Fulda, Bernhard. Press and Politics in the Weimar Republic.

Author:Mills, Edward J., III
Position:Book review

Fulda, Bernhard. Press and Politics in the Weimar Republic. New York: Oxford University Press, 2009. xvii + 324 pages. Cloth, $110.00.

Historian Bernhard Fulda begins his Press and Politics in the Weimar Republic with an epigraph found in Oswald Spengler's The Decline of the West (1922) which sets the tone for the rest of his book. In the epigraph, Spengler laments the power of the press to determine the worldview of the ordinary citizen, which Spengler believes is absolute. Fulda's book, an expansion of his doctoral thesis, takes a close look at the relationship between the press, politics, and culture in the Weimar experiment.

In the background of Fulda's analysis of press and politics are the twin evils of the economic crisis out of which Germany could not pull itself and the street violence between the Communists and the Right, particularly the Nazis. Over time, these problems, particularly the street violence, would dominate and animate most of the press of Weimar Germany, eventually helping to bring about its demise.

In arguing his case, Fulda moves back and forth between the Berlin press and that of Germany at large, which was largely parochial. He divides the press into three categories: the elite political papers, the mass papers, and the Berlin tabloids. He also points out the ideological slant of many of these papers, among them: Die Rote Fahne (The Red Flag), the press organ of the Communist Party (though it was not the only Left-leaning paper); Deutsche Zeitung (German Newspaper), the news sheet of the German Nationalist Peoples' Party; and, Der Angriff (The Attack), the press organ of the Nazi Party. There were papers that were published by major publishing houses such as Ullstein and Mosse. There were even papers published, essentially, by one individual like those published by the noted German nationalist, Alfred Hugenberg.

Only sometimes did these papers exert Spengler's posited power over the public. Fulda points out that the fact that this diversification of the press did not de-politicize the press is a reflection of the political polarization of the time itself. Interestingly, he notes how thoroughly modern German readership was. They tended toward tabloids, or tabloid-like coverage in standard papers. They also tended to skip the political or economic sections and focus on local matters buried deeper inside newspapers. And on those occasions when unrest and street violence was covered, such stories were devoured by the...

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