A new weekly has caused something of a stir in Germany. Zeitungszeugen was designed to explore the darkest period in the country's history through contemporary newspapers, including Nazi ones. The first issue focuses on Hitler's rise to power.
The propaganda of Joseph Goebbels is back on the newstands in Germany. Der Angriff, the German word for "Attack", was the Nazi daily newspaper set up by Adolf Hitler's minister for propaganda. Since last week, copies of the paper are once again available on German news stands.
British journalist Peter McGee is behind the project, dubbed Zeitungszeugen, or "Newspaper witnesses". Every week, newspapers published during the Third Reich will be re-printed, with the first edition featuring three papers dated January 30th 1933, when Hitler seized power as chancellor. The three are Nazi daily Der Angriff, the conservative publication Deutsche Allgemeine Zeitung, and the communist newspaper Der Kämpfer, or the "The Fighter."
On the front page of Der Angriff the then propaganda chief Joseph Goebbels euphorically proclaims: "we are now going to forget the past". Whereas the communist Der Kämpfer calls its readers to take to the streets to protest against the new dictator. The conservative Deutsche Allgemeine Zeitung, meanwhile, welcomes the Nazi takeover, expressing a willingness to support the regime if it can come up with the goods: "It is the future, not the past, which counts".
Every week Zeitungszeugen will cover one event, with three journalistic viewpoints. But it is undoubtedly the re-printing of Der Angriff that is attracting the most talk: Goebbels' articles, Hitler's speeches or racist and anti-Semitic cartoons and ads are all creating a stir in Germany. Partly because this is the first time since 1945 that Nazi publications are easily available to the public. To avoid promoting Hitler's ideology, every issue includes comments on the texts, with notes by respected historians.
"We are showing how propaganda functions, how the press was controlled and what Goebbels actually wrote in his newspapers," explained the editor-in-chief of Zeitungszeugen, the historian Sandra Paweronschitz. "Newspapers are original sources which provide crucial and up-to-date information about the daily lives of Germans at the time."
This is certainly shown in the first issue, which reveals a lot about the instability of German democracy between 1918 and 1933, as well as the Nazis' growing power during the 1920s. The project also offers an insight into the media landscape of Hitler's Germany.
The project will feature fifty issues, scheduled to run until the end of the year, covering the entire period of the Third Reich until the Allies' liberation in 1945. As Germany's free press is slowly muzzled by Hitler during the 1930s and 1940s, in later editions Zeitungszeugen also introduces newspapers in German that were published abroad, with articles written by exiled journalists and intellectuals.
The approach has however proved controversial in Germany and not everyone is convinced of its educational benefits. Charlotte Knoblauch, the president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany and a survivor of the Holocaust, hopes that people will read the newspapers. But she adds that it is crucial that they also read the accompanying historical commentaries. Doing otherwise "would be fatal," she argues.
Germany is the ninth country where Peter McGee has published Zeitzeugen. Originally launched under the name "NachRichten" last year in Austria with a print-run of 10,000 copies per week, this time round the publishers are planning a weekly circulation of 100,000.
Date created : 2009-01-15