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1934 Stürmer special issue, image shows Jews extracting blood from Christian children for use in religious rituals (an example of the blood libel against Jews)
|Founded||20 April 1923|
|Headquarters||Nuremberg, Nazi Germany|
Der Stürmer (pronounced [deːɐ̯ ˈʃtʏʁmɐ], lit. "The Stormer/Attacker/Striker") was a weekly German tabloid-format newspaper published by Julius Streicher, the Gauleiter of Franconia, from 1923 to the end of World War II, with brief suspensions in publication due to legal difficulties. It was a significant part of Nazi propaganda and was vehemently anti-Semitic. The paper was not an official publication of the Nazi party, but was published privately by Streicher. For this reason, the paper did not display the Nazi party swastika in its logo. The paper was a very lucrative business for Streicher, and made him a multi-millionaire.
Unlike the Völkischer Beobachter (The Völkisch Observer), the official party paper which gave itself an outwardly serious appearance, Der Stürmer often ran material such as caricatures of Jews and accusations of blood libel, as well as sexually explicit, anti-Catholic, anti-Communist, and anti-monarchist propaganda.
The newspaper originated at Nuremberg during Adolf Hitler's attempt to establish power and control. The first copy of Der Stürmer was published on 20 April 1923. Der Stürmer’s circulation grew over time, distributing to a large percentage of the German population as well as Argentina, Brazil, Canada and the United States. The newspaper reached a peak circulation of 486,000 in 1937.
As early as 1933, Streicher was calling for the extermination of the Jews in Der Stürmer. During the war, Streicher regularly authorized articles demanding the annihilation and extermination of the Jewish race. After the war, he was convicted of crimes against humanity and executed.
Der Stürmer was best known for its antisemitic caricatures, which depicted Jews as ugly characters with exaggerated facial features and misshapen bodies. In his propaganda work, Streicher furthered medieval stereotypes, e.g., that Jews killed children, sacrificed them and drank their blood. The large majority of these drawings were the work of Philipp Rupprecht, known as Fips, who was one of the best-known anti-Semitic cartoonists of the Third Reich. Through the adaptation and amalgamation of almost every existing anti-Semitic stereotype, myth and tradition, Rupprecht's virulent attacks aimed predominantly at the dehumanization and demonization of Jews.
At the bottom of the title page there was always the motto "Die Juden sind unser Unglück!" ("The Jews are our misfortune!"), coined by Heinrich von Treitschke in the 1880s. In the nameplate was the motto "Deutsches Wochenblatt zum Kampfe um die Wahrheit" ("German Weekly Newspaper in the Fight for Truth").
Most of its readers were young people and people from the lowest strata of German society. Copies of Der Stürmer were displayed in Stürmerkasten throughout the Reich; as well as advertising the publication, the cases also allowed its articles to reach those readers who either did not have time to buy and read a daily newspaper in depth, or could not afford the expense. In 1927, it sold about 27,000 copies every week; by 1935, its circulation had increased to around 480,000.
Since the late 1920s, Streicher's vulgar and inconsiderate style was increasingly a cause of embarrassment for the Nazi party. In 1936 the sale of the Der Stürmer in Berlin was restricted during the Olympic Games. Joseph Goebbels tried to ban the newspaper in 1938. Hermann Göring forbade Der Stürmer in all of his departments, and Baldur von Schirach banned it as a means of education in the Hitler Youth hostels and other education facilities by a "Reichsbefehl" ("Reich command"). Göring harboured a particularly intense hatred of the paper, especially after it published a libellous article alleging that his daughter Edda had been conceived through artificial insemination. It was only through Hitler's intervention that Streicher was spared any punishment.
However, other senior Nazi officials, including Heinrich Himmler (head of the SS), Robert Ley (leader of the German Labour Front), and Max Amann (proprietor of the Zentral Verlag (Central Press), comprising 80% of the German press in 1942), endorsed the publication, and their statements were often published in the paper. Albert Forster, Gauleiter of Danzig (now Gdańsk), wrote in 1937:
With pleasure I say that the Stürmer, more than any other daily or weekly newspaper, has made clear to the people in simple ways the danger of Jewry. Without Julius Streicher and his Stürmer, the importance of a solution to the Jewish question would not be seen to be as critical as it actually is by many citizens. It is therefore to be hoped that those who want to learn [the] unvarnished truth about the Jewish question will read the Stürmer.
Hitler considered Streicher's "primitive methods" to be effective in influencing "the man in the street". Although Streicher and his paper were increasingly isolated in the Nazi party, Hitler continued to support Streicher and was an avid reader of Der Stürmer. In December 1941 he stated: "Streicher is reproached for his Stürmer. The truth is the opposite of what people say: he idealised the Jew. The Jew is baser, fiercer, more diabolical than Streicher depicted him". In February 1942, he praised the newspaper: "One must never forget the services rendered by the Stürmer ... Now that Jews are known for what they are, nobody any longer thinks that Streicher libelled them."
Hermann Rauschning, who claimed to be Hitler's 'confidant', said in the mid-1930s:
Anti-Semitism ... was beyond question the most important weapon in [Hitler's] propagandist arsenal, and almost everywhere it was of deadly efficiency. That was why he had allowed Streicher, for example, a free hand. The man's stuff, too, was amusing, and very cleverly done. Wherever, he wondered, did Streicher get his constant supply of new material? He, Hitler, was simply on thorns to see each new issue of the Stürmer. It was the one periodical that he always read with pleasure, from the first page to the last.
During the war, the paper's circulation dropped because of paper shortages, as well as Streicher's exile from Nuremberg for corruption. More ominously, because of the Holocaust, the people it targeted had begun to disappear from everyday life, which diminished the paper's relevance. Hitler, however, insisted that Streicher receive sufficient support to continue publishing Der Stürmer.
After the war, Streicher was tried at the Nuremberg trials. His publishing and speaking activities were a major part of the evidence presented against him. In essence, the prosecutors took the line that Streicher's role in inciting Germans to exterminate Jews made him an accessory to murder, and thus as culpable as those who actually carried out the killing. Prosecutors also introduced evidence that Streicher continued his incendiary articles and speeches when he was well aware that Jews were being slaughtered. Streicher was found guilty of crimes against humanity and hanged.
According to the American writer Dennis Showalter, "a major challenge of political anti-Semitism involves overcoming the images of the 'Jew next door' – the living, breathing acquaintance or associate whose simple existence appears to deny the validity of that negative stereotype". The newspaper's lurid content appealed to a large spectrum of readers who were lower class and less-sophisticated. Der Stürmer was known for its use of simple themes that required little thought. The newspaper often gave descriptions of how to identify Jewish people and included racist political cartoons, including anti-Semitic caricatures. Besides the graphic depictions, articles often focused on imaginary fears, exaggerations and perceived behavioral differences between Jews and other German citizens.
Stories of Rassenschande, i.e. the Jewish men and German women having sex, were staples of Der Stürmer but many were creations of Streicher's imagination, derived from little fact, or random occurrences. Streicher described Jews as sex offenders who were "violators of the innocent", "perpetrators of bizarre sex crimes", and "ritual murderers" who performed in religious ceremonies using blood of other humans, usually Christians. Streicher also frequently reported attempts of child molestation by Jews. Der Stürmer never lacked details about sex, names, and crimes in order to keep readers aroused and entertained. These accusations, articles and crimes printed in Der Stürmer were often inaccurate and rarely investigated by staff members.
In the newspaper's opinion, if a German girl became pregnant by a Jew, the Jew would deny paternity, offer to pay for an abortion, fail to pay child support, or simply leave for the U.S. Within Der Stürmer it was not uncommon to hear reports of German women killing their children because they did not want to bring a "Jewish bastard into the world".
Showlter said, "For Julius Streicher the Jews' hatred for Christianity was concealed only for one reason: Business." Jewish businessmen were often portrayed as doing almost anything to obtain financial wealth which included, in his words, "become a usurer, a traitor, a murderer". In the summer of 1931, Streicher focused much of the paper's attention on a Jewish owned butchery. One philanthropic merchant operated a soup kitchen; Der Stürmer ran articles accusing the business of poisoning the food served. Der Stürmer criticized and twisted every single price increase and decrease in Jewish shops, as well as their charitable donations as a further form of financial greed. This attack on Jewish benevolence received the most public criticism out of all of Der Stürmer's antisemitic propaganda. Its "Letter Box" encouraged the reporting of Jewish illegal acts; the unofficial style helped prevent suspicion of propaganda, and lent it an air of authenticity.
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