Der Stürmer

Updated About encyclopedia.com content Print Article Share Article
views updated

Der Stürmer

Julius Streicher has been known as the "Jew-Baiter Number One." He was not a career politician, but saw political parties as an efficient tool through which his racist propaganda could reach a larger audience. Streicher's initial political attempt was with the German socialist party (DSP), in which he was responsible for the publication of the Deutsche Sozialist, the DSP's journal. The DSP was not radical enough for his tastes, however. It would not let him use the party for mass propaganda against the Jews. This incited Streicher to join a new radical movement, the Deutsche Werkgemeinschaft (the first group to adopt the swastika), and to publish a new paper, the Deutscher Volkswille, to disseminate its propaganda. Three thousand copies of the Deutscher Volkswille were sold each week. Once again, however, Streicher's anti-Semitism was too strong for his ostensible allies. He lost influence among the movement's leaders, was forced to quit the movement, and abandoned control of the Volkswille. In the Nazi party, however, he finally found the ultimate vehicle for his racist sentiments.

Streicher took part in the Munich putsch of November 1923. From 1925 to 1940 he held the rank of Gauleiter (local party leader) of Franconia. Elected to the Reichstag in 1933, he was granted an honorary commission in the SA, with the rank of general. His duties, however, were only marginally military in nature. Streicher was above all the publisher of the notorious anti-Semitic newspaper Der Stürmer from 1923 to 1945, and served as its editor in chief for the first ten years of the paper's existence. The aim of Der Stürmer was to attack, denounce, and promote discrimination against Jews in every way possible. In the 1920s, Streicher's anti-Semitic publication elicited many charges of libel and slander, for which he, as publisher, editor, and author, served a total of eight months in prison. Other anti-Semitic Nazis may be more notorious, but Julius Streicher was by far the most vicious and prolific of them. As chairman of the Central Committee for the Defense against Jewish Atrocities and Boycott Propaganda, Streicher was responsible for the boycotts against Jewish businesses.

Originally, Der Stürmer had a fairly limited circulation, contained only a few pages, and even temporarily ceased publication. By the mid-1920s, however, the paper was growing in size, and the number of copies printed each issue began to increase. In 1927, approximately 15,000 copies were sold weekly, and by 1935, circulation had attained 500,000. At that time, Der Stürmer was widely distributed in Germany and was read by German citizens from all social classes, including Hitler himself. Members of the Nazi party were strongly encouraged to subscribe to Der Stürmer. In addition to distribution through subscription, Der Stürmer was displayed in public places throughout Germany, where passersby could stop to read the propagandist titles or look at the racist cartoons of Philippe Rupprecht. Rupprecht, known as Fips, regularly drew anti-Semitic cartoons that employed all the popular stereotypes of the time to portray the physical characteristics of Jews. Streicher and Der Stürmer also published many special editions dedicated to anti-Jewish propaganda, including children's books. With the beginning of the war, the paper's circulation dropped significantly. One reason was the wartime shortage of paper, but the other was far more ironic: the absence of Jews in Germany. To boost circulation, Der Stürmer added more cartoons and used doctored photographs to further its propagandist aims.

The first issue of Der Stürmer, published in 1923, promoted the view that Germans were under the control of Jewish people and that Jews must be forced to leave Germany. Following a policy of gradual development, Streicher initially limited himself to vague expressions, such as "the black shadow of foreign blood," to describe the alleged omnipresence of Jews in German society. Subsequently, however, Der Stürmer became more specific. In his articles, Streicher began targeting specific Jewish individuals, or claiming bluntly that Jews were deadly vermin. The paper frequently provided lists of names of Jews toward whom a boycott was to be initiated or who were to be physically assaulted.

For Der Stürmer, racial differences explained everything, and repeating this idea in different forms, again and again, was the paper's most effective technique. It did not seek to convince its readers with strong and sound arguments, but instead used an inflammatory style to further its anti-Semitic agenda. Its primary technique was the use of short articles and very simple language to explain in a direct way the so-called reality of the Germans vis-à-vis the Jews. For its racist propaganda to remain effective, and in order to reach the broadest possible readership, Der Stürmer repeated the same stories in different ways without bothering to supply new evidence, and used examples to which the general, non-Jewish public could relate. Der Stürmer both reported on scandals and initiated them. It created anti-Jewish stories, often relying on old stereotypes, such as the accusation that Jews were responsible for ritual murder and that they kept the blood of their victims, reporting on them as if they were ongoing events. Then, again in the guise of reporting, it publicized the stories far and wide.

Before the International Military Tribunal (IMT) in Nuremberg, Streicher was indicted for crimes against peace and for crimes against humanity, specifically because of his involvement with Der Stürmer. The prosecution filed dozens of his published articles, in which Streicher incited people to annihilate the Jews. On the charge of crimes against peace, the IMT concluded that, notwithstanding Streicher's unequivocal support of Hitler's policies, there was no evidence that Streicher was actually responsible for originating the policies that led to war, or that he even knew of such policies. The IMT thus found him not guilty of the crime of conspiracy to wage aggressive war.

On the charge of crimes against humanity, however, Streicher was less fortunate. In his defense, Streicher argued that he promoted his solution to the Jewish question not with the intent of annihilating the Jewish population, but to further the classification of Jews as aliens and to promote the adoption of discriminatory legislation such as the Nuremberg Laws. He even claimed his ultimate goal was the creation of a separate Jewish state. The IMT rejected this defense, found him guilty, and sentenced him to death.

The IMT's conclusions focused more on Streicher's anti-Jewish incitements during the war, at the very moment that massive crimes were being perpetrated against the Jews, than on Streicher's role in creating a climate favorable to anti-Jewish policies. The tribunal concluded that Streicher's incitements to murder and extermination, even as Jews were being killed in great numbers, constituted persecution on political and racial grounds in connection with war crimes and thus qualified as a crime against humanity. He was sentenced to death on October 1, 1946, and was hanged on October 16, 1946. Among those convicted by the IMT, Streicher was the only one who shouted "Heil Hitler" before he was hanged.

SEE ALSO Incitement; Propaganda

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Bytwerk, Randall L. (2001). Julius Streicher: Nazi Editor of the Notorious Anti-Semitic Newspaper Der Stürmer. New York: Cooper Square Press.

Nuremberg International Military Tribunal Judgment (1947). Nazi Conspiracy and Aggression, Opinion and Judgment. Office of the U.S Chief of Counsel for Prosecution of the Axis Criminality, 56.

Martin Imbleau