The Stuttgarter Zeitung: Measuring Success

From December 1945 to mid-January 1946 the Stuttgarter Zeitung was the subject of an intense investigation by the ICD. They wanted to determine whether the paper was meeting the needs of the community and whether a second newspaper was warranted in Stuttgart.

In order to better understand the situation in Stuttgart, ICD investigators interrogated the editors of the Stuttgarter Zeitung and other political and community leaders. [1]

Joseph Eberle, one of the three licensed publishers of the paper, was informally associated with the SPD. That is, he was not a member of the party at the time, but leaned politically to the left and his closest friends and associates were not only members of the party, but in leadership positions. From 1927 to 1933, when the Nazis removed him, he works in an editorial capacity with the Süddeutschen Rundfunk. Eberle had a second strike against him in Nazi Germany as he was married to a Jewish woman, Else Lemberger. He had been questioned by the Gestapo on a number of occasions and had spent a month and a half in the Heuberg concentration camp. He continued to publish under the pseudonym Sebastian Blau, but eventually this was denied him as well. Eberle was also granted the license for the Stuttgarter Zeitung together with Karl Ackermann and Henry Bernhard on the 17th of September 1945. Eberle was also very much a reliable and known quantity to the Americans. From May 1, 1936 until its closing in July of 1942, Eberle worked in the American consulate in Stuttgart, so it is no wonder that he was one of the first newspapers licensees.

Karl Ackermann, who was informally associated with the KPD, was the second of the Stuttgarter Zeitung licensees. From what one can gather from the ICD report, he had a strong personality and was very much the leader of the initial three licensees. Early in the Nazi regime he was implicated as a traitor, due to his involvement with a resistance group in Württemberg, and was put on trial. He spent time in Dachau concentration camp, from which he managed to escape to Switzerland.  Here he worked as an academic researcher in Zurich before his return to Germany after the war.

The final member of the initial group of three was Henry Bernhard. He was a member of the DVP (Democratic People's Party) and had been the private secretary to Gustav Stresemann from 1923 to 1929 and was administrative director of the Foreign Ministry. After this, he wrote for a number of politically unaligned newspapers, which he had to give up in 1933. From 1933 to 1938 he owned a newspaper clipping service, after which he worked in Mercedes Benz’s public relations department until 1945.

A fourth individual was often unofficially included in this group. Helmut Cron had initially applied for a license, but had been turned down due to his peripheral involvement with the Nazis. Even so, he is still credited today with having been part of the team that helped build the Stuttgarter Zeitung. He had been the chief editor of the Mannheimer Tagesblatt from 1928 until 1934, when the National Socialists forced him out. After this he worked as an editor for a number of trade papers until he was forced to give this work up as well, due to being considered politically suspect. In 1939 he became the business editor of the Stuttgarter neues Tagblatt, which from 1943 onward was considered synonymous with the Stuttgarter NS-Kurier, a capacity in which he served until 1945. It was for this reason that the ICD refused to license him as a publisher. From 1949 to 1953 he was the Chairman of the Deutschen Journalisten-Verbandes (German Journalist’s Association). He left the Stuttgarter Zeitung in 1949 to become the Chief Editor of the Wirtschaftszeitung. The licensed publisher of this paper was Curt E. Schwab, whose brother had emigrated to the United States in 1933 and returned to Germany as an occupation officer in the US Army. In addition, the leaders of the four main political parties in Württemberg-Baden were interviewed.

The Chairman of the DVP, Wolfgang Haußmann, was a lawyer and, together with Arnulf Klett, founded the resistance cell Rettet Stuttgart (Save Stuttgart) during the Nazi years in Germany. For a brief time from 1945-1946, Haußmann served as Stuttgart’s Deputy Mayor.

A further individual interrogated was Josef Andre, who was Minister of Economics and leader of the CSU (Christian Social Union). He was a Catholic and had been a leader in the Zentrum Party before the Nazis disbanded it. He had been imprisoned after the July 1944 attempt on Hitler’s life. He was Economics Minister for Württemberg-Baden from September 1945 to May 1946, when he was forced out of office by OMGUS.

Fritz Ulrich was the Chairman of the SPD in Württemberg-Baden. He had apprenticed as a printer/typesetter during which time he came in contact with the SPD. He eventually became chief editor of the Nekar-Echo in Heilbronn. He was arrested by the Nazis in March 1933 and spent 8 months in various prisons and concentration camps. When he applied for a publishing license after the war, he was turned down by the ICD because they did not wish to have any newspapers tied directly to any of the political parties. However, OMGUS officials had other things in mind for him and, as of September 22, 1945, he was made the Minister of the Interior of Württemberg-Baden.

Albert Buchmann was the Chairman of the KPD in Württemberg-Baden. In 1919, Buchmann had joined the Independent Social Democratic Party of Germany and in 1921 joined the KPD. He had been arrested in 1933 and was found guilty of treason in 1936. He spent virtually the entire 12-years of the Nazi period in Germany in either prison or a concentration camp. He eventually emigrated to the German Democratic Republic in 1952.

Government officials were also asked their opinions. They were important, because they worked very closely with the occupation forces on a daily basis. Reinhold Maier, the Minister President and leader of the Democratic Party was asked to comment on the newspaper situation. Maier was a Protestant and had been a member of the DDP (Deutsche Demokratische Partei) in Weimar Germany and had been the Economic Minister of Württemberg from 1930 to 1933. He was also the founder of the DVP in 1945 and had been designated Ministerprasident of Württemberg-Baden by OMGUS.

Arnulf Klett, the Oberbürgermeister of Stuttgart, was a lawyer and then Mayor of Stuttgart from 1945 to 1974 and had initially been sworn in by the French forces 14 days before the end of the war in Europe. Klett, of protestant background, had not been affiliated with any political party during the Nazi years, but had been a tireless defender of those persecuted by the Nazis. Already in 1933 he had been sent to Heuberg concentration camp for four weeks due to his work with those being pursued by the Nazis. Even after this, he remained a staunch opponent of the regime.

Considering the strong position of the church in helping to shape public opinion, the ICD also questioned their leaders. Franz Joseph Fischer, the Bishop of Rottenburg, and Reverend Seidenmeyer of the Catholic Church were questioned; as well as the protestant Bishop Theophil Wurm. While the two Catholics were politically unaligned, they did espouse conservative political positions. Wurm, on the other hand, had been a member of the Christian Social Party before World War I and had a seat in the Württemberg State Parliament until 1920. During the Nazi regime, he was twice arrested because of his stance in regard to church policy, especially the Barmen Declaration, and aligned himself with the breakaway Confessing Church. His complaints against the Nazi euthanasia program resulted in him being forbidden to speak in public, or to have his writing published.  In 1945 he was made Chairman of the council of the reconstituted Evangelical Church in Germany and was a signatory of the Stuttgart Declaration of Guilt.

Generally, while it was thought that the Stuttgarter Zeitung was sound in reporting and commenting on the news and had satisfied those interrogated, there were some criticisms concerning the newspaper’s philosophy.  Overall, there was general agreement that the journalistic quality of the paper was good.[2] 

Conservative leaders pointed out during their interviews that there was an imbalance among the licensed publishers of the paper with two leftist licensees and only one rightist, who also took on considerable editorial responsibilities. Adding Anton Frey, a journalist proposed by the Christian Social Union, to the editorial staff, corrected this to an extent. In addition, Helmut Cron, an unaffiliated conservative, edited the financial page of the paper. On the left, they added two additional editors. Willi Bohn had solid anti-Nazi credentials and had already been an antiwar activist in 1916, when he distributed flyers against the war in his hometown of Gotha. Later, he joined the Independent Social Democratic Party and then the KPD. He was eventually arrested by the Gestapo in 1935. The other leftwing editor was Fritz Eberhard, who ostensibly represented the worker’s viewpoint. Eberhard’s name at birth was Helmut von Rauschenplat. He took on the pseudonym Fritz Eberhard in 1933, after a warrant for his arrest was issued for his activities against the Nazis in Germany as a member of the SPD. In 1937 he managed to escape to Great Britain. There he was affiliated with the British Political Warfare Executive and also published articles and worked with the Sender der europäischen Revolution (initially associated with the BBC), which broadcast to German occupied Europe. He was brought back to Germany in April 1945 by the OSS. Though he worked for the Stuttgarter Zeitung, his primary responsibility was ensuring the democratic reestablishment of radio broadcasting in southern Germany.

Ackermann worked hard to establish some manner of inter-party harmony and was not opposed to the addition of a conservative licensee to the paper. However, according to the interrogation report, he noted, “The trouble is that the conservatives cannot find an experienced newspaper man who would satisfy the requirements of MG.” After analyzing the ICD activities surrounding the Stuttgarter Zeitung, this was simply a statement of fact. 

The greatest scrutiny was reserved for Ackermann, because he was considered the most dynamic of the three licensees and that “he could perhaps exert his influence in orienting the paper toward his own philosophy.” [3] In his interview, however, he expressed a “desire to avoid the danger of having the newspaper branded as Communist,” because he thought that would compromise the “effectiveness of the paper in converting its readers to a democratic point of view.” [4] As a result, the ICD found, in the words of Ackermann himself, that “many readers conditioned by Nazi ideology and the German nationalist tradition are unpleasantly shocked by the democratic philosophy of the newspaper and try to solace themselves by calling the paper Communist.” [5]

Ackermann further believed that all political persuasions should be allowed to express themselves freely to the public in the newspaper. Ackermann brushed aside dissatisfaction among Stuttgart’s leaders with the paper as being the result of the publishers not having enough space available and that under the circumstances this was unavoidable. He provided an example to the interrogators of how difficult a job editing the paper was with the then controversial November 5, 1945 edition. In this issue several articles on the Communist Party and about life in the Soviet one appeared together. The result was “that critics objected to what they considered a Communist bias.” [6] Bernhard, the rightist co-publisher of the paper, echoed conservative criticism when he complained to his interviewers “that he could easily be out-voted by the two other licensees, both of whom are leftists.” [7]

Even so, Bernhard did agree that the news was not distorted in the paper, despite his perception that the news was being slanted in favor of the Soviets. He also bemoaned the fact that too much reporting on Nazi criminality was appearing in the paper and this was detrimental to reporting on the German economy, which he considered of utmost importance. In addition, Bernhard also felt that it was necessary to exercise greater discrimination in talking about members of the Nazi Party and not to portray the entire membership as a single homogeneous group.

Eberle, the SPD sympathizer on the licensee board, was in charge of the reporting on cultural affairs. He presented a third view to the ICD investigators. He expressed concern that Ackermann could not follow an independent policy for the newspaper due to his close involvement with the Communists. Conversely, Eberle found Bernhard to only be interested in lending his support to the then Minister President Maier and accused the right wing parties in the strongest terms of wishing a return to a totalitarian regime. He also suggested that Bernhard was disposed to “deal[ing] too gently with the Nazis” and that it was articles on culture that could realize re-education as envisioned by the Americans and not by writing yet another political editorial. His opinion was that the sole focus of the newspaper should be denazification and reconstruction. It was for this reason that he was not in favor of giving much space to religious affairs since, in his opinion, the religious leadership in Germany represented a regression into a Germany that resembled what led to the Nazis coming to power.

The fourth unofficial member of the group, Cron, who was treated by the ICD interrogators on the same level as the licensed publishers, took a very different approach in his interview. In Cron’s view, the other three had insufficient business and journalistic qualifications to be responsible for the publication of the newspaper and argued “he should be taking a larger part in managing the paper.” [8] Other than this, he reiterated the accusation that Ackermann had a clear KPD bias, which was not surprising considering his own political background.

Having gathered the testimony of the publishers of the Stuttgarter Zeitung, the ICD moved on to Württemberg-Baden’s most influential political leaders. Haußmann, for instance, found it objectionable that the newspaper to did not support Minister President Maier “in his effort to accomplish the transition to democracy as rapidly as possible.” [9] He further stated to the investigators—and demonstrated how out of touch the German political leadership was with the political realities of American politics—that “Surely the press in the United States would not attack an existing administration” and complained that Maier’s speeches often were not granted due importance in comparison with articles favorable to the left. [10] Haußmann stated that the Stuttgarter Zeitung should provide unreserved support for Maier, his ministers, and to all of their projects, which revealed the type of authoritarian attitudes the ICD was trying to combat.

Andre’s interview focused more on what he called the need for positive Christianity in the newspaper. This may, or may not, have been related to the official Nazi policy in regard to the churches in Germany. This is not clarified in the report. Considering Eberle’s comments noted above, one can see that there were some fundamental differences in what the opinion leaders in Stuttgart saw as the necessary ingredients for a successful democracy in Germany. Andre may well have been correct, when he expressed that he “sensed a certain hostility to religion in general.” However, he also showed an impatience with, and resentment towards, the strictly ideological approach of the left wing members of the paper, who were drawing sharp lines between workers and employers. Andre may have seen this as creating class divisions when, in his view, Germans needed unity of effort and purpose.

While there might have been differences reported between leftwing and rightwing parties, dissension between the leftwing parties picked up where it left off at the dissolution of the Weimar Republic by the National Socialists. Ulrich, the Chairman of the SPD, declared to the ICD interviewers that his party was not being represented satisfactorily in the paper. He felt that the “poetic Eberle was no balance to the dynamic Ackermann.” [11] This, he surmised, led to an overemphasis on the reporting of stories about the SPD-KPD union. In his opinion, this misrepresented the relationship between the two parties. This demonstrates that the accusation of reporting bias came not just from the rightists, but from the more moderate leftists as well. The leadership of the SPD feared being marginalized, since it appeared that the KPD had a powerful ally in the Soviet-controlled east. However, Ulrich did moderate his position and reported it as a “certain pro-Communist slant exhibited in the choice of the news items.” [12]

Buchmann found fault with the Stuttgarter Zeitung too, but suggested that it was not necessarily the shortcomings of the editorial staff that lay at its foundation. Rather, he felt that it “could not fulfill its mission of reflecting the mood, wishes and outlook of the people, because it did not appear often enough or in sufficient quantity.” [13] He also made concrete suggestions for ways that the paper could more effectively reflect its readership by being “more hospitable to correspondence from its readers” and that this “should aim at real democratization and reconstruction, expressed by the suggestions and opinions of those most directly involved in this effort–the workers, the intellectuals, the peasants, but certainly not the politicians.” [14] In part, his recommendations were based on enlisting the common person in an effort to rebuild Germany’s economy by being allowed to publically criticize the operation of industries. These were rather tame proposals compared with his submission “that the effectiveness of the newspaper would be increased if it were allowed to criticize the American authorities and to suggest ways of improvement” and that “such criticisms might bear on the denazification program, people being permitted to present instances where the program was being carried out too mechanically.” [15] This last item receives no comment in the ICD report, but would have certainly been a non-starter for the OMGUS, since it had clearly stated in its policies for Germany’s media that criticism of the US administration in Germany was not permitted.

Government officials, like Reinhold Maier, also had criticisms of the paper that largely confirmed what the others were already saying. Though Maier was mostly complimentary towards the newspaper, he did have reservations about what he perceived as a tendency towards “a Communist approach” and also focused on the November 5, 1945 issue of the paper. [16] He did, however, note what he called “a marked improvement in this direction.” [17] He also reiterated Haußmann’s complaint regarding the newspaper not supporting the government, but qualified this position by suggesting “that such difficulties were being overcome.” [18]

Maier might have been alluding to two instances where Ackermann made special efforts to avoid party conflicts by suppressing stories that would have been embarrassing to the fledgling government. One instance involved the accusation by the Württemberg trade unions that Maier was orchestrating an attack on labor unions in the Land. Instead of going to print with the story, Ackermann informed Maier of the protest. What happened then was that Maier conferred with Buchmann, the head of the KPD in the Land, which led to Buchmann intervening with the unions on his behalf. In this case, the resolution put forward by the workers was not published in the paper. The second example might have been even more dangerous for the government. Ackermann had uncovered that Ministry of Economics under Andre had, without prior authorization, distributed food within the Ministry. Considering Germany’s situation in that first winter after the war, this could very easily have led to considerable unrest. However, in order to keep the fragile peace, Ackermann refrained from exploiting the story in the paper. So, while there may have been criticism about the paper not supporting the government, there is evidence that it did not actively work to undermine the government, though it had the means and opportunity to do so.

Klett, Stuttgart’s Oberbürgermeister, declared the Stuttgarter Zeitung to be the best licensed paper in the American Zone in his interview. He was also the strongest advocate for appointing Cron as an additional licensee for the paper, though he did understand, given Cron’s Nazis ties, that this would be impossible. Klett’s reasons for his support of Cron were that Klett saw him as a possible counterbalance to Ackermann’s “aggressive personality,” which presumably would bring greater balance to the paper’s reporting. Klett, however, did not consider Ackermann to be editorializing for the Communists, though he suggested that Ackermann was selecting positive news items supporting the KPD. Klett saw the problem as more one of the paper needing to reflect the political realities of the time. He argued that “since the Communists were only a minority, Ackermann's taking as much space for the Communist Party as was given was manifestly unfair.” [19]

The most revealing attacks on the Stuttgarter Zeitung came from the church leaders. The Catholics, Bishop Fischer and Reverend Seidenmeyer, were strongly anti-Communist in their statements about the paper, but did praise its journalistic standards. They both challenged the need for a Communist licensee on the board, suggesting that it was doubtful that Ackermann was committed to creating a democratic Germany. Though their main dissatisfaction was with any Communist being involved in an editorial position on a paper, they also complained about “the absence of articles on youth, and the omission of news on the situation in the Eastern (Polish and Russian) areas since, in their opinion, the forced migrations of Germans in those areas were causing hardships equal to any atrocities committed by the Germans.” [20] From the report on the interrogations, it is clear that they were unwilling to embrace a changing Germany that was part and parcel of having surrendered unconditionally to the Allies. It also underlines the suspicions that the ICD had about how reactionary the Church was and that it appeared to be a bastion of antidemocratic activists.

The Protestant church leader, Theophil Wurm, was less harsh in his criticism. He complained to the interrogators that articles he had sent to the paper had not been published. His assumption was that the left-leaning members of the editorial board had rejected these. Wurm suggested as well that the paper include a more critical stance in regard to present conditions in Germany. With this he specifically singled out the issue of denazification.

What the ICD interrogators were trying to determine through all of this was whether Stuttgart needed, or was ready for, a second newspaper. The majority, all but one of the journalists and most of the political and religious leaders, did not think that is was a good idea. Ackermann was of the opinion that readers would jump to the conclusion that this new paper was created to express rightist views “and would infer, therefore, that the Stuttgarter Zeitung was indeed a Communist organ,” a notion that he strenuously defended against. [21] Konrad Witwer, a State Councillor for the Land and close friend of the Maier, supported this view and added that a second paper would damage the prestige and influence of the Stuttgarter Zeitung. In addition, he thought that many readers switch to the other paper, because they did not accept the Stuttgarter Zeitung’s support of the American’s emphasis on “responsibility for the war, the approval of the denazification policy and the advocacy of complete cooperation with the occupying forces.” [22]

The one dissenting voice amongst the journalists was Cron. He favored the introduction of a second newspaper. The interviewers surmise that this was the case because “he anticipated being its editor.” [23] Cron believed that a paper published by him “would make sharp inroads into the circulation of the Stuttgarter Zeitung because of his greater experience and because he would recognize the differences among different kinds of Nazis.” [24] Klett, not surprisingly, supported a second paper edited by Cron. Haußmann was also in agreement with idea of a second paper, “provided it exhibited rightist policies,” not unforeseen given his political views. [25] Somewhat isolated among the right wing politicians was Andre, who “deplored the possibility of the establishment of an additional paper, which he believed would be considered reactionary and would fail to attract people from the lower economic strata.” [26] Buchmann supported this view and “suggested that most of the present paper’s deficiencies could be overcome by publishing it daily and giving each political group more opportunity for expression.” [27] Maier offered the most even handed approach in his opposition to a second newspaper. He felt that a second, rightwing, paper would be counterproductive and would work against what he considered vital for Germany’s budding democracy, “a rapprochement between the SPD and the conservative parties.” [28] He was of the opinion that “a second paper would […] drive the Social Democrats to the more extreme left.” [29]

However strong the opposition to a second newspaper in Stuttgart may have been, those expressing opposition to a second paper were in favor of establishing individual party newspapers, a suggestion that the ICD was strictly opposed to in its policies. Buchmann, however, was afraid that the establishment of party newspapers would create internal strife in the Communist Party and probably lead to greater friction within the Party as it would publically air its dissensions amongst its the rank and file members. His solution was simple, increase the circulation of the Stuttgarter Zeitung, which some argued was already safely in Communist hands.

In its conclusion, the “Intelligence Summary” found that, for the most part, criticism of the Stuttgarter Zeitung “was restrained and that many of the critics recognized the extreme handicaps under which a semi-weekly licensed paper is forced to operate.” [30] They also determined that the tempered nature of the criticism directed at the paper in its current state “[wa]s an indication, perhaps, that the newspaper [wa]s satisfying the needs of the community.”

 

[1] In this text the terms interviewed and interrogated are used interchangeably, though in the Intelligence Summary “interrogated” is used most often to describe the how the ICD obtained its information from German subjects.

[2] “Information Control: Intelligence Summary,” January 26, 1946, NARA, College Park, RG 260 390/41/10/1 Box 454.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Ibid.

[13] Ibid.

[14] Ibid.

[15] Ibid.

[16] Ibid.

[17] Ibid.

[18] Ibid.

[19] Ibid.

[20] Ibid.

[21] Ibid.

[22] Ibid.

[23] “Information Control: Intelligence Summary,” January 26, 1946, NARA, College Park, RG 260 390/41/10/1 Box 454.

[24] Ibid.

[25] Ibid.

[26] Ibid.

[27] Ibid.

[28] Ibid.

[29] Ibid.

[30] Ibid.