Volkischer Beobachter

   flagship newspaper* of the NSDAP. Founded in 1887 as the Münchener Beobachter in the Munich suburb of Haid-hausen, this small weekly was acquired in 1900 by a Munich publisher, Franz Eher, who renamed it Volkischer Beobachter. Rudolf von Sebottendorff, founder of the Thule Society,* acquired both the paper and the Eher Verlag upon Eher s death in 1918. Restoring the original name, he sustained an "above-party" editorial policy—lending broad support, however, to anti-Semitism.* In Decem-ber 1920, with funds provided largely by Franz von Epp,* the NSDAP pur-chased controlling interest in the paper (and the Eher Verlag) and soon reinstated the name Völkischer Beobachter. Dietrich Eckart,* who facilitated the deal, be-came publisher and editor. In April 1922 Max Amann* took over as publisher and managing director, while Alfred Rosenberg* became editor in February 1923.
   VB remained a precarious enterprise for several years. Yet amidst difficulties it became a daily and adopted a large format in 1923. Banned after the Beerhall Putsch,* it reappeared in 1925. With about 4,000 subscribers, its plight led Hitler* to implore Party members to support "the most hated paper in the land."
   But it was Amann, a tight-fisted business virtuoso, who ensured its survival during the NSDAP's lean years (1925-1929). In 1928, when the NSDAP owned thirty-one publications, VB was its only daily.
   VB was chiefly a purveyor of anti-Semitism and radical propaganda. Amann later bragged that after passage of the Law for the Protection of the Republic,* it was banned thirty-four times for harassing the "Weimar system." Yet the courts rarely hampered it. VB did not focus exclusively, however, on propaganda and ridicule—roles that, inherently repetitive, would have lost the paper its readership. It used photos and cartoons, it included light reading and "racial science, and it provided cultural coverage and a smattering of pseudopornog-raphy. Moreover, since Rosenberg wanted it to pass as a traditional newspaper, it used commercial agencies—generally Alfred Hugenberg s* Telegraphen-Union—to relay daily news, entertainment, and sporting information. It was a rich source for crime and sensational news, especially where Jews* were in-volved. But Hitler always viewed it less as a news source than as a transmitter of ideology; indeed, VB failed to acquire a seat in the Reichstag s* press gallery until 1932. But through repetition, simplification, and distortion it became an effective purveyor of propaganda.
   The size of the Nazis publishing endeavor mushroomed with the depression.* Assisted by rapid sales of Mein Kampf,* the NSDAP supported nineteen dailies in 1930; the figure rose to fifty-nine by 1932. VB, meanwhile, was never a source of great wealth; even in 1931, when the NSDAP was the Reichstag s second party, circulation reached only 128,000. Moreover, other Nazi papers persist-ently competed with it for readership (Joseph Goebbels* recommended that north German Nazis read VB only after buying Der Angriff*). Only with Hitler's rise to power did circulation surge; it reached 1.2 million in 1941.
   REFERENCES:Eksteins, Limits ofReason; Fliess, Freedom ofthe Press; Hale, Captive Press; Layton, "Volkischer Beobachter."

A Historical dictionary of Germany's Weimar Republic, 1918-1933. .

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