- According to Article 118 of the Weimar Constitution,* "every German has the right, within the bounds of the general laws, to express his opinion freely in word, writing, print, picture, or in any other manner. Although this marked a major advance on the Press Law of 1874, which assured no more than the right to print established facts, the guarantee against "censor-ship (also Article 118) was restricted during the Weimar years by everything from penal laws to the President s emergency powers to revoke any freedom under Article 48. The limitation on journalistic freedom mirrored a pervasive esteem for the power of the written word: if Germans were inclined to believe everything they read, then they should read only "facts" reflecting the opinions of a specific interest group. Thus the function of the press was less to provide facts than to promote a point of view. This was best accomplished through the feuilleton—literary supplements usually found in the better newspapers.The press empires of Ullstein,* Mosse,* and Scherl, all based in Berlin,* receive well-deserved emphasis in analyses of journalism during the Weimar years. However, the German press was quite decentralized in the 1920s. Eksteins recorded that Germany had 3,689 newspapers in 1919-1920, a figure that rose to 4,703 by 1932. Of these, only 26 realized a circulation of 100,000 or more (in sharp contrast to England or the United States, where daily circulations exceeding 1 million were not uncommon). Germany s most successful daily, Ullstein s Berliner Morgenpost, achieved a circulation in excess of 600,000 only in 1930. Yet the significance of decentralized publication must also be qualified; despite the widespread printing of local papers, typical news columns were gen-erated through subscription to the syndicated writing of press agencies. Two of these, Wolff s Telegraph Bureau (WTB) and the Telegraph Union (TU), dom-inated the wire services. The WTB tended to support governmental positions, while the TU, owned by Alfred Hugenberg,* was antirepublican.The Scherl Verlag, purchased in 1916 by Hugenberg, was the premier voice in opposition to the Republic. Through Scherl's Tag, Berliner Lokal-Anzeiger, Berliner Illustrierte Nachtausgabe, and Woche, Hugenberg exerted direct influ-ence on public opinion. Less well known, but of greater import, was the indirect manipulation wielded through his advertising agency and several wire services (including the TU). Using loans and investments skillfully applied during the inflation* and depression,* Hugenberg gained partial control over almost half of Germany s newspapers; by 1932, 1,600 subscribed to the TU.Approximately half of the Republic s newspapers espoused a political posi-tion. Of these, the flagship dailies of the SPD (Vorwarts*), the KPD (Rote Fahne), and the NSDAP (Volkischer Beobachter*) were tightly controlled by their parties. The several papers associated with either the Center Party* or the DNVP enjoyed considerable freedom vis-a-vis party policy, while those claim-ing loyalty to either the DVP or the DDP were independent to the point of frustration.After the November Revolution* three publishers were identified with the DDP and the Republic's ideals: the Mosse and Ullstein firms of Berlin and the Sonnemann firm (Frankfurter Societatsdruckerei) of Frankfurt. Although they commanded a high percentage of readers, the Mosse (Berliner Tageblatt, Ber-liner Morgenzeitung, 8-Uhr-Abendblatt, and Berliner Volkszeitung), Ullstein (Vossische Zeitung, Berliner Morgenpost, BZ am Mittag, Berliner Allgemeine Zeitung, and Tempo), and Sonnemann (Frankfurter Zeitung) firms were a dis-appointment for the DDP: their papers often censured the Party for failing to assume moral leadership in the Republic; they were often embroiled in bitter rivalry with one another; they were controlled almost exclusively by Jews*; and, most damaging, they gradually disengaged from politics. Although the editorial skill of men such as Theodor Wolff* (Berliner Tageblatt), Georg Bernhard (Vos-sische Zeitung), and Bernhard Guttmann (Frankfurter Zeitung) was of the high-est order, their newspapers failed to galvanize support for a regime whose survival was inseparable from their own.REFERENCES:Albertin, "German Liberalism"; Eksteins, Limits of Reason; Fliess, Free-dom ofthe Press; Ullstein, Rise and Fall ofthe House ofUllstein; Young, Maximilian Harden.
A Historical dictionary of Germany's Weimar Republic, 1918-1933. C. Paul Vincent.
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