately necessary
measure caused by the agitation in the radical press. But most journalists
deplored the very vague denition of terms on which the government was able
to censor the press. The Communist Welt am Abend announced the end of press
freedom in a banner headline. We fear that a cold hand is in the process of
pulling a cloth over Germany. It is becoming more difcult to breathe, the
Munzenberg tabloid commented on the decree. The liberal Berliner Tageblatt
concurred with this view. Castigating the decrees caoutchouc clauses, the paper
commented that the threat of getting banned . . . is worse than the strictest
pre-censorship, in an article entitled The end of press freedom.
A heated meeting between Reich interior minister Wirth and representatives of
the German press about the decree of 17 July 1931 revealed the extent to which
politicians unease with a sensationalist mass press, Communist street-violence,
and anxiety for the stability of the German currency were intertwined. Some of
the press reports he had encountered exceeded anything the German people could
bear, Wirth explained to the journalists. With satanic evilness [they] propagate
the bankruptcy of all banks, [and] the collapse of currency, [and] workers are
turned wild. The minister pointed to Communist activities in the wake of the
banking holiday in central Germany and the Rhineland to legitimate his claim
that the country was teetering on the brink of disaster. The government was
prepared to proclaim martial law in certain districts if trouble-spots emerged,
in which case the present regulations would appear harmless in comparison.
When one editor dared to point out the decrees weaknesses, Wirth became very
agitated. Existing regulations had not sufced to deal with the ludicrous reports
on the German currency. As an example, he referred to last weeks Montag
Morgen, the left-wing Berlin weekly, which he called an incredible scandal.
Germany had entered a danger zone, now it was neck or nothing, and the
German government had to have the option to destroy the Communist press in
case of emergency.
Putting the screws on the press was a displacement activity for a government
frustrated by its inability to inuence mass psychology. It also demonstrated

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how politicians were taking those press products they encountered as indicators
of the press in general, and how they projected their own readings onto the
wider population, without any further thought on the likely impact of any
individual publication. The example of the Montag Morgen mentioned by Wirth
is a case in point. On Monday, 13 July, the Berlin weekly had published an
article on its front page with a headline putting July 1931 in the same sequence
as November 1918 and August 1923, proclaiming that, after losing both the
First World War and the Ruhr struggle, Germany had now once again lost a
war, namely Brunings war of revision. It called on the government to turn
against the nationalist revanchists and to seek a rapprochement with France. If
this course was not followed, the paper predicted another two to three weeks
of nancial struggle ending with the total dissolution of the entire economic
system. Annoying as this sensationalism might have been for a government
engaged in crisis management and worried about public condence, in the larger
frame of events this article was a complete irrelevance. With its very limited
readership, the left-wing pacist Berlin weekly was not in a position to cause a
mass panic. But due to its very critical attitude to the Reichswehr, Montag Morgen
was a newspaper which was routinely scrutinized by government authorities, and
therefore loomed large in decision-makers minds. They simply assumed that
their own reaction was representative of that of German newspaper readers
generally.
Similarly, the language they encountered in a number of Communist publications became in their imagination a powerful inuence over millions of
discontented workers. In reality, the KPD leadership at the time was struggling
with the fact that Communist newspapers were losing readers all over Germany.
The KPD central committee complained that there existed hundreds of local party groups in which not a single party member is subscribing to a party
newspaper. According to detailed information available to the SPD, the ofcial
Communist press in Germany had lost more than 10 per cent of its readers in
the rst half of 1931, and now stood at just under 220,000 copies in total, not
counting Munzenbergs Welt am Abend. During the banking crisis, this gure
was even lower as Rote Fahne and several regional KPD papers had been banned
on the basis of the previous emergency decree of 28 March 1931. Of course,
some of the remaining Communist papers used the opportunity to proclaim the
imminent collapse of capitalism. This was hardly a major threat to political
stability, nor was the rhetoric itself new. But at least in some cases, like that of
the Welt am Abend, the cabinet did encounter newsand commentwhich
chimed with their worst fears. Measures with which the government has attempted to prevent the growth of the panic into a currency catastrophe have so far
failed, the Welt am Abend started a front-page article dealing with the falling
exchange rate of the Reichsmark and the slump in bond prices for the Young
Loan in London. In a similar vein, the Munzenberg tabloid reported that panic
buying and stockpiling was occurring in Berlin, caused by fears that the currency

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crisis would be followed by ination-like times. In the eyes of decision-makers


like Wirth the fact that such things were happening was bad enough. Their
publication, however, raised the spectre of a domino-like collapse in public
condence.
G AU G I N G P U B L I C O PI N I O N
Contemporaries perceptions and interpretations of developments, however, were
much more complex than any of the decision-makers in 1931 realized. Despite
all agitation from the radical Right and Left, there did not yet exist an antirepublican majority in the wake of the banking crisis. This became apparent at
the occasion of the referendum on the dissolution of the Prussian parliament held
on 9 August 1931. The referendum was part of a concerted right-wing attack
on the last bastion of the Republic, the SPD-led government of Prussia. Social
Democratic control over the police force in Germanys biggest state constituted
a considerable political power factor. Also, without Social Democratic toleration
of Brunings emergency decrees, the Reich government would swiftly become
dependent on the extreme Right. Despite their anti-parliamentary intentions,
the supporters of the referendum used democratic rhetorics to argue their case. In
view of the landslide elections of autumn 1930, the composition of the Prussian
state parliament elected in May 1928 no longer reected the true political
opinions of Prussian voters, they claimed. Indeed, at the Reichstag elections in
1930, the Nazis won ten times as many votes in Prussia as they had received
in 1928. Elections in other German states throughout 1931 showed that the
Reichstag elections in 1930 had not constituted the climax of Nazi support. In
Berlin, the NSDAP membership nearly doubled between November 1930 and
June 1931; the SA nearly tripled in size throughout Germany in 1931. Still, at
least on the basis of their performance in September 1930, all those right-wing
parties and groups supporting the referendum represented under 40 per cent of
Prussias electorate, well short of the absolute majority needed for a successful
referendum. However, the referendums prospects improved dramatically when
the KPD party organ Rote Fahne declared on 23 July that the Communists were
going to throw their support behind the proposition. According to calculations
in Hugenbergs Nachtausgabe, this meant that the referendum scheduled for 9
August was now backed by just under 50 per cent of the Prussian voters, certainly
on the basis of their preference in 1930. Hugenberg himself claimed that public
opinion concerning the success of the referendum had changed completely.
As so often, however, it was difcult to make out public opinion within
the polemics published in the partisan press. In the weeks before 9 August,
Munzenbergs Welt am Abend strongly promoted what it called the red referendum, by presenting it as a Communist mass movement and by completely
ignoring its right-wing bed-fellows. In Hugenbergs Nachtausgabe and Berliner

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Lokal-Anzeiger, the referendum featured as an undertaking initiated by the


nationalist Right under the leadership of Hugenberg, aimed against the Social
Democrats who were allegedly responsible for the decline in the German economy, the bad state of nances, [and] the chaos in governance. Communist
participation was almost never mentioned. The same was true of Gobbelss
Angriff, which described the referendum as the necessary destruction of Social
Democracy and Catholic Centre party prior to the Nazi takeover of power
in the Reich. Ullsteins mass paper, the Berliner Morgenpost, in contrast, did
not miss the opportunity of polemicizing against the referendum of swastika
and Soviet star, and denounced the enterprise as an exercise in catastrophe
politics. Other liberal and democratic papers were equally outspoken in their
opposition, which, in turn, drew hostile reactions from the radical press. Two
days before the vote, the Prussian government felt sufciently nervous about the
state of popular opinion to resort to extraordinary measures. Taking advantage of
the press emergency decree of 17 July, it forced newspapers throughout Prussia
to publish a lengthy ofcial declaration against the referendum on their front
pages. Drafted by the head of the Prussian press ofce, the declaration built on
newspaper readers long exposure to news of political street-violence. The text
warned against the unnatural alliance of parties whose fanatical supporters are
facing each other daily in attacks and bloody ghts. Repeatedly, the declaration
conjured up the prospect of a civil war: once the citadel of democracy and
Republic had been stormed, chaos would reign whilst the radical wings would
ght for ultimate victory, and Germany would experience a patricidal war.
The effectiveness of this declaration remained unclear. At least among those
newspapers supporting the referendum, it only served to heighten their agitation further. Whether in nationalist provincial newspapers or radical tabloids
in Berlin, journalists fumed against the undemocratic measure adopted by the
Prussian government. Liberal observers, like the chief editor of Mosses Berliner
Tageblatt, Theodor Wolff, feared that this blatant violation of press freedom
would tip the balance in favour of the referendum supporters.
Yet when the votes had been counted, it turned out that less than 37 per cent
of the Prussian electorate had supported the referendum. Ullsteins mass papers
proclaimed the result a victory of reason, and pointed out that the radical parties
had lost nearly a quarter of their voters since September 1930. However, not
knowing that 1932 would see a dramatic increase in votes for anti-democratic
parties, contemporaries were unable to appreciate just how extraordinary this
result was. Historians of the Weimar Republic, too, have tended to give short
shrift to this episode in direct democracy. Certainly the one factor usually given
to explain voters dissatisfaction with Weimar democracy in 1932, the severe
economic crisis, was already present. In early 1931, estimated unemployment
had come close to the six million mark, a record gure so far in the history of
the Republic, and even in summer 1931 estimated unemployment still stood
well above ve million. Theoretically at least, the number of voters hit by

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economic hard times and dissatised with parliamentary democracy ought to


have been higher than in September 1930, and signicantly higher than only
those 9.8 million who supported the referendum on 9 August. So why did the
referendum fail? Clearly, both camps, the Communists just like the nationalist
Right, had failed to convince a great number among their followers why they
should suddenly make common cause with the ideological enemy. After months
of press coverage of political violence, allegedly always instigated by the other
side, suspicion towards an initiative supported by the other camp was sufciently
strong to make many voters stay at home. It is difcult to know how many of
these had been swayed by the ofcial Prussian press declaration, though it is
likely that the number was only small. In those parts of provincial Prussia where
right-wing newspapers held a monopoly, news about Communist participation
in the referendum had largely been absent, and turnout for the referendum
was strong despite the ofcial declaration. In Berlin, in contrast, where it
was difcult to overlook the competing progagandistic claims to ideological
ownership of the referendum, many potential supporters shied away from casting
their votesmore, in fact, than almost anywhere else in Prussia.
S P R E A D I N G T E R RO R
Just how important media coverage of political violence had become within
the political culture of the Weimar Republic was revealed on the evening of
9 August 1931, the day of the referendum. In a cynical exercise in public relations
management, the twenty-four-year-old Erich Mielke, a local news reporter of the
KPD party organ Rote Fahne and member of the partys self-defence formation,
led an ambush on three policemen in the vicinity of the party headquarters on
Bulowplatz, killing two police ofcers. When the police returned re, a gun battle
developed, in the course of which one man was killed and several Communists
were severely wounded. The police subsequently occupied the KPD headquarters
and banned the party organ Rote Fahne. Although not known at the time, the
action had been ordered by the leader of the KPDs ultra-left wing, the chief
editor of Rote Fahne and inventor of the slogan Beat the Fascists wherever you
meet them, Heinz Neumann. Worried about the propagandistic consequences
of the partys involvement in the referendum, Neumann wanted to distract
attention from the referendums failure and to provoke a new situation in which
the KPD could once again be portrayed as the victim of harsh government
repression. His plan succeeded only in part. On 10 August 1931, news of the
spectacular murder and subsequent police occupation of the KPD headquarters
displaced the referendums outcome as the days sensation in many newspapers.
But in terms of public perception, the murder was a terrible asco for the KPD.
In previous months, policemen had repeatedly been shot and sometimes killed in
clashes with Communists, but most of these incidents had arisen spontaneously

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out of confrontations between demonstrators and police forces trying to disperse


them. Now, Hugenbergs Nachtausgabe published a photo on its front page
showing grafti which appeared on a wall in north Berlin on 9 August which
stated that for each worker shot, two police ofcers would die. The deaths on
Bulowplatz, the tabloid concluded, were the result of premeditated political
murder. This was a view shared by the Berlin police president. Communist
terrorist groups were engaged in a ght against police forces by means of organized
assassinations, he told the press.
The event aroused great public interest. The funeral of the two police ofcers
turned into a public demonstration as hundreds of thousands of Berliners lined
the streets to pay their last respects. In the provinces, too, the Communist
attack triggered passionate responses. The deed revealed the sinister face of
the red civil war, commented a journalist of the Magdeburgische Zeitung.
The Reich government, too, debated the murders. Following the circulation
of a memorandum by the interior ministry on the preparations for a violent
overthrow of the constitution by the KPD from July 1931, the defence minister,
Wilhelm Groener, now considered it high time for immediate and radical
measures against the Communist threat. He was fully convinced that the KPD
was trying everything to escalate its excesses step by step towards an armed
uprising and towards civil war, Groener wrote in a letter to his cabinet colleague,
the interior minister, Wirth. Over the next weeks, the Reich interior ministry
conducted a survey of political offences by the radical Left and Right brought to
court on the basis of the emergency decrees of 28 March and 17 July. The result
was unambiguous: in almost all German states, and in most types of political
offences, the Communists were well ahead of the National Socialists.
Events in subsequent weeks and months seemed to justify the view that
the KPD constituted the greater threat. Hardly a day passed without news of
Communist violence in bourgeois papers. Reports from all over Germany told
of attacks by Communists on political opponents which resulted in fatalities.
In Berlin, a series of armed attacks on pubs that were known to be regular
meeting places for the SA attracted considerable media attention in September
and October 1931. Recent historical studies into the nature of street-violence
in the Weimar Republic have emphasized the mostly uncoordinated, grass-roots
nature of such clashes between supporters of radical parties engaged in local
territorial struggles. But for contemporaries reading their daily newspapers
the picture that emerged was considerably more threatening. While in any
given community clashes between political opponents were experienced only
every once in a while, they occurred daily on the pages of an anti-Communist
press. Moreover, news of local clashes were framed by other reports on illegal
Communist activities which suggested that they were part of a grand plan
to unleash revolutionary terror. Readers learned about Communist arsenals of
weapons and ammunitions, bomb attacks on regional politicians, and attempts
to inltrate the Reichswehr. According to Hugenbergs Nachtausgabe, there

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Press and Politics in the Weimar Republic

Fig. 6.1. On the pages of Hugenbergs tabloid Nachtausgabe the Communist threat
was omnipresent, as in this edition, 229 of 31 October 1931. Terror was one of the
key terms used in autumn 1931, and helped to convince many a reader that violent
responseslike those of the National Socialistswere the only effective way of dealing
with the Communist menace.

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183

was unrefutable evidence for the dangerous ambitions of Communist terror


organizations.
In autumn 1931, terrorists and terror groups were terms which appeared
routinely in headlines relating to Communist activities, and not just in Hugenbergs papers or in Goebbelss Angriff. In the eyes of the KPD leadership, such
newspaper consonance could only be explained through ofcial press manipulation. According to a party-internal circular from September 1931, the Social
Democratic government in Prussia was organizing a central campaign of all
bourgeois papersfrom the Social Democratic to the nationalist press against
the Communist party. In the eyes of the KPD leadership it was one of the most
devious terror- and murder-baitings against our party which has ever taken place
in Germany. Munzenbergs Welt am Abend and other Communist papers
tried hard to counter the negative impression by focusing their attention on
the National Socialists. Much of the violence blamed on the Communists, the
Munzenberg paper claimed, was provoked by the Nazis, who thereby provided
the bourgeois press with the material needed for its red-baiting. Through
daily compilations of news of Nazi-instigated violence throughout Germany,
the tabloid attempted to popularize its own slogan of SA-terror. But, as the
Communists soon realized, this counter-campaign did not achieve the desired
effect largely because of the limited reach of the party press. By November
1931, the KPD leadership feared that this relentless crusade of lies by the
bourgeois press was preparing the grounds for a general ban of the Communist
party, and issued an ofcial resolution against what it called acts of individual
terror. For right-wing journalists, this resolution was both an ofcial admission of the existence of a Communist terror campaign, as well as a transparent
and unconvincing move to avoid ofcial sanctions.
When media attention started turning to the National Socialists in October
1931, this was not the result of the Communist press campaign. Rather, news
of the nationalist rally in the small northern German town of Bad Harzburg
moved Hitlers party back into the limelight. Using slogans against the Marxist
blood terror, and threatening that nationalist paramilitary organizations would
not come to the defence of the present system in case of future uprisings, the
anti-republicans gathered at Harzburg called on Reich President Hindenburg to
replace the Bruning cabinet with a truly right-wing government. Although
this demonstrative show of nationalist unity was to prove only short lived, it
contributed signicantly to heightening the temperature of political discourse.
It is do or die now, proclaimed a headline in Vorwarts. According to the Social
Democratic party organ, the following months would see the decisive struggle
deciding whether or not Germany would become a fascist dictatorship. On
the same day, the left-liberal Welt am Montag in Berlin published a statistic on
the extent of political violence in Germany. According to its own research 457
dead and 1,154 wounded had been left lying on the battle eld of political
opinion struggle in the last nine years. Ever since 1929, the paper proclaimed,

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Press and Politics in the Weimar Republic

Germany was experiencing an era of latent civil war. This article was probably
brought to the attention of the Prussian interior minister, the Social Democrat
Severing, who received regular reports on the number of casualties and arrests
resulting from political excesses. That same week, Severing castigated the
level of violence in a speech to the Prussian parliament which took up the theme
of the Welt am Montag article. A guerrilla warfare was being waged daily, which
he took as early signs of a civil war. Vorwarts reported this speech under the
headline Protection from civil war!
A few days after Severings speech, a National Socialist mass rally involving
tens of thousands of SA members in Brunswick saw a series of Nazi attacks
on left-wing opponents, leaving two dead. In the wake of the intensication
of political cleavages caused by the Harzburg front, press coverage of events in
Brunswick was even more polarized than usual. Just what had happened was
difcult to make out in the dissonance of Berlin newspapers. A huge banner
headline in Vorwarts sold the news as Civil war in Brunswick. This was partly
the polemical response to the fact that the National Socialist interior minister of
Brunswick denied that events had occurred as reported by the local SPD paper.
According to Goebbelss Angriff, SA members had acted in self-defence against
Communist attackers. Hugenbergs nationalist papers sided unambiguously
with the National Socialist version. The tabloid Nachtausgabe, normally only
too eager to report about violence and death, skimmed over the clashes in
Brunswick, and claimed the entire affair was a typical product of left-wing
media hype. This view also coloured coverage of events by Hugenbergs news
service Telegraphen-Union. Readers of provincial newspapers which relied on
TU for their news provision learned about the Nazi rally in Brunswick as an
impressive demonstration of SA discipline, marred only by attacks by left-wing
demonstrators and decried by hostile press commentators afraid about the alleged
advance of the so-called nationalist opposition.
T H E P RO L I F E R AT I O N O F V I O L E N C E
Mutual recriminations and talk about a pending civil war reached a preliminary
climax in November 1931. Social Democratic newspapers advertised a new
SPD campaign under the slogan Against the Harzburg-Brunswick reaction,
against ination and civil war! National Socialists, in turn, prepared rallies
for 9 November, the day of commemoration for so-called party martyrs, by
publishing death lists of its fallen members. The Communist Welt am Abend
countered this by publishing its own list, giving the names of 18 Berlin workers
killed by National Socialists in 1930 and 1931 alone. On 9 November,
mass scufes between several hundred members of the republican paramilitary
organization Reichsbanner and SA men left two Nazis dead. Goebbelss Angriff
described events as bestial atrocities of marxist murder-bandits, and accused the

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Social Democratic Vorwarts of promoting murder; Vorwarts in turn proclaimed


events as the result of National Socialist civil war-ranting. In mid-November,
it was impossible to open the SPD party organ without encountering numerous
articles refering to Nazi or Communist violence with headlines threatening civil
war. The war of words nally became an issue for the Reich government when
a delegation of SA members tried to lobby President Hindenburg personally
with their complaints. Although Hindenburg declined to receive them, he
issued a statement which signalled some sympathy, and encouraged them to
present their material to the new Reich interior minister, Groener. Among the
documentation which Hitler subsequently sent to Groener were several death and
casualty lists like those which had previously appeared in the Nazi press, as well as
an article from the Social Democratic Munchner Post. The latter was an infamous
fabrication from beginning to end, Hitler declared. But it was signicant because
supporters of the marxist parties are being pushed systematically towards civil
war and bloody terror through such ranting reports [Hetzberichte]. Hitler ended
his letter by expressing his expectation that Groener would take all necessary
measures to curb the murderous frenzy of Marxism.
Groener was well aware that political violence and its distorted presentation
in the daily press constituted a real challenge for the Reich government, which
depended as much on President Hindenburgs whims as it did on the reluctant
toleration of the Social Democrats. To act on Social Democratic calls for
harsher measures against the National Socialists meant incurring the misgivings
of Hindenburg, while to follow right-wing calls for a ban of the KPD would lead
to a conict with the SPD. Yet to do nothing was to jeopardize the governments
authority. Groeners rst statement to the press when taking over the interior
ministry after the cabinet reshufe in October 1931 reected this precarious
balancing act. He emphasized his intention to safeguard the authority of the state
and deplored the attempts to divide the people into two camps. The reputation
of the German Reich demanded that terrorist acts against political opponents and
bloody confrontations among citizens were made impossible, Groener declared.
If need be, he would ask the Reich president for draconian emergency decrees
to achieve this. At the same time, he guaranteed that he would safeguard the
evenhanded enforcement of existing decrees. This statement received a lot of
coverage throughout the German press.
Expectations were accordingly high prior to Groeners rst conference with
interior ministers of the various German states in mid-November 1931.
Editors tried their utmost in the days before the conference to paint the opposing
camp as the origin of all violence. Vorwarts presented a chronology of judicial
verdicts against Nazis to counter what they perceived as a right-wing press
campaign to whitewash Hitlers rugged warriors. The agitated tone in the
press and the panoramic view of political violence provided by newspapers was
not without an effect on Groener. In his opening remarks at the conference,
he referred to the need to ght energetically the murder epidemic which

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Press and Politics in the Weimar Republic

had become a cultural shame for Germany. The subsequent discussion


touched several times on the issue of the press. The Social Democratic interior
minister of Hessen, Leuschner, complained about the language in the Nazi press
which brutalised and provoked; which in turn provoked the Nazi minister of
Brunswick to declare that he too considered the press responsible for much of the
violence and that he was very satised with the effects achieved by banning Social
Democratic newspapers in Brunswick. Groener himself was more worried
about the overall impression left by sensationalist language. When Severing
mentioned Communist preparations for civil war, Groener turned against the
term civil war: such a term has to vanish from our vocabulary, from our press,
he declared to his colleagues and admonished them to forestall this damned
fabrication of rumours.
If Groener had hoped to calm public sentiment with the meeting, he largely
failed. Newspapers latched on to his use of the term murder epidemic and
reported that Social Democrats demanded of Bruning that measures be taken
against the threat of pending civil war. It was also noted that Groener had
only criticized Communist organisations, and that he had mentioned a request
by Hindenburg that he should pay particular attention to the material received
from Hitler. Social Democrats suspected that Groener was minimizing the
responsibility of the National Socialists for much of the brutalization of German
politics. In fact, in autumn 1931 both Bruning and Groener wanted to
bring about the recognition of the NSDAP as a normal party, to integrate it
into decision-making, and thereby to defuse its oppositional appeal. Through
this approach Bruning hoped to secure Nazi consent to a second term in
ofce for Hindenburg, and to maintain the favour of Hindenburg, who had long
demanded a shift of the Reich cabinet towards the political Right. This strategy
could only work if the National Socialists could be presented crediblyand in
contrast to the KPDas a legal political movement. Brunings plan received
a serious blow when news broke of the so-called Boxheim documents at the
end of November 1931. Leaked to the Hesse authorities by a Nazi renegade,
the papers contained a detailed set of proposals by a regional National Socialist
functionary for emergency decrees following a Nazi takeover of power. Based
on the assumption that after a failed Communist coup the SA would rule
supreme, the Boxheim documents made a farce of Hitlers repeated assurances
of the NSDAPs alleged legality. Apart from measures such as food rationing,
the abolition of private income, and compulsory labour for everybody above the
age of sixteen, the proposed decrees also stipulated the death sentence for any
attempt to disobey the new authorities. Berlins liberal and left-wing press
had a eld day. Death sentence! Death sentence! Death sentence! The Reich of
blood courts, titled Munzenbergs Welt am Abend; Ullsteins Tempo sold the
documents as evidence for Nazi intentions to stage a coup and establish a bloody
dictatorship; Mosses 8-Uhr-Abendblatt published drastic caricatures of what life
under a Nazi dictatorship would entail.

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As was to be expected, the Nazi leadership distanced itself from the Boxheim
documents, claiming that party headquarters in Munich had not been involved
in this private work of an individual, and issuing renewed pledges of legality.
Hugenbergs papers agreed in minimizing the affair. Bruning himself, who
was pinning high hopes on the secret coalition talks between the regional Centre
and Nazi parties in Hesse after the spectacular Nazi election victory there in
mid-November, instructed the Reich state prosecutor to play down events.
But he was also aware of the dynamics triggered by lurid front page headlines.
A few days after the Boxheim revelations, Hitler gave a press conference to US
and British correspondents in which he dismissed the documents, stating that he
would not dream of throwing overboard the principle of legality when having
reached the threshold of power. The NSDAP would attain power within the
next ten months, Hitler proclaimed to the foreign journalists. The Times
headline Threshold of Power, in turn, triggered front-page headlines in Berlins
democratic press, which accused Hitler of undermining the Reich governments
authority abroad. The media storm over Hitlers press conference caused one
of Brunings coalition partners and the Social Democrats to pressure the Reich
chancellor into issuing a public condemnation of National Socialist interference
in foreign politics. A few days later, in order to prevent a similar media scandal,
Bruning instructed the Reich mail ministry to prevent a radio broadcast by Hitler
aimed at American audiences.
P R E S S M A N I P U L AT I O N S
Bruning knew he depended on Hindenburgs support, and he therefore tried
hard to convince the Nazis through condential negotiations to agree to an
extension of Hindenburgs mandate, which was coming to an end in early 1932.
He wanted to bring this about by way of embracing the Nazis in a regional
coalition of Centre party and NSDAP in Hesse. Yet his room for manuvre
was signicantly constrained by anti-Nazi press polemics. This added to his
already existing sense of frustration regarding press coverage of his economic
politics. In his eyes, the less the press was let in on governmental debate
and decision-making, the better. Throughout November and December 1931
Bruning repeatedly complained in cabinet about leaks and indiscretions which
had allegedly become such a persistent phenomenon that policy-making was
hardly possible any longer. His views were reinforced by complaints from
Germanys leading business associations about inaccurate and sensationalist press
reports on pending government action on prices, which allegedly led to a
collective buyers strike. Ever since the press decree of 17 July 1931, relations
to publishers and journalists had been strained; but they now deteriorated further.
Editors, in turn, blamed Brunings restrictive information policy for the increasing
reliance of journalists on rumour and hearsay. Bruning in the darkroomthe

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Press and Politics in the Weimar Republic

fear of the public, ran one headline accusing the Reich chancellor of fostering
uncertainty and misunderstandings about the governments intentions.
Bruning was not inactive, though. Behind the scenes, he commissioned Hans
Schaffer, state secretary in the Reich nance ministry, to establish contacts
with the senior editors in the Ullstein publishing house and to bring about a
gentlemens agreement to exercise restraint regarding news of a nancial nature.
The editors reluctantly agreed to a trial period in which they would publish
condential information only with Schaffers knowledge and assent. At the same
time, they pointed out to Schaffer that despite their support for the governments
general policy, they would not refrain from criticizing individual measures or
intentions. Still, Brunings emissary was satised: I consider this arrangement
as an attempt to achieve something of the unity in the press that we always
notice with the French . . ., he concluded his report of the meeting to the Reich
chancellor. Schaffer, of course, suffered not only from a misconception of the
French press but also displayed considerable navety regarding the dynamics of
the German media. As the head of the Reich government press ofce stated in
his reply to Schaffers report, the number of journalists brought into such an
agreement would have to be much larger to achieve the desired effect. Establishing
preferential channels of communication with only a handful of editors would
inevitably result in the strongest animosity among their other colleagues.
At least in the case of the Ullstein papers, however, the governments backroom
manuvres were not without an effect. Various factors helped to convince the
owners of Germanys largest publishing enterprise that co-operation with the
government was worth their while. After years of internal turmoil and bitter
family disputes, the Ullstein brothers decided in the second half of November
1931 to approach Schaffer and ask him to become the managing director general
of the Ullstein rm. Although Schaffer took up the position only in spring
1932, his inuence was already felt in December 1931. There was little the
Bruning government could do about the sensationalist presentation of anti-Nazi
news in the Mosse papers, like the many photo reproductions of the Boxheim
documents which accompanied the 8-Uhr-Abendblatts extensive criticism of
Hitlers foreign press conference. But similarly critical coverage in Ullsteins
tabloids could now be tackled. On 8 December 1931 a set of new directives was
circulated to the rms various leading editors and managing directors which
reected the publishers intentions to work towards the Bruning government.
Editors were asked to bring the following guidelines to the attention of their
editorial staff:
1. It is not the task of either BZ [am Mittag], or Tempo, or [Berliner] Montagspost to
actively engage in the political struggle . . . 2. Greatest caution needs to be exercised in
the composition of headlines of street-sale based tabloids. Through tendentious or overly
sensationalist headlines our newspapers can all too easily be identied with a particular
[political] line which does not correspond to editorial intentions, and which is not in the
interest of the entire rm.

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189

The Ullstein drive to depoliticize the rms tabloids came in the wake of the
Ossietzky trial, which had sent shock-waves through the German press. In late
November 1931 the chief editor of the left-wing Berlin weekly Weltbuhne, Carl
von Ossietzky, was sentenced to eighteen months in prison for treason. The
trial had been triggered by a Weltbuhne article in 1929 on a secret and illegal
programme of rearmament in the German aircraft industry. The Ullstein
brothers were aware that with Franz Hollering, their chief editor of BZ am
Mittag, they potentially had similar trouble on their hands. They had poached
Hollering from Munzenbergs successful Communist Arbeiter Illustrierte Zeitung
and put him in charge of BZ am Mittag in summer 1930. Ever since, the BZ
am Mittag had repeatedly incurred the wrath of the Bruning government.
In November 1931, the tabloid castigated the sentence in the Ossietzky trial as
the prostitution of justice to reactionary political ends. Later that month, the
Ullstein tabloid devoted signicant coverage to the Boxheim documents; in early
December a front-page leading article on Hitlers brown legal army gave details
of the organization of SA and SS, and the following day the Ullstein tabloid
was in the forefront of the media attack on Hitlers foreign press conference.
Shortly after the rst set of guidelines, the Ullsteins circulated another reminder
to their editors to tone down partisan polemics: Everyone who polemicizes in
the newspaper today needs to be aware that he is putting the responsible editor
and possibly the publishing house at serious risk if the reported facts are wrong
or if the permissible level of criticism is exceeded. This did not seem to
greatly impress Hollering and his staff. In mid-December 1931, BZ am Mittag
and Tempo both published reports about Nazi attempts at organizing a private
airforce as sensational front-page news, although the rumour that Hitler had
ordered twenty-ve aeroplanes had immediately been described as false by the
aircraft company in question.
This was exactly the kind of sensationalist anti-Nazi headline which Bruning
wanted to avoid at a time when he was about to open negotiations with
Hitler about an extension of Hindenburgs mandate. The government acted
swiftly. Groener, the interior minister, circulated guidelines to all relevant state
authorities encouraging them to apply the press emergency decree to maintain
public safety and order: Newspaper bans exist in order to prevent the whipping
up of the unstable mood of the public through irresponsible provocations, and
particularly through alarmist, one-sided press reports and news which serve to
foment disquiet. This applied particularly to newspapers which serve essentially
the demand for sensations and which are retailed exclusively or predominantly
on the streets. That same day Hollering was red. The Communist Welt am
Abend was not the only one to report that this move had been the consequence
of government members expressing in no uncertain terms their dissatisfaction
with the political line of the BZ am Mittag, especially towards the Nazis. In
the left-wing Weltbuhne, Carl von Ossietzky labelled the Hollering case the most
scandalous capitulation yet to National Socialism, and a crime against German

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Press and Politics in the Weimar Republic

press freedom in the midst of its most difcult crisis. Hollering was replaced
by Fritz Stein, the Berlin correspondent for the Hamburger Fremdenblatt, but
not before various cabinet members and the Reich president were consulted and
had approved the appointment. One of Steins rst acts was to write to Bruning
and to promise a reorientation of the Ullstein press: in view of the very denite
political reasons for his appointment, he understood his task as that of giving
rst the BZ am Mittag and later the Vossische Zeitung a new political form and
redirecting them on to the path of responsible political thought and action, a
path which I and my political friends have followed for ten years.
Within the Ullstein rm, publishers defended their action not least by
pointing to the potentially counterproductive results of a continuous barrage of
anti-Nazi press reports: [T]he moment has now arrived where our papers are
unintentionally engaging in propaganda for the National Socialist party through
overly eager coverage of developments in the Hitler camp . . . [T]he particular
emphasis on such news may lead the politically inexperienced reader to the view
that the Hitler movement is growing every day and that the leader of the
National Socialist party is in reality the rising star. In the same circular, the
publishers called on their editors to pay heed to public opinion. Statements of
political opponents ought to be at least reported and not just dismissed out of
hand, without giving readers a chance of assessing the validity of the newspapers
judgement: After all, one cannot describe from the outset everything that is
promoted at numerous rallies and which is believed by millions of voters as so
irrelevant that one need not [even] discuss it. Just how anxious the publishers
were about the potential repercussions of going against their readers became
clear in a passage relating to the death penalty. Criminal cases in which the
judgement of healthy folk sentiment [das Urteil des gesunden Volksempndens]
is clear from the outset should be discussed in our newspapers in a careful
manner. It antagonizes the views of the people when the attempt is made to
explain clear-cut crimes in a literary-aestheticizing manner on the basis of the
perpetrators background or dispositions. . . . The journalistic struggle against
the death penalty should not be exaggerated in specic cases. As Modris
Eksteins pointed out in his study of the German liberal press, with their nancial
investments menaced at a time of economic depression publishers tended to
become the pliant servants of interest groups and of public opinion.
THE MAKING OF THE PRESIDENT
Effecting a change within the editorial ofces of Ullsteins BZ am Mittag did
not, however, greatly improve Brunings position. His main problem persisted:
having to steer a policy which maintained both Hindenburgs approval and
Social Democratic toleration in a political climate deeply polarized by partisan
press coverage. In early 1932, a decree by Groener which allowed National

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191

Socialistsin contrast to Communiststo become members of the Reichswehr


exacerbated tensions with the Social Democrats, who were fundamentally at
odds with the Reich governments stance on Nazi legality. They were particularly
incensed by the fact that Groeners decree mentioned the Boxheim documents
in the same breath as plans by the republican Reichsbanner from autumn 1930 to
develop its so-called Defence Formations into some sort of ancillary police force.
In their eyes, attacks on the Reichsbanner had been part of a concerted right-wing
press effort to deect responsibility for the rising tide of political violence in
1931; Groeners decree now seemed to lend credibility to these claims, and was
obviously downplaying the danger emanating from the National Socialist SA. As
a result, the SPD-led Prussian government started to prepare the grounds for a
ban on the SA in co-operation with other German states such as Bavaria, Baden,
and Hesse. Hence, once negotiations about the presidency with the National
Socialists had broken down, the Bruning government found itself in a quandary:
its unsuccessful overtures to Hitler had antagonized the Social Democrats, who
were now needed more than ever to secure the election of Hindenburg to a
second term in ofce. Yet Hindenburg wanted at all costs to avoid being seen by
the public as the candidate of the political Left. The failure to square this circle
eventually cost Bruning his ofce.
From February 1932, Hindenburgs renewed candidacy was promoted with
fervent urgency. So-called Hindenburg committees under the leadership of the
Berlin mayor, Heinrich Sahm, initiated a bourgeois Sammlungspolitik which
was meant to reconnect to his election in 1925 and the celebration of his
eightieth birthday in 1927. Their petition asking Hindenburg to stand again was
circulated by more than 1,100 German newspapers and resulted in the collection
of more than three million signatures within two weeks. But for Berlin
observers the differences with 1925 were all too obvious: then, Hindenburg
had enjoyed the support of the entire right-wing press, and particularly of
Hugenbergs newspapers which were now openly hostile; also, his most outspoken
opponents from 1925, especially Berlins major liberal newspapers, now played
a very visible role in promoting him. The prominence of liberal and Social
Democratic newspaper support immediately attracted scathing right-wing press
attacks labelling Hindenburg the candidate of the Weimar system. It was no
coincidence that when Hindenburg announced his candidature in mid-February,
he emphasized the fact that he had received his encouragement not from a single
party but from broad sections of society. Once Hindenburgs announcement
had been made public, the Reich government immediately set out to reorganize
the campaigning apparatus in an attempt to block criticism from the right. Above
all, [the Hindenburg committees] have to be liberated from their dependence on
the press, particularly of the Ullstein-Mosse press, announced the senior civil
servant in charge of the organization of the election campaign. How this was
to be achieved, however, remained unclear: it was, after all, impossible to ask
the liberal Berlin mass press not to support Hindenburg; nor was it possible

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Press and Politics in the Weimar Republic

to prevent right-wing journalists from using this support as evidence for their
claim that Hindenburg had now become the candidate of the Left. When the
Reichstag reconvened in late February 1932, after a four-month break, Goebbels
produced a scandal when he attacked Hindenburg for having sided with Social
Democracy. There was a National Socialist proverb, Goebbels declared: Tell me
who is praising you, and I tell you who you are! Praised by the Berlin asphalt
press, praised by the party of deserters, . . .. Social Democrats reacted to this
provocation by interrupting his speech with stormy protests and demands that he
take back the latter remark. Goebbels tried to resume his speech by emphasizing
the historical changes in press support: Today the Jews of the Berlin asphalt
press are proclaiming the Field Marshal their leader. These are the same Jews
and Social Democrats who in 1925 poured buckets of scorn and abuse over
the General Field Marshal. Continuing protests by Social Democrats about
Goebbelss use of the term party of deserters led to an adjournment; Goebbels
was subsequently barred from the session for allegedly having insulted the Reich
president.
This kind of attack deeply troubled Hindenburg. Two days after Goebbelss
Reichstag speech, he sat down and produced a memorandum on his candidature which was circulated condentially among Conservatives and Reichswehr
circles. The attacks which I have expected are already under way, Hindenburg
complained. In the right-wing press and at rallies public opinion is stirred up
against me with the allegation that I have accepted my candidature . . . from the
hands of the Left or from a partisan blackred coalition. This allegation is
a blatant lie! In reality, Hindenburg claimed, he had followed the request of
a wide range of right-wing parties and groupings between Centre [party] and
German Nationalist Party, which included a very large part of those voters
which elected me into the ofce of Reich President in 1925. This was
also the message which he proclaimed in his only contribution to the election
campaign, a radio broadcast in early March. Accordingly, the guiding theme
of the pro-Hindenburg propaganda was the emphasis on non-partisanship and
the reconciliation of differences. Press propaganda was deemed inefcient in
reaching voters because of political counter-currents. Instead, the emphasis was
placed on visual communication, particularly on posters. Over the following
weeks, an unprecedented number of posters by the competing camps adorned the
streets of Berlin; Goebbels described the election campaign as a war of posters.
Apart from portraits and full-length photos of the imposing Reich president, the
Hindenburg campaign built signicantly on the publics perception of partisan
press agitation and political violence. In doing so, it tellingly adopted some of the
terms and slogans which the anti-republican press had popularized over the previous thirteen years, especially the term system. Cars hired by the Hindenburg
committees sported banners proclaiming Against the system in great letters,
followed by a small line stating of eternal conict: vote Hindenburg. This
was symptomatic of the dilemma of the Hindenburg campaign: trying to appeal

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193

Fig. 6.2. An election poster from spring 1932, calling on voters to support Hindenburg.
The depiction of the violence and strife perpetrated by the political extremes visualized
effectively the main theme of the Hindenburg campaign, non-partisanship. It was this
public image of non-partisanship which motivated Hindenburg to take such offence at
being forced by Bruning and Groener to ban the SA in April 1932. Bundesarchiv, Plak
002-016-007.

to both the republican and anti-republican camp through a campaign aimed at


arousing popular support, not least by damning violent partisanship. Volksverhetzung, incitement of the people, was a term that played a major role. One
particularly poignant poster showed a giant worker using a broom to sweep away
hordes of clashing Communists and Nazis, with the caption Enough now of
Hitlers incitement of the people! Vote Hindenburg. Playing on the same theme
of civil war, the poster Stop the German self-destruction! showed two men
engaged in a violent st-ght.
The National Socialists, too, propagated the image of a German people engaged
in strife and civil war. In his controversial Reichstag speech in late February,
Goebbels made constant references to the spectre of civil war, sometimes claiming
that the threat of civil war was growing by the day, at other points claiming
that Germany was already in the midst of a civil war. He was, in fact,

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Press and Politics in the Weimar Republic

simply stating what his Angriff had been writing for years. The competing
propagandistic uses of the image of civil war only served to heighten the conict
between Social Democrats and the Bruning government over the treatment of
the National Socialist SA. In early March, Otto Braun, the Social Democratic
prime minister of Prussia, wrote to Bruning to complain about Nazi agitation:
. . . the language of the National Socialist press which can scarcely be outdone
in terms of acrimony, which also indulges in untrue claims about the alleged
murdering of party members by political opponents on an almost daily basis and
which is thereby aiming to incite the lowliest instincts for revenge of the great
masses, [all this] has created an alarming atmosphere in which political tensions
are growing every day. A few days later, Groener received information from
Hitler opponents in the Stennes camp that preparations were under way within
the SA to attempt a coup should it become clear after the rst round of elections
that Hitler stood no chance of winning. He informed Severing, who put the
Prussian police on special alert. The conservative minister president of Bavaria,
Held, had no knowledge of these developments, but he, too, urged Bruning to
take measures against the SA. I am afraid we are on the brink of revolution and
civil war unless we ruthlessly suppress everything that furthers these, Held wrote
shortly after the rst round of elections, at which Hindenburg had decisively
beaten Hitler, but had narrowly missed an absolute majority.
This charged atmosphere of anxiety and fear of pending revolutionary action
was the direct result of partisan press coverage of political violence, especially
in 1930 and 1931 which had framed public perception of the legality of the
growing National Socialist movement, either in positive or negative terms. It also
constrained the room for further tactical manuvring of the Reich government.
A few days after the rst round of presidential elections, Severing ordered
house searches of Nazi party ofces throughout Prussia. The material seized
proved that on election day the Munich party headquarters had, indeed, ordered
the SA to be on alert and ready for combat. Some documents showed that
the SA was intending to steal Reichswehr weapons and were unwilling to be
drawn into defence formations in case of a Polish invasion. The publication
of the material shortly before the decisive vote in the presidential elections
received massive press attention, and signicantly increased the pressure on
Groener to ban the SA after elections. It also brought about a sea-change
in opinion within the Reich government, which now decided to take decisive
action. The Reichswehr was temporarily so incensed about the revelations that
it agreed to Groeners plan of banning the SA; it was widely felt that now
the psychological moment had come for such a move against the Nazis.
On 13 April, three days after his re-election as Reich president, Hindenburg
signed an emergency decree stipulating the dissolution of the SA and SS. These
organizations, the ofcial announcement explained, constituted a private army
which had led to a civil war-like situation which the state could not continue
to tolerate.

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195

H I N D E N BU RG S N O N - PA RT I S A N S H IP
It had required considerable effort by Bruning and Groener to convince a
reluctant Hindenburg to sign this emergency decree. Hindenburg was deeply
unhappy about the lack of electoral support among fellow nationalists and
conservatives. For weeks, right-wing newspapers had been emphasizing socialist
support for Hindenburg to delegitimize the propagandistic claim of Hindenburgs
nationalist non-partisanship. Hugenbergs Nachtausgabe published photos of proHindenburg mass rallies staged by the SPD-led Iron Front with masses of red
ags, gleefully pointing out that these events had not been concluded with the
singing of the German national anthem but that of the socialist International.
On the day after his election, Hindenburg refused to accept congratulations by
his press chief. [W]ho voted for me?, he allegedly complained. I have been
elected by Socialists, I have been elected by the Catholics . . . and I have been
elected by the Berliner Tageblatt . . . My own people did not vote for me.
Almost deantly, he announced in his declaration to the German people that
same day his intention to exercise his ofce in a spirit of non-partisanship and
equality. In this respect, the ban on the SA could not have come at a more
inopportune moment. Hindenburgs son Oskar tried to prevent it, claiming that
it would only result once more in the political Right dragging his father through
the mud. Bruning was well aware that the decision would cause a media
uproar. He asked a senior Social Democrat to exercise his moderating inuence
on the left-wing press to prevent their coverage becoming too triumphalist
and thereby provoking the political Right even more. Also, to accommodate
Hindenburgs concerns, the ofcial explanation of the SA ban concluded with
a passage emphasizing that this step had originated in the strictly non-partisan
intention of the Reich leadership to apply equal standards to all parties.
As was to be expected, right-wing journalists strongly disagreed about the
non-partisan nature of the SA ban. We know the baiting in the left-wing press,
which for weeks has not tired of presenting this ban as well-founded and necessary
through false reports of all kinds, the Deutsche Zeitung commented in a leading
article. The justication for the ban mentioned numerous grave offences and
excesses by the dissolved organizations but ignored the fact that during the
election campaign the vast majority of murderous attacks had been committed
by members of the Reichsbanner, Communists, or Social Democrats, noted the
Berliner Borsen-Zeitung. For any regular reader of a right-wing newspaper, this
argument was both familiar and very convincing. In fact, the failure to dissolve
the republican Reichsbanner at the same time as the SA became the focal point
of right-wing criticism. Already days before the ban, early rumours had included
speculations about whether or not the Reichsbanner would be banned alongside
the SA. Until the last moment, right-wing newspapers warned against taking

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Press and Politics in the Weimar Republic

an allegedly one-sided step. Banning the SA would jeopardize Hindenburgs


much trumpeted neutrality only days after his re-election. Once the ban was
announced, headlines declared the state leadership to have joined the Left.
Berlins right-wing broadsheets immediately published all information they were
able to nd to prove that the Reichsbanner, too, was a private army just like the
SA, engaged in very similar activities, and therefore deserving the same treatment
by the authorities.
According to Groener and Bruning, these newspaper articles were produced
with the clear intention of serving as argumentative evidence to sway the
grumbling Hindenburg. They came to the presidents attention in a number
of ways. He himself was a faithful reader of the very conservative Neue Preuische
(Kreuz-)Zeitung, and had initiated repeatedly in the past political action on the
basis of its political coverage. Numerous right-wing personalities remonstrated
with him about the SA ban and passed on newspaper clippings to back up their
claims against the Reichsbanner; similarly, opponents of Groener within the Reichswehr supplied Hindenburg with a collection of anti-Reichsbanner newspaper
reports. Nor was this the rst time that Hindenburg had received such compilations of right-wing news reports discrediting the republican Reichsbanner.
Hindenburg took the negative publicity very seriously. He sent Groener an
irritable letter, stating that he had received evidence that organizations similar in
nature to the one banned existed among other parties, and that the non-partisan
exercise of his ofce demanded that this material be seriously investigated. If the
material were shown to be correct, the organizations in question ought to be
banned, too. In a highly unsual move, he handed this letter to the press even
before Groener received it. Hugenbergs Nachtausgabe published it on its front
page, under the sensationalist headline Hindenburg demands investigation into
dissolution of Reichsbanner.
Relations between the Reich president and Groener soured quickly. Anticipating presidential concern over the Reichsbanner, Groener had immediately reacted
to right-wing attacks by calling in the leader of the republican organization,
Holtermann, and convincing him to announce the immediate self-dissolution
of the Reichsbanners Defence Formations. Right-wing commentators felt that
this was a disingenuous move to pre-empt further action on the Reichsbanner.
The fact that Holtermann was rejecting in detail accusations against his organization at press conferences aroused annoyance in Hindenburgs circles, as it
was felt that Groener had leaked the material sent to him by the President. In
reply to an ofcial complaint, Groener pointed out that the material he had
received primarily consisted of newspaper articles and that therefore it had not
required indiscretion on his part to allow Holtermann to react to the various
accusations. At a meeting in late April, Hindenburg complained once more
to Groener that the current situation consituted an unequal treatment of SA
and Reichsbanner. Groener agreed to some minor concessions but in essence
maintained his position that further government action on the Reichsbanner was

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197

superuous. For those on the political Right, the outcome was unambiguous:
Reichsbanner wins. Groener does not give in, ran a headline in Hugenbergs
Nachtausgabe.
Hindenburgs disenchantment with Groener reached its climax on 10 May
1932. On that day, Groener defended his decision to ban SA and SS but
not Reichsbanner in the rst Reichstag session after Hindenburgs re-election.
Interrupted by constant jeering from Nazi members of parliament who accused
him of drawing on left-wing media inspiration, Groener labelled the SA a state
within the state and a threat to state authority, whilst describing the Reichsbanner
as an organization designed for the protection of the Reich constitution. Point
by point, Groener dismissed the accusations raised in the material he had received
from the Reich president. This unequivocal attack on the National Socialists
and the very public repudiation of Hindenburgs anti-Reichsbanner intentions
found warm words of praise in the republican press, but turned Groener into a
persona non grata in the Reich presidents circles. Politically he was dead after this
speech, Bruning commented in his memoirs. Encouraged by complaints from
Schleicher and other Reichswehr generals that Groener had allegedly violated
the non-partisanship of the Reichswehr, Hindenburg informed Bruning the
following day that he considered Groener no longer acceptable either as interior
minister or defence minister. Bruning refused to ask Groner personally to step
down and threatened to resign if Hindenburg insisted. This refusal, in turn,
irreperably damaged the relationship between chancellor and Reich president.
Groeners announcement to the press on 12 May that he had asked Hindenburg
to relieve him from his ofce as defence minister in order to concentrate on
his duties as interior minister further contributed to Hindenburgs perception
of insubordination. That same day, just before Hindenburgs departure for
a three-week holiday in East Prussia, Bruning met the Reich president and
defended Groener once more with warm words. He encountered little sympathy.
Hindenburg instructed the chancellor not to undertake any changes to the cabinet
during his absence, and then left Berlin for his estate at Neudeck. Bruning knew
at this moment that his dismissal was imminent.
Throughout May 1932, speculations were rife in the Berlin press over the
future of the Bruning cabinet. Right-wing newspapers called for Brunings
resignation. Polemics became particularly intense when plans for land-reform
were announced in mid-May. Key leaders of the agrarian lobby complained to
Hindenburg and asked him to intervene. On 27 May, the DNVP Reichstag group
published a declaration labelling the governments land-reform plans as complete
bolshevism. Brunings continuing dependence on Social Democratic support
was a deadly danger for Germany, declared Hugenbergs Tag. Hindenburg
now had to act. As long as he refused to appoint National Socialists to the
cabinet, any reorientation of the Reich government towards the political Right
depended on the co-operation of the German Nationalists. In Hindenburgs eyes,
the refusal of DNVP and Stahlhelm to support his candidature for the presidency

198

Press and Politics in the Weimar Republic

earler in the year had been the result solely of the inuence of Hugenberg and
his press. He was therefore not willing to go against the nationalist press
once more. At the crucial meeting between Bruning and the Reich president
on 29 May, Hindenburg announced that he would refuse to continue signing
emergency decrees for the current government. According to Brunings state
secretary, Punder, who recorded Brunings report of the meeting only a few
hours after the event, Hindenburg declared with tears in his eyes: I nally have
to move towards the Right now, the newspapers and the entire people demand
so. But you have always refused this. The following day, the entire Bruning
cabinet resigned.
Of course, Hindenburg was wrong. Only the right-wing press had clamoured
for a shift towards the Right. But these were the newspapers which mattered to
Hindenburg: his people were clearly not the readers of the 8-Uhr-Abendblatt,
or other liberal or left-wing papers that, even in late May, still supported
Bruning. Historians have been at pains to point out the fateful inuence of
the camarilla around Hindenburg. The fact that Hindenburgs perception of the
German public was primarily shaped by his reading of the Kreuz-Zeitung has
largely been overlooked. Gustav Stresemann at least was deeply worried to nd
the former eld marshal reading this reactionary paper when he made his rst
ofcial visit to the newly elected president. Throughout his time as Reich
president, Hindenburgs perception of his own political standing was strongly
inuenced by his consumption of right-wing press narratives, which, in turn,
conditioned his views of legitimate and necessary political action. It is telling that
Hindenburg dressed up his authoritarian dismissal of Bruning with democratic
rhetoric, referring to the views of a sub-set of right-wing papers as those of the
press generally, and presenting this published opinion as a genuine indicator of
public opinion more generally. Based on such a selective reading of newspaper
texts, it was indeed possible to perceive Bruning as someone siding with the
Marxists.
RO L L I N G B AC K D E M O C R AC Y
In June 1932, Brunings successor, Franz von Papen, lifted the SA ban and the
standing prohibition on the wearing of uniforms. Almost instantly, newspapers
reported of an explosion of street-violence throughout Germany. As usual,
partisan coverage resulted in irreconcilable versions of events. Many provincial
newspapers followed the lead of the Hugenberg papers, and demanded radical
action from the new Reich government, especially towards Prussia, which was
widely described as a hotspot of Communist rioting due to Social Democratic
leniency. For many bourgeois newspaper readers, this demand appeared
entirely legitimate. The Communists have received order from Moscow to
murder and plunder as much as possible; this order is made public in their

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199

newspapers and leaets, reported Elisabeth Gebensleben-von Alten, the wife of


Brunswicks deputy mayor and a keen reader of the right-wing Braunschweiger
Landeszeitung to her daughter. Such poor fatuous people! And National Socialists
who walk on their own are attacked and are beaten . . . to death every day. Much,
much more severe action has still to be taken against the Communists. For
those readers suspicious of the political Right, however, media reports of streetviolence allowed a totally different interpretation. Events in early July, according
to the Social Democratic Vorwarts, suggested that the behaviour of the SA over
these last days are part of systematic preparations for the outbreak of civil war.
The new Reich chancellor, Franz von Papen, used the need to suppress
violence as a pretext for a decisive attack on the constitutional order. On 17
July 1932, eighteen people were killed at the occasion of an SA demonstration
through Altona, a working-class municipality on the Prussian side of the
state border of Hamburg. Allegedly attacked by Communist roof-top snipers,
police opened re and engaged for hours with an invisible enemy. In some
ways, the bloody Sunday in Altona resembled the blood May of 1929 in
Berlin: most of the deaths were caused, as autopsy results later revealed, by
ricocheting bullets red from police guns. Media representations of the event,
however, allowed multiple readings, and the prominence of the events in Altona
constituted an ideal opportunity for Papen to put into effect a plan which had
long been under discussion in conservative circles. On 20 July, a presidential
emergency decree deposed the Social Democrat-led state government of Prussia,
and replaced it with a commissioner responsible directly to the Reich. The
Prussian government, it was argued, had shown itself unable, or unwilling, to
cope with the bloody disorders originating with the Communists. This was
not a claim which remained undisputed. Three months later, at the high court
session in which the deposed Prussian cabinet sued for conrmation that the
Reichs action was unconstitutional, debate centred on mortality gures and the
question of how near Prussia had come to civil war in summer 1932. While
rejecting the accusation that the Prussian government had violated its duties,
the judges decided that the situation in July had constituted an emergency
situation justifying Reich intervention. Herr von Papen exploited the fear of
Communists of the German Burger to play himself up as saviour, and to use this
for political bargaining, commented the former police president of Berlin, the
Social Democrat Grzsesinksi, in 1933. Papens coup dealt a the nal blow to
the Weimar Republic. Already at the time, many contemporaries were aware of
the political signicance of the event. Historical day! Finally reversal of fortune
in Prussia ran a typical headline in one provincial newspaper. Fourteen years
after the revolution of 1918, parliamentary democracy was nally being rolled
back. Looking back in 1933, the right-wing lawyer Carl Schmitt described
Papens coup in Prussia as the beginning of Year 1 of German politics, which
led via Schleicher to what Schmitt called the rst German peoples chancellor,
Adolf Hitler.

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Press and Politics in the Weimar Republic

C O N C LU S I O N
Economic depression and mass unemployment are insufcient to explain the
radicalization of German society in the early 1930s. In his pioneering study of the
unemployed in Marienthal in 1932, the Austrian social scientist Paul Lazarsfeld
found apathy and resignation to be individuals predominant psychological
reaction to unemployment. Britain and the United States equally experienced
high unemployment levels during the Great Depression, and yet they did not
witness a surge in concurrent street-violence. In Germany, a vicious circle of
clashes and counter-strikes was kept in motion by partisan press coverage. At
Denzers we passed the time playing cards. Of course we discussed the recent
political events and clashes in Berlin and the Reich, one worker described the
daily routine at a Communist tavern in Berlin in July 1932. Heated up by the
consumption of alcohol, discussion of the oppositions crimes somewhere in
Germany as reported in the daily press often resulted in the resolve to defend ones
own turf by physically attacking National Socialists in the locality. On the
other side of the political divide, news reports of Communist violence motivated
many young men to join the SA. Between November 1931, when public anxiety
about a pending civil war reached a preliminary climax, and August 1932, in
the wake of the bloody Reichstag election campaign, membership doubled from
227,000 to 455,000.
Throughout this period, many democrats worried about the radicalizing
inuence of the Communist and National Socialist press. Articles in the radical
press, according to the Social Democrat Carl Severing, set the tone and prepared
the grounds for much of the political violence. Consequently, newspaper bans
became a constant feature of political practice. In 1932, the Communist Rote
Fahne was banned on more than a third of its publication days, and Goebbelss
Angriff proudly proclaimed itself to be Germanys most frequently banned
daily. But even repeated newspaper bans did little to curb street-violence, and
only added legitimacy to the claim of victimization, one of the propagandistic
pillars of both the KPD and NSDAP. Furthermore, many of those young men
engaged in street-violence in the early 1930s were not necessarily readers of
radical newspapers. Readers of Hugenbergs Nachtausgabe, of Munzenbergs Welt
am Abend, or even of Ullsteins Berliner Morgenpost might well have deduced
from their reading that radical action was called for in the face of the oppositions
militancy. People were so adrenalized by propaganda, senseless criticism, and
reciprocal hatred that we are now living in a state of latent civil war, Dorothy
von Moltke reported to her South African parents in July 1932.
Yet if one considers the huge number of German men who were members
of paramilitary organizations during the early 1930s, the number of people
actually killed in political confrontations was surprisingly small. Ofcial Prussian

The Spectre of Civil War, 19312

201

statistics counted 155 dead for 1932, including the victims of the bloody
Sunday in Altona. As historians of political violence in Weimar Germany
have pointed out, this constituted only a fraction of the fatalities of 1919 and
1920, and hardly qualied for the label civil war. In the 1990s, the number
of gang-related homicides resulting from ghts over turf, status, and revenge
was many times higher in Los Angeles County alone. The image of civil
war which gained plausibility in Germany during the early1930s was based on
excessive partisan press coverage which created the impression of ubiquitous and
therefore uncontrollable violence, which, in turn, triggered massive fears in the
population. These excesses everywhere in Germany are terrible, one does not
dare open the paper any longer with all these awful reports of murder attempts
and attacks by Communists, wrote one young woman in July 1932. For some
contemporaries, such reports signied only the tip of an iceberg. Of course the
newspaper reports which we have come across are very fragementary, German
industrialists noted when complaining to Bruning about Communist violence
in summer 1931, in reality the number of excesses, as well as that of victims, is
considerably higher!
References to the oppositions violence became a standard rhetorical device
both for journalists and politicians. All this contributed to a widespread perception
of public disorder which proved fateful to German democracy. As Dirk Blasius
has recently pointed out, the National Socialists were levered into power
on 30 January 1933 not in a power vacuum, but in an order vacuum. A
civil war hysteria aficted contemporaries and contaminated political decisionmaking, Blasius argues. Civil war became the political slogan of the year 1932;
eventually, the question of civil war and civil peace decided the fate of the
Weimar Republic. This civil war hysteria, however, needs to be understood
as a massive media panic, a press-induced over-reaction with politically disastrous
effects. Civil war was a slogan created and promoted by partisan editors and
politicians intent on legitimizing their own ideology. From as early as January
1931, the spectre of civil war haunted German newspaper readers. This partly
explains the right-wing passions triggered by Groeners ban of the SA in April
1932. After a heated presidential election campaign in which civil war had
been the dominant theme, banning the major right-wing paramilitary force
appeared as an unjustiable act of political short-sightedness to all those who
saw Communist terrorists as the main threat to law and order in Germany.
Elisabeth Gebensleben-von Alten recorded widespread exasperation about the
ban among her middle-class peers: even in circles which have so far been distant
to the Hitler movement one is beginning to lean towards the movement, she
wrote at the height of the election campaign to the Prussian state parliament in
late April 1932.
Not surprisingly, none of the traditional bourgeois parties, the so-called
Honoratiorenparteien, was able to benet from the widespread perception of
left-wing violence. It was the NSDAP that appeared as the most promising

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bulwark of bourgeois Germany. The National Socialists certainly owe a major


part of their growth to the outrage caused by the shameful murder attacks by
Communists, observed a right-wing journalist in November 1931. Bourgeois
fear of Communism was grounded in the experience of the revolution of 1918-19,
and it was stoked on a daily basis by right-wing journalists in the early 1930s.
Similarly, on the Left, many young Germansespecially menconcluded from
their newspaper reading that Social Democracy offered little in terms of active
resistance to fascism and voted for the Communists instead. By summer 1932,
these two radical parties attracted over 50 per cent of the popular vote. With
militant radicalism against the ideological enemy as one of their attractions, the
two camps could not join forces without losing signicant parts of their electoral
support, a fact demonstrated by the referendum of August 1931 and again at
the Reichstag elections in November 1932, when the much-publicized Nazi
participation in the Communist-led transport workers strike in Berlin cost the
NSDAP much sympathy among its bourgeois supporters. But although most
Germans in 1932 could not agree on the best way forward, on one issue there
was widespread consensus: parliamentary democracy was deemed incapable of
offering a way out of the perceived crisis.

7
Conclusion
T H E I M AG I N AT I O N O F I N F LU E N C E
After the revolution of 191819, public opinion assumed an importance in
German politics that it had never had before. The new system was a parliamentary,
democratic republic, as stated by Article 1 of the constitution hammered out in
Weimar. This fundamentally altered the role of the press in German politics.
The masses had come to political power. And through the press, these masses
could be inuencedthis at least was the view of Oswald Spengler and his
contemporaries. Journalists certainly felt they wielded more inuence than did
most party politicians. What effect can even the greatest open-air meeting
have, one editor asked rhetorically, as compared with the permanent inuence
a daily newspaper may exert on hundreds of thousands or even millions?
Georg Bernhard, chief editor of the liberal broadsheet Vossische Zeitung, proudly
summarized his conviction in the persuasive powers of the press when declaring
in 1929 that the German believes what his paper tells him. Ten years later,
one of the rst empirical studies of newspaper reception in Germany came to
a very similar conclusion: About 10 per cent of all newspaper readers believe
what they read, but at least they analyse content critically. All other newspaper
readers, however, accept every newspaper report as the pure truth. Without
rst-hand experience of politics, readers views were shaped by press coverage.
The overwhelming majority of a nation knows of parliament only that which the
newspaper reports, the Berlin correspondent of the liberal Frankfurter Zeitung
observed in 1927. Reality is only the newspaper which people hold in their hands
and which alone provides them with a view of the world . . . In a democratic
state the press is by far the most important, indeed almost the only source of
all opinions, sentiments and biases among the millions which ultimately have to
make the decisions.
This condence in the power of the press also motivated politicians and
political interest groups to devote great attention to the press. They regarded
the press as a tool, and press support as a prerequisite for electoral success. In
many ways, this widespread utilitarian attitude to the institution of the press
was carried over from the imperial era, but it was only now that the mass
production of public opinion assumed such crucial political importance. Yet

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contemporaries were also aware that public opinion was not exclusively a press
product, and that the press itself reacted to trends in popular opinion. Ever since
the publication of Ferdinand Tonniess Kritik der offentlichen Meinung from
1922 the question was debated as to whether there was such a thing as a (single)
public opinion, and, if so, whether newspapers were creating or simply reecting
it. In defending Brunings emergency press decrees, the Social Democrat Carl
Severing differentiated between the press as maker of public opinion and as
mouthpiece of public opinion. Journalists themselves felt this tension. During
the controversy over several of George Groszs artworks in 1928, the art critic
of Ullsteins Vossische Zeitung, Max Osborn, criticized the publication of letters
to the editor with an anti-Grosz slant. He conceded that they might reect the
view of the majority of the German population. But what was the true and
inner calling of a newspaper, he asked of his editor: To follow the opinion of
the masses? Or to lead them? To replace misled conventional opinion with a
perspective of higher intellectual value? Obviously, Osborn conceived of himself
as an opinion-former. In contrast, according to one of Osborns employers, Franz
Ullstein, the press was not meant to lead public opinion but to mirror it. For
one of the founding-fathers of German communication science, Karl Bucher,
the truth lay somewhere inbetween these two positions: The press becomes an
organ of public opinion when it adopts currents of ideas emanating from the
masses, providing them with shape and direction, [and] formulating demands
towards the state on their basis . . . The peoples opinion only becomes public
opinion by publication in newspapers.
But Buchers attempted synthesis of peoples, public, and published opinion
failed to clarify the issue. For politicians, the centrality of the press in all of
this was what mattered. Political actors throughout this period had a diffuse
understanding of public opinion as a mixture of media opinion and public
sentiment, as is evident in government les. Hermann Punder, head of the Reich
chancellory 192532, provided the head of government with a daily overview
of the German press. In a typical letter written after his usual breakfast
reading, Punder informed the Reich chancellor about the latest press reactions
to government policies, concluding that he and other government ofcials were
quite satised with the current state of public opinion. Without the availability
of public opinion polls, newspapers served not only as sources of information
about public opinion but even as surrogates for it. Politicians thus turned
into professional newspaper-readers. I read mountains of newspapers every day,
noted Goebbels in his diary. Stresemann, too, engaged with a multitude of
different papers, as is evident from his daily notes. In a libel trial against the
reactionary Kreuz-Zeitung, Otto Braun stated his daily reading habits: Every
day, I read [various] publications of Social Democracy, of the Democrats, and
the Deutsche Tageszeitung, of other newspapers I only read those sections which
the press ofce marks for my attention. His press ofce sent him masses of
newspaper clippings covering the entire political spectrum, from the Communist

Conclusion

205

Rote Fahne to Goebbelss Angriff, which he read and annotated, as can be


seen from his private papers. Braun was not an exception, newspaper-clipping
collections gure largely in the private papers of many Weimar politicians. The
Centre politician Wilhelm Marx, Hindenburgs opponent for the presidency in
1925 and longest-serving Reich chancellor of the Weimar Republic, owned a
collection of some 70,000 newspaper clippings. Articles dealing with individuals
almost always reached the desk of the parliamentarian concerned. Caricatures in
particular enjoyed a high degree of attention among politicians. Media reports
served political decision-makers as an indicator for their own public standing,
and as sounding boards for speculations about the reaction of the wider public to
particular events and policies presented in the media. This was the reason why
nobody was as affected by allegedly distorted newspaper reports as politicians,
who often complained about being misrepresented in the press.
Political protagonists were most inuenced by what they imagined the effect
of press reports on the wider population to be. As modern media science has
shown, this imaginary perception of press inuence is affected by two further
factors: the general overestimation of media effects on others; and the specic
nature of media consumption by decision-makers. The role of propaganda in the
outcome of the world war conrmed many contemporaries in their assumption
that the masses were helpless subjects of the persuasive and manipulative powers
of the mass media. In fact, political actors usually considered press reports
more important than the everyday newspaper-reader, because they assumed
subconsciously that everyone else was following press coverage as closely and
intensely as they were themselves. This was a misconception. We know from
the Communist reader survey in 1924 that newspaper readers actively chose
from a wide range of offerings, and generally showed much less interest in the
political section of a newspaper. Political decision-makers, on the other hand,
were provided with newspaper clippings or press reports by their staff, in other
words with a preselection and thematic concentration of news. Politicians thus
suffered from a triple delusion: the mistaken belief that the press provided an
accurate representation of peoples opinions; the assumption that the majority
of the public was consuming similar amounts of news reports with an interest
similar to their own; and the misconception that the population was reacting to
reports as strongly as they imagined.
The people most affected by press reports were all those who, like politicians,
had to deal with newspapers as part of their profession. This was true in particular
of journalists. One editor recalled in his memoirs how his new job changed his
reading habits: What was new for me was the abundance of newspapers which
could and had to be read, partly to keep generally informed and to observe the
competitors, partly to nd out where and how to respond with a leading article or
a squib. Perceiving themselves as political actors in their own right, journalists
felt called upon to counter negative publicity by hostile papers. As described
in the preceding chapters, this often led to a vicious circle of press polemics and

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recriminations. This system of self-reference resulted in a strongly antagonistic


nature of published political discourse, particularly in Berlins elite political
papers, those read primarily by decision-makers. In general, the tone in which
political newspapers attacked each other was signicantly more vicious than that
of parliamentary discourse. This was not only a result of ideology but also of
the job prole. The difference between politicians and political editors was that
editors did not usually have to compromise. Friedrich Stampfer, chief editor of
the SPD organ Vorwarts, explained to colleagues why he suffered under coalition
politics: When we are in opposition, it means good times for the editorial staff of
Vorwarts. But the moment we are back in government, it hails attacks on them.
In their daily work, journalists could cope without coalitions and compromise.
They disliked being on the defensive, and they thrived on conict.
In his memoirs, Otto Braun describes how after Brunings assumption of
ofce the elation of oppositional independence in the SPD press created great
problems for his Prussian coalition with the Centre party. Opposition parties
in the Prussian parliament frequently quoted aggressive SPD press attacks on
Bruning, and lambasted Prussian Centre politicians for sticking to their Social
Democratic coalition partners. This was not an unusual practice. On the
contrary, according to a close associate of Hugenberg, politicians derived the
greatest part of their knowledge for parliamentary discussions from the press.
At the same time, the partisan coverage of parliamentary debates inuenced
politicians behaviour in parliament. Some politicians and editors complained
about this partisanship, which always emphasized the contributions of speakers
of a newspapers own political leaning, while suppressing or distorting the
contributions of political opponents. This made nonsense of parliamentary
debate, as Tucholsky complained: I know fully well that speeches in the
Reichstag are given for public consumptionbut there is no public! The
Communist speaks for his party paper; the National Socialist too; the Hugenbergfollower too . . . So for whom does the man speak? In fact, all parliamentarians
spoke for an imaginary public, one shaped primarily through their reading of
politically supportive newspapers. Even the most radical and unpopular splinter
group had some publication which suggested to its readers that they represented
a signicant political public. This Potemkins public provided by partisan
newspapers encouraged political decision-makers to pronounce and uphold
minority positions regardless of the views of the wider population.
Press reports had an immediate effect on parliament. In the context of late
twentieth-century politics, media scientists have found numerous indications of
the considerable impact of media coverage on policy-makers. Already in the
1920s, political actors interacted closely with the press. Published opinion found
its way into parliament in the shape of particular terms and slogans, in specic
lines of argument, or more generally by numerous references to news reports.
Some of the worst parliamentary speeches were, it was said, based on cutting
and pasting, put together from a number of leading articles which the speaker

Conclusion

207

has carefully cut from various newspapers and lined up more or less without
coherence. Further research into the relationship between press coverage and
the language and priorities of parliamentary discourse will be needed to enhance
our understanding of political communication in the 1920s and early 1930s.
This would help to explain one of the crucial features of political culture in this
period, the preponderance of conict over consensus, from which parliamentary
democracy constantly suffered even during the stable years of the Weimar
Republic. There are good reasons to believe that this parliamentary culture of
antagonism was not simply a result of the lack of democratic experience prior to
1918, but was encouraged and practised on a daily basis on the pages of political
newspapers.
There is a wonderfully poignant visualization of this symbiotic relationship
between journalists and politicans, of press and politics, in the Weimar Republic:
George Groszs painting Pillars of Society from 1926. On the left, one of the ve
depicted establishment gures is a journalist with Hugenbergs features. He carries
four Berlin newspapers under his arm: the nationalist Deutsche Zeitung, Mosses
tabloid 8-Uhr-Abendblatt, the Ullstein tabloid BZ am Mittag, and Hugenbergs
Berliner Lokal-Anzeiger. For Grosz, these were all part of one and the same reactionary establishment press. The headlines caricature their editorial policies: the
sensationalist 8-Uhr-Abendblatt sells a gruesome child murder; the blood-stained
capitalist Lokal-Anzeiger engages in its usual Communist-bashing (Tomorrows
Communist demonstrationsSufcient police protection). There are bloodstains, too, on the palm branch that the journalist is holding in his left hand,
a bitter iconographical twist to the traditional symbol of triumph and victory.
On his head, the journalist wears a chamber pot, decorated by an Iron Cross
in barely visible traces. This was meant as an allusion to the steel helmet worn
by German soldiers during the First World War, which by 1926 had come to
stand for right-wing reactionary politics as embodied in the veterans association,
Stahlhelm. In Groszs painting, the establishment journalist thus appears as an
anti-Communist ideological ghter. His pendant is the member of parliament,
leaning on the Reichstag, on the paintings right. Sporting the old imperial ag
(symbol for the right-wing DNVP) as well as an anti-Spartacus leaet from
191819 issued by the Social Democratic government, this politician embodies
the establishment parties dominating the Reichstag. The top of his head is cut
off, and allows us a view of his most important feature, his brain: a heap of
steaming excrements. Clearly, the contents of the journalists chamber pot had
been put to good use.
T H E DY N A M I C S O F P O L I T I C A L C O M M U N I C AT I O N
Paradoxically, newspapers wielded a considerable degree of inuence because,
like George Grosz, decision-makers strongly believed in the manipulative powers

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Press and Politics in the Weimar Republic

Fig. 7.1. George Grosz, Pillars of Society [Stutzen der Gesellschaft]. Oil on canvas, 1926,
200 108 cm; Nationalgalerie Berlin. The Estate of George Grosz, Princeton/New
Jersey, USA.

Conclusion

209

of the press. Published opinion thus acquired a political signicance which


was completely unrelated to its actual and immediate impact on the reading
population. Of course, historians are unable to measure with precision press
inuence on the population at large; for the last six decades, media scientists
have struggled to quantify the exact impact of any given media message on
a media consumer. While media scientists have poll data, focus groups, and
controlled experiments, historians rely on even more circumstantial material.
This study has primarily been based on the analysis of commentaries and news
coverage in contemporary newspapers, which provides us with an indication of
media resonance, as it shows how individual editors engaged with news reporting
found in different papers. Apart from newspapers, this study has drawn on
contemporaries memoirs, letters, and private papers. Most of these, however,
are from individual politicians or editors. Although they reect an intensive
preoccupation with press reporting, they cannot be taken to be representative of
the general population during the Weimar Republic. There is a distinct lack of
published sources for the everyday experience of ordinary Germans.
However, the years 191932 saw a multitude of electoral decisions, at
Reichstag, state, local, and presidential elections, as well as several major referenda.
As discussed in the preceding chapters, electoral recommendations by newspapers
and electoral decisions by individual voters were not linked in a clear and
unambiguous way. Especially towards the end of the 1920s and in the early
1930s, newspaper circulation and parliamentary representation seemed to be
entirely unrelated. Apparently readers had abandoned their belief in newspaper
content, as one editor observed in his memoirs, when the masses bought,
subscribed to and read liberal newspapers as before, but then voted absolutely
anti-liberal. However, just because contemporaries did not slavishly follow the
electoral recommendations of their newspapers, it would be too simplistic to
conclude that the press had no inuence on the wider population. Already in
1926, commenting on the revelation of Hugenbergs press concern, the left-wing
journal Weltbuhne emphasized that press inuence on public opinion was a very
circumstantial process. Newspapers do not make public opinion, they are not
in a position to do so. They can only win over the leaders, the spokespeople of
lobbying groups, and with those the group of those led.
Some thirty years after this observation, the communication scientists Paul
Lazarsfeld and Elihu Katz published a pioneering work on the importance of
interpersonal communication for the reception of political messages. According
to Katz and Lazarsfeld, peoples reactions to particular media messages were
signicantly shaped by the inuence of so-called opinion leaders. Media
messages, they claimed, trickled down through these opinion leaders, who used
the mass media more than the average person, had more social contacts, were
perceived by others to be inuential, andin the case of political issueshad a
higher social status. The two-step-ow model of Katz and Lazarsfeld is useful in
an analysis of Weimar Germanys political culture. Already prior to 1914, political

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Press and Politics in the Weimar Republic

discussions among workers were informed by newspaper-reading. As shown in


Chapter 4, citizens who were politically active on a local level used information
and arguments provided by their daily papers for their speeches at election rallies.
Recent literature on rural Germany has emphasized the political importance of
such opinion leaders within the social hierarchy of small communities, where
landowners, pastors, and schoolteachers had a disproportionate inuence on
political processes. In small provincial towns, too, the role of well-informed
opinion leaders mattered greatly. Once local leaders, enjoying respectability and
inuence, had been won over to Nazism, further converts often followed rapidly.
Such opinion leaders, who considered themselves political actors on a small
scale, probably consumed and viewed the press in a manner similar to that
of professional politicians, and were therefore equally susceptible to newspaper
inuence.
Factors such as social status, education, intensity of media consumption,
interpersonal communications, and group membership indicate that media
reception is, and was, a dynamic process taking place within a particular social
context. At the same time, this social context and the perception of the socially
and politically acceptable is itself inuenced by the media. According to one
leading communication theorist, peoples willingness to declare their political
convictions in public depends on their perception of the dominant public view.
For fear of social isolation, people tend to withhold their opinions if they perceive
them to contradict the majority view. Based on this hypothesis of silence, a more
vocal camp will generally appear to be stronger: Observations made in one
context spread to another and encouraged people either to proclaim their views
or to swallow them and keep quiet until, in a spiraling process, the one view
dominated the public scene and the other disappeared from public awareness
as its adherents became mute. Noelle-Neumann calls this dynamic the spiral
of silence. Within this process, the media play the deciding role: I have never
found a spiral of silence that goes against the tenor of the media. Often
challenged and partly disproved, Noelle-Neumanns spiral-of-silence theory is
still acclaimed as the major theory on public opinion in the communications
eld.
Within the fragmented and polarized context of the Weimar press, the
tenor of the media was not one clearly discernible entity, but existed in
countless different, contradictory, and mutually hostile communication networks.
Newspaper-readers in Angermunde perceived a completely different kind of
media tenor from those Berliners who primarily read Munzenbergs Communist
Welt am Abend. As the right-wing Angermunder Zeitung had no local competitors,
its news coverage remained essentially unchallenged, and quite possibly set in
motion a spiral of silence process among supporters of parliamentary democracy
in Angermunde. In Berlin, however, the Welt am Abend competed with many
other papers, not least by engaging in competitive polemics in an attempt to
undermine their credibility. Here, the press did not set in motion a spiral

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211

of silence. On the contrary, newspapers acted as ampliers of elite conicts,


magnifying and reinforcing existing political divisions. However, even in this
cacophony of contradictory press opinions, there was a certain amount of media
consonance. There was one topic on which all newspapers agreed, namely
the existence of political discord among the German population. The Social
Democrat Paul Lobe was convinced that the press played an active role in
nourishing this perception of conict: Whoever deplores the fateful dogmatism
and baleful divisions of our people and the spiteful manner of political contest,
always has to remember that one of the prime causes of this degeneration . . . is
the press.
Many contemporaries both perceived and deplored the political cleavages
which apparently divided German society. The present state of affairs was
compared unfavourably with the so-called spirit of 1914, the alleged national
unity at the outbreak of war. As recent research has shown, the August experience
and the later memories of the national community were themselves largely
products of a partisan media. They did, however, have a very real inuence on
contemporaries political expectations. Already in 1925, the Hindenburg election
showed the rallying potential of a mixture of above-party patriotism under one
Fuhrer. Within a substantial part of the population, the search for new political
foundations and new values resulted in a longing for a Volksgemeinschaft.
In Nazi propaganda, Volksgemeinschaft played a crucial role. Together with
the leadership principle, it made up the NSDAPs positive alternative to the
existing parliamentary system. As the only alternative to the KPD as an antiestablishment party, the Nazis were in a good position to benet from an
increasing political demand for patriotic unity from those protest voters who
searched for a radical party, but who abhorred the Marxist concept of class
struggle.

T H E W E I M A R R E P U B L I C I N T H E EY E S
OF THE BEHOLDER
Personal experience is crucial for the processing of information taken from
the media. However, in the case of parliamentary democracy in the Weimar
Republic, personal experience was the exception. The vast majority of people,
whether in Angermunde or Berlin, relied on newspapers for information on
German politics. This did not mean that they simply took media representations
for reality. They actively processed information, put it into the context of similar
cases, and connected it to previous events. Most of their experience of context and
previous events was received from the press, hence contemporaries interpreted
political news predominantly on the basis of previous press reports. These
interpretations led to personal conclusions and ideas, which again inuenced

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individuals readings of further events. Even those few journalists who were
sceptical about the direct political impact on readers were aware that they were
contributing to a continuous, dynamic process of opinion-formation: The reader
is induced to alter, to retouch the view of the world as it is presented by his
newspaper so long until it conforms to his own views . . . The reader is able . . . to
compare the image of world events and world affairs as reproduced by the
newspaper with the ideal image offered by the newspaper writer and to set against
this the world view produced by himself. Contemporaries did not adopt
certain convictions and beliefssuch as the ineffectiveness of parliamentary
democracybecause the press kept repeating such points. They arrived at
such conclusions themselves, on the basis of their own daily observations
of press reports, thereby forming their own opinion. In 1922, Ferdinand
Tonnies described this exchange between published and personal opinion in
his pioneering study of public opinion: The average newspaper reader wants
to nd his own opinion . . . expressed, claried, conrmed in his paper; in
order to be encouraged and strengthened in turn in his own opinion. This
was not just an academics opinion. In 1931, the chief editor of the right-wing
Deutsche Tageszeitung complained that a large part of the audience today does
not demand information from the newspaper, but conrmation of their own
opinion, sentiment, and cheap propaganda.
The press was therefore not in a position to manipulate its readership at will,
especially not when attempting to override existing convictions and assumptions.
Newspapers cannot . . . oppose abruptly a wide-spread opinion, because readers
would run away in droves and [thereby] strip the paper of its resonance, noted the
Weltbuhne already in 1926. However, it was convinced that newspapers did have
a crucial inuence: But newspapers can indeed redirect a peoples opinion,
[they] can pave the way for gradual change. One example of such a long-term
media inuence on the perception of political realities was the public standing of
the Republics judiciary. Most Germans did not come into conict with the law,
and were therefore not in a position to make a personal judgement on the proper
functioning of the legal system. However, since the publication of Ernst Gumbels
book Zwei Jahre Mord in 1921, the accusation that judges passed sentences on
the basis of their right-wing political preferences had become part of the public
domain. Contemporaries did not have to read the book themselves to learn
about its content, as it was widely quoted and discussed in, and partly decried by,
the press; Gumbel himself became a contributor to Munzenbergs Communist
Berlin am Morgen. Once the oodgates of criticism had been opened, newspaper
readers could pick and choose from a wide range of reports highlighting the
judiciarys failings. Contrary to what historical research into Weimars judiciary
would make us believe, such reports were not exclusively left wing in character.
The attempts by national and provincial governments to rectify obvious political
abuse of the judicial system, often at the urging of Social Democrats and
left-wing liberals, resulted in right-wing accusations of political interference

Conclusion

213

with the judiciarys independence, and found a literary equivalent to Gumbel


in Gottfried Zarnows Gefesselte Justiz in 1930. Goebbelss Angriff printed
numerous excerpts from it; other right-wing papers such as Hugenbergs Tag, the
Deutsche Allgemeine Zeitung, the Deutsche Tageszeitung, and the Kreuz-Zeitung
also devoted considerable coverage to it.
Everyone from the political Left to the political Right agreed on the existence
of a Justizkrise, noted an editor in 1927. This perception of crisis, however, was
much inuenced by the particular partisan press coverage of individual cases that
journalists claimed were representative of the general situation. As a recent study
has shown, political lawyers were fully aware of the propagandistic potential
offered by such partisan media attention, and used the courtroom routinely
as a stage for political demonstrations. Newspaper reports always included
references to trials of political opponents who had allegedly received minimal
sentences, enabling readers to draw their own conclusions. Large . . . sections
of the German people take the simple facts, that the Communist Mordbrenner
Holz is running around freely . . . while the front-gher Schulz, who has been
wounded sixty-four times in battle, is still serving his sentence, as evidence for
the complete moral corruption of judiciary and Republic, claimed the National
Socialist Wilhelm Frick. Fricks statement highlights the fact that projected
images did not necessarily have much grounding in reality; people were simply
not in a position to ascertain their veracity. Those historians analysing the Weimar
Republics judiciary all agree that National Socialists suffered least from German
judges. However, by news selection, contextualization, and repetitionor, in
the terminology of media science, gate-keeping, framing and primingthe press
offered a convincing image of a judiciary in crisis. The inevitable result was
that the legitimacy of the Weimar legal system, in the eyes of the population, was
severely undermined.
Another example, even more crucial for the fate of Weimar democracy, was
the mass-mediated threat of Communist violence. It is probable that readers
reception of the press portrayal of the May riots in 1929 was informed by
their views on the Spartacus uprising in 1919. Repeated news of alleged KPD
putsch plans recalled the same precedents, and were seemingly substantiated by
a plethora of reports on acts of violence by individual Communists. These were
not simply media inventions. In the space of three months in 1931, the police
and judiciary prosecuted over 2,000 incidents of political hooliganism by KPD
members. This was not just the result of the political priorities of police and
judiciary but also of the propagation of the armed struggle against fascism by
the KPD leadership. But the focus on Communist violence made it easy to
agree with Hugenbergs Nachtausgabe reading of particularly spectacular acts of
terror, such as the shooting of two police ofcers in Berlin in August 1931, as
planned preparations towards civil war, and helped to conrm the convictions
of all those who considered the Communists to be a far greater threat than the
National Socialists.

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The vast majority of Germans did not personally experience Communist


violence, as most incidents happened in bigger cities, and even here they
were concentrated in particular hot spots. Contemporaries perceptions of
Communist violence largely relied on press reports, as with the May riots in
1929. These, in turn, provided some of the context for Hitlers oath on the
legality of the Nazi movement at the Leipzig trial in September 1930. Among
political decision-makers, the contrast between the revolutionary appearance
of the KPD and the legal course of the NSDAP led to the conviction that
the Nazis were the lesser evil. Historians have since discovered that there was
little substance behind the KPDs media image of being a revolutionary threat.
In fact, the KPD was far from being in a position to stage a coup throughout
the late years of the Weimar Republic. However, even if only an imaginary
threat, it roused real fears among many contemporaries. This was not without
consequences. In the rst important report on the NSDAP to Washington,
the American diplomat Wiley noted that that party served its own interests by
magnifying the danger of large-scale Communist uprisings. Nazi propaganda
did not rely on abstract political concepts, but effectively exploited the existing
anxieties of newspaper-readers: just a few days before this diplomatic report was
written, many newspapers had carried news on Communist preparations for a
coup which the police had allegedly managed to prevent just in time. A vote
for the Nazis, Kershaw notes, could easily seem like common sense.
Newspaper readers in Weimar Germany suffered from an excess of partisan
information. Facts did not always help to form an objective picture of political
events, as one editor pointed out: At times of political high tension it often
appears to the reader who is not hard-nosed enough to read the truth between
the lines as if there were no established facts any longer. So diametrically opposed
are the accounts of the situation in the papers of the various [political] parties.
From 1931, truth seemed to become an obsolete concept altogether among
journalists. Even those contemporaries who read several newspapers at once in
order to gain an overview were left confused when faced with the rise of Nazism.
For us, who were reading newspapers which all contradicted each other, the
outcome of this election was as dreadful as it was incomprehensible, recalled the
writer Frank Thiess in April 1932. Others found it less difcult to deal with
contradictory reports. Elisabeth Gebensleben-von Alten, the wife of Brunswicks
deputy mayor, was an early supporter of National Socialism. She experienced
with enthusiasm the major Nazi rally in Brunswick in October 1931, at which
two workers were killed by members of the SA. She emphatically dismissed
reports on this incident printed by the local SPD organ, the Volksfreund,
and complained in a letter to her daughter: When I read this I think I
have lost my mind. That such lying should be possible! We have known for
a long time that the Social Democrats are untruthful, but this is now the
limit! Her own experience she found reected more accurately in her own
newspaper: It is right and truthful what the [Braunschweiger] Landeszeitung

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writes. All this helped her to assess other media messages: The speech by the
Chancellor [Bruning] has not made much of an impression on us nationalists.
After all we experience here the facts and know that the national idea is on the
march and is becoming ever stronger until its eventual triumph. And it is high
time, too, because we have just seen once more how much bolshevism has already
infected the people.
The difference between Thiess and Gebensleben-von Alten was that the latter
had adopted powerful concepts which helped to structure her perception of events
and politics. Contemporaries were only starting to realize the importance of such
concepts in mass politics. In 1922, the American Walter Lippmann published
his seminal work in which he identied emotionally loaded stereotypes as the
cornerstone of public opinion. German journalists were also beginning to
understand the process of stereotyping. Faced with a confusing abundance of
news which assails it every day, public opinion takes refuge by concentrating
certain judgements which it has passed once . . . into slogans, explained one
newspaper expert in 1927. Not surprisingly, such slogans became an inationary
phenomenon in the early 1930s. In every time of unrest, whether political or
economic, certain phrases appear, one contributor to Mosses 8-Uhr-Abendblatt
noted, [s]logans, which originate in newspapers, party ofces or the regulars
tables in pubs, [and] which spread like thick fog enshrouding and obscuring the
actual situation.
Media scientists have found that such slogans, or stereotypes, are essential for
the reduction and structuring of social complexities and prerequisites for communication and action. As today, in the Weimar Republic stereotypes were shaped
and spread primarily by the mass media. In co-operation with politicians, partisan
editors worked hard to offer simple labels for complex events. A scandal, for
example, only became a scandal because someone attached the label scandal to a
particular set of facts and managed to convince others to adopt the same term.
The terminology of Weimar scandal-mongering thus indicates the existence of a
right-wing tenor in the Weimar press. It is no coincidence that the affairs involving
Barmat and Sklarek were generally labelled scandals, while the Ruhr funds,
events in the Landespfandbriefanstalt bank, or the embezzlement of Osthilfe funds
were scandals only in the left-wing press. Barmat and Sklarek joined and reinforced existing press products such as Dolchsto, Novembermord and Novemberrepublik, Parteibonze and System. Such labels personalized and dramatized
politics. They were not, as is sometimes assumed, inventions of Nazi propaganda.
For years, they had been part of a right-wing vocabulary which had gained credibility through partisan press coverage, and which had been spread by the media.
By spring 1929, the Justizkrise had been joined by a Krise des Parlamentarismus, which further contributed to the Republics loss of legitimacy. In itself,
however, this would not have sufced to sound the death-knell of parliamentary democracy in Germany. Recent research into the German phenomenon
of Politikverdrossenheit, or political dissatisfaction, has highlighted that there

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is normally a gulf between the actual living circumstances of individuals and


their perceptions of the effectiveness of state and politics. The divide between
an individuals own, relatively secure, position and his pessimistic vision of the
world about him means that such views tend to remain without consequence;
they lack the impetus provided by self-interest and true personal concern. In a
situation in which individuals are personally affected by developments, support
for the political status quo is swiftly eroded. From 1929, the crisis of the
German economy that affected millions of voters supplied such a catalyst. The
overall impression provided by the press was that of a time of crisis. Readers
were likely to accept this when they found corroborative indications of it in
their own daily experience. In early 1931, Victor Klemperer noted in his diary:
Everywhere, in the newspaper, in ones own experiences, . . . the gloomy threat
of the general situation. With the deterioration of contemporaries economic circumstances, individual perceptions of the state and personal experience
of its shortcomings often fused and convinced many Germans to turn their
anti-democratic convictions into a vote against democracy.
S A L E S M E N O F I D E O LO G Y
In May 1925, Reich Chancellor Hans Luther addressed the annual conference
of the German Press Association, and proclaimed: The German press is a
Weltanschauungspresse, and it is proud of it. The drawback of partisanship,
Luther admitted, was the tendency to create small communities of faithful
readers who allegedly believed everything the paper printed. To counter the
danger of one-sided information, he suggested one should read two or three
newspapers in parallel. In fact, he admitted, the German press would benet
from more objectivity. On the whole, however, the Reich chancellor was satised
with the status quo, and described the relationship between government and the
German press as a happy marriage without the possibility of divorce. A year
later, he had to resign after a vote of no condence in the Reichstag triggered by
an energetic campaign by pro-republican newspapers attacking his ag decree,
which allegedly undermined the Republics colours, black, red, and gold. It
was not a case of a happy marriage suddenly turned sour. Rather, ideology and
partisanship in the German press meant that those in power had to face a varying
degree of published hostility.
Not only during the crisis years of the Weimar Republic but right from its
revolutionary inception and throughout its allegedly golden years, press polemic
abounded. Observers claimed that never before in the history of the German
press had it been so bad. The Social Democrat Paul Lobe, president of the
Reichstag, deplored the lack of objectivity and warned of the consequences of
partisan polemics: The overwhelming majority [of newspaper readers] . . . has
to take note on a daily basis that those with a different political attitude are

Conclusion

217

usually ignorants, more often dimwits or fools, sometimes even a scoundrel


who is consciously working towards the demise of his own people. Germans
were aware of an alternative style of journalism, that of the Anglo-American
press, with its perceived emphasis on objectivity, facts, and titillating sensations.
This alternative, however, was dismissed as a policy informed by commercialism
and, hence, insufciently political. Objective, factual reporting was anathema,
argued one editor in a book on newspapers: News which present events in such
an unclouded and unbiased fashion are only suitable for academic treatments.
Newspapers can neither use them nor do they need them. Although deploring
the effects of a partisan press, German politicians largely agreed that a thoroughly
objective press was undesirable as it was thought it would be too boring.
There was a widespread consensus that the press must be politicized in order to
full its function in society.
Obviously, objectivity and partisanship are two mutually exclusive concepts.
However, contemporaries seemed convinced that they could be reconciled, by
appealing to journalists sense of responsibility and decency. These pleas were
bound to fall on deaf ears in times of political controversy, when readers could
generally not trust the information provided by their papers. What they were
offered, in the words of a former editor of the liberal Berliner Tageblatt, was
moulded truth. As one Hugenberg editor explained, the term lie, with
its moral implications, was not appropriate: If the objective is an honest and
good one, the distortion of a fact has to be accepted for marketing purposes.
Recriminations in the press, however, always aimed at the moral condemnation
of the opposite camp. The left-wing press . . . remains true to its method of
lying and falsifying and of obfuscating the true facts of the case, was the typical
complaint of a right-wing editor during the Magdeburg trial in 1924. It was
always the others who got it wrong: Communist papers attacked the bourgeois
press for lying; Goebbels castigated the Jewish-Marxist press; liberal and SPD
papers denounced the Rechtspresse. These accusations do not only indicate the
lack of reliability in news reporting in this period. They also highlight the
structure of political cleavages in the German press.
The label Linkspresse used by the right-wing press to denigrate an imaginary
collective of liberal and left-wing newspapers was not without an element of
truth. Political cleavages were indeed apparent in the careers of various Berlin
editors. Left-wing intellectuals changed swiftly between liberal, left-wing, and
Munzenbergs Communist newspapers, but never worked for right-wing papers.
Kurt Tucholsky, for example, wrote for both the Ullstein and the Communist
Munzenberg publishing house. Ullstein also recognized the talents of Franz
Hollering, editor of Munzenbergs successful Arbeiter Illustrierte Zeitung, and
poached him. He became chief editor of Ullsteins BZ am Mittag in 1930,
only to be red in December 1931 to appease the Reich government. Another
prominent left-wing Ullstein editor sacked in 1931, the lm reviewer Heinz
Pol, joined Munzenbergs Welt am Abend in 1932. In the early 1920s, Carl von

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Ossietzky was an editor at Mosses Berliner Volks-Zeitung before moving on to


the left-wing weekly journal Weltbuhne. Kurt Caro, who had left the Welt am
Abend in May 1929 in protest over KPD interference, became Otto Nuschkes
successor at Mosses Berliner Volks-Zeitung. One of the Republics best-known
cartoonists, Ludwig Wronkow, recalled the nancial advantages of being a leftliberal journalist in those years: After the Berliner Volks-Zeitung had printed one
of my cartoons, Id run over to Munzenberg and sell it to him [too].
Within the Rechtspresse, too, journalists felt that they belonged to a wider
political family. Many Hugenberg editors had a military background, useful
conservative patrons and connections, or had worked for lesser right-wing newspapers before joining the Scherl company. One of Hugenbergs star polemicists,
Adolf Stein, had been poached from the industrialist Hugo Stinness Tagliche
Rundschau in the early 1920s. When Goebbels started publishing his Angriff
in 1927, he employed Julius Lippert as chief editor, who had previously worked
for the volkisch Deutsches Tageblatt. These interchanges were possible because
of a general political consensus which existed in right-wing editorial ofces,
a shared Weltanschauung. According to Tucholsky, all editorial ofces were
staffed through a system of self-selection: Whoever joins the editorial staff of
the Deutsche Allgemeine Zeitung knows in advance what is awaiting him there;
he would not apply in the rst place if he did not agree with the principles
of the politics which are promoted there. The same was true of Hugenbergs editorial staff. A person, a Social Democrat, who could have worked for
Vorwarts, would not have felt comfortable, explained one editor of Hugenbergs
Nachtausgabe. Only Mosses Berliner Tageblatt, Germanys most prestigious
newspaper, proved attractive beyond political convictions. Even Goebbels applied
for a position on the paper before his political career took off. Nor was he the
only one; in 1927, Theodor Wolff claimed that he was receiving numerous
applications from members of Hugenbergs staff. Generally, however, there
existed a clear and unbridgeable political division between left- and right-wing
editorial staff.
G OV E R N I N G T H E P R E S S
The Weltanschauung basis of journalism was, in fact, at the core of a structural
crisis of the German media system. Reaching a wider reading public through
the fragmented and partisan German press proved very difcult for Weimar
politicians, who became increasingly frustrated by the omissions, distortions,
and polemics that dogged their efforts and decried their achievements. As a
consequence, they soon discovered the advantages of a new communication
technology, radio broadcasting. This offered the advantages of state control
and, despite a regional set-up, an attractive degree of centralization. The rst
indication of the growing importance of radio broadcasting for state propaganda

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219

came in October 1929, when the SPD-led Reich government took to the
airwaves in an attempt to counter the press campaign unleashed by Hugenberg.
Bruning and Groener, too, tried to address the nation directly through the
new medium on several occasions. Tellingly, Papens government declaration
in early June 1932 was the rst not to be delivered in the Reichstag but
through radio; later that year, speeches by Papen were broadcast by all German
radio stations after his Prussia coup, at the occasion of the dissolution of the
Reichstag in September, and prior to the Reichstag elections of November.
However, the effectiveness of such broadcasts was still limited. Of over sixtytwo million Germans, only three to four million listeners were registered
between 1929 and 1932. In order fully to exploit the propagandistic potential
of radio after 1933, the Nazis had to promote cheap receivers, the so-called
Volksempfanger, and not until 1939 did 70 per cent of German homes have
a radio. Also, even more than in the case of the press, audiences used the new
medium primarily for entertainment, and particularly disliked to be troubled
by lectures or speeches of any kind. We newspaper people . . . know a thing
or two about the little interest of audiences for the speeches of our peoples
tribunes, commented a journalist on the suggestion of regularly broadcasting
parliamentary debates in early 1929. For politicians, the public proved an
elusive audience.
The dysfunctional relationship between the press and politics was also evident
in the numerous efforts by politicians to curtail press freedom. Of course, the
history of the media has always been the history of state attempts to control the
media, too, and restrictions on the freedom of the press during the Weimar years
were in many ways the latest manifestations of a long German tradition of state
censorship and media manipulation. But the so-called Republikschutzgesetz,
the Law for the Protection of the Republic, was of a different nature. With
it, democrats tried to protect themselves from the worst excesses of press
polemics which had created the climate in which the murders of Erzberger
and Rathenau had taken place. No other Western liberal democracy in this
period witnessed this joining of democratic forces, from Socialists to Liberals,
intended to pass a law curtailing press freedom. This pro-republican legislation,
however, proved ineffective. While opening the door to the persecution of the
Communist press, the Republics conservative judiciary rarely handed out harsh
sentences against the right-wing press. Over 200 libel suits led by Friedrich
Ebert showed that many editors considered going to trial a calculable risk.
Also, radical papers often appointed members of parliament as their managing
editors to benet from their immunity. Even when immunity was lifted after
a cumbersome process, managing editors rarely had to spend time in prison.
As press insults were considered political offences, each of the many political
amnesties helped radical editors to get off the hook. As Goebbels demonstrated,
delaying proceedings and waiting to be elected into a new parliament with

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renewed immunity was often all that was needed to escape any punishment
whatsoever.
The predominance of right-wing and anti-SPD bourgeois papers meant that
Social Democratic governments in particular were faced with a hostile press.
Social Democrats were convinced that their party suffered from negative press
coverage, and therefore made various attempts to ght back. Prior to the
Reichstag elections in 1928, the Prussian government took action against some
anti-republican Kreisblatter. These local district dailies depended largely on
the income generated through the publication of district and local authorities
news and decrees. By withdrawing the status of a semi-ofcial publication, the
government could cause the nancial ruin of these papers. Faced with the vicious
press campaign against the Young Plan in 1929, the SPD Reich government
issued a decree stipulating that ofcial announcements and advertisements
would only be published in newspapers which did not denigrate the politics of
government and government members in an unobjective and spiteful manner.
Hugenbergs Scherl publishing house was severely affected by this decision. In a
time of collapsing advertising revenues due to economic recession, the Berliner
Lokal-Anzeiger lost an estimated additional RM 400,000 in 1930 because of the
withdrawal of ofcial announcements.
However, neither nancial nor judicial measures really had much effect on
editorial policies and press polemics. By the early 1930s, after years of exposure
to ubiquitous polemics, democratic politicians had become sceptical about the
freedom of the press. The SPD prime minister of Prussia, Otto Braun, thought
it had developed into a freedom for lying and slander and the most poisonous
weapon against democracy. It is therefore not surprising that Social Democrats
joined forces with Bruning in 1931 to curtail press freedom further. Even liberal
newspapers recognized the governments justication for acting against the press.
In order to protect itself effectively against lies and slander, the state has to
be allowed to compromise basic rights, like the freedom of the press, stated
Mosses Berliner Tageblatt in July 1931. At the same time, it recognized
that Germany was going down a dangerous road. It estimated that up to 100
newspapers were banned per month in the whole of Germany. The method of
systematic newspaper bans, it pointed out, was the same used in dictatorships in
Italy and the Soviet Union. Unease with the governments growing power over
the press increased in the wake of Brunings second emergency decree against
excesses in the press in the wake of the banking crisis of summer 1931. Liberals
realized that the decree was aimed against the radical press, but there was no
guarantee that the legislation could not be used against democratic newspapers,
too. Mosses Berliner Tageblatt proclaimed the end of freedom.
Democrats faced the dilemma that once they had acknowledged that the
partisan nature of the press necessitated brakes on the freedom of opinion, there
was little they could do to prevent an increasingly authoritarian use of these press
controls. In August 1931, when the Social Democratic Prussian government

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221

under Otto Braun applied the new press emergency decree to ght the extremist
referendum calling for the dissolution of the Prussian parliament, the decree was
changed immediately by the Bruning government. Lander authorities were now
only allowed to enforce announcements in agreement with the Reich interior
minister. Two months later, another emergency decree threatened journalists
with prosecution for high treason if they revealed condential government
plans. In November 1931, the prison sentence against Carl von Ossietzky, chief
editor of the left-wing Weltbuhne, signalled that even die-hard democrats now
had to be careful about what they wrote. According to one liberal journalist,
from autumn 1931 Germany featured a wholesale press persecution and press
suppression law. Under the Papen government, state prosecution of the
press reached a preliminary climax. Tools designed to reign in the radical press
were now increasingly used against democratic newspapers, too. One of the
rst acts of the new Reich government under von Papen was to suppress the
SPD party organ Vorwarts for a caricature criticizing the lifting of the SA
ban. Other prominent vicitims were left-liberal mass papers critical of Nazism.
Mosses Berliner Volks-Zeitung was proscribed twice, in July and in September
1932. Mosses 8-Uhr-Abendblatt was forbidden for a caricature showing Papen
being asked by his wife at dinner what emergency decrees he had issued that
day. From 30 January 1933, Hitlers government simply expanded a wellestablished government practice. The Communist Rote Fahne, which had called
for a general strike on 31 January, was immediately banned; three days later,
Vorwarts was suppressed for exhorting its readers to defend their rights as
citizens.
By this stage, such bans were no longer considered a political novelty, but a
continuation of authoritarian press politics. However, the new government soon
began to prepare legislation to resolve, once and for all, the problems caused
by the partisan press. Hitlers and Goebbelss annoyance about the increasingly
impertinent tone of the Jewish gutter press led to the emergency decree For
the Protection of the German People of 4 February 1933. It permitted bans
for incorrect news; Nazi Reich interior minister Frick decided on what was
considered incorrect. Now we also have a lever against the press, Goebbels
gloated in his diary, and now bans will pop like crazy. Vorwarts and 8-UhrAbendblatt, all those Jewish organs which caused us so much trouble and grief,
will disappear all at once from the streets of Berlin. Indeed, apart from the
KPD and SPD organs, Mosses 8-Uhr-Abendblatt and Ullsteins Tempo were
banned for several days in February 1933. The free space for the media in
Germany was nally liquidated by the Nazi version of the Republikschutzgesetz,
the decree For the Protection of People and State of 28 February 1933, issued
immediately after the Reichstag re. Vorwarts and Rote Fahne were not to appear
again. Just prior to the nal democratic Reichstag elections of 5 March 1933,
editors all over Germany knew that their papers could be banned at the whim of
a government ofcial.

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C O N S E QU E N C E S
The extinction of press freedom in Germany in the early 1930s has to be seen as
the result of an endogenous crisis of a political-media system; a crisis which had
smouldered ever since the revolutionary establishment of the Weimar Republic.
As the preceding chapters have demonstrated, the dysfunctional relationship
between press and politics played a crucial role in the undermining of the
political legitimacy of parliamentary democracy, in bringing about Hitler, and
with Hitler the end of press freedom. But with or without Hitler, any government
in charge after 1933 would have had to address the structural crisis of German
Weltanschauung journalism. Ultimately, this crisis was solved only through the
Allied occupation forces after 1945. Not only did they eliminate all branches of
the Nazi communication system but also all miserable remnants of the traditional
German press. There was widespread consensus on the the signicance of this
tabula rasa for a policy of democratization and reorientation; media policy
became one of the central themes of occupation policies. The resulting structural
transformation of the German press was so fundamental, thatcontrary to most
of the recent research emphasizing lines of continuity between the Third Reich
and the Federal Republicit is indeed possible to be describing the post-1945
situation as the hour zero of the press.
The adage has it that newspapers provide the rst draft of history. Indeed,
some of the confusion and conict evident in the Weimar press has trickled down
into historians accounts of the Weimar Republic. Wessel, for example, was not a
pimp; his murderer really was a member of the KPD. News was the result of a
complex process of partisan selection, interpretation, and presentation within
a media context of competing and mutually hostile communication networks.
Historians can compensate for this partisanship by the time-consuming effort
of collecting, comparing, and analysing material from a wide range of different
sources, to extract historical evidence which holds up to objective examination.
Contemporaries, however, mainly had to make do with one source on a day-today basis, despite numerous calls from political experts that everyone ought to
be reading at least two papers for a balanced overview. This does not mean
that historical facts and events are of no relevance, on the contrary. The fact that
Wessel was, indeed, murdered by a Communist allowed Goebbels to turn him
into a party martyr, whilst the name Kutemeyer fell into oblivion. The Weimar
judiciary was particularly right wing; there were several cases of corruption;
there were, indeed, twenty different Reich governments between February 1919
and January 1933. Events matter as they constitute the starting-point for the
process of story-building in the media. However, historians always need to
remind themselves that contemporaries in Weimar Germany perceived these
events through the prism of a partisan press. It may be, as Rosenhaft has declared

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in her analysis of Communist violence, that spontaneous risings are more the
stuff of politicians fantasies than of historical reality. However, as Lippmann
had pointed out as early as 1922, only our assumptions about reality count.
Politicians fantasies had very real political consequences, as did contemporaries
perception of the political legitimacy of the Weimar Republic.
The tradition of partisan reporting in Germany contributed signicantly
to the polarization of Weimar society and the escalation of political conict.
Conventional explanations of the fate of the Weimar Republic have focused on
its deciencies in terms of an anti-republican army, judiciary, bureaucracy, and
industry. These groups had greatly differing aims and ambitions, but they were
bound together by their concurrent consumption of right-wing press narratives
denigrating the achievements of parliamentary democracy. The partisan daily
press was the key to the construction of this imagined community, and was crucial
in sustaining and intensifying the ideological politics of this period. For lack
of material evidence, historians have long tended to underestimate the impact
of such media consumption on popular perceptions. Historical facts, however,
were open to various interpretations already at the time at which they occurred.
Conicting accounts of events left their marks. Did Erzberger sacrice German
national interests? Was Ebert guilty of high treason; was the German army
stabbed in the back? Were the Barmat and Sklarek scandals evidence of Social
Democratic corruption? As with the Reichstag re of February 1933, various
readings of each event were offered and developed, and supported contradictory
interpretations. One should not confuse the historians duty to ascertain facts
with his ability to construct a denitive account of events which contemporaries
would have accepted. Especially in a polarized society such as Weimar Germany,
perceptions of what had apparently happened were often more important than
what had really happened.
However, it would be wrong to mistake the existence of an ideology-based,
partisan press as being specically German: despite its difference from the
Anglo-American press, the Weimar press did not go down a journalistic German
Sonderweg. In the 1930s, during the Spanish Civil War, George Orwell had
similar experiences with the press: [I]n Spain . . . I saw newspaper reports which
did not bear any relation to the facts, not even the relationship which is implied
in an ordinary lie. I saw great battles reported where there had been no ghting,
and complete silence where hundreds of men had been killed. I saw troops
who had fought bravely denounced as cowards and traitors, and others who
had never seen a shot red hailed as the heroes of imaginary victories; and I
saw newspapers in London retailing these lies and eager intellectuals building
emotional superstructures over events that had never happened. In a time
of extreme political polarization, partisan news reporting is the rule, not the
exception. The comment that truth becomes the rst casualty in times of war
has now attained the status of a cliche, substantiated by numerous studies.
The Spanish experience left Orwell greatly troubled, because it gave him the

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feeling that the very concept of objective truth was fading out of the world, with
consequences not just for the present but also for the future: I saw . . . history
being written not in terms of what happened but of what ought to have happened
according to various party lines . It was the tragedy of the Weimar Republic
that it was never able to break out of this vicious circle of partisan press reporting
and ideological conict.

Notes
I N T RO D U C T I O N
1. Oswald Spengler, Der Untergang des Abendlandes (Munich, 1922), ii. 57981.
2. For the origins of the term fourth estate, see Oxford English Dictionary (Oxford,
2nd edn. 1989), v. 407; and Frank Bosch, Volkstribune und Intellektuelle: W. T.
Stead, Maximiliam Harden und die Transformation des politischen Journalismus
in Deutschland und Grossbritannien, in Clemens Zimmermann (ed.), Politischer

Journalismus, Offentlichkeiten
und Medien im 19. und 20. Jahrhundert (Ostldern,
2006), 1002.
3. See Jurgen Falter and Michael Kater, Wahler und Mitglieder der NSDAP. Neue
Forschungsergebnisse zur Soziographie des Nationalsozialismus 1925 bis 1933,
GG, 19 (1993), 15577; Richard F. Hamilton, Who Voted for Hitler? (Princeton,
NJ, 1982); Jurgen Falter, Hitlers Wahler (Munich, 1991), 32739, 374.
4. See John A. Leopold, Alfred Hugenberg. The Radical Nationalist Campaign against
the Weimar Republic (New Haven, 1977), 60. For typical accounts emphasizing the
importance of Hugenbergs press support, see Erich Eyck, Geschichte der Weimarer
Republik (Zurich, 1962), i. 279, 350; Anthony Nicholls, Weimar and the Rise
of Hitler (London, 1991 edn.), 114; Ian Kershaw, Hitler. 18891936: Hubris
(London, 1998), 350.
5. Modris Eksteins, The Limits of Reason: The German Democratic Press and the Collapse
of Weimar Democracy (Oxford, 1975), 192, 314.
6. Otto Groth, Die Zeitung. Ein System der Zeitungskunde (Mannheim, 1928), i. 207.
7. For an overview, see Karl Christian Fuhrer, Neue Literatur zur Geschichte der
modernen Massenmedien Film, Horfunk und Fernsehen, Neue Politische Literatur,
46 (2001), 21643; idem, Auf dem Weg zur Massenkultur? Kino und Rundfunk
in der Weimarer Republik, Historische Zeitschrift, 262 (1996), 73981.
8. Karl Christian Fuhrer, A Medium of Modernity? Broadcasting in Weimar Germany, 19231932, Journal of Modern History, 69 (1997), 731.
9. Newspaper circulation calculated to be 25 million for 1932 in Eberhard Georgii,
Zur Statistik der deutschen Zeitungen, in Handbuch der deutschen Tagespresse
(Berlin, 1932), 20; estimated at over 20 million for 1931, in Hans Kapnger, Die
Struktur der katholischen Presse, in Johann W. Naumann (ed.), Die Presse und der
Katholik (Augsburg, 1932), 218. For a critique of these, see Karl Christian Fuhrer,
Die Tageszeitung als wichtigstes Massenmedium der nationalsozialistischen Gesellschaft, Zeitschrift fur Geschichtswissenschaft, 55 (2007), 41134, here 41315.
10. For 352 million cinema ticktes sold in 1929, see Fuhrer, Auf dem Weg zur
Massenkultur?, 7467.
11. See Fuhrer, Tageszeitung.
12. Max Weber, Geschaftsbericht, in Deutsche Gesellschaft fur Soziologie, Verhandlungen des Ersten Deutschen Soziologentages vom 19.22. Oktober 1910 in Frankfurt
am Main ( Tubingen, 1910), 3962.

226

Notes to pages 45

13. See Rudiger vom Bruch, Zeitungskunde und Soziologie. Zur Entwicklungsgeschichte der beiden Disziplinen, in Manfred Bobrowsky and Wolfgang Langenbucher (eds.), Wege zur Kommunikationsgeschichte (Munich, 1987), 13850;
Stefanie Averbeck, Kommunikation als Prozess. Soziologische Perspektiven in der
Zeitungswissenschaft 19271934 (Munster, 1999), 46.
14. Otto Groth, Die Zeitung. Ein System der Zeitungskunde, 4 vols. (Mannheim,
19281930).
15. The recent adoption of the label communication science by many institutes formerly operating under the name Publizistikwissenschaft underscores this
self-understanding as a social science. On the distinction, see Gerhard Malet
zke, Kommunikationswissenschaft im Uberblick:
Grundlagen, Probleme, Perspektiven
(Opladen, 1998), 212.
16. Typical in this respect are the sweeping surveys of several centuries of press
development with handbook character, like Heinz-Dietrich Fischer (ed.), Deutsche
Zeitungen des 17. bis 20. Jahrhunderts (Pullach and Munich, 1972); Heinz-Dietrich
Fischer (ed.), Handbuch der politischen Presse 14801980 (Dusseldorf, 1981);
Jurgen Wilke, Grundzuge der Medien- und Kommunikationsgeschichte: von den
Anfangen bis ins 20. Jahrhundert (Cologne, 2000). Cf. Kurt Koszyk, Kommunikationsgeschichte als Sozialgeschichte, in Max Kaase and Winfried Schulz (eds.),
Massenkommunikation. Theorien, Methoden, Befunde (Opladen, 1989), 4656.
17. Kurt Koszyk, Anfange und fruhe Entwicklung der sozialdemokratischen Presse
im Ruhrgebiet 18751908 (Dortmund, 1953); idem, Zwischen Kaiserreich und
Diktatur. Die sozialdemokratische Presse von 1914 bis 1933 (Heidelberg, 1958);
idem, Deutsche Presse im 19. Jahrhundert. Geschichte der deutschen Presse Teil II (Berlin, 1966); idem, Deutsche Pressepolitik im Ersten Weltkrieg (Dusseldorf, 1968); idem,
Deutsche Presse 19141945. Geschichte der deutschen Presse Teil III (Berlin, 1972).
18. Dankwart Guratzsch, Macht durch Organisation. Die Grundlegung des Hugenbergschen Presseimperiums (Dusseldorf, 1974); John A. Leopold, Alfred Hugenberg: The Radical Nationalist Campaign against the Weimar Republic (London,
1977); Heidrun Holzbach, Das System Hugenberg. Die Organisation burgerlicher
Sammlungspolitik vor dem Aufstieg der NSDAP (Stuttgart, 1981); Klaus Wernecke and Peter Heller, Der vergessene Fuhrer Alfred Hugenberg. Pressemacht und
Nationalsozialismus (Hamburg, 1982).
19. See Nachlass Georg Bernhard, in Bundesarchiv Berlin-Lichterfelde (BArchL),
N2020 Bernhard, Nr.22, ff. 18, 22, 25; and Eksteins, Limits of Reason, 117.
20. Eksteins, Limits of Reason, 2246. The diaries of Ernst Feder, one of the political
editors of Mosses Berliner Tageblatt, provide a good chronicle of these tensions: Ernst Feder, Heute sprach ich mit . . . Tagebucher eines Berliner Publizisten
19261932 (Stuttgart, 1971).
21. Bernd Sosemann, Das Ende der Weimarer Republik in der Kritik demokratischer
Publizisten. Theodor Wolff, Ernst Feder, Julius Elbau, Leopold Schwarzschild (Berlin,
1976); Bernd Sosemann, Theodor Wolff: Tagebucher 19141919 (Berlin, 1984);
Bernd Sosemann, Theodor Wolff: Ein Leben mit der Zeitung (Berlin, 2001).
22. Eksteins, Limits of Reason.

23. Matthias Lau, Pressepolitik als Chance. Staatliche Offentlichkeitsarbeit


in den Landern
der Weimarer Republik (Wiesbaden, 2003).

Notes to pages 57

227

24. Paul Hoser, Die politischen, wirtschaftlichen und sozialen Hintergrunde der Munchener
Tagespresse zwischen 1914 und 1934. Methoden der Pressebeeinussung, 2 vols.
(Frankfurt am Main, 1990); Michael Meyen, Leipzigs burgerliche Presse in der
Weimarer Republik. Wechselbeziehungen zwischen gesellschaftlichem Wandel und
Zeitungsentwicklung (Leipzig, 1996); Gerd Meier, Zwischen Milieu und Markt.
Tageszeitung in Ostwestfalen 19201970 (Paderborn, 1999).
25. Peter de Mendelssohn, Zeitungsstadt Berlin. Menschen und Machte in der Geschichte
der deutschen Presse (Berlin, 1959).
26. Peter Fritzsche, Reading Berlin 1900 (Cambridge, Mass., 1996).
27. Mendelssohn, Zeitungsstadt Berlin, 9.
28. Eksteins, Limits of Reason, p. vii. For typical studies of press coverage, see Florian Stadel, Die letzten freien Reichstagswahlen 1930/32 im Spiegel der deutschen
Presse (Aachen, 1997); Kaaren Moores, Presse und Meinungsklima in der Weimarer
Republik. Eine publizistikwissenschaftliche Untersuchung (Mainz, 1997); Heiko Harald Doscher, Hitlers Marsch in das Bewutsein des Wahlers: die Rolle der Zeitung
(1932/33). Heimatpresse im Markischen Sauerland 1932/33 als Quelle fur den zeitgenossischen Zeitungsleser am Beispiel der Lokalzeitung Allgemeiner Anzeiger und
Halversche Zeitung in Halver, Provinz Westfalen, Deutschland. Rekonstruktion eines
zeitungswisschenschaftlich, zeitungskundlich und praxisbedingten Erkenntnisprozesses
(Frankfurt am Main, 1996); Martina Pietsch, Zwischen Verachtung und Verehrung:
Marschall Josef Pilsudski im Spiegel der deutschen Presse 19261935 (Weimar, 1995);
Burkhard Asmuss, Republik ohne Chance? Akzeptanz und Legitimation der Weimarer
Republik in der deutschen Tagespresse zwischen 1918 und 1923 (Berlin, 1994); Peter
Schumann, Die deutschen Historikertage von 1893 bis 1937: die Geschichte einer
fachhistorischen Institution im Spiegel der Presse (Gottingen, 1975).
29. Letter Rickert to Hugenberg, 30 June 1925, in Bundearchiv Koblenz (BArchK),
N1231 Hugenberg, Nr. 25, f. 319.
30. Guratzsch, Macht durch Organisation, 342.
31. Cf. Meyen, Leipzigs burgerliche Presse, 201.
32. Fritzsche, Reading Berlin 1900, 1618; Bernhard Fulda, Industries of Sensationalism: German Tabloids in the Interwar Period, in Corey Ross and Karl Christian
Fuhrer (eds.), Mass Media, Culture and Society in Twentieth-Century Germany
(Manchester, 2006), 1889.
33. Rudolf Stober, Die erfolgsverfuhrte Nation. Deutschlands offentliche Stimmungen
18661945 (Stuttgart, 1998), 227, 269; Richard J. Evans (ed.), Kneipengesprache
im Kaiserreich. Stimmungsberichte der Hamburger Politischen Polizei 18921914
(Hamburg, 1989), 30; Philipp Muller, Auf der Suche nach dem Tater. Die offentliche
Dramatisierung von Verbrechen im Berlin des Kaiserreichs (Frankfurt, 2005), 31617.
For a highly informative analysis of newspaper reception based on pub conversations
in Wilhelmine Germany, see Frank Bosch, Zeitungsberichte im Alltagsgesprach:
Mediennutzung, Medienwirkung und Kommunikation im Kaiserreich, Publizistik,
49 (2004), 31936.
34. See Wilhelm Mommsen, Die Zeitung als historische Quelle, in Emil Dovifat (ed.), Beitrage zur Zeitungswissenschaft. Festgabe fur Karl dEster zum
70. Geburtstag (Munster, 1952), 16572; Hans Bohrmann, Methodenprobleme einer Kommunikationsgeschichtsschreibung, in Bobrowsky, Wege zur
Kommunikationsgeschichte, 448; Asmuss, Republik ohne Chance?, 1822.

228

Notes to pages 79

35. Harold D. Lasswell, Nathan Leites, et al., Language of Politics: Studies in Quantitative
Semantics (New York, 1949). Cf. Hansjorg Bessler, Aussagenanalyse. Die Messung
von Einstellungen im Text der Aussagen von Massenmedien (Bielefeld, 1970), 39.

36. Cf. Siegfried Kracauer, Fur eine qualitative Inhaltsanalyse, Asthetik


und Kommunikation, 7 (1972), 538.
37. e.g. Ian Budge, Hans-Dieter Klingemann, et al., Mapping Policy Preferences. Estimates
for Parties, Electors and Governments 19451998 (Oxford, 2001).
38. For a cogent critique of this study, see Anne Schmidt on Bernhard Rosenberger,
Zeitungen als Kriegstreiber? Die Rolle der Presse im Vorfeld des Ersten Weltkrieges
(Cologne, 1998), in H-Soz-u-Kult 06.04.1999.
39. Jeffrey Verhey, The Spirit of 1914: Militarism, Myth and Mobilization in Germany
(Cambridge, 2000).
40. Cf. Frank Bosch, Katalysator der Demokratisierung? Presse, Politik und Gesellschaft vor 1914, in Frank Bosch, and Norbert Frei (eds.), Medialisierung und
Demokratie im 20. Jahrhundert (Gottingen, 2006), 2547; idem, Volkstribune
und Intellektuelle; idem, Krupps Kornwalzer: Formen und Wahrnehmungen
von Korruption im Kaiserreich, Historische Zeitschrift, 281 (2005), 33779; idem,
Das Private wird politisch: Die Sexualitat des Politikers und die Massenmedien
des ausgehenden 19. Jahrhunderts, Zeitschrift fur Geschichtswissenschaft, 52 (2004),
781801; idem, Historische Skandalforschung als Schnittstelle zwischen Medien-,
Kommunikations- und Geschichtswissenschaft, in Fabio Crivellari (ed.), Die
Medien der Geschichte: Historizitat und Medialitat in interdisziplinarer Perspektive
(Konstanz, 2004), 44564.
41. Muller, Auf der Suche nach dem Tater.
42. See Fritzsche, Reading Berlin 1900, 1.
43. The notion that communication systems shape events has also been advanced for
the origins of the French Revolution, see Robert Darnton, An Early Information
Society: News and the Media in Eighteenth-Century Paris, American Historical
Review, 105:1 (2000), 117.
44. Cf. Elisabeth Noelle-Neumann, Wirkung der Massenmedien auf die Meinungsbildung, in Elisabeth Noelle-Neumann, Winfried Schulze, and Jurgen Wilke (eds.),
Das Fischer-Lexikon Publizistik Massenkommunikation (Frankfurt am Main, 2000
edn.), 51871.
45. Hildegard Kriegk, Die politische Fuhrung der Berliner Boulevardpresse, unpublished Ph.D. thesis, University of Berlin, 1941, 37.
46. Some confusion, however, seems to reign as to the details of Napoleons comment.
Some historians have him referring to Gorress Rheinischer Merkur as the fth
European great power (Gorres, Joseph v., in Historische Kommission bei der
Bayrischen Akademie der Wissenschaften (ed.), Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie
(Leipzig, 1879), ix. 382); others quote him on the same subject as talking about
the sixth great power (e.g., Koszyk, Deutsche Presse im 19. Jahrhundert, 267);
Goebbelsnever one to be trumped easilyquoted Napoleon as calling the press
the seventh great power, see Joseph Goebbels, Kampf um Berlin (Munich, 1936
edn. [1932]), 189.
47. Joseph Eberle, Grossmacht Presse. Enthullungen fur Zeitungsglaubige; Forderungen fur
Manner (Vienna, 3rd edn. 1920 [1912]), 19.

Notes to pages 914

229

48. See W. Phillips Davison, The Third Person Effect in Communication, Public
Opinion Quarterly, 47 (1983), 115; Richard M. Perloff, Third Person Effect
Research 19831992. A Review and Synthesis, International Journal of Public
Opinion Research, 5 (1993), 16784.
49. Winfried Schulz, Der Kommunikationsprozessneubesehen, in Jurgen Wilke
(ed.), Fortschritte der Publizistikwissenschaft (Freiburg and Munich, 1993), 37.
50. e.g. the newspaper clipping collections of the Reichslandbund, in BArchL, R8034 II;
of the Deutsche Reichsbank, in BArchL, R2501; of the National Socialist Deutsche
Arbeits Front, in BArchL, NS5 VI; or that of the Centre politician and Reich
Chancellor Wilhelm Marx, in Nachlass Wilhelm Marx, Stadtarchiv Koln.
CHAPTER 1
1. Jurgen Wilke, Grundzuge der Medien- und Kommunikationsgeschichte. Von den
Anfangen bis ins 20. Jahrhundert (Cologne, 2000), 25976. See Otto Groth, Die
Zeitung. Ein System der Zeitungskunde (Journalistik) (Mannheim, 1928), i. 2038.
2. Emil Dovifat, Die Anfange der Generalanzeigerpresse (Berlin, 1928).
3. These gures are from a study of the Bremen region by Rolf Engelsing, Massenpublikum und Journalistentum im 19. Jahrhundert in Nordwestdeutschland (Berlin,
1966), 285. See also Stephan Schreder, Der Zeitungsleser (Vienna, 1936), 29.
4. Groth, Zeitung, i. 226.
5. Eberhard Georgii, Zur Statistik der deutschen Zeitungen, in Handbuch der
deutschen Tagespresse (Berlin, 1932), 18. See also Walter Schutz, Zeitungsstatistik,
in Emil Dovifat (ed.), Handbuch der Publizistik (Berlin, 1969), ii. 3601. These
numbers include sub-editions, so-called Kopfblatter, and weekly papers.
6. Groth, Zeitung, i. 251, 257.
7. Ibid., 252. Cf. Horst Heenemann, Die Auagenhohe der deutschen Zeitungen.
Ihre Entwicklung und ihre Probleme, unpublished Ph.D. thesis, University of
Leipzig, 1929, 7086; Jeffrey Verhey, The Spirit of 1914: Militarism, Myth and
Mobilization in Germany (Cambridge, 2000), 75.
8. Georgii, Statistik, 20. Another estimate is over 20 million for 1931, see Hans
Kapnger, Die Struktur der katholischen Presse, in Johann Wilhelm Naumann
(ed.), Die Presse und der Katholik (Augsburg, 1932), 218. For a critique of these,
see Karl Christian Fuhrer, Die Tageszeitung als wichtigstes Massenmedium der
nationalsozialistischen Gesellschaft, Zeitschrift fur Geschichtswissenschaft, 55 (2007),
41134, here 41315.
9. For a more detailed discussion of this point, see www.hist.cam.ac.uk/academic
staff/further details/fulda-press-and-politics.html
10. Peter de Mendelssohn, Zeitungsstadt Berlin. Menschen und Machte in der Geschichte
der deutschen Presse (Berlin, 1959), 5692, 11477.
11. See Friedrich Luft, Berliner Illustrirte, in Joachim W. Freyburg and Hans Wallenberg (eds.), Hundert Jahre Ullstein (Berlin, 1977), ii. 87117.
12. Cf. Mendelssohn, Zeitungsstadt, 243.
13. See also Thomas Friedrich, Die Berliner Zeitungslandschaft am Ende der Weimarer
Republik, in Diethard Kerbs and Henrick Stahr (eds.), Berlin 1932. Das letzte Jahr
der Weimarer Republik (Berlin, 1992), 61.
14. Groth, Zeitung, i. 133.

230

Notes to pages 1517

15. See Friedrich Stamper, Erfahrungen und Erkenntnisse. Aufzeichnungen aus meinem
Leben (Cologne, 1957), 209.
16. Heinz-Dietrich Fischer (ed.), Handbuch der politischen Presse 14801980 (Dusseldorf, 1981), 229.
17. Hans Wolter, GeneralanzeigerDas pragmatische Prinzip. Zur Entwicklungsgeschichte und Typologie des Pressewesens im spaten 19. Jahrhundert (Bochum,
1981), 8, 1614.
18. 1913: 49.2%; 1917: 49.8%, according to Groth, Zeitung, ii. 468.
19. Dankwart Guratzsch, Macht durch Organisation. Die Grundlegung des Hugenbergschen Presseimperiums (Dusseldorf, 1974), 2936.
20. Idealist in the sense advanced by Fritz Stern, The Political Consequences of the
Unpolitical German, in Fritz Stern, The Failure of Illiberalism (London, 1972),
325.
21. This is not to say that political papers did not carry advertisments at all, they just
carried signicantly fewer.
22. Groth, Zeitung, i. 2746.
23. There are hardly any sources for the workings of any Korrespondenzen: see
Koszyk, Deutsche Presse im 19. Jahrhundert. Geschichte der deutschen Presse Teil II
(Berlin, 1966), 21. For news agencies like Wolffs Telegraphen Bureau (WTB) and
Hugenbergs Telegraphen Union ( TU), see Jurgen Wilke, Telegraphenburos und
Nachrichtenagenturen in Deutschland (Munich, 1991).
24. For the following, see also Bernhard Fulda, Industries of Sensationalism: German
Tabloids in the Interwar Period, in Corey Ross and Karl Christian Fuhrer (eds.),
Mass Media, Culture and Society in Twentieth-Century Germany (Manchester, 2006),
183203.
25. Zeitungswissenschaf, 12 (1 December 1938): Der Zeitungsabsatz in den historischen
Septembertagen.
26. Karl Bucher, Der Zeitungsvertrieb, in idem, Gesammelte Aufsatze zur Zeitungskunde
( Tubingen, 1926), 1967.
27. Quoted in Peter Fritzsche, Reading Berlin 1900 (Cambridge, Mass., 1998), 179.
28. Hildegard Kriegk, Die politische Fuhrung der Berliner Boulevardpresse, unpublished Ph.D. thesis, University of Berlin, 1941, 8; Albrecht Blau, Der Inseratenmarkt
der deutschen Tageszeitungen (Berlin, 1932), 5960; Groth, Zeitung, iii. 1423;
Bucher, Zeitungsvertrieb, 207.
29. Quoted in Kurt Koszyk, Zwischen Kaiserreich und Diktatur. Die sozialdemokratische
Presse von 1914 bis 1933 (Heidelberg, 1958), 100.
30. See Walther G. Oschilewski, Zeitungen in Berlin (Berlin, 1975), 146,162; for Welt
am Abend, see Bundesarchiv Berlin-Lichterfelde (BArchL), SAPMO, RY1 KPD,
I/2/707139; for publication times, see Mendelssohn, Zeitungsstadt, 2689.
31. Hans Brennert, director of the Nachrichtenamt Berlin, speaks of 30 Alt-Berliner
und gegen 50 Bezirksblatter, in Hans Brennert and Erwin Stein (eds.), Probleme
der neuen Stadt Berlin. Darstellung der Zukunftsaufgaben einer Viermillionenstadt
(Berlin, 1926), 539. He probably included non-daily Bezirksblatter in his count.
The number of 147 different newspapers is a myth created by Mendelssohn,
Zeitungsstadt, 306, and taken up throughout secondary literature. For a detailed
critique, see Thomas Friedrich, Die Berliner Zeitungslandschaft am Ende der
Weimarer Republik, in Diethard Kerbs and Henrick Stahr (eds.), Berlin 1932. Das
letzte Jahr der Weimarer Republik (Berlin, 1992), 5960.

Notes to pages 1719

231

32. Adult meaning over 20 years of age, see Berthold Grzywatz, Arbeit und Bevolkerung
im Berlin der Weimarer Zeit (Berlin, 1988), 438. For the characterization
unersattlichsten Zeitungsleser der Welt, see Mendelssohn, Zeitungsstadt, 496.
33. Brennert and Stein (eds.), Probleme, 540.
34. For a contemporary analysis of this phenomenon, see Wilhelm Carle, Weltanschauung und Presse. Eine soziologische Untersuchung (Leipzig, 1931).
35. Arthur Koestler, Arrow in the Blue (London, 1952), 171.
36. Ibid.
37. Quoted in Michael Groth, The Road to New York: The Emigration of Berlin
Journalists, 193345 (Munich, 1984), 50.
38. Paul Harms, Die Zeitung von heute. Ihr Wesen und ihr Daseinszweck (Leipzig,
1927), 45.
39. Koszyk, Zwischen Kaiserreich und Diktatur, 679, 845.
40. Guratzsch, Macht durch Organisation, 2946.
41. Koszyk, Zwischen Kaiserreich und Diktatur, 3642.
42. Eksteins, Limits of Reason, 29, 73. For a literary perception of press propaganda, see
Karl Kraus, Die letzten Tage der Menschheit (Vienna, 1957 edn. [1922]).
43. Letter Weber to Hugenberg, 5 July 1918, Entwurf einer nationalen Pressekonzentration, BArchK, N1231 Hugenberg, Nr. 30, ff. 4950.
44. See also George G. Bruntz, Allied Propaganda and the Collapse of the German Empire
in 1918 (New York, 1972 edn. [1938]), 13; Alice Goldfarb Marquis, Words
as Weapon: Propaganda in Britain and Germany during the First World War,
Journal of Contemporary History, 13 (1978), 46798.
45. See Reinhard Rurup, Probleme der Revolution in Deutschland 1918/19 (Wiesbaden, 1968).
46. Groth, Zeitung, i. 736. For a listing of newspapers party afliation by contemporaries, see Politisches Archiv Auswartiges Amt Berlin (PolArchAA), R122416, reply
to letter of 18 June 1924.
47. e.g. the catalogues of advertisment agencies Mosse, Ala, and Sperling. For problems
with the political categorization, see Norbert Frei, Nationalsozialistische Eroberung
der Provinzpresse.Gleichschaltung, Selbstanpassung und Resistenz in Bayern (Stuttgart,
1980), 25.
48. Karin Herrmann, Der Zusammenbruch 1918 in der deutschen Tagespresse. Politische
Ziele, Reaktion auf die Ereignisse und die Versuche der Meinungsfuhrung in der
deutschen Tagespresse wahrend der Zeit vom 23. September bis 11. November 1918
(Munster, 1958).
49. See Stampfer, Erfahrungen und Erkenntnisse, 2312; Mendelssohn, Zeitungsstadt
Berlin, 2247; Koszyk, Deutsche Presse im 19. Jahrhundert, 368; Jurgen Wilke,
Unter Druck gesetzt. Vier Kapitel deutscher Pressegeschichte (Cologne, 2002), 12998.
50. Wilhelm Kaupert, Die deutsche Tagespresse als Politicum, unpublished Ph.D.
thesis, University of Heidelberg, 1932, 15. See also Joseph Eberle, Gromacht
Presse. Enthullungen fur Zeitungsglaubige. Forderungen fur Manner (Vienna, 1920
edn. [1912]), 1420. See also Groth, Zeitung, i. p. vii; Eksteins, Limits of Reason,
704.
51. Georg Bernhard, The German Press, in Der Verlag Ullstein zum Welt-ReklameKongress 1929 (Berlin 1929), 58.

232

Notes to pages 1922

52. Quoted in Eksteins, Limits of Reason, 110.


53. Fritz Ringer, The Decline of the German Mandarins (Cambridge, Mass., 1969),
66. For a typical example, see Peter Fuchs, Das KampfblattDie Rheinische
Zeitung von 1892 bis 1933, in Gerhard Brunn, Sozialdemokratie in Koln (Cologne,
1986), 122.
54. Michael Klein, Georg Bernhard: Die politische Haltung des Chefredakteurs der
Vossischen Zeitung 19181930 (Frankfurt, 1999).
55. Excellent on Goebbelss long-standing feud with the vice-president of the Berlin
police force: Dietz Bering, Kampf um Namen. Bernhard Wei gegen Joseph Goebbels
(Stuttgart, 1991).
56. For just one out of numerous examples of this practice in the Barmat affair, see Rote
Fahne, 169, 29 November 1924: Elf Fragen an den Vorstand der SPD.
57. See also memoirs of former Rote Fahne editor Alexander Abusch, Der Deckname.
Memoiren (Berlin, 1981), 78, 168.
58. The Kolnische Volkszeitung stated in 1908 it was using 172 different papers: Groth,
Zeitung, i. 382.
59. Information on SPD newspaper (distribution and print circulation), in Rote Fahne
publishing les, BArchL, SAPMO, RY1 KPD, I/2/707117, ff. 1478.
60. Wilke, Medien- und Kommunikationsgeschichte, 288.
61. Die deutsche Presse. Ihre parteipolitische Einstellung, reply to request of 18 June
1924, PolArchAA R122416, unpaginated.
62. The list is drawn from Lagebericht, 28 December 1920, BArchL, R43I-2465, f. 47.
63. Berliner Tageblatt, Tagliche Rundschau, Deutsche Zeitung, Deutsche Tageszeitung,
Der Tag [Berliner] Lokal-Anzeiger, Deutsche Allgemeine Zeitung, Die Zeit, Vossische
Zeitung, [Berliner] Morgenpost, [Neue Preussische] Kreuzzeitung, Vorwarts, Freiheit,
Rote Fahne, Germania. Though only dated 15/8 the documents context and the
inclusion of the Freiheit (which ceased publication in October 1922) points at
1922: BArchL, R43I-2465, f. 299.
64. Groth, Zeitung, i. 238.
65. See Fuhrer, Tageszeitung, 41617; Frei, Provinzpresse, 26, 262.
66. See also Groth, Zeitung, i. 238.
67. Oschilewski, Zeitungen, 1045; Koszyk, Deutsche Presse 19141945, 139.
68. BArchL, R43I2465, f. 299.
69. See also Mendelssohn, Zeitungsstadt, 234.
70. Sperling 1926, 378. Catalogues like the Sperling, or those by Mosse or Ala, normally
gave the circulation gure of the previous years third quarter as provided by the
publisher.
71. Sperling 1927, 419.
72. Minutes of press conference 24 November 1926, in PolArchAA, R28529, f. 268.
Cf. Koszyk, Deutsche Presse 19141945, 14353.
73. Wolfgang Ruge, Die Deutsche Allgemeine Zeitung und die Bruning-Regierung.
Zur Rolle der Grobourgeoisie in der Vorbereitung des Faschismus, Zeitschrift fur
Geschichtswissenschaft, 16:1 (1968), 201.
74. See the advertisement in Zeitungs-Katalog der R. Mosse Annoncen-Expedition (Berlin,
1931), 27. See also Sperling 1930, 470, which gives 60,000.

Notes to pages 2227

233

75. After 1933, when forced to publish their print edition, some publishers chose to
print many copies more than actually sold, to hide falling circulation: DeutschlandBericht der Sozialdemokratischen Partei Deutschlands (Sopade) 193440 (Frankfurt
am Main, 1980 edn.), vol. 3 (1936), 813.
76. According to Mosses Annoncenexpedition, the prices for private and commercial
advertisements (Anzeigenteil/Reklameteil) were 30 Pf and 120 Pf per mm in 1925,
and 40 Pf and 300 Pf in 1930.
77. Ruge, Deutsche Allgemeine Zeitung, 20; BArchK, N1231 Hugenberg, Nr. 273,
f. 19.
78. Frei estimates gures were exaggerated 2025% on average; see Frei, Provinzpresse,
2612. In the course of my own work, an analysis of gures given in 1932 and 1934
for a sample of Prussian newspapers has come up with a slighly higher percentage.
79. See Table 1.1.
80. Total circulation of Vossische Zeitung, Berliner Tageblatt and Berliner Volks-Zeitung
was c.300,000 in 1930.
81. See Goebbelss diary entry of 20 October 1929, in Ralf Georg Reuth (ed.), Joseph
Goebbels Tagebucher 19241945 (Munich, 1992), i. 417.
82. See Russell Lemmons, Goebbels and Der Angriff (Lexington, 1994), 41.
83. Vorwarts, no.150, 30 March 1931: Hitler baut ab. See also Kaupert, Tageszeitung
als Politicum, 124.
84. Carin Kessemeier, Der Leitartikler Goebbels in den NS-Organen Der Angriff und
Das Reich (Munster, 1967), 50. See also Lemmons, Angriff, 35.
85. Letter Klitzsch to Hugenberg, 4 April 1923, BArchK, N1231 Hugenberg,
Nr. 200, f. 8.
86. Hugenberg speech to Wirtschaftsvereinigung, 1 July 1927, BArchK, N1231 Hugenberg, Nr. 113, f. 90.
87. BArchL, SAPMO, RY1 KPD, I/2/707134, ff. 3054.
88. The term used is Hetze or Hetzerei, BArchL, SAPMO, RY1 KPD, I/2/707134,
ff. 31, 33, 34, 44, 48.
89. Ibid., f. 30.
90. Ibid., ff. 54 and 49. Further complaints of this kind, ff. 31, 34, 36, 47. This view,
incidentally, was very similar to that held by Communist journalists themselves. At
a Reich conference of Communist editors in 1927, participants mentioned in their
self-criticism an unreadable Communist style with incomprehensible acronyms and
boring leading articles full of stereotypes: see minutes of editors conference of
24 September 1927 in Berlin, BArchL, SAPMO, RY1 KPD, I/2/707-116, ff. 141,
1445, 1479.
91. BArchL, SAPMO, RY1 KPD, I/2/707134, f. 34.
92. Ibid., f. 52.
93. Ibid., f. 33.
94. Ibid., f. 46.
95. Ibid., f. 35.
96. Ibid., f. 51.
97. Ibid., f. 34.
98. Ibid., f. 36.
99. Ibid., f. 35.
100. Ibid., f. 51.

234
101.
102.
103.
104.

105.
106.
107.

108.
109.
110.
111.
112.
113.
114.
115.
116.
117.
118.
119.
120.
121.
122.
123.

124.
125.
126.
127.
128.
129.
130.

Notes to pages 2730


BArchL, SAPMO, RY1 KPD, I/2/707134, f. 31.
Ibid., f. 46.
Ibid., f. 47.
Jurgen Falter, Thomas Lindenberger, and Siegfried Schumann (eds.), Wahlen
und Abstimmungen in der Weimarer Republik. Materialien zum Wahlverhalten
19191933 (Munich, 1986), 83; for 1928, see Heinrich August Winkler, Der
Schein der Normalitat. Arbeiter und Arbeiterbewegung in der Weimarer Republik
1924 bis 1930 (Berlin, 1988), 528, fn. 5.
Report of Otto Braun to party conference in 1917, see Koszyk, Zwischen Kaiserreich
und Diktatur, 100.
Wilhelm Sollmann, Wir und die Leserwelt (Berlin, 1926), 4.
Ibid., 7. See also the anecdote told by the long-serving head of the Reich
governments press ofce, in Walter Zechlin, Pressechef bei Ebert und Hindenburg
und Kopf. Erlebnisse eines Pressechefs und Diplomaten (Hanover, 1956), 154; and the
ndings of the newspaper reception survey conducted in 1937, in Alfred Schmidt,
Publizistik im Dorf (Dresden, 1939), 84.
Ibid., 910.
Ibid., 78.
Ibid., 12.
Ibid.
Ibid., 1112.
Ibid., 11.
Ibid., 14.
Ibid., 10.
Ibid., 8.
Koszyk, Kaiserreich und Diktatur, 172.
Ibid., 1656; Jorg Matthies, Zur Entwicklung des SPD-Zentralorgans Vorwarts,
Berlin, 192233, unpublished diploma thesis, University of Leipzig, 1987, 701.
See also Sollmann, Leserwelt, 56.
Koszyk, Kaiserreich und Diktatur, 1701.
Gerhard Eisfeld and Kurt Koszyk (eds.), Die Presse der deutschen Sozialdemokratie.
Eine Bibliographie (Bonn, 1980), 42.
Koszyk, Kaiserreich und Diktatur, 171.
Burkard Treude, Konservative Presse und Nationalsozialismus. Inhaltsanalyse der
Neuen Preussischen (Kreuz-) Zeitung am Ende der Weimarer Republik (Bochum,
1975), 1628.
Kreuz-Zeitung, 74, 13 February 1929: Unsere Zeitung.
Treude, Konservative Presse, 20, 2832.
Vorwarts, 255, 2 June 1925: Der Geist der Zeit. See also BArchL, R 8034
II, Nr. 2275.
Vorwarts, 304, 2 July 1929: Sanft entschlafen. Das Ende des Deutschen
Tageblattes.
Groth, Zeitung, ii. 268. See also Mendelssohn, Zeitungsstadt, 236; Koszyk, Deutsche
Presse 19141945, 279.
Oschilewski, Zeitungen, 104.
Groth, Zeitung, ii. 268.

Notes to pages 3032

235

131. In 19301 circulation was under 10,000. See also Koszyk, Deutsche Presse
19141945, 243.
132. See report of 22 April 1931, in BArchL, R1501, 25791, f. 438. An edition for
Northern Germany and one for Berlin reappeared 1 January 1933; Mendelssohn,
Zeitungsstadt, 3089. See also Lemmons, Goebbels, 35.
133. According to information in Volkischer Beobachter, 128, 8 May 1931: Pleite bei
der Germania.
134. Diary entry of 8 May 1929, in Ernst Feder, Heute sprach ich mit . . . Tagebucher
eines Berliner Publizisten 19261932 (Stuttgart, 1971), 213.
135. Mostly by mismanagement, see Margret Boveri, Wir lugen alle. Eine Hauptstadtzeitung unter Hitler (Freiburg, 1965), 303, 21419; Eksteins, Limits of Reason,
22431, 2589.
136. Heinz Ullstein, Rise and Fall of the House of Ullstein (New York, 1943), 158; Feders
diary entry of 12 August 1929, in Feder, Heute sprach ich mit, 221; SpringerArchiv, Jodicke-Unterlagen, Anmerkungen zu Mendelssohn, 21. See also letter of
Louis Ullstein to Georg Bernhard, 19 November 1927, in which he complains:
. . . Schliesslich bringen ja wir die grossen Opfer fur die Vossische Zeitung nicht nur
zu Ihrem Ruhme! . . . , in BArchL, N2020 Bernhard, Nr. 22, f. 38.
137. See also Werner Wirthle, Frankfurter Zeitung und Frankfurter Societats-Druckerei
GmbH. Die wirtschaftlichen Verhaltnisse 192739 (Frankfurt, 1977), 1936;
Koszyk, Deutsche Presse 19141945, 13951.
138. Ruge, Deutsche Allgemeine Zeitung, 20.
139. BArchK, N1231 Hugenberg, Nr. 269 (1926), Nr. 270 (1927), Nr. 300 (1928),
Nr. 271 (1929), Nr. 273 (1930), Nr. 274 (1931), Nr. 275 (1932).
140. Groth, Zeitung, iii. 42448.
141. Ibid., 4334, 448.
142. BArchK, N1231 Hugenberg, Nr. 300 Bilanzen 1928, f. 61.
143. BArchK, N1231 Hugenberg, Nr. 275, Geschaftsbericht 1932, f. 38.
144. Ullstein Aktiengesellschaft Berlin, Geschaftsbericht fur das Geschaftsjahr 1925, and
following years.
145. e.g. letter of Carl Misch, political editor of the Vossische Zeitung, of 10 February
1931, in which he writes of a meeting with Heinz Ullstein: In der Unterhaltung
[ . . . ] kam zudem die alte Vorstellung des Verlages zum Vorschein, dass die BZ
ein ungeheuer wichtiges und entscheidendes Blatt sei, dagegen: wer liest schon die
Voss?; BArchL, N2193 Misch, Nr. 13, f. 154.
146. Eksteins, Limits of Reason, 1045.
147. Ibid. See also Mendelssohns criticism that Mosse paid a Phantasiepreis, in Hans
Wallenberg (ed.), Berlin Kochstrasse (Berlin, 1966), 168. The Welt am Abend
claimed Mosse had paid RM 3 million for a share of 60%; see also WaA, 17,
21 January 1927: Mosse kauft das 8-Uhr-Abendblatt.
148. For a comparison of advertisement space in Nachtausgabe and 8-Uhr-Abendblatt,
see Scherl Geschaftsbericht 1927, BArchK, N1231 Hugenberg, Nr. 270, f. 20.
Income from advertisement of the NA was RM 744,000 that year, but private
advertisements were 50% cheaper in the 8UA: advertising income for the 8UA is
estimated at RM 0.551.1 million; plus at least RM 4 million for copy sales.
149. Wahrmund [pseud.], Gericht u ber Hugenberg (Dillingen, 1932), 102.

236

Notes to pages 3235

150. Quoted in Theoder Luddecke, Die Tageszeitung als Mittel der Staatsfuhrung (Hamburg, 1933), 89. See also Wernecke and Heller, Hugenberg, 112; Leo Wegener,
Hugenberg. Eine Plauderei (Munich, 1930), 20.
151. Valeska Dietrich, Alfred Hugenberg. Ein Manager in der Publizistik (Berlin, 1960),
54; Wernecke and Heller, Hugenberg, 1089.
152. Letter Stein to Hugenberg, 14 May 1919, BArchK, N1231, Nr. 27, f. 317.
153. Quoted in Heidrun Holzbach, Das System Hugenberg. Die Organisation burgerlicher
Sammlungspolitik vor dem Aufstieg der NSDAP (Stuttgart, 1981), 202, fn. 225.
154. For Red Hugenberg, see Michael Hepp, Kurt Tucholsky (Reinbek, Hamburg,
1998), 116; Kriegk, Berliner Boulevardpresse, 126; Luddecke, Tageszeitung, 61
fn. 2. More generally, see Rolf Surmann, Die Munzenberg-Legende. Zur Publizistik
der revolutionaren deutschen Arbeiterbewegung 19211933 (Cologne, 1982).
155. Babette Gross, Willi Munzenberg. Eine politische Biographie (Stuttgart, 1967), 175;
but giving the wrong date: the transfer of ownership and the subsequent legal
complications happened in November 1925, see Vorwarts, 539, 11 November
1925: Der Streit um die Welt . Cf. the Communist planning for the WaA
throughout 1925, in BArchL, SAPMO, RY1 KPD, I/2/707139: Welt am Abend,
19248, 33, ff. 134.
156. Mendelssohn, Zeitungsstadt, 2645.
157. According to the report of the Agitprop Unit Berlin for the period 5 January15
February 1926, in BArchL, SAPMO, RY1 KPD, I/3/1/296, f. 94.
158. Minutes of editors conference of 24 September 1927 in Berlin, BArchL, SAPMO,
RY1 KPD, I/2/707-116, f. 141.
159. BArchL, SAPMO, RY1 KPD, I/2/707140, f. 74. See also Vorwarts, 8, 5 January
1928: Kommunistischer Leserschwund.
160. BArchL, SAPMO, RY1 KPD, I/2/707134, f. 146.
161. e.g. WaA, 213, 12 September 1929, and NA, 213, 12 September 1929.
162. Kurt Hiller, Goldne Abend-Sonne, Weltbuhne, 27, 3 July 1928.
163. e.g. Zeitungs-Verlag, 24, 11 June 1932: Kleinstadt-Zeitung heute, 419.
164. Minutes of editors conference of 24 September 1927 in Berlin, BArchL, SAPMO,
RY1 KPD, I/2/707116, f. 142.
165. BArchL, SAPMO, RY1 KPD, I/2/707134, ff. 46, 51.
166. See Markus Mende, Sensationalismus als Produktgestaltungsmittel (Cologne, 1996).
167. Kurt Hiller, Goldne Abend-Sonne, Weltbuhne, 27, 3 July 1928.
168. Deutsche Tageszeitung, 501, 23 October 1928, in BArchL, R 2501, 3822.
169. Gerhard Schultze-Pfaelzer, Neue Formen des Meinungskampfes in der aktualisierten Zeitung, Deutsche Presse, 23 (1928), 277.
170. Eksteins, Limits of Reason, 2356. See also Oschilewski, Zeitungen, 144, 153.
171. Walter Matuschke in Freyburg and Wallenberg (eds.), Hundert Jahre Ullstein,
iii. 32.
172. Eksteins, Limits of Reason, 122; Oschilewski, Zeitungen, 171.
173. For Asphaltblute, see Der Jungdeutsche, 13 September 1928: Ein feines Tempo,
quoted in Kriegk, Berliner Boulevardpresse, 212. For judische Hast, see SpringerArchiv, Jodicke-Unterlagen, Anmerkungen zu Mendelssohn, 14.
174. Joseph Goebbels, Kampf um Berlin. Der Anfang (Munich, 9th edn. 1936 [1932]),
198. For an analysis of the composition of Angriff, see also Kessemeier, Leitartikler
Goebbels, 515; Lemmons, Goebbels, 27, 323.

Notes to pages 3642


175.
176.
177.
178.
179.
180.

181.
182.
183.
184.
185.
186.
187.
188.
189.

190.
191.
192.

193.

194.
195.
196.
197.
198.
199.
200.
201.
202.

203.

237

Angriff, 88, 1 November 1930.


Goebbels, Kampf um Berlin, 28.
Goebbels, Kampf um Berlin, 188. See also Lemmons, Goebbels, 22.
Lemmons, Goebbels, 324.
See Martin Plieninger, Die Kampfpresse, in Zeitungswissenschaft, 2, 15 March
1933, 67.
See Bernhard Fulda, Die vielen Gesichter des Hans Schweitzer. Politische
Karikaturen als historische Quelle, in Gerhard Paul (ed.), Visual History. Die
Historiker und die Bilder. Ein Studienbuch (Gottingen, 2006), 20624.
e.g. Deutsche Illustrierte, 45, 6 November 1934, 13; Gunter dAlquen, Mjolnir, der
Zeichner des Nationalsozialismus, Volkischer Beobachter, 66, 7 March 1934.
Kriegk, Berliner Boulevardpresse, 62, and 1214.
Bering, Kampf um Namen, 134, 434, fn. 357.
For an exemplary analysis, see Bering, Kampf um Namen, 241352.
See below, Ch. 5. See also Christian Engeli, Gustav Boss. Oberburgermeister von
Berlin (Stuttgart, 1971), 2456.
See NA, 104, 4 May 1928; BArchK, N1231 Hugenberg, Nr. 271, Geschaftsbericht
1929, f. 11.
BArchK, N1231 Hugenberg, Nr. 270, f. 3; and Nr. 271, f. 11.
Kriegk, Berliner Boulevardpresse, 12, 45.
Alexander Wilde, Republikfeindschaft in der Berliner Bevolkerung und der Wandel
der kommunalen Selbstverwaltung um 1931, in Otto Busch (ed.), Beitrage zur
Berliner Demokratie (Berlin, 1988), 108.
Mendelssohn, Zeitungsstadt, 31018.
Friedrich, Berliner Zeitungslandschaft, 66.
See, e.g., Assmuss, Republik ohne Chance?, 2932. Five of the eight papers are elite
papers. The choice of Ullsteins BZ am Mittag arguably the most non-political
of all Berlin tabloids until 1929reects Assmusss ignorance of Berlins tabloid
press.
Subsequent calculations all from Falter, Wahlen und Abstimmungen, 44 and Otto
Busch and Wofgang Haus (eds.), Berlin als Hauptstadt der Weimarer Republik
19191933 (Berlin, 1987), 323.
Winkler, Schein der Normalitat, 527.
Ibid., 534.
Ibid., 528.
BArchK, N1231, Nr. 270, f. 3; Nr. 271, f. 3. In December 1930, circulation stood
at 213,000: Nr. 274, f. 4.
Hamilton, Who Voted for Hitler?, 69, 735; and Wilde, Republikfeindschaft, 124.
Lemmons, Goebbels, 345.
Springer-Archiv, Jodicke-Unterlagen, Anmerkungen zu Mendelssohn, 19. Pink
was the colour associated with the DDP.
Falter, Wahlen und Abstimmungen, 83.
Hans Mathias Kepplinger, Die Demontage der Politik in der Informationsgesellschaft
(Freiburg, 1998), 199200. See also Glasgow Media Group, Bad News (London,
1976); Glasgow Media Group, More Bad News (London, 1980).
Falter, Hitlers Wahler, 326, 374.

238

Notes to pages 4247

204. Meier, Zwischen Milieu und Markt, 337.


205. See, e.g., Hans A. Muenster, Jugend und Zeitung (Berlin, 1932), 689; Ignaz
Wrobel [Kurt Tucholsky], In der Provinz, Freiheit, 16 May 1920, repr. in
Gerold-Tucholsky and Raddatz (eds.), Tucholsky, ii. 328; Frank Thiess, Freiheit bis
Mitternacht (Vienna, 1965), 21, 326.
206. Koszyk, Deutsche Presse 19141945, 13951; Gerald Feldman, Hugo Stinnes.
Biographie eines Industriellen 18701924 (Munich, 1998), 697, 716, 726; Mendelssohn, Zeitungsstadt, 2323. See also Koszyk, Deutsche Presse 19141945, 142.
207. Winkler, Schein der Normalitat, 640.
208. e.g. Friedrich, Berliner Zeitungslandschaft, 66.

CHAPTER 2
1. Gustav Kauder, Bezett-Bezett am Mittag! , in 50 Jahre Ullstein. 18771927
(Berlin, 1927), 2089; Heinz Ullstein, Rise and Fall of the House of Ullstein (New
York, 1943), 128.
2. For Wilhelm II as a media star, see Martin Kohlrausch, Der Monarch im Skandal:
Die Logik der Massenmedien und die Transformation der wilhelminischen Monarchie
(Berlin, 2005); Christopher Clark, Kaiser Wilhelm II (London, 2000).
3. See Alex Hall, Scandal, Sensation and Social Democracy: The SPD Press and
Wilhelmine Germany 18901914 (Cambridge, 1977); Frank Bosch, Katalysator der
Demokratisierung? Presse, Politik und Gesellschaft vor 1914, in Frank Bosch and
Norbert Frei (eds.), Medialisierung und Demokratie im 20. Jahrhundert (Gottingen
2006), 2547.
4. See Walter Muhlhausen, Friedrich Ebert 18711925. Reichsprasident der Weimarer
Republik (Bonn, 2006), 1014.
5. See Klaus Epstein, Matthias Erzberger and the Dilemma of German Democracy
(Princeton, 1959), 26983.
6. For an overview of press reactions, see the newspaper clipping collection in BArchL,
R 8034 II, Nr. 8802. For examples of right-wing press coverage, see Deutsche
Tageszeitung (DTZ ), 575, 11 November 1918: Die Waffenstillstandsbedingungen;
DTZ, 595, 22 November 1918: Unsere Feinde und die Waffenstillstandsbedingungen; for the relative lack of anti-Erzberger polemics at this time, see DTZ, 658,
28 December 1918: Staatssekretaer Erzberger u ber den Voelkerbund.
7. e.g. Neue Freie Presse, 195, 17 December 1918: Die Verlangerung des Waffenstillstandes; DTZ, 647, 20 December 1918: Neue unerhorte Forderungen der
Franzosen.
8. e.g. Deutsche Allgemeine Zeitung (DAZ ), 25, 17 January 1919: Deutschlands Vergewaltigung. For an account of the negotiations leading to the second prolongation,
see Matthias Erzberger, Erlebnisse im Weltkrieg (Stuttgart, 1920), 34858; and
Epstein, Erzberger, 3305.
9. See also DTZ, 30, 17 January 1919: Die Verlangerung des Waffenstillstandes
unterzeichnet, DTZ, 36, 20 January 1919: Ein neues Ruhmesblatt der Waffenstillstandskommission, BLA, 27, 22 January 1919: Verfruhtes Hoffen.
10. DTZ, 39, 22 January 1919: Warum nicht: Nein sagen! See also DTZ, 36,
20 January 1919: Ein neues Ruhmesblatt der Waffenstillstandskommission.

Notes to pages 4749

239

11. Neue Preussische Kreuz-Zeitung (KrZ ), 46, 26 January 1919: Die Kundgebungen
in Berlin.
12. Helmut Trotnow, . . . Es kam auf einen mehr oder weniger nicht an. Der
Mord an Rosa Luxemburg und Karl Liebknecht und die Folgen fuer die Weimarer
Republik, in Hans Wilderotter (ed.), Die Extreme beruehren sich. Walther Rathenau
18671922 (Berlin, 1993), 20920, here 211.
13. Heinrich August Winkler, Weimar 19181933. Die Geschichte der ersten deutschen
Demokratie (Munich, 1998 [1993]), 5660.
14. Trotnow, Der Mord, 21114, 218.
15. See also diary entry of 16 January 1919, in Harry Graf Kessler, Tagebucher
19181937 (Frankfurt am Main, 1971), 106.
16. DTZ, 30, 17 January 1919: Die Verlangerung des Waffenstillstandes unterzeichnet.
17. Theodor Eschenburg, Matthias Erzberger. Der grosse Mann des Parlamentarismus
und der Finanzreform (Munich, 1973), 6377; Epstein, Erzberger, 182213.
18. Friedrich Hussong, Matthias Erzberger, Wege und Wandlungen (Leipzig, 1917). See
Epstein, Erzberger, 246.
19. See also Winkler, Weimar, 6971.
20. Reichsbote, 92, 21 February 1919: Die Stellung des Zentrums.
21. Germania (G), 355, 7 August 1919: Berlin, 6 August.
22. See, e.g., E.[rnst] R.[eventlow], Der nationale Geist, in DTZ, 583, 15 November
1918.
23. DTZ, 641, 17 December 1918: Die erdolchte deutsche Armee.
24. Friedrich Freiherr Hiller von Gaertringen, Dolchstoss-Diskussion und Dolchstosslegende im Wandel von vier Jahrzehnten, in Waldemar Besson et al. (eds.),
Geschichte und Gegenwartsbewutsei (Gottingen, 1963), 127; Joachim Petzold, Die
Dolchstosslegende. Eine Geschichtsfalschung im Dienst des deutschen Imperialismus
und Militarismus (Berlin, 1963), 258; and Boris Barth, Dolchstosslegenden und
politische Desintegration. Das Trauma der deutschen Niederlage im Ersten Weltkrieg
19141933 (Dusseldorf, 2003), 3245.
25. Diary entries of 4, 9, and 12 February 1919 (for Kessler), 8 February 1919 (for
Hilferding), in Harry Graf Kessler, Tagebucher 19181937 (Frankfurt am Main,
1961), 118, 122, 124, 126.
26. Vossische Zeitung (VZ ), 85, 15 February 1919: Die Waffenstillstandskommission.
27. Verhandlungen der verfassungsgebenden deutschen Nationalversammlung, 18 February
1919, Vol. 326, 1326.
28. Vorwarts (V ), 91, 19 February 1919: Waffenstillstandsdebatte in Weimar.
Sturmische Abrechnung mit der Schwerindustrie; BT, 78, 19 February 1919: Die
Waffenstillstandsinterpellation in der Nationalversammlung; Berliner Morgenpost,
50, 19 February 1919: Die migluckte Erzberger-Hetze.
29. e.g. BT, 82, 21 February 1919: Der Sitzungsbericht.
30. See also Deutsche Zeitung (DZ ), 81, 19 February 1919: Erzberger auf der Anklagebank.; DZ, 82, 20 February 1919: Nochmals Erzberger; Berliner Lokal-Anzeiger
(BLA), 79, 19 February 1919: Der Kampf um Erzberger; Tagliche Rundschau
(TR), 92, 20 February 1919: Wir.
31. Ostpreussische Zeitung, 61, 2 March 1919: Offener Brief an Matthias Erzberger.

240

Notes to pages 4952

32. Kolnische Zeitung, 9 March 1919, quoted in Epstein, Erzberger, 300.


33. See the caricature in Kladderadatsch showing Erzberger on the look-out for ships carrying food supplies: Kladderadatsch, 8, 23 February 1919: Das Lebensmittelschiff .
34. Diary entry of 1 March 1919, in Kessler, Tagebucher, 142.
35. e.g. Simplicissimus, 33, 12 November 1918: Die neuen Manner; Ulk, 10, 7 March
1919: Die Haupter unserer Lieben; Kladderadatsch, 10, 9 March 1919: Von
den Waffenstillstandsverhandlungen; ibid., 15, 13 April 1919: Typen aus dem
Weimarer Hoftheater.
36. Verhandlungen der verfassungsgebenden deutschen Nationalversammlung, 12 May
1919, Vol. 327, 1084. See also Epstein, Erzberger, 304.
37. Epstein, Erzberger, 30424.
38. e.g. DTZ, 272, 2 June 1919: Eine Richtigstellung Erzbergers.
39. BT, 262, 10 June 1919.
40. Berliner Zeitung am Mittag, 22 June 1919: Kabinett Erzberger, genannt Bauer.
41. DTZ, 303, 24 June 1919: Der Erzberger-Friede.
42. Diary entry of 22 June 1919, in Kessler, Tagebucher, 1856.
43. Ibid.
44. VZ, 318, 25 June 1919: Der letzte Widerstand; DZ, 287, 25 June 1919: Die
Reichswehr will nicht ehrlos werden.
45. See also Epstein, Erzberger, 525.
46. Kreuz-Zeitung (KrZ ), 300, 1 July 1919: Die Juli-Resolution, der Anfang des
moralischen Zusammenbruchs.
47. Ibid.
48. DAZ, 2 July 1919: Die Juliresolution und Dr. Helfferich.
49. KrZ, 304, 3 July 1919: Juliresolution, U-Bootkrieg und Herr Erzberger.
50. e.g. DZ, 305, 4 July 1919: Der Krebsschaden Erzberger .
51. See also DAZ, 4 July 1919: Juliresolution, U-Bootkrieg und Herr Erzberger; KrZ,
307, 5 July 1919: Nochmals Herr Erzberger; DAZ, 6 July 1919: Nochmals Herr
Dr. Helfferich; KrZ, 311, 7 July 1919: Ein echter Erzberger .
52. See also KrZ, 322, 13 July 1919: Der erste deutschnationale Parteitag.
53. Ibid.
54. DZ, 322, 14 July 1919: Der zweite Tag. See also DTZ, 340, 14 July 1919: Der
Deutschnationale Parteitag.
55. See also DAZ, 348, 23 July 1919: Der Grosse Schlag des Herrn Helfferich ; in
reply to Helfferichs article in KrZ, 337, 21 July 1919: Das Reichsnotopfer und
Herr Erzberger. For Erzbergers tax reform, see Epstein, Erzberger, 33448.
56. BT, 337, 24 July 1919: Wedels Anklage gegen Erzberger; TR, 357, 24 July 1919:
Erzbergerder Reichsschadling; KrZ, 343, 24 July 1919: Der indiskrete Herr
Erzberger; VZ, 375, 25 July 1919: Erzbergers Mission in Wien.
57. See also Verhandlungen der verfassungsgebenden deutschen Nationalversammlung,
25 July 1919, 328, 191225, esp. 1919.
58. Hermann Benz and Wolfgang Graml (eds.), Die revolutionare Illusion. Zur Geschichte
des linken Flugels der USPD. Erinnerungen von Curt Geyer (Stuttgart, 1976), 121. It
was the only parliamentary debate mentioned in the memoirs of the Independent
Socialist and journalist Curt Geyer.

Notes to pages 5255

241

59. See also Verhandlungen der verfassungsgebenden deutschen Nationalversammlung,


25 July 1919, Vol. 328, 19401.
60. See also DTZ, 364, 27 July 1919: Wetterfahne.
61. BT, 341, 26 July 1919: Erzbergers Anklagerede; VZ, 375, 26 July 1919: Erzbergers
Sieg u ber die Deutsch-Nationalen.
62. V , 377, 26 July 1919: Entlarvung der Alldeutschen!; V , 377, 26 July 1919: Der
Schleier wird geluftet!; V , 382, 29 July 1919: Die Abrechnung geht weiter; V ,
386, 31 July 1919: Ludendorffs Annexionsprogramm.
63. DTZ, 363, 26 July 1919: Der Friedensfuehler .
64. KrZ, 347, 26 July 1919: Erzbergers Entlastung-Offensive.
65. See TR, 364, 28 July 1919: Der Staatsgerichtshof fur Erzberger!; DTZ, 368,
29 July 1919: Painleve u ber Erzbergers Lugen; TR, 367, 30 July 1919: Ribot
u ber das angebliche Friedensangebot, Graf Westarp u ber Erzberger; DTZ, 371,
31 July 1919: Erzberger, wie er leibt und lugt; DZ, 356, 1 August 1919: Wieder
eine Erzberger-Luge richtiggestellt!; DZ, 358, 2 August 1919: Der Vatikan gegen
Erzberger; TR, 376, 4 August 1919: Ein vernichtendes Urteil u ber Erzberger; TR,
381, 6 August 1919: Auch die Englander stellen Erzberger bloss.
66. V , 378, 26 July 1919: Das Echo.
67. DTZ, 371, 31 July 1919: Was lehrt die Weimarer Debatte?
68. VZ, 376, 26 July 1919: Maueranschlag der Erzbergerrede; VZ, 381, 29 July 1919:
Gegen den Anschlag der Erzbergerred; VZ, 382, 30 July 1919: Das Vertrauen zu
Erzberger.
69. KrZ, 385, 16 August 1919: Der Mann mit der eisernen Stirn.
70. TR, 370, 31 July 1919: Die Anklagerede v. Graefes gegen Erzberger!
71. KrZ, 351, 29 July 1919: Die Wahrheit marschiert!; see also TR, 366, 29 July
1919: Beabsichtigte Klage Helfferichs gegen Erzberger.
72. KrZ, 360, 2 August 1919: Das doppelte Gesicht.; KrZ, 366, 6 August 1919: Die
Schildkrote.
73. Karl Helfferich, Fort mit Erzberger! Flugschriften des Tag Nr. 8 (Berlin, 1919).
74. See also DTZ, 407, 19 August 1919: Helfferichs Beweggrunde fuer den Kampf
gegen Erzberger. Ein Schreiben an den Reichsprasidenten.
75. KrZ, 393, 20 August 1919: Endlich.
76. Kladderadatsch, 31, 3 August 1919: Mr. Erzberg`ere.
77. e.g. Heinrich Frenzel, Erzberger, der Reichsverderber! (Leipzig, 1919); Max Taube,
Erzberger, der Totengraber des Deutschen Reiches (Berlin, 1919); A. Friedrich, Die
Wahrheit u ber die Waffenstillstandsverhandlungen. Wie Erzberger das deutsche Volk
abfertigt (Berlin, 1919); Bruno Marwitz, Herrn Erzbergers Enthullungen. Eine
Kampfschrift gegen Erzberger (Berlin, 1919); Anonymous, Erzberger als Enthuller.
Die Wahrheit u ber das englische Friedensangebot (Berlin, 1919).
78. e.g. V , 398, 6 August 1919: Kesseltreiben; G, 355, 7 August 1919: Berlin,
6. August.
79. See also TR, 377, 4 August 1919: Rheinische Kundgebung gegen Erzberger;
Magdeburger Zeitung, 554, 5 August 1919: Ein Zentrumsvorstoss gegen Erzberger.
80. DTZ, 420, 26 August 1919: Dr. Helfferich gegen Erzberger.
81. TR, 381, 6 August 1919: Ein Volksgericht u ber Erzberger. See also V , 398,
6 August 1919: Kesseltreiben.

242

Notes to pages 5557

82. e.g. readers letter to Stuttgarter Neuen Tagblatt, repr. in DZ, 307, 5 July 1919:
Zum Kapitel Erzberger .
83. For a typical example, see KrZ, 34, 19 January 1920: Stimmugsbild Prozess
Erzberger.
84. See also V , 36, 20 January 1920: Helfferich redet Flugblatt 49.
85. See also Niels Albrecht, Die Macht einer Verleumdungskampagne. Antidemokratische
Agitationen der Presse und Justiz gegen die Weimarer Republik und ihren ersten Reichsprasidenten Friedrich Ebert vom Badebild bis zum Magdeburger Proze (Bremen,
2002), 956.
86. See Otto Groth, Die Zeitung. Ein System der Zeitungskunde (Journalistik) (Mannheim, 1928), Vol.1, 94250; Daniel Siemens, A popular expression of individuality: Kriminalitat, Justiz und Gesellschaft in der Gerichtsberichterstattung von
Tageszeitungen in Berlin, Paris und Chicago, 1919 bis 1933 (Berlin, 2005), 1016;
Walter Holiczki, Die Entwicklung der Gerichtsberichterstattung in der Wiener Tagespresse von 1848 bis zur Jahrhundertwende (Vienna, 1972), 912.
87. KrZ, 36, 20 January 1920: Prozess Helfferich-Erzberger. See also DAZ, 49,
27 January 1920: Prozess Erzberger gegen Helfferich.
88. See also KrZ, 40, 22 January 1920: Der Fall Thyssen im Prozess ErzbergerHelfferich; KrZ, 41, 23 January 1920: Erzberger vor und nach dem Ausscheiden aus
dem Thyssen-Konzern; KrZ, 44, 24 January 1920: Die politische und geschaftliche
Tatigkeit Erzbergers; KrZ, 45, 25 January 1920: Erzbergers Beziehungen zu
Thyssen. For a sympathetic account of Erzbergers activities for Thyssen, see
Epstein, Erzberger, 41319.
89. KrZ, 49, 27 January 1920: Der Anschlag gegen Erzberger.
90. KrZ, 48, 27 January 1920: Ein Aufruf der Reichsregierung. See also the minutes
of the Reich cabinet meeting of 26 January 1920, in Akten der Reichskanzlei:
Weimarer Republik. Das Kabinett Bauer: 21 Juni 1919 bis 27 Maerz 1920 (Boppard,
1980), 562.
91. e.g. G, 43, 27 January 1920: Berlin, den 26. Januar; V , 48, 27 January 1920:
Irrsinn und Verhetzung; V , 49, 27 January 1920: Die Partei Meuchelmorder; VZ,
48, 27 January 1920: Der Revolveranschlag auf Erzberger. DAZ, 48, 27 January
1920: Die Reichsregierung zum Mordanschlag auf Erzberger.
92. V , 49, 27 January 1920: Wie gehetzt wurde.
93. See the range of press reactions summarized in V , 49, 27 January 1920: Die Freude
der Reaktionare.
94. KrZ, 49, 27 January 1920: Der Anschlag gegen Erzberger.
95. Quoted in V , 404, 27 August 1921: Vergebliche Ableugnung.
96. Diary entry of 27 January 1920, in Victor Klemperer, Leben sammeln, nicht fragen
wozu und warum (Berlin, 1996), i. 222.
97. See also VZ, 96, 21 February 1920: Der Revolveranschlag auf Erzberger; KrZ, 96,
21 February 1920: Der Anschlag auf Erzberger vor dem Schwurgericht; KrZ, 97,
22 February 1920: Der Anschlag auf Erzberger vor dem Schwurgericht.
98. DAZ, 97, 22 February 1920: Das Attentat auf Erzberger; VZ, 96, 21 February
1920: Der Revolveranschlag auf Erzberger.
99. For a discussion of the documents origins, see Epstein, Erzberger, 4313; Verhandlungen des Reichstags, cccxlix., 4 May 1921, 3593; and KrZ, 82, 14 February 1920:
Beschlagnahme einer Erzberger-Broschure.

Notes to pages 5762

243

100. See also KrZ, 97, 22 January 1920: Die Steuererklarung des Reichsnanzministers;
KrZ, 98, 23 February 1920: Die Steuererklarung des Reichsnanzministers.
101. See also Epstein, Erzberger, 366; VZ, 102, 25 February 1920: Erzberger vorlaug
beurlaubt.
102. See also VZ, 133, 12 March 1920: Helfferich zu 300 Mark verurteilt.
103. VZ, 134, 13 March 1920: Der Jubel der Rechten; TR, 133, 12 March 1920: Das
Urteil im Erzberger-Prozess.
104. See also Epstein, Erzberger, 3678, 434.
105. V , 133, 12 March 1920: Das Urteil im Helfferich-Prozess.
106. A [Adolf Stein], Gerichtstage u ber Erzberger. 19. Januar bis 12. Marz 1920
(Berlin, 1920).
107. Statement Heinrich Schultz, 23 January 1950, repr. in Gotthard Jasper, Aus den
Akten der Prozesse gegen die Erzberger-Morder, VfZ, 10 (1962), 43053, here
449.
108. Ibid.
109. VZ, 120, 15 May 1920: Erzbergers Kandidatenrede; BT, 225, 15 May 1920:
Erzberger kandidiert. Eine Vertrauenskundgebung des schwabischen Zentrums.
See also Epstein, Erzberger, 371.
110. See also www.gonschior.de/weimar/Wuerttemberg/Uebersicht RTW.html (last
accessed 1 August 2006).
111. Otto Busch, Berlin als Hauptstadt der Weimarer Republik: 19191933 (Berlin,
1987), table 4, 26.
112. Epstein, Erzberger, 3712, 383.
113. e.g. KrZ, 274, 15 June 1921: Erzberger redivivus; DTgbl, 39, 18 June 1921:
Gegen Erzberger!
114. DAZ, 370, 10 August 1921: Erzbergers Christlicher Solidarismus .
115. DTZ, 379, 16 August 1921: Der Kampf mit Erzberger.
116. Letter Heinrich Tillessen to his brother Werner, Regensburg, 12 March 1921, repr.
in Jasper, Aus den Akten, 4445.
117. Statement Heinrich Schultz, 2 March 1950, repr. in Jasper, Aus den Akten, 451.
118. Quoted in Martin Sabrow, Der Rathenau-Mord. Rekonstruktion einer Verschworung
gegen die Republik von Weimar (Munich, 1994), 23, fn. 46.
119. Statement Heinrich Schultz, 2 March 1950, repr. in Jasper, Aus den Akten, 451.
120. Epstein, Erzberger, 3846.
121. G, 422, 27 August 1921: Das Opfer der deutschnationalen Hetze. See also G,
425, 28 August 1921: Die Partei der Meuchelmorder.
122. V , 403, 27 August 1921: Nationalistischer Mord!
123. VZ, 402, 27 August 1921: Meuchelmord.
124. Berliner Volks-Zeitung (BVZ ), 404, 28 August 1921: Zwischen den Schlachten.
125. See also TR, 401, 28 August 1921: Wochenschau.
126. Deutsches Tageblatt (DTgbl), 99, 27 August 1921: Mildernde Umstande?
127. Oletzkoer Zeitung, 27 August 1921, quoted in Verlag der Unitas GmbH, Der
Erzberger-Mord. Dokumente menschlicher und politischer Verkommenheit (Buehl,
1921), 15.
128. Volksstimme (Nuremberg, Munich), 31 August 1921, quoted in Der ErzbergerMord, 14.

244

Notes to pages 6266

129. See also BZaM, 200, 27 August 1921: Reichstagsprasident Loebe u ber Erzberger.
130. Kolnische Volkszeitung (KVZ ), 619, 1 September 1921: Die Kundgebungen im
Reich; Rote Fahne (RF ), 401, 1 September 1921: Der Massenaufmarsch im
Lustgarten. See also Gotthard Jasper, Der Schutz der Republik: Studien zur staatlichen
Sicherung der Demokratie in der Weimarer Republik 19221933 ( Tubingen, 1963),
378; Marie-Luise Ehls, Protest und Propaganda: Demonstrationen in Berlin zur
Zeit der Weimarer Republik (Berlin, 1997), 75.
131. TR, 401, 28 August 1921: Wochenschau.
132. See also Jasper, Schutz der Republik, 368; Ehls, Protest und Propaganda, 757.
133. Jasper, Schutz der Republik, 523.
134. For the signicance of the theatrical nature of political trials, see Henning Grunwald,
Political Justice in the Weimar Republic: Party Lawyers, Political Trials and Judicial
Culture (Munster, 2007).
135. See also Ian Kershaw, Hitler. 18891936: Hubris (London, 1998), 1267; Georg
Franz-Willing, Ursprung der Hitlerbewegung 19191922 (Preussisch-Oldendorf,
1974), 97.
136. e.g. notes for speech on 13 November 1919, in Eberhard Jackel and Axel Kuhn
(eds.), Hitler. Samtliche Aufzeichnungen 19051924 (Stuttgart, 1980), 92.
137. Ibid., 15860, 266, 3535, 370.
138. See also notes for speech on 4 January 1921, Dummheit oder Verbrechen;
Volkischer Beobachter, 21 April 1921: Die Justicia mit den verbundenen Augen;
police report of speech on 3 May 1921, Erzberger und Genossen: ibid., 2913,
364, 373.
139. Notes for the speech on 8 September 1921, Matthias von Buttenhausen, and
Volkischer Beobachter, 14 September 1921: Aus der Bewegung; quoted ibid., 477,
479. For the posters, see Der Erzberger-Mord, 30.
140. See also report of [NSDAP] Ortsgruppe Munich, 1 October 1921, ibid., 497.
141. Franz-Willing, Ursprung, 340.
142. Quoted in Franz-Willing, Ursprung, 338.
143. Franz-Willing, Ursprung, 223.
144. e.g. BZaM, 297, 28 October 1922: Fascisten-Aufstand in Oberitalien; BM, 259,
29 October 1922: Fascisten-Revolution in Italien; BZaM, 299, 30 October
1922: Mussolinis Einzug in Rom; BM, 260, 31 October 1922: Mussolini
Ministerprasident; BLA, 479, 31 October 1922: Mussolinis Empfang beim Konig;
BM, 261, 1 November 1922: Fascistenparade in Rom.
145. BLA, 479, 31 October 1922: Faschistensieg. See also BM, 259, 29 October 1922:
Die Fascisten.
146. BLA, 43, 20 November 1922: Diktator und Parlament.
147. See also Franz-Willing, Ursprung, 3423.
148. Der Deutsche, 264, 17 November 1922: Die nationalsozialistische Bewegung. See
also Franz-Willing, Ursprung, 250.
149. BLA, 552, 13 December 1922: Hitler.
150. BZaM, 317, 17 November 1922: HitlerMussolini.
151. BM, 277, 19 November 1922: Die Nationalsozialistische Arbeiter-Partei in
Preussen verboten.

Notes to pages 6667

245

152. e.g. BLA, 516, 21 November 1922: Die nationalsozialistische Bewegung; BM, 279,
22 November 1922: Die Bayerische Reigerung schutzt die Nationalsozialisten;
BLA, 552, 13 December 1922: Hitler.
153. Carl Christian Bry, Mussolinchen in Blau-Wei, in Argentinische Tag- und
Wochenblatt, 24 December 1922, repr. in Carl Christian Bry, Der Hitler-Putsch.
Berichte und Kommentare eines Deutschland-Korrespondenten (19221924) fur das
Argentinische Tag- und Wochenblatt (Nordlingen, 1987), 5966.
154. KrZ, 581, 28 December 1922: Die nationalsozialistische Bewegung in Bayern.
155. BT, 20, 12 January 1923: Selbstzereischung; DAZ, 19, 12 January 1923: Hitlers
Hassgesang.
156. See also V , 24, 16 January 1923: Bayerische Kraftprobe?; V , 25, 16 January
1923: Der Munchener Brandherd; V , 26, 17 January 1923: Ernste Tage fur
Bayern; BT, 25, 16 January 1923: Gefahrmomente?; BT, 31, 19 January 1923:
Der abgesagte Putsch; Berliner Volks-Zeitung (BVZ ), 26, 16 January 1923: Hitler
vor der Aktion. Der Ruf nach der Diktatur; BVZ, 29, 18 January 1923: Vor der
Aktion der Hitler-Banden.
157. BM, 23, 27 January 1923: Ausnahme-Zustand in Bayern; BLA, 45, 27 January
1923: Ausnahmezustand in Bayern.
158. See also BLA, 45, 27 January 1923: Ausnahmezustand in Bayern; BLA, 47, 28
January 1923: Die heutigen Kundgebungen in Munchen; BLA, special edn. no.4,
2 January 1923: Keine Zwischenfalle in Munchen.
159. See also BVZ, 47, 28 January 1923: Zuruckweichen vor Hitler?; V , 47, 29
January 1923: Die Munchener Posse; BT, 50, 30 January 1923: Bayern im
Ausnahmezustand; BT, 51, 31 January 1923: Weshalb die bayerische Regierung
nachgab; V , 53, 1 February 1923: Die fascistische Nebenregierung; BT, 55, 2
February 1923: Die bayerische Regierung und die Nationalsozialisten.
160. e.g. BT, 329, 15 July 123: Die Eroffnung des Deutschen Turnfestes in Munchen;
BT, 332, 17 July 1923: Deutschvolkische Storenfriede; BT, 335, 19 July 1923: Das
Spiel mit dem Burgerkrieg; BVZ, 335, 19 July 1923: Gegen die Burgerkriegshetze.
161. Rote Fahne (RF ), 10, 13 January 1923: Hitler ruft zum Kampf!; V , 288, 22 June
1923: Hitlers Auslandsmillionen.
162. Friedericus, 31, AugustSeptember 1923: Adolf Hitler.
163. Deutsches Tageblatt (DTgbl), 112, 14 August 1923: Adolf Hitler!
164. See also newspaper clipping collection in Bundesarchiv Berlin (BArchB), R8034 II,
ff. 89.
165. See also report of 24 January 1923, in Ernst Ritter (ed.), Reichskommissar fur

Uberwachung
der offentlichen Ordnung und Nachrichtensammelstelle im Reichsministerium des Innern. Lageberichte (19201929) und Meldungen (19291933). Bestand
R134 des Bundesarchivs, Koblenz, veroffentlicht als Microche-Ausgabe (Munich,
1979), ff. 19/1718.
166. BM, 230, 27 September 1923: Ernennung v. Kahrs zum bayrischen Diktator.
See also BT, 452, 26 September 1923: Die Treibereien der Rechtsradikalen; BT,
453, 27 September 1923: Ausnahmezustand in Bayern; BVZ, 453, 27 September
1923: Wagen es die Hitlerbanden doch?; BT, 454, 27 September 1923: Die
Manahmen gegen die Putschisten in Bayern.

246

Notes to pages 6769

167. See also Winkler, Weimar, 223; Wolfgang Boewig, Der Hitler-Putsch. Vorgeschichte,
Verlauf und Proze (Bingen, 1994), 326; Harold Gordon, Jun., Hitler and the
Beer Hall Putsch (Princeton, 1972), 22731.
168. e.g. BT, 519, 4 November 1923: Drohungen der bayerischen Verbande; BT, 520,
5 November 1923: An der bayerisch-thuringischen Grenze; BT, 521, 6 November
1923: Die Lage.
169. e.g. BM, 267, 9 November 1923: Hitler-Umsturz in Munchen.
170. e.g. BLA, special edition, 9 November 1923: Kahr und Lossow gegen HitlerLudendorff ; BT, 528, 9 November 1923: Der Kampf Kahrs und Lossows gegen
Ludendorff und Hitler.
171. BLA, 506, 10 November 1923: Der Putsch und seine Nutzniesser; BT, 529,
10 November 1923: Das Ende der Hanswurstiade; BVZ, 528, 9 November 1923:
Munchener Karneval.
172. See also BM, 269/74, 17 November 1923: Was ist geschehen?; BLA, 507,
16 November 1923: Das Kabinett Stresemann vor dem Sturz; BT, 530, 16
November 1923: Das Programm des Wahrungskommissars.
173. e.g. BLA, 48, 29 January 1924: Der grosste politische Prozess.
174. See also BT, 48, 29 January 1924: Vor dem Hitler-Prozess; BT, 50, 30 January
1924: Hitler-Prozess und Amtsgeheimnis; BLA, 53, 31 January 1924: Hitlers
Verteidiger mahnen zur Ruhe; BT, 61, 5 February 1924: Der fatale Proze; V ,
59, 5 February 1924: Prolog zum Ludendorff-Prozess; BLA, 63, 6 February 1924:
Seltsame Behauptungen aus Munchen; DAZ, 61, 6 February 1924: Hitler-Prozess
und politische Reinigung in Bayern; V , 69, 10 February 1924: Verschiebung des
Hitler-Prozesses; BT, 83, 18 February 1924: Rucktritt Kahrs und Lossows;
BLA, 85, 19 February 1924: Kahr, der Prozess und die Krahen; BLA, 93, 23
February 1924: Hindenburg zum Hochverratsprozess gegen Ludendorff ; BLA,
94, 24 February 1924: Die Vorbereitung des Hitlerprozesses; BLA, 95, 25 February
1924: Vor Beginn des Hitler-Prozesses; BLA, 96, 26 February 1924: Um die
Blutenburger Strasse; DTZ, 95, 26 February 1924: Vor dem Munchener Proze.
175. e.g. the diary entry of Dorothy von Moltke of 5 March 1924, in Dorothy von
Moltke, Ein Leben in Deutschland. Briefe aus Kreisau und Berlin 19071934
(Munich, 1999), 93.
176. Bernd Steger, Der Hitlerproze und Bayerns Verhaltnis zum Reich 1923/24,
VfZ, 25 (1977), 44166; Otto Gritschneder, Bewahrungsfrist fur den Terroristen
Adolf H. Der Hitler-Putsch und die bayerische Justiz (Munich, 1990), 47; Kershaw,
Hitler, 214.
177. See also Lothar Gruchmann Reinhard and Weber (eds.), Der Hitler-Proze
1924Wortlaut der Hauptverhandlung vor dem Volksgericht Munchen (Munich,
19978), 4 vols.
178. e.g. Tag, 50, 27 February 1927: Der Angeklagte als Klager; BLA, 98, 27 February
1924: Der Mann; DTZ, 148, 27 March 1924: Das Schlusswort der Angeklagten;
BLA, 150, 28 March 1924: Hitlers Geheimnis.
179. On Hans Schweitzers double-life as caricaturist for both Hugenberg and Goebbels,
see Bernhard Fulda, Die vielen Gesichter des Hans Schweitzer. Politische
Karikaturen als historische Quelle, in Gerhard Paul (ed.), Visual History. Die
Historiker und die Bilder. Ein Studienbuch (Gottingen, 2006), 20624. The special

Notes to pages 6971

180.
181.
182.
183.

184.

185.
186.
187.
188.
189.
190.
191.

192.

193.

194.
195.
196.
197.
198.
199.

200.
201.

202.

247

correspondent of the Berliner Lokal-Anzeiger, Job Zimmermann, also joined the


National Socialists in later years, see Goebbelss diary entry on 12 August 1930, in
Ralf Georg Reuth (ed.), Joseph Goebbels Tagebucher 19241945 (Munich, 1992),
ii. 505.
DTZ, 97, 27 February 1924: Die Vernehmung Hitlers.
See also DTZ, 148, 27 March 1924: Das Schlusswort der Angeklagten, 1 and 3.
DTZ, 97, 27 February 1924: Der erste Verhandlungstag See also BLA, 97,
26 February 1924: Im Gerichtssaal.
e.g. DTZ, 103, 1 March 1924: Die Vernehmung Ludendorffs; BLA, 104, 1 March
1924: Ludendorff als Anklager, Der Preusse Ludendorff ; KrZ, 148, 27 March
1924: Vor der Urteilsverkundung im Hitlerprozess.
e.g. BLA, 157, 1 April 1924: Das Volksgericht hat gesprochen; Tag, 80, 2 April
1924: Ludendorff freigesprochen; KrZ, 156, 1 April 1924: General Ludendorff
freigesprochen; BM, 80, 2 April 1924: Das Urteil von Munchen.
See also BLA, 104, 1 March 1924: Ludendorff als Anklager.
V , 149, 28 March 1924: Der deutsche Messias.
Kershaw, Hitler, 21617, 235, 239.
KrZ, 151, 1 April 1924: Das Urteil im Hitlerprozess.
See also BLA, 158, 2 April 1924: Ruckblick und Ausschau.
BT, 157, 1 April 1924: Justizbankerott; G, 114, 1 April 1924: Milde fuer
Hochverraeter; V , 158, 2 April 1924: Deutschlands Justizschande.
Walter Gorlitz and Herbert A. Quint, Adolf Hitler. Eine Biographie (Stuttgart,
1953), 226. For similar scenes already prior to the verdict, see BM, 76, 28 March
1924: Blumensegen fur Hitler und Ludendorff .
See also Albrecht Tyrell, Vom Trommler zum Fuhrer. Der Wandel von Hitlers
Selbstverstandnis zwischen 1919 und 1924 und die Entwicklung der NSDAP (Munich,
1975), 15760; Kershaw, Hitler, 16970, 219.
This is an argument put forward in Albrecht Tryell, Wie er der Fuhrer
wurde, in Guido Knopp (ed.), Hitler heute. Gesprache u ber ein deutsches Trauma
(Aschaffenburg, 1979), 2048, here 345; and repeated by Kershaw, Hitler, 218.
Carl Christian Bry, Mussolinchen in Blau-Wei, Argentinische Tag- und Wochenblatt, 24 December 1922, repr. in Bry, Hitler-Putsch, 61.
See also Deutsches Tageblatt, 91, 24 April 1924: Hitlers und Ludendorffs Dank.
Kershaw also notes Hitlers new status after the trial, but does not consider this as a
result of media coverage: Kershaw, Hitler, 2234.
Ibid., 228.
Report of 16 April 1924, in Ritter (ed.), Reichskommissar, ff. 2332.
See also Jurgen Falter, Thomas Lindenberger, and Siegfried Schumann, Wahlen
und Abstimmungen in der Weimarer Republik. Materialien zum Wahlverhalten
19191933 (Munich, 1986), 41, 133.
For his views on a parliamentary strategy, see Gorlitz and Quint, Hitler, 22830;
Kershaw, Hitler, 2289.
BT, 363, 1 August 1924: Aus Hitlers Festungshaft; Mecklenburger Warte, 17,
5 August 1924: Eine Bitte Adolf Hitlers. For the ow of visitors, see also Kershaw,
Hitler, 223.
See also BLA, 195, 24 April 1924: T. U. Munchen, 24 April.

248
203.
204.
205.
206.
207.
208.
209.
210.
211.
212.

Notes to pages 7177


Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf (transl. Ralph Manheim, London, 1998 edn.), p. lxv.
Kershaw, Hitler, 241.
Quoted ibid., 262.
BT, 593, 14 December 1924: Prozesse.
Joseph Eberle, Gromacht Presse. Enthullungen fur Zeitungsglaubige. Forderungen fur
Manner (Vienna, 1920 [1912]), 18.
See also Kurt Baschwitz, Der Massenwahn, seine Wirkung und seine Beherrschung
(Munich, 1923), 38, 244; or Otto Groths discussion of the importance of audiences
and the limits of press inuence, in Vol.1 of his 4-vol. study, Die Zeitung, 91167.
See also Hitler, Mein Kampf, 426.
Ibid., 219.
Ibid.
See Goebbelss diary entry of 17 November 1928, in Ralf Geort Reuth (ed.), Joseph
Goebbels Tagebucher (Munich, 1992), i. 334.
CHAPTER 3

1. Geheimes Staatsarchiv Preuischer Kulturbesitz Berlin-Dahlem (GStAPK),


I. Hauptabteilung, Re 84a Nr. 15855, 69.
2. e.g. Vossische Zeitung (VZ ), 553, 21 November 1924: BartelsKutisker
HolzmannGrunbergDie Korruptionsaffare des Tages. For the Kutisker affair,
see Friedrich Karl Kaul, Verdienen wird gross geschrieben. Der Pitaval der Weimarer
Republik (Berlin, 1954), i. 13, and Urteil vom 30.6.1926 gegen Iwan Kutisker und
Gen., in Landesarchiv Berlin (LAB), Re 358 Akten des Generalstaatsanwalts am
Landgericht Berlin, Nr. 62, Bd. 1, unpaginated.
3. Rote Fahne (RF ), 160, 18 November 1924: Neuer Ia-Skandal!, and 163, 22
November 1924: Der Fall Bartels.
4. RF, 162, 21 November 1924: Der Konterrevolutionar Bartels, der Vertrauensmann
der SPD-Fuhrer.
5. e.g. Deutsche Zeitung (DZ ), 525, 21 November 1924: Kutisker und Boruch
Holzmann; DZ, 533, 26 November 1924: Kutiskers Inationsgewinne.
6. DZ, 525, 21 November 1924: Kutisker und Boruch Holzmann.
7. See DZ, 526, 22 November 1924: Judische Geldherrscher; and DZ, 528,
23 November 1924: Arbeit fur den Staatsanwalt!
8. RF, 165. 25 November 1924: Die Barmat-Geschafte der Seehandlung.
9. RF, 169, 29 November 1924: Kutisker and Elf Fragen an den Vorstand der
SPD. (Was die SPD-Arbeiter nicht wissen durfen.) The Panama affair was a
major corruption scandal in France in 1892 which helped to topple the Ribot
government, see Jean-Yves Mollier, Le scandale de Panama (Paris, 1991).
10. e.g. DZ, 536, 28 November 1924: Um die Preuische Staatsbank herum; KrZ,
562, 29 November 1924: Was die sozialdemokratischen Arbeiter nicht wissen
durfen.
11. V , 564, 29 November 1924: Die Flut der Verleumdungen.
12. e.g. RF, 170, 30 November 1924: Der Familienkonzern der SPD.
13. V , 567, 2 December 1924: Kommunistische Spekulation.
14. V , 567, 2 December 1924: Hugenberg freut sich.
15. RF, 172, 3 December 1924: Die Barmat-Sozialisten gestehen!

Notes to pages 7781


16.
17.
18.
19.

20.
21.
22.

23.
24.

25.
26.
27.
28.
29.
30.
31.
32.
33.

34.

35.
36.
37.
38.

249

RF, 172, 3 December 1924: Fritz Ebert jun.


RF, 173, 4 December 1924: Bruder Barmat & Co.
DTztg, 570, 4 December 1924: Nieder der Kapitalismus! Neues von Barmat.
In 1921, Hugenberg had taken over as a majority shareholder of the BMZ, but this
was not public knowledge. See Heidrun Holzbach, Das System Hugenberg. Die
Organisation burgerlicher Sammlungspolitik vor dem Aufstieg der NSDAP (Stuttgart,
1981), 272. For polemical articles, see DZ, 546, 4 December 1924: Barmat und
die Sozialdemokratie; KrZ, 572, 5 December 1924: Die ostjudischen Prozente
der roten ParteikasseDie Fettgeschafte Barmats.; Tag, 292, 5 December 1924:
Schutzt die Republik!
V , 575, 6 December 1924: Eine vorsichtige Wahlluge.
e.g. reference to Berliner-Borsen-Zeitung in DTbl, 282, 6 December 1924: Der
Sumpf.
RF, 174, 5 December 1924: Barmat, der Finanzier der 2. Internationale. Cf.
DZ, 550, 6 December 1924: Barmats Einu auf die Sozialdemokratie. Rightwing papers also found it convenient to blame eventual misinformation on the
Communists, Cf. DTztg, 575, 7 December 1924: Scheidemann und Barmat.
V , 577, 7 December 1924: Es lebe die Sozialdemokratie! Untergang der Lugenbrut!
SPD 26% (7.9 m); KPD 9% (2.7 m); DNVP 20.5% (6.2 m). For a thorough
analysis of the election results, see Heinrich August Winkler, Der Schein der
Normalitat. Arbeiter und Arbeiterbewegung in der Weimarer Republik 1924 bis 1930
(Berlin, 1988), 21622.
Hagen Schulze, Otto Braun oder Preuens demokratische Sendung. Eine Biographie
(Berlin, 1977), 463.
Winkler, Schein der Normalitat, 218.
WaA, 155, 3 December 1924: Barmat, seine Partei und die Republik.
See RF, 175, 6 December 1924: Der Groschieber Barmat und die SPD.
The Berliner Morgenpost had mentioned them once, but did not follow it up: BM,
281, 22 November 1924: Untersuchung gegen die Preuische Staatsbank.
See the les SPD et al, Nr. 48284832, or SPD und Finanzen, Nr. 491921,
in Bundesarchiv Berlin-Lichterfelde (BArchL), R8034 II, Reichslandbund.
Winfried Steffani, Die Untersuchungsausschusse des Preuischen Landtages zur Zeit
der Weimarer Republik (Dusseldorf, 1960), 171.
Ibid.
See minutes of session 48 of the investigating committee of the Prussian Landtag,
7 October 1925, Sammlung der Drucksachen Preussischer Landtag, II. Wahlperiode,
Nr. 1375, 2810.
See Heilmanns testimonial at the investigating committee, 9 March 1925,
Sammlung der Drucksachen, Nr. 484, 1012; and the committees nal report,
12 October 1925, Nr. 1480, 2949.
Gerald Feldman, Hugo Stinnes. Biographie eines Industriellen 18701924 (Munich,
1998), 9367.
For Reich coalition negotiations, see Winkler, Schein der Normalitat, 2228.
NA, 255, 4 December 1924: Der 27 fache Raubmorder.
For a detailed account of the trial, see Walter Muhlhausen, Friedrich Ebert
18711925. Reichsprasident der Weimarer Republik (Bonn, 2006), 93666.

250

39.

40.

41.
42.
43.
44.
45.

46.
47.
48.
49.
50.
51.
52.

53.

54.
55.
56.
57.
58.

Notes to pages 8184


Cf. Gotthard Jasper, Der Magdeburger Proze, in Friedrich Ebert Stiftung,
Friedrich Ebert 1871/1971 (Bonn, 1971), 10920.
See Muhlhausen, Ebert, 78991, 91415; and Walter Muhlhausen (ed.), Friedrich
Ebert. Sein Leben, sein Werk, seine Zeit (Heidelberg, 1999), 31011, 328; for
the various forms of defamation, see Wolfgang Birkenfeld, Der Rufmord am
Reichsprasidenten. Zu Grenzformen des politischen Kampfes gegen die fruhe
Weimarer Republik 19191925, Archiv fur Sozialgeschichte, 5 (1965), 453500,
esp. 4735. According to Muhlhausen, the number of libel trials initiated by Ebert
was around 200, see Muhlhausen, Ebert, 934 fn. 109.
For Gansser, see Konrad Bastobbe, Der Proze des Reichsprasidenten Friedrich
Ebert 1924 in Magdeburg (Magdeburg, 1997), 9; Karl Brammer, Der Proze des
Reichsprasidenten (Berlin, 1925), 6, 29; and Muhlhausen, Ebert, 9379. Cf. V ,
581, 10 December 1924: Gegen die Verleumder des Reichsprasidenten.
Michael Miltenberger, Der Vorwurf des Landesverrats gegen Reichsprasident Friedrich
Ebert. Ein Stuck deutscher Justizgeschichte (Heidelberg, 1989), 9
Brammer, Proze, 129; Bastobbe, Proze, 9.
Birkenfeld, Rufmord, 4712.
Quoted in Brammer, Proze, 27; V , 580, 9 December 1924: Der Reichsprasident
als Klager.
Even the Nachtausgabe considered him nicht gerade ein Geistesriese, NA, 289, 9
December 1924: Die Akten der Revolution. For the criminal record, see BT, 584,
9 December 1924: Eine Beleidigung des Reichsprasidenten.
Bastobbe, Proze, 910. The Nachtausgabe stated Rothard had nearly chickened
out after his interrogation: NA, 289, 9 December 1924: Die Akten der Revolution.
Bastobbe, Proze, 12. Cf. V , 581, 10 December 1924: Gegen die Verleumder des
Reichsprasidenten.
NA, 289, 9 December 1924: Die Akten der Revolution.
e.g. DZ, 558, 10 December 1924: Das Gericht im Hause Ebert. for a surprisingly
frank admission.
e.g. V , 582, 10 December 1924: Weltgeschichte vor dem Schoffengericht; BT,
591, 13 December 1924: Verhandlungen gegen den Reichsprasidenten.
V , 580, 9 December 1924: Der Reichsprasident als Klager.
e.g. DZ, 556, 9 December 1924: Beginn des Ebert-Prozesses, NA, 289, 9 December
1924: Der Ebert-Proze in Magdeburg, KrZ, 580, 10 December 1924: Eberts
Rolle im Januarstreik, KrZ, 591, 17 December 1924: Immer neue Widerspruche
im Ebert-Proze.
The B.S. correspondence provided its material to the Vorwarts, Kreuz-Zeitung,
Deutsche Zeitung. Other news agencies covering the trial were Telegraphen-Union
and Nachrichtenbureau, see KrZ, 583, 12 December 1924: Der Zeuge Syrig.
DZ, 557, 10 December 1924: Eberts Rede im Treptower Park.
DZ, 558, 10 December 1924: Die Aufforderung zur Kriegsdienstverweigerung.
V , 581, 10 December 1924: Gegen die Verleumder des Reichsprasidenten.
V , 582, 10 December 1924: Weltgeschichte vor dem Schoffengericht.
Mosses Berliner Tageblatt started its coverage with the neutral headline Eine
Beleidigung des ReichsprasidentenDer Ebert-Rothardt-Proze. See BT, 584, 9
December 1924. Two days later it titled Die Verleumder des Reichsprasidenten,

Notes to pages 8486

59.
60.
61.
62.
63.
64.
65.

66.

67.
68.
69.
70.
71.

72.
73.
74.
75.
76.

77.

78.

79.

251

BT, 588, 11 December 1924. Throughout most of the trial, it reported of Der
Proze des Reichsprasidenten. See BT, 585 and 586 of 10 December, 589 of
12 December, 593 of 14 December 1924, 597 of 17 December 1924.
KrZ, 581, 11 December 1924: Angriffe auf Richter Schoffen und Zeugen.
Ibid., cf. DZ, 559, 11 December 1924: Eberts Getreue.
V , 583, 11 December 1924: Zuchthausler EbertDie Deutschnationalen in
ihrem Element.
DZ, 560, 11 December 1924: Ebert streitet ab, Syrig bleibt fest.
NA, 290, 10 December 1924: Gerichtssitzung bei Ebert.
B.S. proceedings, repr. in V , 586, 12 December 1924: 15 weitere Zeugen geladen.
KrZ, 584, 12 December 1924: Hermann Muller als Zeuge, under the subheadline Beeinussungsversuche der Linkspresse; KrZ, 585, 13 December 1924:
Fortsetzung der Zeugenvernehmung im Ebertproze. Cf. DZ, 562, 12 December
1924: Eberts Genosse Hermann Muller and sub-headline Der Vorwarts lat
nicht locker.
KrZ, 583, 12 December 1924: Der Zeuge Syrig. Wie die Vossische Zeitung lugt
und falscht; DZ, 561, 12 December 1924: Der vereitelte U-Bootkreuzer-Krieg.
Cf. V , 588, 13 December 1924: Der Verleumdungsproze.
e.g. the attack on Ullsteins BZ am Mittag, in DZ, 564, 13 December 1924: Der
schweigsame Reichsprasident.
Brammer, Proze, 53.
Ibid., 69. The German phrase was Haltet ruhig aus! Eure Arbeitsbruder . . . stehen
fest zu Euch.
NA, 295, 16 December 1924: Sensationelle Wendung im Ebert-Proze.
V , 593, 17 December 1924: Der Zeugenaufmarsch in Magdeburg. Die Verleumder
in der Klemme and Ein erledigter Verleumder. Pfarrer Kochs Kronzeuge des
Meineids und Diebstahls beschuldigt.
V , 594, 17 December 1924: Syrig, Koch & Co. Die deutschnationale Zeugenfabrik.
DZ, 569, 17 December 1924: R.-A. Landsberg gegen den Vorsitzenden; KrZ,
591, 17 December 1924: Immer neue Widerspruche im Ebert-Proze.
V , 594, 17 December 1924: Syrig, Koch & Co.
V , 594, 17 December 1924: Der Zettelschreiber von Treptow.
KrZ, 592, 17 December 1924: Stellungsbefehlen ist nicht Folge zu leisten!Ein
neuer Kronzeuge im Ebert-Prozess. Cf. DZ, 570, 17 December 1924: GroKampftag in Magdeburg.
V , 595, 18 December 1924: Anstiftung zum Meineid? and Nach Syrig/Gobert;
V , 596, 18 December 1924: Gobert, der Erhardtmann! Seine Aussageein
Racheakt!
BT, 599, 18 December 1924: Der Kronzeuge der Kreuzzeitung ; 600,
18 December 1924: Die Kronzeugen ; 601, 19 December 1924: Der Kronzeuge
der Deutschnationalen.
DZ, 571, 18 December 1924: Die schwankende Haltung der SPD; KrZ,
593, 18 December 1924: Munitionsmangel an der Front. Munitionsstreikein
Verbrechen.

252

Notes to pages 8689

80. e.g. DZ, 573, 19 December 1924: Vertagung des Ebert-Prozesses? BT, 601,
19 December 1924: Der Kronzeuge der Deutschnationalen for examples of
keeping news about Gobert from readers.
81. Brammer, Proze, 1227.
82. V , 604, 23 December 1924: Das Urteil im Magdeburger Proze.
83. e.g. BT, 608, 23 December 1924: Das Urteil im Magdeburger Proze; VZ, 590,
23 December 1924: Das Magdeburger UrteilEine politische Unmoglichkeit.
84. BT, 608, 23 December 1924: Das Urteil im Magdeburger Proze.
85. e.g. BBZ, 602, 23 December 1924: Die Wahrheit marschiert!
86. KrZ, 602, 23 December 1924: Die verurteilte Sozialdemokratie, NA, 301,
23 December 1924: Der Spruch von Magdeburg.
87. DZ, 580, 23 December 1924: Vorsatzlicher Landesverrat! . Cf. KrZ, 602,
23 December 1924: Die verurteilte Sozialdemokratie.
88. V , 605, 24 December 1924: Das Urteil u ber das Urteil; BBZ, 603, 24 December
1924: Das Echo des Magdeburger Urteils.
89. BT, 609, 24 December 1924: Das unmogliche Magdeburger Urteil.
90. KrZ, 603, 24 December 1924: Wie sie schimpfen.
91. DZ, 582, 24 December 1924: Ebert oder Yorck?
92. DZ, 581, 24 December 1924: Das Ergebnis von Magdeburg.
93. Akten der Reichskanzlei. Weimarer Republik. Die Kabinette Marx I und II, Vol.II
(Boppard, 1973), 12457.
94. Ibid., 1247.
95. e.g. BT, 610, 24 December 1924: Das Reichskabinett fur Ebert.
96. DZ, 582, 24 December 1924: Beileidsbesuch bei Ebert.
97. A point explicitly made in DZ, 563, 13 December 1924: Das Trauerspiel von
Magdeburg.
98. e.g. DZ, 569, 17 December 1924: Eine Falschung des Vorwarts ; KrZ, 583,
12 December 1924: Wie die Vossische Zeitung lugt und falscht.
99. KrZ, 587, 14 December 1924: Wie sie falschen.
100. KrZ, 583, 12 December 1924: Wie die Vossische Zeitung lugt und falscht.
101. Letter Stein to Hugenberg, 14 May 1919, BArchK, N1231 Hugenberg, Nr. 27,
f. 317.
102. Letter Hugenberg to Stinnes, 16 February 1921, BArchK, N1231 Hugenberg,
Nr. 27, ff. 41920.
103. Letter Klitzsch to Hugenberg, 15 December 1922, BArchK, N1231 Hugenberg,
Nr. 590, f. 156.
104. BT, 585, 10 December 1924: Der Proze des Reichsprasidenten. Also Brammer,
Proze, 36.
105. NA, 296, 17 December 1924: Der Zettel an Ebert.
106. Geschaftsbericht 1926, BAK, N1231 Hugenberg, Nr. 269, f. 33.
107. BT, 593, 14 December 1924: Prozesse; BT, 603, 20 December 1924: Landesrettung, nicht Landesverrat .
108. BT, 608, 23 December 1924: Das Urteil im Magdeburger Proze.
109. Quoted in BT, 599, 18 December 1924: Der Kronzeuge der Kreuz-Zeitung .
110. Karlludwig Rintelen, Ein undemokratischer Demokrat: Gustav Bauer (Frankfurt am
Main, 1993), 227.

Notes to pages 8991

253

111. e.g. the Reichsgetreidestelle, the Reichsfettstelle, and the Reichseischstelle: Kaul,
Pitaval, 16.
112. Sammlung der Drucksachen, Nr. 1375, 2810.
113. Richter had received two loans from two of Barmats companies, as well as various
other small gifts, according to the report of the state prosecution of 5 June 1925, in
LAB, Re 358421, Vol.8, unpaginated.
114. Cf. BLA, 14, 9 January 1925: Urkunden gegen Barmatund andere. Cf. BVZ,
18, 11 January 1925: Redliche Republik for Barmats connection to Franz Kruger.
115. See BLA, 14, 9 January 1925; DTztg, 14, 9 January 1925; taken up in Josef
Kaufhold, Der Barmat-Sumpf (Berlin, 1925), 6. This was untrue, he had once
received a photo, but without dedication or signature. See minutes of session 48 of
the Prussian investigating committee, 7 October 1925, Sammlung der Drucksachen,
Nr. 1375, 2806.
116. letter to Prussian minister of justice, 9 December 1924, in Geheimes Staatsarchiv
Preussischer Kulturbesitz (GStAPK), Re84a15855, 7. For a contemporary comment on the crucial role of the state prosecution in triggering the Barmat scandal, see
see DTbl, 8, 10 January 1925: Der Augiasstall. For Kussmanns political crusade,
see GStAPK, Re84a-15856, ff. 60e, 115, 132; his defence Re84a15855, f. 9. Cf.
Vorwarts: V , 445, 20 September 1925: Deutschnationale Justizkorruption; V ,
152, 31 March 1925: Staatsanwalt Kussmann. Cf. Kussmanns reply, in a letter to
the Kammergericht, 3 April 1925; GStAPK, Re84a15856, f. 60g and f. 121. For
predictions and advance knowledge of pending arrests, see BLA, 612, 27 December
1924: Drei neue Verhaftungen in der Affare Kutisker; BLA, 615, 29 December
1924: Das Panama der Preuischen Staatsbank; BLA, 619, 31 December 1924:
Auch die Inhaber des Barmatkonzerns verhaftet; BLA, 1, 1 January 1925: Das
preuische Finanz-Panama.
117. BT, 5, 3 January 1925: Die Affare BarmatKutisker; FZ, 35, 14 January 1925:
Der Berliner Finanzskandal; V , 23, 14 January 1925: Die Quellen der Hetze,
in Ministry of Justice les: GStAPK, Re84a15855, 1023. The most convincing
case for the existence of a connection between state prosecution and Berliner LokalAnzeiger in GStAPK, Re84a15855, 1621. Cf. report of 23 February 1925 on
the same issue, GStAPK, Re84a15856, 21.
118. See GStAPK, Re84a15856 for increasing criticism of Kussmann, Re84a14650
for the investigation on his connections with the right-wing press. For ofcial
explanation, Cf. V , 306, 1 July 1925: Barmat-Verfahren und Staatsanwaltschaft.
119. V , 352, 28 July 1925: Haussuchungen bei Justizbeamten.
120. BT, 446, 20 Se 1925: Die Hintergrunde der Barmat-Hetze.
121. Germania, 348, 29 July 1925: Die Bekampfer der Korruption.
122. Letter of 5 May 1925, repr. in Germania, 348, 29 July 1925: Die Bekampfer der
Korruption.
123. 5 May 1925, repr. in V , 364, 4 August 1925: Bang wird bange.
124. On Kussmanns role in the staging of the arrest, see GStAPK, Re84a15855, 9;
and Re84a15856, 166.
125. BM, 1, 1 January 1925: Verhaftung der Leiter des Barmat-Konzerns. (Wegen
Verdachts der Verbindung mit KutiskerVierhundert Polizeibeamte aufgebotenVernehmungen Tag und Nacht. Cf. NA, 306, 31 December 1925: Die

254

126.

127.
128.
129.
130.
131.
132.

133.

134.
135.
136.
137.

138.
139.

140.
141.
142.
143.
144.
145.
146.
147.
148.

Notes to pages 9193


sensationelle Verhaftung der Barmats. Scherek, head of the APP, described in his
report of 2 January 1925 the journalistic frenzy of this affair bei der stundlich
die wildesten Geruchte und ununterbrochen neue Versionen den Redaktionen
zugetragen werden: GStAPK, Re84a15855, 19. Cf. V , 1, 1 January 1925: Die
Festnahme der Barmats.
Adolf Stein published his weekly columns in a book every yearhis column of
15 January 1925 appeared in Rumpelstilzchen [pseud. for Adolf Stein], Haste
Worte (Berlin, 1925), 153: . . . an jedem Stammtisch ist er heute Held des
Tagesgesprachs.
V , 4, 3 January 1925: Eine deutschnationale Unterstellung.
Vossische Zeitung quoted in V , 76, 14 February 1925: Rund um den Skandal.
BVZ, 619, 31 December 1924: Die Gebruder Barmat verhaftet.
BLA, 619, 31 December 1924: Auch die Inhaber des Barmatkonzerns verhaftet.
RF, 1, 1 January 1925: Die Bruder Barmat verhaftet; and, again quoting from the
Rote Fahne, DTbl, 2, 3 January 1925: Verdachtiger Eifer.
BVZ, 619, 31 December 1924: Die Gebruder Barmat verhaftet. For regional
papers, see AZ, 1, 2 January 1925: Der Fall Kutisker; BA, 1, 1 January 1925: Der
Kreditskandal.
For the signicance of the Barmat scandal for right-wing politics, see Stephan
Malinowski, Politische Skandale als Zerrspiegel der Demokratie. Die Falle Barmat
und Sklarek im Kalkul der Weimarer Rechten, in Wolfgang Benz (ed.), Jahrbuch
fur Antisemitismusforschung, 5 (Frankfurt am M., 1996), 4855.
e.g. RF, 1, 1 January 1925: Die Bruder Barmat verhaftet.
DTztg, 2, 2 January 1925: Riesenausdehnung des Barmat-Skandals.
V , 4, 3 January 1925: Der Staatsbank-Skandal (Die Verantwortung der StaatsbankLeitung).
VZ, 3, 2 January 1925: Die Untersuchung in der Barmat-Affare; and VZ, 5,
3 January 1925: Weitere Haftentlassungen in der Barmat-Affare; BT, 5, 3 January
1925: Die Affare Barmat-Kutisker.
VZ, 6, 4 January 1925: Wie heit der Fall?
DTztg, 6, 5 January 1925: Der Typ Barmat. For a reaction on this article, see
V , 8, 6 January 1925: Staatsbankskandal und Stinnes-Skandal: Deutschnationale
Legendenbildung.
BM, 313, 31 December 1924: Korruption! Wie es fruher warDie Monarchie
vertuschte, die Republik raumt auf.
DAZ, 4, 3 January 1925: Der Staat im Staate. Der politische Barmat.
V , 6, 4 January 1925: Monarchische und republikanische Seehandlung.
NP, 5, 7. January 1925: Barmat als Schirmherr deutscher Deserteure (Fettwaren
und Sozialismus engros).
V , 11, 7 January 1925: Der Skandal der Nationalpost .
See letter to Landgericht I, 24 January 1925, GStAPK, Re84a15855, 218f.
Letter Henry Barmat to Ministry of Justice, 25 November 1925: GStAPK,
Re84a15858, 123.
Letter Generalstaatsanwalt beim Kammergericht to Prussian minister of justice,
22 December 1925, GStAPK, Re84a15858, 1424.
Quoted in DZ, 77b, 30 March 1928: Die Amtshandlungen Hoes.

Notes to pages 9396


149.
150.
151.
152.

153.
154.
155.
156.

157.
158.
159.

160.
161.
162.

163.

164.
165.
166.
167.
168.
169.
170.
171.
172.

173.
174.

255

See V , 6, 4 January 1925: Die Kredite der Reichspost.


NA, 6, 8 January 1925: Der Postminister im Barmat-Skandal.
NA, 7, 9 January 1925: Neue Millionen-Kredite des Postministers.
BLA, 15, 9 January 1925: Zum Barmat-Skandal. The Vorwarts immediately
pointed out that this information again must have been leaked by the state
prosection ofce: Cf. V , 16, 10 January 1925: Methoden der Verleumdung.
KrZ, 8, 10 January 1925: Folgen der Barmat-Affare.
NA, 8, 10 January 1925: Die Sozialdemokratie im Barmat-Sumpf.
See V , 72, 12 February 1925: Der Mann und die Partei.
V , 24, 15 January 1925: Regierung Luther/Schiele/Stresemann; and V , 20,
13 January 1925: Luthers verschamter Burgerblock. Cf. Winkler, Schein der
Normalitat, 228.
See Schulze, Braun, 46674.
For an open admission of right-wing expectations regarding the consequences of
the Barmat scandal, see DZ, 78, 16 February 1925: Um die deutsche Seele.
This label was rst used by Nazis in the rst debate in the Reichstag on the Barmat
affair on 9 January, and repeated by the Communists, GStAPK, Re84a15855,
120f., then taken up by Hugenbergs Tag. Cf. Tag, 12, 14 January 1925: Die
Sozialdemokratie im Barmatsumpf.
Steffani, Untersuchungsausschusse, 183.
See Sammlung der Drucksachen, Nr. 21, Nr. 79J, Nr. 83, Nr. 84a, Nr. 90a. Cf.
Steffani, Untersuchungsausschusse, 173.
See session 26 on 7 May 1925, when parliamentarians conceded that they had
as yet hardly anything to report on the matter of the Staatsbank to the Landtag:
Sammlung der Drucksachen, Nr. 580, 1534. The committee did not question Julius
Barmat until 17 April 1925.
e.g. Sammlung der Drucksachen, Nr. 298 (session 3, 28 January 1925), 346, 360;
Nr. 318 (session 5, 30 January 1925), 41819; Nr. 339 (session 7, 4 February
1925), 459 ff., 465, 470, 472, 487; Nr. 426 (session 11, 12 February 1925), 719.
Ibid., Nr. 395 (session 10, 11 February 1925), 62930.
Ibid., 629.
Ibid.
e.g. Sammlung der Drucksachen, Nr. 347, 517; Nr. 360, 558; Nr. 395, 626.
Ibid., Nr. 360 (session 9, 9 February 1925), 559.
See minutes of Reichstag session on 9 January 1925, GStAPK, Re84a15855, 120f.
They called on Otto Wels to settle the dispute, apparently successfully: Rintelen,
Bauer, 237.
V , 65, 7 February 1925: Zum Fall Bauer.
V , 6, 4 January 1925. In fact, as minister he had become member of the board of
directors of a state-run rm, which in early 1924 was taken over by the Barmats.
See BArchL, N2359 Bauer, Nr. 6.
Tag, 23, 29 January 1925: Bauers Rolle im Barmat-Skandal.
Dr Deerberg (DNVP): Ich will nur die nackte, reine Frage beantwortet haben, ob
Sie jemals von der Firma Barmat irgendwelche Vorteile pekuniarer Art erhalten haben.
Bauer: Nein! This exchange was reprinted in BLA, 61, 5 February 1925: Ein

256

175.

176.

177.
178.

179.
180.
181.
182.
183.
184.

185.

186.

187.

188.
189.
190.
191.
192.
193.
194.

Notes to pages 9699


Barmat-Brief an Bauer, which revealed that Bauer had in fact received money from
Barmat.
Letter of 27 September 1923; in BLA, 61, 5 February 1925: Ein Barmat-Brief
an Bauer. Over the next months, Bauer struggled to repair the damage. He made
Barmat admit that the letter had not been written by himself, and that quite
probably a number of the facts that Barmats AMEXIMA had put down in the
letter were not exactly true. See BArchL, N2359 Bauer, Nr. 6.
In fact, he did not resign, but agreed, sein Mandat zeitweise nicht auszuuben: a
distinction that was not made by many papers. Cf. BZaM, 36, 6 February 1925:
Die endlose Kette der Skandal-Affaren.
BVZ, 22, 14 January 1925: Beim LumpenhandlerDie reaktionaren Enthullungen zum Barmat-Skandal.
Quoted in Steffani, Untersuchungsausschusse, 190. Cf. Berliner Lokal-Anzeiger, 49, 29
January 1925: Satzungswidrige Kredite bei der Landespfandbrief-Anstalt. (Keine
Gefahrdung der Liquiditat).
BZaM, 28, 29 January 1925: Der neue Skandal beim Landespfandbriefamt.
V , 49, 29 January 1925: Der Finanzskandal des Rechtsblocks.
BM, 26, 30 January 1925: Dreiviertel Milliarde fur die Ruhrindustrie.
Tag, 26, 30 January 1925: Wie die Linke Skandal macht.
DTbl, 26, 31 January 1925: Die Sozialdemokratie am Pranger.
BBZ, 59, 5 February 1925: Was uns ein Eingeweihter u ber den Korruptionsapparat
der Barmats berichtet; BBZ, 61, 6 February 1925: Unser Gewahrsmann berichtet
weiter u ber die Barmatkorruption; BBZ, 63, 7 February 1925: Abermals unser
Gewahrsmann zum Barmatskandal.
In October 1923 Hoe had tried to convince the trade ministry to grant Barmats
Depositen- und Handelsbank AG access to the stock exchange. Senior ofcials at
the ministry, who considered the bank eine notorische Schieberbank, refused: VZ,
63, 6 February 1925: Die Welle der Enthullungen .
Einstweiligen Ruhestand. Cf. V , 80, 17 February 1925: Richter in Ruhestand;
RF, 40, 17 February 1925: Polizeiprasident Richter in den einstweiligen Ruhestand
versetzt. In his memoirs, Severing criticized Richter for his friendship with Barmat:
Carl Severing, Mein Lebensweg (Cologne, 1950), ii. 501.
Indicative of the qualitative difference in the coverage of the committee sessions:
DAZ, 59, 4 February 1925: Heilmann im Kreuzverhor and VZ, 59, 4 February
1925: Fragen an Heilmann. Cf. RF, 31, 6 February 1925: Sie amnestieren sich!
Magdeburger Zeitung, 60, 3 February 1925: Unverfrorenheit.
Final meeting of Prussian Untersuchungsausschu, 12 October 1925. See Sammlung
der Drucksachen, Nr. 1480, 2954.
Germania, quoted in V , 93, 24 February 1925: Der Spuk der Skandale.
Gustav Noske, Letzte Tage, in Friedrich Ebert, Kampfe und Ziele (Dresden,
1.J.), 376.
Ibid. As important was the pending appeal to the Magdeburg judgement, see
Muhlhausen, Ebert, 9712.
KoZ, 182, 10 March 1925: Untersuchungsausschusse.
Cf. WaA, 48, 26 February 1925: Wo sind Heilmanns Bankkonten? It was part
of the Welt am Abend s attempt at toppling Heilmann. Cf. WaA, 47, 25 February

Notes to pages 99102

195.
196.

197.
198.
199.
200.

201.
202.
203.
204.
205.
206.

207.

208.
209.
210.
211.
212.

213.
214.
215.
216.
217.
218.
219.

257

1925: Wo bleibt die Verhaftung Heilmanns?; WaA, 49, 27 February 1925: Abg.
Heilmann noch immer nicht verhaftet!
MM, 11, 16 March 1925: Das Absterben des Barmat-Skandals .
Cf. KoZ, 182, 10 March 1925: Untersuchungsausschusse; MM, 11, 16 March
1925: Das Absterben des Barmat-Skandals ; V , 139, 23 March 1925: Verleumder in Verlegenheit.
DNVP leaet, 4 March 1925: Wie kam die Familie Barmat nach Deutschland?,
BArchL, R8034II4920, f. 111.
Quoted in Winkler, Schein der Normalitat, 231, fn. 101.
Vereinigung Internationaler Verlagsanstalten GmbH, Barmat und seine Partei
(Berlin, 1925).
Kurt Haagen, Der Kutisker-Barmat Skandal (Berlin, 1925). In the collection of
newspaper clipping of the Reichslandbund, it is found for or around 4 March
1925: BArchL, R8034II4920, 112a.
Winkler, Schein der Normalitat, 2356.
Tag, 58, 8 March 1925: Sozialistische Wahlkampugen.
Montag Morgen, 23 March 1925, in Boldt, Ossietzky, iii. 56.
Schulze, Braun, 4734.
Quoted in Winkler, Schein der Normalitat, 239.
e.g. leaet Landbund Provinz Sachsen, 15, 11 April 1925: Der Barmatsumpf ,
BArchL, R8034II4920, 168. See BArchL, R8034II, les 491921 SPD und Finanzen for anti-SPD newspaper-clippings collection; les 91557 for organization
of election campaign and propaganda material March-April 1925.
A [pseudonym for Adolf Stein], Barmat und seine Freunde (Berlin, 1925); Otto
Armin, Von Rathenau zu Barmat (Berlin, 1925); Dr Kaufhold, Der Barmatsumpf
(Berlin, 1925). Their publication date can be derived from their appearance in
chronological order of the Landbund les.
See Sammlung der Drucksachen, Nr. 540, 1430.
e.g. DZ, 160, 4 April 1925: Aus dem Barmatsumpf .
Cf. BLA, 181, 17 April 1925: Der Wohltater; BBC, 178, 17 April 1925: Barmats
erste Vernehmung.
Germania, 183, 21 April 1925: Anton Hoe In den Tod gehetzt.
Even two years later, this still caused a violent clash between Erich Kuttner (SPD)
and the author of the article, Kenkel (DNVP), in the Prussian Landtag: see
parliamentary minutes of 18 May 1927, GStAPK, Re84a, Nr. 55274, ff. 245.
V , 187, 21 April 1925: Hoees Ende. Auf kaltem Wege ermordet. Cf. DZ, 203,
2 May 1925: Der Vorwarts als Quelle der Volksvergiftung!
NP, 93, 22 April 1925: Die Totgehetzten .
VZ, 188, 22 April 1925: Kein Selbstmord Dr. Hoes (Das Ergebnis der Obduktion).
See Steffani, Untersuchungsausschusse, 1869.
Quoted in Steffani, Untersuchungsausschusse, 188.
20 October 1925, Abg. Riedel (DDP), quoted in Steffani, Untersuchungsausschusse, 189.
For an excellent analysis of the election result, see Winkler, Schein der Normalitat,
2405.

258

Notes to pages 102105

220. e.g. V , 354, 29 July 1925: Sauberkeit der Justiz! (Die Koalition der Staatsanwalte
mit den Deutschnationalen); BVZ, 364, 29 July 1925: Der Beginn der Entlarvung;
Germania, 349, 29 July 1925: Der Skandal; Kolnische Zeitung, 560, 31 July 1925:
Der neue Skandal.
221. DZ, 349, 29 July 1925: Politische HaussuchungenNeue Verdunkelungsversuche
der Barmatfreunde; KrZ, 350, 29 July 1925: Die VorwartsHetze gegen die
Staatsanwalte; DTbl, 175, 29 July 1925: Die gehetzten Barmatgegner.
222. RF, 172, 30 July 1925: Barmat-Sumpf und Justizkorruption, RF, 173, 31 July
1925: Die Barmat-Entlastungsoffensive.
223. RF, 171, 29 July 1925: Gestohlenaber echt.
224. e.g. NbKbl, 176, 30 July 1925: Haussuchung bei den Staatsanwalten; NbKbl, 177,
31 July 1925: Dr Kussmann berichtigt.
225. P, 175, 29 July 1925: Nachklange zum Barmat-Skandal.
226. Henry Barmat to the Prussian minister of justice, 25 November 1925: GStAPK,
Re84a15857, 127.
227. V , 485, 14 October 1925: Das Ende des Skandals.
228. V , 594, 17 December 1924: Syrig, Koch & Co.
229. Cf. Gotthard Jasper, Der Schutz der Republik. Studien zur Staatlichen Sicherung der
Demokratie in der Weimarer Republik 19221930 ( Tubingen, 1963), 20010.
230. Andrei S. Markovits and Mark Silverstein (eds.), The Politics of Scandal: Power and
Process in Liberal Democracies (New York, 1988), 2, 9.
231. DTbl, 27, 1 February 1925: Die Politik der Woche.
232. Neue Freie Presse, 217, 14 March 1925: Die Skandalaffaren in Deutschland.
233. BArchL, N2359 Bauer, Nr. 1, ff. 514.
234. A [pseudonym for Rumpelstilzchen alias Adolf Stein], Eberts Prozess. Von einem,
der dabei war (Berlin, [1925]). Cf. Muhlhausen, Ebert, 953.
235. A, Barmat und seine Freunde (Berlin, 1925); Otto Armin, Von Rathenau zu Barmat
(Berlin, 1925); Dr Kaufhold, Der Barmatsumpf (Berlin, 1925). Their publication
date can be derived from their appearance in chronological order of the Landbund
les.
236. Rudolf Portner, Alltag in der Weimarer Republik. Erinnerungen an eine unruhige
Zeit (Dusseldorf, 1990), 509, 527.
237. See minutes of session six, 3 February 1925, Sammlung der Drucksachen,
Nr. 319, 447.
238. MM, 11, 16 March 1925: Das Absterben des Barmat-Skandals .
239. KoZ, 182, 10 March 1925: Untersuchungsausschusse.
240. Steffani, Untersuchungsausschusse, 208, 3567.
241. DZ, 533, 26 November 1924: Kutiskers Inationsgewinne.
242. Tag, 292, 5 December 1924: Schutzt die Republik!
243. Tag, 88, 28 February 1925: Demokratie und Korruption. Cf. DTztg, 81, 18
February 1925: Die soziologische Bedeutung der Barmat-Affare; Montag, 1, 5
January 1925: Nasen zu!; Montag, 2, 12 January 1925: Schwanenwerder.
244. KrZ, 53, 1 February 1925: Geschaft und Politik.
245. e.g. DZ, 20, 13 January 1925: Die politische Bedeutung der Barmat-Affare.
See Kurt Heinig, Die Finanzskandale des Kaiserreiches (Berlin, 1925), from which

Notes to pages 105110

259

the Vorwarts printed excerpts, explicitly to counter the scandal-mongering of the


right-wing press: V , 98, 27 February 1925: Der Bismarck-Skandal.
246. DTbl, 25, 30 January 1925: Der Sumpf um Barmat.
247. Winkler, Schein der Normalitat, 245.
248. Jasper, Schutz der Republik, 205.
CHAPTER 4
1. Oranienburger General-Anzeiger (OGA), 98, 28 April 1925: Im Zeichen des
Stimmzettels.
2. Die tonangebende Zeitung im Kreise Niederbarnim, in OGA and Niederbarnimer
Kreisblatt (NKbl), 98, 28 April 1925.
3. Deutsches Institut fur Zeitungskunde Berlin (ed.), Handbuch der deutschen Tagespresse (Berlin, 1932), 124, 1356.
4. Otto Groth, Die Zeitung. Ein System der Zeitungskunde ( Journalistik) (Mannheim,
1928), i. 268.
5. Handbuch des offentlichen Lebens (Leipzig, 1928), 774. Cf. Groth, Zeitung, i. 257;
for 1932 see Handbuch der deutschen Tagespresse, 25.
6. Letter Dammert to Hermann Dietrich, 21 August 1929, in Bundesarchiv Koblenz
(BArchK), N1004 Hermann Dietrich, Nr. 283, f. 51, giving a decline in subscriptions in agricultural areas during summer of up to 40%. This gure is corroborated
by an article in Zeitungs-Verlag, 7, 13 February 1937, 957, which gives the ratio
of summer-cancellation of subscriptions during the Weimar period as nearly 50%.
Cf. Alfred Schmidt, Publizistik im Dorf (Dresden, 1939), 7982.
7. Heinrich Wuttke, Die deutschen Zeitschriften und die Entstehung der offentlichen
Meinung (Leipzig, 1875), 88. Cf. Max Garr, Die wirtschaftlichen Grundlagen des
modernen Zeitungswesens (Vicana, 1912), 71; Groth, Zeitung, i. 237; Hans Nestel,
Mehrkopge und halbfertige Zeitungen in Deutschland, unpublished Ph.D. thesis;
University of Leipzig, 1921.
8. Calculated from data provided in Handbuch der deutschen Tagespresse, 267.
9. For these statistics, see Handbuch der deutschen Tagespresse, 246, for a list of the
256 papers, see 12342.
10. For further information on these towns and the sample of local papers, see
www.hist.cam.ac.uk/academic staff/further details/fulda-press-and-politics.html
11. For the urban audience, see Karl Christian Fuhrer, Auf dem Weg zur Massenkultur? Kino und Rundfunk der Weimarer Republik, Historische Zeitschrift, 262
(1996), 73981, here 766.
12. e.g. NbKbl, 86, 12 April 1925: Hindenburgs Osterbotschaft; Uckermarkischer
Kurier (UK ), 86, 12 April 1925: Eine Osterbotschaft Hindenburgs; Angermunder
Zeitung (AZ ), 86, 14 April 1925: Hindenburgs Osterbotschaft.
13. e.g. Konigswusterhausener Zeitung (KZ ), 85, 19 April 1925: Reichsblock fur
Hindenburg; UK, 88, 16 April 1925: Auf des Messers Schneide; Prenzlauer
Zeitung (PZ ), 96, 25 April 1925: Wahlt Hindenburg!; Prignitzer (P), 95, 24 April
1925: Jarres spricht fur Hindenburg.
14. e.g. KZ, 93, 22 April 1925: Sozialer Fortschritt u. Frieden: Hindenburg!; KZ,
94, 23 April 1925: Christentum u. Deutschtum: Hindenburg!; KZ, 96, 25 April
1925: Das Vaterland u ber der Partei: Hindenburg!

260
15.
16.
17.
18.
19.
20.
21.

22.
23.

24.
25.
26.
27.

28.

29.
30.
31.

32.

33.
34.
35.

Notes to pages 110113


KZ, 97, 26 April 1925, front page.
Sperling 1926, 383.
KZ, 98, 28 April 1925: Ergebnis in Konigs Wusterhausen.
See editions of UK, 8593, 1722 April 1925.
See editions of UK 947, 236 April 1925.
PZ, 957, 246 April 1925.
UK, 94, 23 April 1925. Particularly striking was the contrast created on the front
page of UK, 96, 25 April 1925: while the box at the top of the page proclaimed
Wahlt Hindenburg!, the advertisement at the bottom ran: Die paar Jahre, die ich
nach dem Kriege noch zu leben habe, will ich in Ruhe verbringen!sagte Hindenburg.
Erfullt seinen Wunschwahlt Marx!
PZ, 91, 19 April 1925: Hindenburg.
e.g. P, 91, 20 April 1925: Das Programm Hindenburgs; 94, 23 April 1925: Wie
Hindenburg im Rundfunk sprechen wird; 95, 24 April 1925: Jarres spricht fur
Hindenburg.
e.g. P, 92, 21 April 1925: Sozialdemokratie, Zenturm und Christentum.
P, 95, 24 April 1925: Der Retter; 96, 25 April 1925: Wer sein Vaterland lieb hat,
wahlt unseren Hindenburg!
See particularly Der neue Reichsprasident, 4, 18 April 1925: Hindenburg soll unser
Fuhrer sein! and 5, 23 April 1925: Parole: Hindenburg, der Mann der Picht!
Cf. Brandenburger Anzeiger (BA), 90, 18 April 1925: Zwei grosse HindenburgKundgebungen; BA, 94, 23 April 1925: Einig fur Hindenburg; BA, 95, 24 April
1925: Im Zeichen Hindenburgs.
AZ, 91, 20 April 1925: Ein Aufruf der rheinisch-westfalischen Arbeitervereine
fur Hindenburg; Der Sparerbund fur Hindenburg; 92, 21 April 1925: Das
deutsche Ofzierskorps an Hindenburg, 94, 23 April: Katholiken und Reichsprasidentenwahl; 95, 24 April 1925: Der Reichslandarbeiterbund fur Hindenburg;
Der Konigin-Luise-Bund Hannover fur Hindenburg; Die Turnerschaften und
die Reichsprasidentenwahl; BA, 87, 15 April 1925: Ostpreussen fur Hindenburg;
93, 22 April 1925: Die Wirtschaft wahlt Hindenburg.
See Volks-Zeitung (VolksZ ), 92, 21 April 1925: Ein Herd der Korruption.
Brandenburger Zeitung (BZ ), 88, 16 April 1925: Immer wieder die Ritterlichkeit.
Henry A. Turner Jun., StresemannRepublikaner aus Vernunft (Berlin, 1968),
18993. Cf. Heinrich August Winkler, Der Schein der Normalitat. Arbeiter und
Arbeiterbewegung in der Weimarer Republik 1924 bis 1930 (Berlin, 1988), 237.
e.g. BT, 169, 9 April 1925: Was man im Auslande sagt; VZ, 86, 10 April 1925:
Warnende Stimmen aus der ganzen Welt; BT, 170, 10 April 1925: Pariser Echo;
Italienische Stimmen; Amerikanische Warnungen; BT, 171, 11 April 1925:
Ausland und Rechtsblockkandidat; VZ, 89, 14 April 1925: Wie das Ausland
urteilt Cf. Winkler, Schein der Normalitat, 237.
Andreas Dorpalen, Hindenburg in der Geschichte der Weimarer Republik (Berlin,
1966), 81. Cf. Turner, Stresemann, 192.
Diary entry of 16 and 20 April 1925, quoted in Dorpalen, Hindenburg, 82. Cf.
Harry Graf Kessler, Tagebucher 19181937 (Frankfurt am Main, 1961), 439.
See excerpts given in VolksZ, 93, 22 April 1925: Die deutschnationalen Wahlmacher.

Notes to pages 113117

261

36. BT, 186, 21 April 1925: Geheimsitzung der deutschnationalen Wahlmacher.


37. e.g. BA, 93, 22 April 1925: Der Schwindel des Berliner Tageblattes, with explicit
reference to the Brandenburger Zeitung.
38. e.g. BA, 87, 15 April 1925: Unerhorte Hindenburg-Hetze.
39. e.g. BA, 93, 22 April 1925: Hindenburgs Wahl unter europaischer Sicht.
40. BA, 89, 17 April 1925: Wer ruiniert Deutschlands Ansehen im Auslande?; Cf.
BA, 93, 22 April 1925: Die Kandidatur Hindenburg und das Ausland.
41. PZ, 90, 18 April 1925: Weshalb Hindenburg? Cf. the Brandenburger Anzeigers
attack on die Herren in der Jerusalemer Strasse [Mosse] und Lindenstrasse [Vorwarts]
in BA, 94, 23 April 1925: Auslandsurteile u ber Marx.
42. BA, 88, 16 April 1925: Hindenburg und das Ausland; PZ, 95, 24 April 1925:
Lumpen, Knochen und Altpapier; Cf. AZ, 94, 23 April 1925: Offener Brief an
die B.Z. am Mittag .
43. BA, 95, 24 April 1925: Volksvergiftung 191418.
44. See the remark about Vorwarts and its provincial Nachbeter, in AZ, 94, 23 April
1925: Der Volksverachter und Soldatenschinder.
45. See AZ, 94, 23 April 1925: Offener Brief an die B.Z. am Mittag .
46. The term Volksblock itself was allegedly a creation of the Vossische Zeitung. See BA,
87, 15 April 1925: Eine Programmrede Dr. Marx.
47. KZ, 98, 28 April 1925: Ergebnis in Konigs Wusterhausen.
48. For the absence of local DDP or Centre party organizations, see KZ, 95, 24 April
1925: Republikanische Kundgebung!
49. Cf. Winkler, Schein der Normalitat, 244.
50. See result no. 22 in table Ergebnis der Reichsprasidentenwahl im Kreise
Angermunde am 27 April 1925, in AZ, 97, 27 April 1925.
51. An extensive report of the meeting was given by his paper, BA, 95, 24 April 1925:
Im Zeichen Hindenburgs.
52. BA, 86, 14 April 1925: Wochenschau; 89, 17 April 1925: Die Parole Hindenburg.
53. See the polemic about the Parteikuhhandel Preussen fur die Roten, das Reich
fur die Schwarzen, in BA, 88, 16 April 1925: Hindenburg und das Ausland. Also
BA, 87, 15 April 1925: Die geteilte Stimmung der Demokraten.
54. See BA, 84, 9 April 1925: Hindenburg!; 91, 20 April 1925: Deutsche Volkspartei und Reichsprasidentenwahl; 92, 21 April 1925: Friede in Ehren! and
Ministerprasident Braun u ber die Prasidentenwahl.
55. e.g. UK, 89, 17 April 1925: Wie die heutigen Gegner fruher u ber Hindenburg
urteilten; BA, 88, 16 April 1925: Ich gehe zum Hindenburg!
56. e.g. AZ special edition: Der neue Reichsprasident, 4, 18 April 1925: Hindenburg
soll unser Fuhrer sein; AZ, 92, 21 April 1925: Das deutsche Ofzierskorps an
Hindenburg. and Der Reichsblock in Konigsberg; Reichsblock appeal on front
page of BA, 84, 9 April 1925: Hindenburg!
57. NbKbl, 97, 26 April 1925: Reichsblockkundgebung; AZ, 95, 24 April 1925: Fur
Hindenburg; AZ, 90, 18 April 1925: Nachrichten aus Stadt und LandGramzow.
Reichsblock-Versammlung; AZ, 91, 20 April 1925: Nachrichten aus Stadt und
Land-Neu Galow; P, 95, 24 April 1925: Wahlversammlung des Reichsblocks.
58. VZ, 114, 18 May 1925: Unter 3168 Tageszeitungen nur 150 sozialdemokratische.

262

Notes to pages 117121

59. See Handbuch des offentlichen Lebens (Leipzig, 1928), 774; Institut fur Zeitungswissenschaft Berlin, Handbuch der deutschen Tagespresse (Berlin, 1932), 27.
60. Carl von Ossietzky, 51 Prozent, in Das Tage-Buch, 4 July 1925; repr. in Werner
Boldt (ed.), Carl von Ossietzky: Samtliche Schriften (Hamburg, 1994), iii. 101.
61. Richard Lewinsohn (Morus), Das Geld in der Politik (Berlin, 1930), 160.
62. e.g. AZ, 94, 23 April 1925: Greifswald; BA, 94, 23 April 1925: Einig fur
Hindenburg. See Peter Fritzsche, Presidential Victory and Popular Festivity in
Weimar Germany: Hindenburgs 1925 Election, Central European History, 23
(1990), 20524.
63. See VolksZ, 114, 18 May 1925: Unter 3168 Tageszeitungen nur 150 sozialdemokratische.
64. BArchK, N1231 Hugenberg, 39, f. 2 Hugenbergs more openly party-political
Wipro which provided local papers with ready-made typesets serviced many less
than the 300 papers which Holzbach, System Hugenberg, 278, suggests. For local
papers reluctance to take up the Wipro service, see Rohr to Hugenberg, 4 July
1930, in BArchK, N1231 Hugenberg, Nr. 190, ff. 1303.
65. Jurgen Falter, The Two Hindenburg Elections of 1925 and 1932: A Total Reversal
of Voter Coalitions, Central European History, 23 (1990), 22541; Jurgen Falter
and Dirk Hanisch, Die Anfalligkeit von Arbeitern gegenuber der NSDAP bei den
Reichstagswahlen 19281933, Archiv fur Sozialgeschichte, 26 (1986), 179216.
66. Fritzsche, Presidential Victory, 2089.
67. Lewinsohn (Morus), Geld, 160.
68. e.g. VolksZ, 90, 18 April 1925: Leser!
69. Koszyk, Zwischen Kaiserreich und Diktatur, 177, and Georgii, Statistik, 20,
give the contemporary estimates of 25 million. For my own calculation, see
www.hist.cam.ac.uk/academic staff/further details/fulda-press-and-politics.html
70. Kurt Tucholsky, Berlin and the Provinces, in Anton Kaes, Martin Jay, and Edward
Dimendberg (eds.), The Weimar Republic Sourcebook (Berkeley, Los Angeles,
London, 1994), 41820, here 419. The original article was published under the
name Ignaz Wrobel in Die Weltbuhne, 24, 13 March 1928, 4058.
71. For an overview of that antagonism, see the sources given in the chapter Berlin and
the Countryside, in Kaes et al., Sourcebook, 41228.
72. VolksZ, 99, 29 April 1925: Hindenburgs Sieg und seine Folgen.
73. e.g. Walter H. Kaufmann, Monarchism in the Weimar Republic (New York, 1953),
14950; Eschenburg quoted in Helmut Heiber, Die Republik von Weimar (Munich,
1966), 171; Hagen Schulze, Weimar: Deutschland 19171933 (Berlin, 1982), 297.
74. Ulrich Schuren, Der Volksentscheid zur Furstenenteignung 1926 (Dusseldorf, 1978),
216.
75. Ibid., 65; RF, 280, 4 December 1925: Keinen Pfenning den Fursten!
76. Winkler, Schein der Normalitat, 41727; Schuren, Volksentscheid, 634.
77. Winkler, Schein der Normalitat, 271.
78. Ibid., 25962.
79. e.g. RF, 296, 23 December 1925: Gegen die Fursten.; RF, 297, 24 December
1925: SPD.Organisationen fur entschadigungslose Fursten-Enteignung; RF, 2,
3 January 1926: Hamburger SPD.Funktionare fur den Volksentscheid; RF,

Notes to pages 121123

80.
81.
82.
83.
84.
85.
86.
87.
88.
89.
90.

91.
92.
93.

94.
95.

96.
97.

263

4, 6 January 1926: Gewerkschaftsbeschlusse fur Furstenenteignung; RF, 5, 7


January 1926: Die Bewegung fur den Volksentscheid wachst!; RF, 6, 8 January
1926: Die scharfsten Worte gegen den SPD.Vorstand; RF, 7, 9 January 1926:
Beschlusse gegen die Furstenabndung; RF, 7, 9 January 1926: Massenzustimmung zum Volksentscheid; Das Breslauer Reichsbanner fur Volksentscheid; RF,
8, 10 January 1926: Auch in Stuttgart Niederlage des SPD.Parteivorstandes;
Gemeinsame Demonstrationen fur den Volksentscheid; RF, 10, 13 January 1926:
Massenversammlungen fur den Volksentscheid; RF, 12, 15 January 1926: Die
Arbeiterschaft marschiert nach links, RF, 14, 17 January 1926: Einheitsfront fur
den Volksentscheid!
See the polemic on the silence kept by Vorwarts, in RF, 14, 17 January 1926: Wie
der Vorwarts fur den Volksentscheid agitiert hat.
Vorwarts, 31, 20 January 1926: Die Sozialdemokratie fur Volksentscheid! Cf.
Schuren, Volksentscheid, 813.
Directive quoted in V , 56, 3 February 1926: Kommunistische Dolchstosstaktik.
Winkler, Schein der Normalitat, 275.
Schuren, Volksentscheid, 97102.
Ibid., 122.
e.g. BA, 99, 29 April 1926: Die Krise in der Furstenfrage; AZ, 118, 22 May 1926:
Gegen Raub und Bolschewismus.
e.g. AZ, 113, 17 May 1926: Der Putsch von links; BA, 135, 12 June 1926: Was
ist das eigentliche Ziel des Volkentscheides?
AZ, 117, 21 May 1926: Das friedlose Deutschland.
See VolksZ, 140, 19 June 1926: Burgerschreck.
e.g. BA, 118, 22 May 1926: Zum Volksentscheid. Die Parole der Deutschen
Volkspartei; AZ, 118, 22 May 1926: Gegen Raub und Bolschewismus. Eine
Rede des Grafen Westarp; Der Diebstahl am Furstenvermogen. Ein Aufruf der
Deutschen Volkspartei; BA, 119, 25 May 1926: Deutschnationale Parole beim
Volksentscheid; AZ, 135, 12 June 1926: Gegen den Volksentscheid; AZ, 137, 15
June 1926: Wider den Volksentscheid; AZ, 140, 18 June 1926: Vergesst nicht
Gottes Gebote!
KZ, 100, 30 April 1926: Das Volksbegehren im Reichstag.
AZ, 100, 30 April 1926: Fur Wahrheit und Recht.
e.g. VolksZ, 99, 29 April 1926: Das Volksbegehren vor dem Reichstag; BA, 99,
29 April 1926: Die Krise in der Furstenfrage; NbKbl, 100, 30 April 1926: Unsere
Innenpolitik auf dem toten Punkt.
NbKbl, 143, 22 June 1926: Das Volk gegen die Enteignung der Fursten; NbKbl,
142, 20 June 1926.
e.g. NbKbl, 134, 11 June 1926: Die Reichsregierung lehnt die entschadigungslose
Enteignung ab; BA, 132, 9 June 1926: Reichsregierung und Volksentscheid; AZ,
141, 19 June 1926: Die Regierung gegen den Volksentscheid.
For the whole episode, see Schuren, Volksentscheid, 1717.
KZ, 132, 9 June 1926: Zur Furstenenteignung; NbKbl, 132, 9 June 1926:
Hindenburg wendet sich gegen den Volksentscheid; AZ, 131, 8 June 1926:
Hindenburg und die Furstenenteignung; BA, 131, 8 June 1926: Hindenburg u ber
den Volksentscheid.

264

Notes to pages 123127

98. e.g. VolksZ, 130, 8 June 1926: Hindenburgs Brief zum Volksentscheid; VolksZ,
131, 9 June 1926: Der Hindenburgbrief vor dem Reichstag; VolksZ, 132, 10 June
1926: Lobell lugt!
99. e.g. BA, 134, 11 June 1926: Die Berliner Presse zur Kanzlererklarung zum
Hindenburg-Brief ; NbKbl, 134, 11 June 1926: Parlamentarischer Kampf um den
Hindenburgbrief .
100. AZ, 136, 14 June 1926: Du sollst nicht stehlen!; AZ, 138, 16 June 1926: Was
erhalt, was verdirbt ein Volk?; AZ, 140, 18 June 1926: Recht oder Raub?
101. e.g. BA, 131, 8 June 1926: Haben die Hohenzollern u berhaupt Privatvermogen?;
BA, 132, 9 June 1926: Verschleuderte Milliarden!; BA, 134, 11 June 1926: An
das deutsche Volk!; BA, 135, 12 June 1926: Was ist das eigentliche Ziel des
Volkentscheides?; BA, 139, 17 June 1926: Tatsachen zum Volksentscheid; BA,
141, 19 June 1926: Gedenket, dass Ihr Deutsche seid!
102. Schuren, Volksentscheid, 2289.
103. e.g. AZ, 106, 7 May 1925: Zur Aufwertung; AZ, 109, 11 May 1925: Nachtrag
zur Aufwertung betreffend die ungerechte Vermogenskonskation der Hypothekenglaubiger Cf. Schuren, Volksentscheid, 18997.
104. e.g. VolksZ, 135, 14 June 1926: Hindenburg, Sparer und Fursten; also the
front-page advertisement highlighting the victims of ination as beneciaries
of the expropriation of the princes: VolksZ, 136, 15 June 1926: Wie soll das
Fursteneigentum verwendet werden?
105. Schuren, Volksentscheid, 234.
106. BA, 142, 21 June 1926:Wochenschau; AZ, 142, 21 June 1926: Der Volksentscheid
gescheitert!
107. BA, 142, 21 June 1926:Wochenschau.
108. AZ, 142, 21 June 1926: Volksentscheidung!
109. Ibid.
110. See KZ, 143, 22 June 1926: Der Verlauf des Abstimmungstages.
111. e.g. UK, 108, 10 May 1927: Stahlhelmtag in Berlin; NbKbl, 108, 10 May 1927:
Ruhiger Verlauf der Stahlhelm-Kundgebung; KZ, 109, 11 May 1927: Vom
Berliner Stahlhelmtag; AZ, 107, 8 May 1927: Auftakt zum Stahlhelmtag; AZ,
109, 11 May 1927: Der Abschluss des Stahlhelmtags; BA, 107, 9 May 1927:
Ruhiger Verlauf des Stahlhelmtages.
112. e.g. BA, 189, 15 August 1927: Reichsbannerfeier in Leipzig KZ, 190, 16 August
1927: Die Verfassungs-Feier des Reichsbanners; NbKbl, 190, 16 August 1927:
Reichsbannertagung in Leipzig. The Angermunder Zeitung ignored the event
completely, in contrast to BZ, 189, 15 August 1927: Der Reichsbannertag in
Leipzig.
113. BA, 186, 11 August 1927: Verfassungstag.
114. See Fritzsche, Presidential Victory, 21719.
115. KZ, 232, 4 October 1927: Hindenburgs achtzigster Geburtstag.
116. See VolksZ, 232, 4 October 1927: Hindenburgs Geburtstagsfeier; VolksZ, 231,
3 October 1927: Eine Pleite.
117. See Ala, 1928, 33.
118. For a typical impression of the run-up, see KZ, 116, 17 May 1928: Wahlversammlungen in Konigswusterhausen; and AZ, 118, 20 May 1928: Angermunde
und sein Kreis im Wahlkampf.

Notes to pages 127132

265

119. e.g. BA, 98, 26 April 1928: Schlechte Zeiten, BA, 116, 18 May 1928: Frauen
und Frauen . and Wie sie hetzen, VolksZ, 81, 4 April 1928: Die Wahrheit
marschiert, VolksZ, 114, 16 May 1928: Lugen haben kurze Beine, VolksZ, 115,
18 May 1928: Das Ende einer Wahlluge.
120. e.g. AZ, 106, 5 May 1928: Angermunde im Wahlkampf ; AZ, 107, 6 May 1928:
Aus den Parteien; AZ, 109, 9 May 1928. Aus der Heimat; AZ, 115, 16 May
1928: Aus den Parteien; and AZ, 11318, 1320 May 1928.
121. e.g. AZ, 118, 20 May 1928: Wahlrecht ist Wahlpicht!; BA, 117, 19 May 1928:
Der morgige Wahlsonntag; P, 117, 19 May 1928: Politische Wochenschau.
122. See Winkler, Schein der Normalitat, 521. Cf. P, 118, 21 May 1928: Splitterwahlenrote Wahlen.
123. This turned out to be the one issue that all DNVP campaign speakers were struggling
to justify to their audiences, see e.g. AZ, 118, 20 May 1928: Deutschnationale
Partei in the section Aus den Parteien; or VolksZ, 115, 18 May 1928: Perleberg
in the section Wittenberge und Umgegend.
124. For the effect of the rain, see AZ, 119, 22 May 1928: Kreis und Stadt Angermunde
am Wahltage; KZ, 119, 22 May 1928: Aus Konigswusterhausen und der Mark.
Am Wahlsonntag; BA, 118, 21 May 1928: Der Wahlsonntag in Brandenburg. For
the greater mobilization of the SPD, see Winkler, Schein der Normalitat, 522, 527.
125. Jurgen Falter, Thomas Lindenberger, and Siegfried Schumann (eds.), Wahlen
und Abstimmungen in der Weimarer Republik. Materialien zum Wahlverhalten
19191933 (Munich, 1986), 41, 44.
126. Winkler, Schein der Normalitat, 521.
127. For the unpolitical German, see Fritz Stern, The Political Consequences of the
Unpolitical German, in Fritz Stern, The Failure of Illiberalism (London, 1972),
325.
128. BA, 186, 11 August 1927: Verfassungstag.

CHAPTER 5
1. See the summary in Richard Evans, The Coming of the Third Reich (London, 2003),
20811, 261.
2. Jurgen Falter, Hitlers Wahler (Munich, 1991), 3656; Thomas Childers, The Nazi
Voters: The Social Foundations of Fascism in Germany 19191933 (Chapel Hill,
NC, 1981), 178, 2645; Evans, Coming of the Third Reich, 264.
3. Jurgen Falter and Michael Kater, Wahler und Mitglieder der NSDAP. Neue
Forschungsergebnisse zur Soziographie des Nationalsozialismus 1925 bis 1933,
GG, 19 (1993), 15577; Falter, Hitlers Wahler, 32739, 374.
4. Evans, Coming of the Third Reich, 212. Cf. Erich Eyck, Geschichte der Weimarer
Republik (Zurich, 1962), i., 279, 350; Dietrich Orlow, The History of the Nazi
Party I: 19191933 (Newton Abbot, 1971 [1969]), 1735; Anthony Nicholls, Weimar and the Rise of Hitler (London, 1991 [1968]), 114; Ian Kershaw,
Hitler. 18891936: Hubris (London, 1998), 350. For an early revisionist take on
this argument, see Otmar Jung, Plebiszitarer Durchbruch 1929? Zur Bedeutung
von Volksbegehren und Volksentscheid gegen den Youngplan fur die NSDA,
Geschichte und Gesellschaft, 15 (1989), 489510.

266

Notes to pages 132135

5. Speech Dovifat, at 8th Meeting of the Deutscher Richterag, 14 September 1929,


in Geheimes Staatsarchiv Preuischer Kulturbesitz Berlin-Dahlem (GStA), I. HA,
Rep. 92, Nachlass Dovifat, no. 2176, unpaginated.
6. Otto Busch and Wofgang Haus (eds.), Berlin als Hauptstadt der Weimarer Republik
19191933 (Berlin, 1987), 323.
7. Russell Lemmons, Goebbels and Der Angriff (Lexington, 1994), 22.
8. Quoted in Otto Friedrich, Before the Deluge: A Portrait of Berlin in the 1920s
(London, 1974), 190.
9. Helmut Heiber, Joseph Goebbels (Munich, 1965), 378.
10. The German term is gedruckter Kase: Joseph Goebbels, Kampf um Berlin. Der
Anfang (Munich, 9th edn. 1936 [1932]), 203.
11. Heidrun Holzbach, Das System Hugenberg. Die Organisation burgerlicher
Sammlungspolitik vor dem Aufstieg der NSDAP (Stuttgart, 1981), 192253; Rolf
Surmann, Die Munzenberg-Legende. Zur Publizistik der revolutionaren deutschen
Arbeiterbewegung 19211933 (Cologne, 1982), 917.
12. e.g. NA, 264, 9 November 1928: Zehn Jahre Volk in Not; WaA, 264, 9 November
1928: Der Anfang.
13. Heinrich August Winkler, Der Schein der Normalitat. Arbeiter und Arbeiterbewegung
in der Weimarer Republik 1924 bis 1930 (Berlin, 1988), 540.
14. Winkler, Schein der Normalitat, 5334, 54151.
15. e.g. NA, 268, 14 November 1928: Panzerkreuzerschwindel enthullt; NA, 269,
15 November 1928: Rote Niederlage; WaA, 270, 16 November 1928: Letzer Akt
der Panzerkreuzerkomodie.
16. Quoted in Winkler, Schein der Normalitat, 550.
17. Ibid., 57383.
18. Ibid., 577.
19. BVZ, 58, 3 February 1929: Der falsche Weg.
20. BVZ, 92, 23 February 1929: Stresemanns Koalitionsbemuhungen.
21. BVZ, 102, 1 March 1929: Einer, der genug hat.
22. BVZ, 79, 15 February 1929: Joseph Wirths Verzweifelung.
23. BVZ, 104, 2 March 1929: Selbsterkenntnis oder nur schone Worte?
24. Carl Severing, Mein Lebensweg (Cologne, 1950), ii. 141.
25. Goebbelss diary entry of 17 November 1928, in Ralf Georg Reuth (ed.), Joseph
Goebbels Tagebucher (Munich, 1992), i. 334.
26. Welt am Abend, 271, 17 November 1928: Hitler-Premiere im Sportpalast: Deutschland ist vernegert.
27. Goebbelss diary entry of 17 November 1928, in Reuth, Goebbels Tagebucher, i. 335.
Cf. Heiber, Goebbels, 745; Leon Schirmann, Blutmai Berlin 1929: Dichtungen
und Wahrheit (Berlin, 1991), 53.
28. Nachtausgabe, 271, 17 November 1928: Selbstmord oder Verbrechen?
29. Angriff, 48, 26 November 1928: Kutemeyer and Mord am PG. Kutemeyer. Cf.
Kessemeier, Leitartikler Goebbels, 82.
30. Welt am Abend, 272, 19 November 1928: Der Tod des Nationalsozialisten. Nicht
ermordet, sondern in den Kanal gefallen.
31. e.g. G, 280, 19 June 1929: Der Tod des Nationalsozialisten Kutemeyer.
32. WaA, 274, 22 November 1928: Hitlerleute schieen Arbeiter nieder.

Notes to pages 135138

267

33. Winkler, Schein der Normalitat, 6712.


34. e.g. WaA, 293, 14 December 1928: Zorgiebel verbietet; RF, 294, 14 December
1928: Unbefristeter Raub der Versammlungsfreiheit.
35. Schirmann, Blutmai, 601.
36. RF, 86, 13 April 1929: Heraus zur Maidemonstration!
37. RF, 98, 27 April 1929: Das Maikomitee warnt Zorgiebel; RF, 99, 28 April 1929:
Der Henker des 1. Mai.
38. V, 194, 26 April 1929: Ein Verbrechen an der Arbeiterschaft!
39. Schirmann, Blutmai, 68, fn. 137.
40. e.g. RF, 98, 27 April 1929: Das Maikomitee warnt Zorgiebel.
41. WaA, 99, 29 April 1929: Ich warne!
42. V, 199, 29 April 1929: 200 Tote am 1. Mai? Verbrecherische Plane der Kommunisten.
43. RF, 100, 30 April 1929: Rote Fahnen heraus!; WaA, 100, 30 April 1929: Letzte
Rustungen; RF, 100, 30 April 1929: Berliner Arbeiterjugend demonstriert.
44. For a discussion of Kunstlers article, see Schirmann, Blutmai, 69, fn. 138.
45. BM, 103, 30 April 1929: Kommunistische Mai-Hoffnungen; T , 99, 29 April
1929: Der 1. Mai-Kampfplan und die Polizei-Abwehr.
46. NA, 100, 30 April 1929: 15 000 Schupobeamte sind morgen mobil.
47. BM, 104, 1 May 1929: Ruhe bewahren!
48. BVZ, 202, 30 April 1929: Generalprobe zum Mai-Krawall?; BM, 104, 1 May
1929: Zusammenstoe in Neukolln.
49. Schirmann, Blutmai, 13.
50. e.g. V , 199, 29 April 1929: 200 Tote am 1. Mai?
51. Schirmann, Blutmai, 1089.
52. Caption in photo-series Blutiger 1. Mai in 8UA, 101, 2 May 1929.
53. Eve Rosenhaft, Beating the Fascists? The German Communists and Political Violence
19291933 (Cambridge, 1983), 14.
54. Schirmann, Blutmai, 111, 199200.
55. Ibid., 11617.
56. Ibid., 11925, 12833.
57. Ibid., 83.
58. 8UA, 101, 2 May 1929: Ihr Blut komme u ber Moskau . . . !
59. 8UA, 101, 2 May 1929: Straenschlacht in Neukolln und am Wedding.
60. T , 101, 2 May 1929: Vor neuen Unruhen.
61. T , 101, 2 May 1929: Nachtgefecht am Wedding . . . .
62. NA, 101, 2 May 1929: Schupo sturmt Barrikaden.
63. Quoted in Schirmann, Blutmai, 913. Cf. 1857.
64. NA, 101, 2 May 1929: Die Folgen des blutigen 1. Mai.
65. BVZ, 205, 2 May 1929; 8UA, 101, 2 May 1929; BZaM, 118, 2 May 1929.
66. NA, 101, 2 May 1929.
67. Schirmann, Blutmai, 14250.
68. e.g. 8UA, 102, 3 May 1929, BM, 106, 4 May 1929, T , 102, 3 May 1929.
69. e.g. 8UA, 102, 3 May 1929: Ausnahmezustand u ber Neukolln und Wedding!

268

Notes to pages 138145

70. e.g. BM, 106, 4 May 1929: Bilder aus den Unruhe-Gebieten; T , 102, 3 May
1029: Schupo-Posten; 8UA, 102, 3 May 1929: Wie es an der Hauptkampfstatte
am Wedding aussieht.
71. Schirmann, Blutmai, 15661.
72. 8UA, 103, 4 May 1929. Schupo was the popular short form for Schutzpolizei.
73. VZ, 108, 7 May 1929: Belagerungszustand aufgehoben; 8UA, 104, 6 May 1929:
Jetzt wird Polizeiprasident Zorgiebel seine Schupo-Ofziere mustern mussen; VZ,
107, 5 May 1929: Die Absperrung des Neukollner Tumult-Gebietes; BZaM, 120,
4 May 1929: Zwei Journalisten von Kugeln getroffen, einer tot. Cf. Schirmann,
Blutmai, 21115.
74. T , 103, 4 May 1929: Schupo nervos und u bermudet.
75. BVZ, 208, 4 May 1929: Unschuldige als Opfer der Strassenkampfe and Schluss
mit dem Blutvergiessen!
76. 8UA, 105, 7 May 1929: Sensationelles Ergebnis der Leichenuntersuchung der
Mai-Opfer!
77. T , 104, 6 May 1929: Rotfronts Ende!; NA, 104, 6 May 1929: Durchsuchung der
Rotfront-Hauser. Cf. Schirmann, Blutmai, 137, 27989.
78. Cf. T , 105, 7 May 1929: Reichsgelder fur Falscher und Putschisten!
79. NA, 105, 7 May 1929: Straenrauber vom Tiergarten auf der Flucht verungluckt.
80. BaM, 42, 5 May 1929: Wir klagen an!
81. Schirmann, Blutmai, 2934.
82. BArchL, RY1 KPD, I/3/12, Nr. 26, f. 338. Cf. V , 210, 7 May 1929: Anklage
gegen die KPD.
83. T , 105, 7 May 1929: Krach unter den Kommunisten.
84. e.g. V , 222, 15 May 1929: Thalmann mu sich verantworten . . . .
85. Cf. Schirmann, Blutmai, 26473.
86. 8-Uhr-Abendblatt, Tempo, Berliner Morgenpost, Vossische Zeitung ignored the rst
mass meeting completely, only the Berliner Tageblatt printed a sceptical account in
a small article. See BT, 264, 7 June 1929: Die Maivorgange.
87. Schirmann, Blutmai, 273.
88. e.g. 8UA, 104, 6 May 1929: Neue groe Kommunisten-Aktion in Berlin geplant!
89. e.g. BLA, 357, 31 July 1929: Berlins Sicherung gegen den Roten Tag .
90. e.g. Montag, 50, 30 December 1929: Wollen die Kommunisten putschen?
91. e.g. 8UA, 27, 1 February 1930: Kommunisten-Aufruhrplan vereitelt!; T , 27, 1
February 1930: Zur Abwehr bereit!; NA, 27, 1 February 1930: Berliner Polizei
Herr der Lage.
92. e.g. BLA, 107, 4 March 1930: Neue kommunistische Marschbefehle; T , 53, 4
March 1930: 6. Marz: Kampftagund Krawall-Tag?; BZaM, 63, 5 March
1930: Berliner Polizei auf hochster Alarmstufe.
93. Winkler, Schein der Normalitat, 5879.
94. Jung, Plebiszitarer Durchbruch 1929?, 4923.
95. NA, 158, 10 July 1929: Abwehrfront gegen Young-Plan.
96. V , 446, 23 September 1929: Hitler und die Knirpse .
97. BLA, 320, 10 July 1929: Nationale Einheitsfront fur das Volksbegehren.
98. See BLA, 487, 15 October 1929: Volksbegehren und Deutschnationale.

Notes to pages 145148

269

99. BLA, 362, 3 August 1929: Ein Manifest Hitlers; BLA, 363, 3 August 1929: Die
Hitlertagung in Nurnberg.; BLA, 364, 4 August 1929: Hitler-Ansprache an die
Studenten.
100. e.g. Montag, 29, 5 August 1929: Zeppelin gelandet.
101. e.g. BLA, 364, 4 August 1929: Hitler-Ansprache an die Studenten; Montag, 29,
5 August 1929: Das Treffen der Nationalsozialisten. For a typical provincial article
based on a TU report, see AZ, 182, 6 August 1929: Nationalsozialistische Tagung.
Cf. Rainer Hambrecht, Der Aufstieg der NSDAP in Mittel- und Oberfranken
19251933 (Nuremberg, 1967), 1715.
102. Goebbelss diary entry of 1 October 1928, in Reuth, Goebbels Tagebucher, i. 322.
103. For a typical expression of this argument, see Nicholls, Weimar and the Rise of
Hitler, 114.
104. Busch, Berlin als Hauptstadt, 342.
105. Ibid., 340.
106. Jung, Plebiszitarer Durchbruch 1929?, 5002, 508.
107. For an exhaustive account of the Sklarek scandal, see Cordula Ludwig, Korruption
und Nationalsozialismus in Berlin 19241934 (Frankfurt am Main, 1998), 13381.
Cf. Stephan Malinowski, Politische Skandale als Zerrspiegel der Demokratie. Die
Falle Barmat und Sklarek im Kalkul der Weimarer Rechten, in Wolfgang Benz
(ed.), Jahrbuch fur Antisemitismusforschung, 5 (Frankfurt am Main, 1996), 4665;
and Dagmar Reese, Skandal und Ressentiment: Das Beispiel des Berliner SklarekSkandals von 1929, in Rolf Ebbighausen and Sighard Neckel (eds.), Anatomie des
politischen Skandals (Frankfurt am Main, 1989), 37495.
108. Ludwig, Korruption, 134.
109. BLA, 456, 27 September 1929: Vier Jahre Kreditbetrug der Bruder Sklarek. Cf.
NA, 226, 27 September 1929: Gestandnis der drei Sklareks.
110. WaA, 226, 27 September 1929: Der Zehn-Millionen-Betrug.
111. Reese, Skandal, 385.
112. Reese, Skandal, 3834; Donna Harsch, Der Sklarek-Skandal und die sozialdemokratische Reaktion, in Ludger Heid and Arnold Paucker (eds.), Juden und
deutsche Arbeiterbewegung bis 1933 ( Tubingen, 1992), 1957.
113. e.g. NA, 227, 28 September 1929: Wo bleibt die Aufklarung?; WaA, 227,
28 September 1929: Die Schuldigen im Sklarekskandal; RF, 191, 28 September
1929: Justiz deckt Sklareks Magistratsfreunde, attacking Vossische Zeitung and
Tempo coverage of the affair.
114. The series started with RF, 197, 5 October 1929: Sklarek-Magistrat vertuscht
Sklarek-Skandal.
115. Christian Engeli, Gustav Boss. Oberburgermeister von Berlin (Stuttgart, 1971),
2456.
116. T , 233, 5 October 1929: Sklarek-Hintermanner.
117. e.g. T , 233, 5 October 1929: Heraus mit den Namen der Anzug-Liste!; BLA,
473, 7 Ocotber 1929: Stimmen diese Namen?; WaA, 235, 8 October 1929: Her
mit der Liste!; V , 473, 9 October 1929: Die Kundenliste. Cf. Erich Flatau, Zum
Sklarek-Skandal (Berlin, 1929), 67.
118. RF, 199, 8 October 1929: An der Spitze der Korruptions-Kleiderliste steht
Oberburgermeister Boss; T , 235, 8 October 1929: Boss-Krise!; BZaM, 276,

270

119.
120.

121.
122.
123.
124.

125.

126.
127.

128.
129.
130.
131.
132.
133.
134.
135.

136.
137.

138.
139.
140.

Notes to pages 148151


9 October 1929: Ein 4000 M-Pelz fur 400 M; NA, 236, 9 October 1929: Die
Beschuldigungen gegen Oberburgermeister Boss.
Scholtz to Boss, 17 October 1929, quoted in Ludwig, Korruption, 173.
For the concept of Teiloffentlichkeit, see Detlef Lehnert and Klaus Megerle (eds.),
Politische Teilkulturen zwischen Integration und Polarisierung: Zur politischen Kultur
in der Weimarer Republik (Opladen, 1990).
Carl Ladendorff (WP), on 17 October 1929, in Sitzungsberichte des Preussischen
Landtags III. Wahlperiode, 855861.
e.g. V , 473, 9 October 1929: Presseskandal in Berlin.
e.g. V , 477, 11 October 1929: Der Kern des Skandals.
See the speech of Erich Flatau, SPD, in the city council on 10 October 1929,
printed as a brochure: Erich Flatau, Zum Sklarek-Skandal (Berlin, 1929). Cf.
Harsch, Sklarek-Skandal 1929, 20410.
Berliner Tageblatt, 518, 2 November 1929: Boss informiert sich. Cf. Berliner
Lokal-Anzeiger, 516, 1 November 1929: Die Ankunft des Oberburgermeisters;
Welt am Abend, 256, 1 November 1929: Bo unter Polizeischutz.; Engeli, Gustav
Bo, 243.
Published in 1931: Gabriele Tergit, Kasebier erobert den Kurfurstendamm (Berlin,
1992 edn.), 8.
See RF, 203, 12 October 1929: 5000 neue Leser der Roten Fahne; for Tempo, see
data for third and fourth quarter 1929 in Ullstein Berichte. Street-sale income of
BLA and NA reached nearly 270,000 RM in October 1929: a record only beaten
by the results in October 1930 and March 1933; see Strassenhandelseinnahmen
19271937, in BArchK, N1231, Nr. 201, ff. 378.
A, 42, 10 October 1929: Geheimtresor in Sklareks Villa; A, 44, 17 October 1929:
Fasanen, Sekt, Kaviar, Hummer!
BLA, 544, 17 November 1929: Es geht um das Schicksal Berlins. Berlin gegen
Sklarek-Stadt!
NA, 270, 18 November 1929: Das amtliche Gesamtergebnis von Gro-Berlin.
NA, 269, 16 November 1929: Zwei Wahlaufrufe: Fur ein sauberes Berlin!
Falter, Wahlen und Abstimmungen, 41, 1024.
Eyck, Weimarer Republik, ii. 281.
Erasmus Jonas, Die Volkskonservativen 19281933 (Dusseldorf, 1965), 456.
Eyck, Weimarer Republik, ii. 282. Cf. V , 446, 23 September 1929: Hitler und
die Knirpse ; V , 454, 27 September 1929: Verwasserter Zuchthausparagraph.
Cf. Goebbelss diary entry of 22 September 1929, in Reuth, Goebbels Tagebucher,
i. 409.
Goebbelss diary entry of 22 September 1929, in Reuth, Goebbels Tagebucher,
i. 409. Cf. A, 39, 30 September 1929: Rund um die Rotationsmaschine.
Jonas, Volkskonservativen, 45. Cf. Goebbelss diary entry of 19 October 1929, in
Reuth, Goebbels Tagebucher, i. 416; BLA, 494, 19 October 1929: Der Kampf um
4; BLA, 496, 20 October 1929: Die Irrefuhrung Hindenburgs.
Jonas, Volkskonservativen, 4754.
Ibid., 547. Cf. Winkler, Schein der Normalitat, 737.
e.g. 8UA, 280, 30 November 1929: Schwere Niederlage Hugenbergs!

Notes to pages 151152

271

141. e.g. BVZ, 567, 1 December 1929: Deutschnationale Krise ausgebrochen; BVZ,
570, 3 December 1929: Deutschnationale Auseinandersetzung.
142. e.g. 8UA, 282, 3 December 1929: Hugenbergs Verzweiungskampf um
Parteidiktatur; T , 282, 3 December 1929: Hugenbergs Parteigericht.
143. e.g. BVZ, 571, 4 December 1929: Sechs Mann marschieren ab; BVZ, 572,
4 December 1929: Wieder drei!; T , 283, 4 December 1929: Und noch sechs;
BVZ, 581, 10 December 1929: Die Austrittslawine wachst weiter.
144. e.g. BVZ, 573, 5 December 1929: Der deutschnationale Zerfall; 8UA, 284, 5
December 1929: Die Spaltung der Deutschnationalen; T , 284, 5 December 1929:
Die Hugenberg-Krisis geht weiter.
145. e.g. BVZ, 575, 6 December 1929: Hugenberg, geh du voran! Cf. NA, 283, 4
December 1929: Vorlauge Klarung bei den Deutschnationalen. For the Berliner
Lokal-Anzeiger, see BVZ, 572, 4 December 1929: Der Parteifeldwebel.
146. 8UA, 286, 7 December 1929: Nach der Spaltung.
147. Goebbelss diary entry of 7 December 1929, in Reuth, Goebbels Tagebucher, i. 431.
148. Donald R. Tracey, Aufstieg der NSDAP bis 1930, in Detlev Heiden and Gunther
Mai (eds.), Nationalsozialismus in Thuringen (Weimar, 1995), 4972, here 70. Cf.
Kershaw, Hitler, 319.
149. Cf. Falter, Wahlen und Abstimmungen, 71, 111.
150. BLA, 580, 9 December 1929: Marxistisch-demokratische Niederlage in
Thuringen. Cf. Falter, Wahlen und Abstimmungen, 111.
151. NA, 287, 9 December 1929: Rechtsregierung in Thuringen?
152. BVZ, 580, 9 December 1929: Hitlers Sieg u ber Hugenberg; 8UA, 287, 9
December 1929: Hitler frit Hugenberg. Cf. BVZ, 580, 9 December 1929:
Wieder Hugenberg-Hasen in der Nazi-Kuche; BM, 294, 10 December 1929:
Hitler-Siege. Auf Kosten der Deutschnationalen.
153. Cf. Falter, Hitlers Wahler, 1045, 11011.
154. Cf. Fritz Dickmann, Die Regierungsbildung in Thuringen als Modell der
Machtergreifung. Ein Brief Hitlers aus dem Jahre 1930, in Vierteljahreshefte
fur Zeitgeschichte, 14 (1966), 45464.
155. See Gunter Neliba, Wilhelm Frick und Thuringen als Experimentierfeld fur die
nationalsozialistische Machtergreifung, in Heiden and Mai (eds.), Nationalsozialismus in Thuringen, 7594.
156. 8UA, 66, 19 March 1930: Reichsregierung geht gegen Hakenkreuz-Minister Frick
endlich vor.
157. BZaM, 77, 19 March 1930: Minister Frick will die Thuringer Polizei nationalsozialistisch machen.
158. e.g. BZaM, 78, 20 March 1930: Die Reichsregierung will Fricks Rucktritt; NA,
67, 20 March 1930: Thuringer Kabinett einig gegen Severing; NA, 68, 21 March
1930: Kontrolleur Severings fur Thuringen; BLA, 137, 21 March 1930: Ist
Severing im Recht?; 8UA, 68, 21 March 1930: Severing fordert Untersuchung
in Thuringen; 8UA, 73, 27 March 1930: Thuringen lehnt Reichskontrolle ab.
Grobe Antwort an Severing.
159. Neliba, Frick und Thuringen, 812.
160. NA, 79, 3 April 1930: Der thuringische Minister Frick sprach im Sportpalast;
WaA, 79, 3 April 1930: Frick im Sportpalast; T , 79, 3 April 1930: Tag der
Demonstrationen.

272

Notes to pages 152156

161. Goebbelss diary entry of 4 April 1930, in Reuth, Goebbels Tagebucher, ii. 475;
probably referring to BLA, 158, 3 April 1930: Staatsminister Frick u ber den
Krieg mit Thuringen.
162. Goebbelss diary entry of 18 June 1930, in Reuth, Goebbels Tagebucher, ii. 489.
163. RF, 164, 28 August 1929: Brecht den faschistischen Terror. Cf. Rosenhaft, Beating
the Fascists?, 635.
164. e.g. BLA, 613, 30 December 1929: Wieder schwere kommunistische Ausschreitungen. Die Folgen der systematischen Hetze; BLA, 405, 28 August 1929:

Kommunistische Uberf
alle auf Nationalsozialisten.
165. Thomas Oertel, Horst Wessel. Untersuchung einer Legende (Cologne, 1988), 1, 837.
166. Ibid., 6078, 8798.
167. BLA, 24, 15 January 1930: Kommunistischer Mordanschlag; WaA, 12, 15 January
1930: Eine Luge zusammengebrochen: Die Erschiessung des Nationalsozialisten.
Opfer eines hauslichen Streits.
168. Oertel, Wessel, 837.
169. BM, 14, 16 January 1930: Revolver-Anschlag auf einen Nationalsozialisten.
170. T , 14, 17 January 1930: Roter SturmfuhrerZuhalter und Zuchthausler; NA,
14, 17 January 1930: Wieder eine kommunistische Mordtat. Auch der Anschlag
auf Student Wessel Kommunisten-Verbrechen; BLA, 29, 17 January 1930: Die
Ermittlungen in Sachen Wessel.
171. WaA, 15, 18 January 1930: Das Revolverattentat auf den Studenten Wessel. Cf.
the caricature about Rotmord in NA, 15, 18 January 1930: Wochenschau.
172. WaA, 17, 21 January 1930: Polizei und Presse.
173. 8UA, 29, 4 February 1930: Ali legt ein Gestandnis ab; NA, 29, 4 February 1930:
Politischer Racheakt.
174. T , 30, 5 February 1930: Ali Hohler und die Kommunisten; NA, 30, 5 February
1930: Die Polizei enthullt: Festgelage in der Kommunisten-Villa bei Berlin; 61,
5 February 1930: Kommunistische Helfer des Mordgesellen Ali verhaftet. For
the impact, see Goebbelss diary entry of 6 February 1930, in Reuth, Goebbels
Tagebucher, ii. 456.
175. e.g. NA, 31, 6 February 1930: Verhaftung einer kommunistischen Geheim-Agentin
in Berlin; 8UA, 33, 8 February 1930: Mordaffare Wessel zieht weitere Kreise!;
NA, 33, 8 February 1930: Kommunistischer Bezirksverordneter verhaftet.
176. See the caricature in WaA, 35, 11 February 1930.
177. BLA, 66, 8 February 1930: General Litzmann u ber einst und jetzt; BLA, 67,

8 February 1930: Neue rohe Uberf


alle.
178. BLA, 206, 3 May 1930: Hitler im Sportpalast; NA, 102, 3 May 1930: Hitler
sprach gestern im Sportpalast; WaA, 102, 3 May 1930: Hitler-Parade; 12UB,
103, 3 May 1930: Hitler im Sportpalast.

179. e.g. WaA, 55, 6 March 1930: Blutiger Uberfall


der Nationalsozialisten; 8UA, 56,
7 March 1930: Von Nazis ermordet!; BVZ, 327, 14 July 1930: Die Rontgentaler
Schiesshelden; BM, 167, 15 July 1930: Der Feuer-Ueberfall auf das ReichsbannerLokal; WaA, 163, 16 July 1930: Der Rontgentaler Prozess; BVZ, 338, 20
July 1930: Nazi-Terror gegen Belastungszeugen; BVZ, 341, 22 July 1930: Die
Rontgental-Nazis bleiben in Haft; BVZ, 346, 25 July 1930: Nazis wollten Rache
nehmen!; BVZ, 348, 26 July 1930: Vergeblicher Appell.

Notes to pages 156158

273

180. e.g. NA, 55, 6 March 1930: Blutiger Zusammensto in Rontgenthal; BLA, 111,
6 March 1930: Letzte Nachrichten.
181. e.g. 12UB, 113, 17 May 1930: Eine Nacht der Schieereien; BLA, 230, 17 May
1930: Wieder schwere kommunistische Ueberfalle; BM, 118, 18 May 1930: Drei
Todesopfer politischer Zusammenstoe.
182. T , 120, 24 May 1930: Der bestialische Mord an Heimburger.
183. e.g. WaA, 162, 15 July 1930: Der Mord am Innsbrucker Platz; BVZ, 331, 16
July 1930: Die Freundin gesteht; BM, 168, 16 July 1930: Ueberfallen und zu
Tode mihandelt; WaA, 163, 16 July 1930: Geschlagen, getreten, erdolcht; BVZ,
332, 17 July 1930: Ist das Suhne fur Nazi-Untat?; WaA, 164, 17 July 1930:
Gefangnisstrafen fur die Morder des Handlers Heimburger.
184. T , 151, 2 July 1930: Hakenkreuz-Unruhen brechen u berall aus!; BM, 157,
3 July 1930: Wie lange noch?; BVZ, 329, 15 July 1930: Schusse, Totschlag,
Messerstecherei; WaA, 161, 14 July 1930: Die Woche der politischen Prozesse;
Montag, 27, 21 July 1930: 25 politische Ueberfalle in einer Woche.
185. T , 166, 19 July 1930: Blutiger Wahlkampf befurchtet. Cf. BVZ, 338, 20 July
1930: Wahlkampf ohne Schlagring.
186. BVZ, 339, 21 July 1930: Mit Schlachtermessern auf Werbetour; T , 168, 22 July
1930: Es fangt gut an: Politischer Mordanschlag von Kommunisten auf Nazi;
BVZ, 351, 28 July 1930: Nazihorde dringt in Reichsbannerwohnungen; WaA,

173, 28 July 1930: Nationalsozialistische Uberf


alle.; BVZ, 354, 30 July 1930:
Keine Wirkung des Waffenverbots?
187. See Falter, Wahlen und Abstimmungen, 108; and Claus-Christian W. Szejnmann,
Nazism in Central Germany: The Brownshirts in Red Saxony (Oxford, 1999),
523, 177.
188. BLA, 290, 22 June 1930: Der Fuhrer.
189. BLA, 290, 22 June 1930: Heute Entscheidungsschlacht in Sachsen.
190. Szejnmann, Nazism, 224. Information given for Reichstag election in September
1930, but assumed true also for the state election less than three months earlier.
191. WaA, 143, 23 June 1930: Sachsenwahlen ein Signal der faschistischen Gefahr.
Erfolge der KommunistenDer Durchbruch der Nazis.
192. e.g. 8UA, 143, 23 June 1930: Der Hakenkreuzsieg in Sachsen; Montag, 23,
23 June 1930: Gesamtergebnis in Sachsen; BZaM, 168, 23 June 1930: Das
Sturm-Signal aus Sachsen; 12UB, 144, 23 June 1930: Nationalsozialisten, die
Sieger der sachsischen Wahlen.
193. e.g. BLA, 291, 23 June 1930: Keine Regierungsmoglichkeit in Sachsen; NA, 143,
23 June 1930: Alle Parteifuhrer haben Sorgen.
194. e.g. BM, 149, 24 June 1930: Die Lehre der Sachsen-Wahl.
195. Markus Muller, Die Christlich-Nationale Bauern- und Landvolkpartei 19281933
(Dusseldorf, 2001), 1445. Cf. Jonas, Volkskonservativen, 656.
196. BZaM, 86, 28 March 1930: Der neue Kanzler will Schiele ins Kabinett nehmen.
Der linke Flugel der Hugenberg-Partei soll herangezogen werden.
197. WaA, 78, 2 April 1930: Regierung rechnet mit Mehrheit. Der Streit im deutschnationalen Lager; BZaM, 91, 2 April 1930: Brunings Chance: Der Landbund.
198. Jonas, Volkskonservativen, 667; Muller, Bauern- und Landvolkpartei, 14950.

274

Notes to pages 158159

199. e.g. 8UA, 79, 3 April 1930: Sieg der Regierung Bruning! Volliger Umfall der
Deutschnationalen; BZaM, 92, 3 April 1930: Kabinett Bruning gerettet. Hugenberg zum Nachgeben gezwungen.
200. e.g. 8UA, 80, 4 April 1930: Am Galgen vorbei.
201. Jonas, Volkskonservativen, 6773.
202. T , 99, 29 April 1930: Der Bruch der Hugenberg-Front; T , 101, 2 May 1930:
Westarp kundigt Hugenberg den Gehorsam.
203. Goebbelss diary entry of 13 April 1930, in Reuth, Goebbels Tagebucher, ii. 477.
204. Jonas, Volkskonservativen, 7480.
205. e.g. T , 165, 18 July 1930: Neue Partei; 8UA, 166, 19 July 1930: Grundung
der Westarp-Partei! BM, 174, 23 July 1930: Klare Fronten!; BVZ, 344, 24 July
1930: Hugenbergs Konkurrenz ist da; 8UA, 170, 24 July 1930: Die Konservative
Volkspartei ist geboren!; BM, 175, 24 July 1930: Partei Westarp.
206. e.g. T , 166, 19 July 1930: Los von Hugenberg ; T , 168, 22 July 1930:
Taglich ein Adieu an Hugenberg; BVZ, 352, 29 July 1930: Die Massenucht vor
Hugenberg; T , 174, 29 July 1930: Die Flucht von rechts; T , 175, 30 July 1930:
Ein Nasenstuber fur Hugenberg.
207. e.g. 8UA, 171, 25 July 1930: Saisonverkaufe haben begonnen; Ulk, 31, 1930:
Fuhrer Hugenberg, caricature in BVZ, 358, 1 August 1930.
208. 8UA, 170, 24 July 1930: Palastrevolution.
209. e.g. NA, 183, 8 August 1930: Fur den Parteifuhrer Hugenberg. Cf. NA, 175, 30
July 1930: Kundgebungen fur Hugenberg; NA, 176, 31 July 1930: Geschlossen
fur Hugenberg!; NA, 177, 1 August 1930: Neue Kundgebungen fur Hugenberg;
NA, 179, 4 August 1930: Die bayrischen Nationalliberalen fur Hugenberg; NA,
181, 6 August 1930: Hugenbergfront in Schlesien; NA, 182, 7 August 1930: Die
deutschnationalen Beamten fur Hugenberg; NA, 187, 13 August 1930: Pommerns
Landwirtschaft fur Hugenberg.
210. WaA, 167, 21 July 1930: Wahlbundnis zwischen Hitler und Hugenberg.
211. T , 167, 21 July 1930: Das Abkommen HugenbergHitler; BVZ, 341, 22 July
1930: Falsche Parole.
212. NA, 167, 21 July 1930: Eine Falschmeldung.
213. See the caricature Die Lugenkrote in Aktion, in A, 59, 24 July 1930.
214. e.g. WaA, 25, 30 January 1930: Nationalsozialismus und Pornographie; WaA,
31, 6 February 1930: Hitler verkauft seine Volksgenossen; WaA, 46, 24 February
1930: Provokationsplan fur den 6. Marz.
215. BVZ, 338, 20 July 1930: Gebrochene Front. Cf. the Ulk caricature Hitler und
Hugenberg im Wahlboxring, in BVZ, 370, 8 August 1930.
216. e.g. BVZ, 326, 13 July 1930: Weder national, noch sozialistisch . . . Die Wahrheit
u ber die NazisEin Sundenregister; BVZ, 329, 15 July 1930: Schusse, Totschlag,
Messerstecherei; BVZ, 414, 3 September 1930: Hitlers drittes Reich: Die
Futterkrippe; BVZ, 422, 7 September 1930: Das nennt sich Arbeiter-Partei!
217. BT, 338, 20 July 1930: Am Kreuzweg.
218. 12UB, 187, 12 August 1930: Nationalsozialistische Provokationstrupps terrorisieren Berlin. WaA, 188, 14 August 1930: Blutige Wahlschlacht; 12UB, 193,
19 August 1930: Nazis rusten zum Wahlkampf!

Notes to pages 159161

275

219. e.g. WaA, 168, 22 July 1930: Industriegelder fur den Wahlkampf ; WaA, 171,
25 July 1930: Der Faschismus; WaA, 185, 11 August 1930: Hitlers RassenSozialismus.
220. WaA, 185, 11 August 1930: Goebbels Rieseneinkunfte; WaA, 189, 15
August 1930: Goebbels Rieseneinkunfte. Goebbels berichtigtwir berichtigen
Dr. Goebbels; WaA, 193, 20 August 1930: Goebbels Rieseneinkunfte.
221. Kershaw, Hitler, 3467. Cf. Goebbelss diary entries of 17 and 24 August 1930, in
Reuth, Goebbels Tagebucher, ii. 50910.
222. See Goebbelss diary entries of 30 August and 1 September 1930, in Reuth, Goebbels
Tagebucher, vol. ii 51013.
223. 8UA, 201, 29 August 1930: Aufruhr im Hitler-Lager!; WaA, 202, 30 August
1930: Der Aufstand gegen Goebbels; T , 203, 1 September 1930: Offener Krieg
der SA-Nazis gegen Goebbels; BVZ, 411, 1 September 1930: Offener KRIEG bei
den NAZIS.
224. WaA, 152, 3 July 1930: Sultan Dr. Goebbels; WaA, 153, 4 July 1930: Der
Hakenkreuzkrieg; WaA, 156, 8 July 1930: Krise um Hitler; 12UB, 166, 18 July
1930: Strasser organisiert Saalschutz gegen Goebbels.
225. Goebbelss diary entry of 1 September 1930, in Reuth, Goebbels Tagebucher, ii. 513.
226. A, 71, 4 September 1930: Ekelhafte Wahlhetze and Vergebens! Cf. BM, 210,
3 September 1930: Die Lohnbewegung bei Hitler; BVZ, 422, 7 September 1930:
Aufmarsch.
227. NA, 201, 29 August 1930: Geruchte u ber die Nationalsozialisten; NA, 202,
30 August 1930: Die Nationalsozialisten im Sportpalast; Montag, 33, 1 September
1930: Ueberfall auf die Hauptgeschaftsstelle der NSDA; NA, 203, 1 September
1930: Der Zwischenfall bei den Nationalsozialisten; BLA, 413, 2 September 1930:
Einigkeit in der N.S.D.A..
228. See the diary entry of the political editor of Mosses Berliner Tageblatt, Feder, for
6 September 1930, in Feder, Heute sprach ich mit, 266.
229. T , 206, 4 September 1930: Minister Frickfalscher Doktor?; BVZ, 419,
5 September 1930: Wo hat Frick seinen Dr. gebaut?; BLA, 419, 5 September
1930: Sie kampfen mit allen Mitteln.
230. 8UA, 207, 5 September 1930: Nazis planen Republik-Sturz!; T , 207, 5 September
1930: Der Umsturz-Plan der Nazis.
231. BVZ, 416, 4 September 1930: Mit Hammern und Messern; 8UA, 206, 4
September 1930: Kolns Nazi-Fuhrer mordet!; BVZ, 423, 8 September 1930:
Nationalsozialistische Mordtat.
232. 8UA, 207, 5 September 1930: Die Einnahmen der Nazi-Fuhrer; 8UA, 208,
6 September 1930: Enthullungen u ber Hitlers Geldgeber; 8UA, 210, 9 September
1930: Groer Nazi-Korruptionsfall aufgedeckt!; BVZ, 426, 10 September 1930:
Nationaler Verrat der Nazis!; BVZ, 428, 11 September 1930: Die HakenkreuzKorruption in Gotha; BVZ, 432, 13 September 1930: Die Nazis von Moskau
bezahlt?
233. 8UA, 212, 11 September 1930: Charlottenburg Hauptquartier der Nazi-Lehrer!;
BVZ, 430, 12 September 1930: Nazi-Sittlichkeits-Skandal and Was ein Nazilehrer
wissen will.

276

Notes to pages 161163

234. Goebbelss diary entries of 11 and 12 September 1930, in Reuth, Goebbels


Tagebucher, ii. 51516.
235. A, 73, 11 September 1930: Journaille macht Wahlkampf ; A, 73, 11 September
1930: Wie die Judenpresse lugt.
236. e.g. BLA, 432, 13 September 1930: Mit Hugenberg deutschnational!; BLA, 433,
13 September 1930: Morgen fur Liste 2; BLA, 434, 14 September 1930: Auf zur
Wahl! Der einzige Weg. Nur die Deutschnationalen.
237. NA, 211, 10 September 1930: Wendung nach rechts!; NA, 213, 12 September
1930: Parole: Rechtswendung!
238. NA, 212, 11 September 1930: Die groe entschiedene Rechte marschiert. Hitler
sprach im Sportpalast. Cf. NA, 214, 13 September 1930: Der Tag der Abrechnung
ist da: Wahlt entschieden rechts!
239. BM, 217, 11 September 1930: Hutet euch vor falschen Propheten!
240. Eksteins, Limi