Foundations: Writing the news in Nazi Germany
As I toil away with my research I want to share a couple of links I have found during my searches. One of is from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum located in Washington, D.C. They have a fabulous website full of information and resources. It is a great tool for kids who are virtual learning. One of those tools is “Writing the news.” There is also a section called “Press in the Third Reich.”
Another good link to check out is this one from the BBC.
A large part of the scholarly work on Nazi Germany deals with the propaganda the government used to sell its agenda to the people and to sway the masses. I will not go into detail now because that is an extensive topic for another day. The press figured into the overall Nazi propaganda agenda. Newspapers fell under the Nazi propaganda ministry.
As I’ve mentioned before, Germany had a well-developed media infrastructure with print, radio, and film being the most important mechanisms at the Nazi propagandists disposal. Television was available and was used by the Nazis as a propaganda outlet as well.
And to make sure their message was carefully sent the Nazis needed to seize control of all forms of mass communication. That program began days after Hitler was named chancellor on January 30, 1933.
I will write a lot about “coordination” over the course of these articles. To break it down into its most simplest definition: it is the bringing several of agencies into harmony. In other words: “getting everyone on the same page in the service of the country.”
The Nazi party had their own press spread throughout the Germany. But with thousands of daily and weekly newspapers available for citizens to read coordinating the press would take legal action and a lot of threats and harassment. I will go into more detail about how the Nazis used articles within in the Weimar Constitution to shut down the opposition press and seize the property of other publications. They would also enact laws to say who could be a journalist and to hold editors responsible for the content of their publications.
In short, the Nazis gagged the country’s newspapers in favor of their own.
By having a controlled a press, it allowed the government to have a say and to make sure their message was carefully printed in newspapers around the country. And since the government viewed newspapers as a form of education it was very important that they sent the right message to readers.
Some of the things you will learn: the Nazi government was not above sending people to prison, ousting editors of newspapers, and expelling foreign journalists. There was one story of an ordinary German citizens sentenced to prison for saying the news printed in a party-sympathetic paper “lies.” His crime: Committing libel against the paper’s editor.
The actions taken by the Nazis toward the press was well covered here in the United States. Not only was the New York Times reporting on action after action, the Chicago Daily Tribune and Associated Press were reporting about the dismantling of what was a free press.
A side note: I will also write about the concerns newspaper publishers were expressing here in the United States about what was happening in Germany. There were attempts by some politicians and the U.S. government to in some way “curtail” unfavorable news coverage. This includes a U.S. senator whose allies established a law in Louisiana that would tax newspapers that were critical of him. (The law was later declared unconstitutional.) Other lawmakers sought to bolster federal laws to prevent the press from publishing content could in same way be considered harmful to U.S. national security. There were also reports of the F.C.C. seizing printing material and property.
I have hundreds of primary sources to dig through. It has been a fun ride this weekend reading the articles.