Alphons Silbermann

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Alphons Silbermann (born on August 11, 1909 in Cologne ; died on March 4, 2000 there ) was a German sociologist and publicist .


Alphons Silbermann was born in Cologne on August 11, 1909, the son of the middle-class printer's owner Salomon Silbermann, whose father was still a wandering second-hand dealer . He studied musicology , law and sociology at the University of Cologne , Freiburg im Breisgau and Grenoble . After graduation, he worked until 1933 as a judicial clerk and a doctorate in the same year when Hans Kelsen Dr. jur. He then emigrated to the Netherlands to escape persecution of the Jews in the Third Reich. The further escape led in 1938 from Amsterdam via Paris to Sydney . In Australia he started out as a dishwasher and waiter. He later managed to open his own restaurant, Silver's Food Bars . This eventually turned into eight restaurants and thus - three decades before the first McDonald's - the first fast food chain in Australia. With the associated financial success, he was able to finance his music-sociological work as a lateral entrant .

Alphons Silbermann's grave slab

After the publication of studies in the sociology of music, Alphons Silbermann was employed as a lecturer at the (then conservative) State Conservatory of Music in Sydney. His lectures were summarized in ... of musical things (1949). From 1950 onwards, Alphons Silbermann, who then embodied the social type of the homosexual dandy, was a wanderer between two worlds: on the one hand Australia and on the other - with increasing tendency - Europe and especially Germany . At the Sorbonne in Paris , he gave lectures on musical aesthetics and, together with Gisèle Brelet, initiated the first European congress on music programs on the radio (1954). In 1958 the University of Cologne employed him at the suggestion of René König as a lecturer / lecturer. He later taught as a professor in Lausanne (from 1964 on the former chair of Vilfredo Pareto ) and in Bordeaux (1974–1979). In 1970 he regained his German citizenship and was given a tenure as professor for mass communication and art sociology in his hometown of Cologne , where he was both culturally active and involved in the Jewish community . After renewing his doctorate as Dr. iur. he was financially compensated with the rank of " public prosecutor " and also called himself "retired public prosecutor". Alphons Silbermann remained an Australian citizen until the end of his life .

Alphons Silbermann was buried in the Jewish cemetery in Cologne-Bocklemünd (Hall 30, No. 19). Alphons Silbermann bequeathed his written estate and his 2,500-volume library to the Moses Mendelsohn Center .


Alphons Silbermann worked as a university lecturer, but also as a publicist with an extensive work in many languages. His preferred subjects were: sociology of music and art , mass communication and the cultural industry , anti-Semitism , homosexuality and everyday sociology . Together with René König, he was the publisher and editor of the Cologne Journal for Sociology and Social Psychology (KZfSS) and founded the Institute for Mass Communication in Cologne. Because of his scientific merits, Alphons Silbermann was awarded the Cross of Merit 1st Class and the Great Cross of Merit of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany . As a representative of empirical sociology, he belonged to the Cologne School and was in contrast to Theodor W. Adorno and the Frankfurt School . This not only applied to the sociology of music , but also to the positivism dispute . Silbermann was just as skeptical of the 1968 movement at universities as it was of a “ dialectic of the Enlightenment ” with an uncertain outcome. In Germany he was one of the first to systematically apply the methods of empirical social and communication research and introduce them into academic operations. These include the systematic content analysis ( content analysis ), structural-functional case studies and empirical-qualitative text analysis.

Alphons Silbermann worked as a media advisor to Axel Springer ( Bild , BamS , Die Welt , Hörzu , etc.) as well as for private television . He advised the Federal Criminal Police Office on questions relating to media searches. With his autobiographies Metamorphoses and Flaneur of the Century , he made a name for himself as a popular everyday, cultural and everyday cultural sociologist. At the age of 80, he was still passed from talk show to talk show as a media star. Until the last years of his life, Silbermann was a popular public rhetorician and funny discussion speaker. He was considered an everyday sociologist, entertaining lateral thinker and emeritus "German professor with golden cufflinks" ( Friedrich Knilli ).


  • If we didn't have prejudices, we wouldn't have as much pleasure discovering them in others.

about Alphons Silbermann:


The Alphons-Silbermann-Weg connects Bachemer Strasse and Zülpicher Strasse on the back of the main building of the University of Cologne between the Uniwiese and the main canteen

The newly built student apartment house in Cologne-Zollstock has had his name since 2014.

Silbermann was awarded the Order of Merit of the State of North Rhine-Westphalia on September 28, 1995 . In 2004 the Alphons-Silbermann-Weg was named after him near the University of Cologne .

Works (selection)

Empirical Sociology

  • ... of musical things. Sydney 1949.
  • La Musique, la Radio et l'Auditeur. 1954, translations into Spanish, Japanese and German: music, radio and listeners . The sociological aspects of music on the radio. Cologne / Opladen 1961.
  • What does music live on? The principles of the sociology of music. Regensburg 1957.
  • The Sociology of Music. London 1963.
  • Advantages and disadvantages of commercial television. Vienna / Düsseldorf 1968.
  • Sociology of Mass Communication . Stuttgart 1973.
  • Television in the child's socialization process. In: Ulrich Beer (ed.): Aggression and television. Does television endanger children? Tuebingen 1974.
  • Television as a conflict intensifier? Views on the relationship between television violence and crime. In: State Center for Political Education of the State of North Rhine-Westphalia (Hrsg.): The human being in the conflict fields of the present. Cologne 1975.
  • On the causes of the current crisis in sociology. In: Gottfried Eisermann (ed.): The crisis of sociology. Stuttgart 1976.
  • with Albin Hänseroth : media culture, media economy, media management. Frankfurt am Main / Bern 1989.
  • News from the living of Germans . Cologne 1991.
  • with Francis Hüsers (ed.): A frowned upon pleasure. Livonia Publishing House, 1993, ISBN 3-928795-07-4 .

Sociology on Judaism in German society

  • The unloved Jew. On the sociology of anti-Semitism . Edition Interfrom, Zurich / Fromm, Osnabrück 1981, ISBN 3-7201-5134-4 .
  • Are we anti-Semites? Extent and effect of a social prejudice in the Federal Republic of Germany. Cologne 1982.
  • What is Jewish Spirit? On the identity of the Jews. edition interform, Zurich / Osnabrück 1984.
  • Jews in Germany . Edited by by Kurt E. Becker and Hans-Peter Schreiner. Landau in der Pfalz 1983, ISBN 3-87629-031-7 .
  • with Julius H. Schoeps (ed.): Anti-Semitism after the Holocaust: inventory and manifestations in German-speaking countries. Cologne 1986.
  • with Herbert Sallen: Jews in West Germany. Self-image and external image of a minority . Verlag Wissenschaft & Politik, Cologne 1992, ISBN 3-8046-8788-1 .
  • with Manfred Stoffers : "Auschwitz: Never heard of it?" Remembering and forgetting in Germany. Rowohlt, Berlin 1999, ISBN 3-87134-337-4 .

Textbooks and manuals

  • Screen and reality. About the press and television in the present and future . Frankfurt am Main 1966
  • with Heinz Otto Luthe: mass communication. In: René König (Ed.): Handbook of empirical social research. Volume 2, Stuttgart 1969.
  • Empirical sociology of art. An introduction with an annotated bibliography. Stuttgart 1973.
  • Investigation and expert opinion on the media search project . (= Special volume of the BKA research series ). Wiesbaden 1977, OCLC 715884456 .
  • Concise dictionary of mass communication and media research . 2 volumes. 1982
  • Empirical sociology of art. Stuttgart 1986.
  • Handbook on empirical mass communication research. An annotated bibliography in 2 volumes. Frankfurt am Main / Bern / New York 1986.
  • Mahler Lexicon. Bergisch Gladbach 1986.

Everyday sociology and monographs

  • The imaginary diary of Mr. Jacques Offenbach . Berlin 1960.
  • Sociologist's heresies. Düsseldorf / Vienna 1965.
  • Transformations. An autobiography . Berlin 1989.
  • The prophets of doom. The business of fear. Bergisch Gladbach 1995, ISBN 3-7857-0806-8 .
  • From the art of ass-creeping . Berlin 1997, ISBN 3-87134-216-5 .
  • Flaneur of the Century. Recitatives and arias from one life. Gustav Lübbe Verlag, Bergisch Gladbach 1999, ISBN 3-7857-0992-7 .

Articles in magazines

  • The sociological aspects of music on the radio. In: Psyché. No. 98, 1954, pp. 652-670.
  • What does the listener want to hear anyway? In: The musical life. 1955.
  • The “chaos” of new music. To blur the boundaries between philosophy and sociology. In: Musica. 10, 1956.
  • In the barbed wire of bitter seriousness. An outsider's observations on the situation of German musical life. In: New magazine for music . 118, 1957.


  • Militant humanism. On the tasks of modern sociology . Frankfurt am Main 1966.
  • National image building through the film. In: The mass media and their consequences. Munich / Basel 1970.
  • The mass media and their consequences. Communication sociological studies. Dedicated to Erich Feldmann by his friends and colleagues on the occasion of his 75th birthday . Munich / Basel 1970.
  • with H.-D. Dyroff (Ed.): Comics and Visual Culture. Munich 1986.
  • Classics of the sociology of art, Volume 1: Jean Marie Guyeau: Art as a sociological phenomenon . Berlin 1987.
  • Classics of Art Sociology, Volume 2: Hippolyte Taine: Philosophy of Art . Berlin 1987.
  • The role of electronic media in the development of the arts. Frankfurt am Main / Bern / New York 1987
  • Classics of the sociology of art, Volume 3: Pierre Joseph Proudhon: From the foundations of social determination . Translated into German, introduced and explained by Klaus Herding. Berlin 1988.


  • Julius H. Schoeps : Instead of an afterword - speech at the funeral of Alphons Silbermann (March 10, 2000). In: Hans Erler, Ernst Ludwig Ehrlich (ed.): Jewish life and Jewish culture in Germany. History, destruction and a difficult new beginning. Campus Verlag, Frankfurt am Main / New York 2000, ISBN 3-593-36625-8 , pp. 263-265.
  • Albin Hänseroth: Alphons Silbermann. In: International Sociological Lexicon. 2nd Edition. Volume II, 1984, pp. 793 f.
  • Albin Hänseroth, Herbert A. Sallen: Elements of cultural democratization in art and communication. For Alphons Silbermann's 75th birthday. In: KZfSS. 4/1984, pp. 842-844.
  • Dirk KaeslerSilbermann, Alphons. In: New German Biography (NDB). Volume 24, Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 2010, ISBN 978-3-428-11205-0 , p. 410 f. ( Digitized version ).
  • Ramin Rowghani: The father of media sociology: Alphons Silbermann (1909–2000) An obituary - or: "Happy and meaningful" - how one shapes one's life with enjoyment and striving. In: Menschen und Medien - magazine for cultural and communication psychology. Berlin 2002.
  • Alphons Silbermann , Internationales Biographisches Archiv 36/2000 from August 28, 2000, in the Munzinger archive ( beginning of article freely accessible)
  • Joachim H. Knoll among others: Alphons Silbermann - professor and bon vivant. (= Jewish miniatures. Volume 171). published by the Centrum Judaicum . Hentrich & Hentrich Verlag, Berlin 2015, ISBN 978-3-95565-092-6 .
  • Kurt E. Becker , Martin Greiffenhagen , Klaus Waltenbauer, (eds.): Alphons Silbermanns sociology of living. Documentation, Domus-Verlag, Bonn 1991, ISBN 3-87169-366-9
  • Kurt E. Becker: In defense of the human. For the 80th birthday of the sociologist Alphons Silbermann, in: Tribüne, 28th year, Book III 1989, ISSN  0041-2716
  • Kurt E. Becker: A militant humanist. Alphons Silbermann on his 100th birthday, in tribune, 48th year, issue 191, 3rd quarter 2009, ISSN  0041-2716

Web links


  1. ^ A. Silbermann: Metamorphoses. An autobiography. Bergisch Gladbach 1989.
  2. ^ A. Silbermann: Music, radio and listeners. The sociological aspects of music on the radio. Cologne / Opladen 1961. (French 1954)
  3. Exile Archive Biographies
  4. ^ Barbara Becker-Jákli (with the assistance of Aaron Knappstein): The Jewish cemetery in Cologne-Bocklemünd. History, architecture and biographies . Ed .: NS Documentation Center of the City of Cologne . Emons, Cologne 2016, ISBN 978-3-95451-889-0 , pp. 328 ff .
  6. Willi Jasper: Stroll upright. In: The time. 32/1999.
  7. ^ Boulevard Bio , ARD TV talk show with Alfred Biolek , from 1991.
  8. a b Friedmar Tielker: Dandy of Demoskopie. Alphons Silbermann would have turned 100 this month. In: Jüdische Allgemeine. No. 32, Berlin, 6 August 2009, p. 19.
  9. Cologne receives new student dormitory. In: kö , accessed on October 4, 2015.
  10. Merit holders since 1986. (PDF) State Chancellery of the State of North Rhine-Westphalia, accessed on March 11, 2017 .
  11. Federal Chancellor Helmut Kohl , to whom the survey results of the study were presented several times during the current hour of the Bundestag, was obviously annoyed by this publication and called the results of the investigation "absurd" (also after Friedmar Tielker: Dandy der Demoskopie. Alphons Silbermann would be in this Month has become 100. In: Jüdische Allgemeine. No. 32, Berlin, August 6, 2009, p. 19)